2014-08-05_RuthMeinzenDick_24In the lead up to the 2016 Science Forum, we have asked Steering Committee (SC) members and speakers to answer a few questions related to the Forum’s focus on agricultural research pathways to inclusive rural development.

Despite the fact that our society is increasingly based on the idea of transhumanism, including singularism, yet agriculture is not declining. That is, agriculture and its development is one of the leading spheres of the state. For a more detailed overview of this topic in the context of modernity and technogenicity, you can contact SpecialEssays.com.

Below are the responses from Ruth Meinzen-Dick, speaker on Day 2 of the Forum. Ruth is a Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

Q. Can you tell us briefly about yourself and your involvement in agricultural research?

I have been working at IFPRI since 1989, starting as a Postdoctoral Fellow and moving on to Senior Research Fellow. As Coordinator of the CGIAR Program on Collective Action and Property Rights (CAPRi), I’ve had the pleasure of working with all of the CGIAR centers, as well as many national agricultural research institutes, NGOs, and international organizations dealing with agricultural research and development.

Among other projects, I was the coordinator for one of the first SPIA-sponsored studies of the impact of agricultural research on poverty. When that project got underway (2000), there were some who argued that for the CGIAR to address poverty was “mission creep”, and that the CGIAR should only be concerned with productivity. I’m very glad to see that we have moved beyond that.

The objective of the 2016 Science Forum is to rethink the pathways for agricultural research to stimulate inclusive development of rural economies in an era of climate change. The Forum will marshal evidence and build on lessons learned to date, to suggest an updated list of priority research areas and approaches which involve more strategic and inclusive engagement with partners.

I was glad to see the emphasis on inclusive development, and am concerned that focusing on “prosperity” should not take attention away from the need to pay attention to the poor and marginalized. Thus, in my comments below, I am going to talk about poverty reduction.

Q. What are the most significant ways that developing countries can achieve greater rural prosperity? What does this prosperity look like?

Creating prosperity for some is relatively easy; inclusive development is harder, but more meaningful. An important way to achieve that is to strengthen assets, especially rights to resources for those who depend on those resources, including not only farmers but also pastoralists, fishers, forest communities, and women within those communities in particular.  Assets are especially important because they create the basis for sustainable improvements in not only productivity but also welfare.

Q. What are some agricultural research pathways that have really contributed to greater rural prosperity? How did they achieve this?

The study we did for SPIA (Adato and Meinzen-Dick 2007) showed several pathways, even within Bangladesh. Modern rice varieties did contribute to inclusive development and prosperity in Asia. The large increases in productivity made food relatively cheaper, which helped all net purchasers of food—including most of the poor. But very importantly, the technologies were land-saving and labor-using, so they created more demand for labor. The result was, as poor men in one focus group in Bangladesh said: “A day’s wage buys more rice”. Beyond the pure economics, laborers felt that land owners treated them with more respect.

But such broad-scale pathways are relatively rare. In most cases, it matters who is targeted by agricultural research and development projects. Another study in Bangladesh showed that fish ponds that were “untargeted” mostly benefitted wealthier men, whereas homestead vegetable gardens reached women. Though the profitability of the fish ponds was apparently greater, the long-term impact on poverty was greater for the vegetable programs, because they poor women were able to participate and control the produce, resulting in greater nutritional gains for women and children. It was dramatic to see the increase in prosperity in those communities.

Q. What does agricultural research need to do differently so it will contribute to rural prosperity in an era of climate change? What does climate change mean for the research pathways we follow?

Technological fixes alone won’t be sufficient. We also need to pay attention to the institutional conditions that affect whether technologies are adopted, by whom, and who benefits.  Institutions such as land tenure and water rights, collective action organizations, and even gender norms and intrahousehold relations need to be considered.

Q. What is your expectation for the Forum? What do you want to take home from Addis Ababa and the people you meet there?

I hope to catch up on what colleagues from across the system are doing to poverty; to strengthen networks with people doing important work; and get ideas for future collaboration that will take us forward to achieve greater impact.

Adato, M., and R. S. Meinzen-Dick (Eds.). (2007). Agricultural research, livelihoods, and poverty: Studies of economic and social impacts in six countries. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press and International Food Policy Research Institute; New Delhi: Oxford University Press.


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