Yet more on what One CGIAR should do

That list of suggestions to CGIAR from David Lobell last week in Food Policy? It turns out to be one a trio of “viewpoints” on what the new, improved One CGIAR should do. Just to remind you, Dr Lobell said breeding (including of hitherto neglected crops) and precision agronomy.

Dr Rebecca Nelson of Cornell University has somewhat different advice for CGIAR:

  • “…break definitively with fossil energy-based intensification and to dedicate itself to agroecological intensification.”
  • “…expand its mandate and its networks to support equity, food systems health, and sustainable productivity in agricultural systems around the world.”
  • “…bring the power of scientific research to local communities in a networked fashion that builds the global and local evidence base for agroecological intensification.”
  • “… tackle agricultural challenges in their larger context… This is necessary because food and agriculture are inseparable from the larger ecological, meteorological, social, and political systems.”

And, finally, there’s Dr Lawrence Haddad of GAIN. According to him, CGIAR needs to:

  • “…understand the terrain between farm and fork much better than it does now.”
  • fill the gap in “…research on private sector actors” in the food system.
  • have “…a greater focus on foods like vegetables, fruits, fish, pulses, nuts, eggs, dairy, and meat.”
  • help “…create a safe space to break out of the disciplinary and subject specific silos.”

Do please read all three articles in their entirety, if you can (they’re behind a paywall, I’m afraid), and let us know what you think here. Each is coming from a very different place, and yet they do have one thing in common: a recognition of the importance of agricultural biodiversity. Too bad none of them actually mentioned genebanks.

But then I would say that, wouldn’t I.

LATER: No wait, there’s another one.

2 Replies to “Yet more on what One CGIAR should do”

  1. Dr Nelson argues that the:- “CGIAR must aim for locally optimized complexity based on agroecological principles (for a nice summary of these principles, see HLPE, 2019)”. But the HLPE report (p. 45) admits that it is:- “…hard to pin down exactly what is agroecology and what is not.” The fifth of the 13 agroecological principles listed by the HLPE report (p. 41), on biodiversity, recommends: “Maintain and enhance diversity of species, functional diversity and genetic resources and thereby maintain overall agroecosystem biodiversity…” (Nelson’s “locally optimized complexity”).
    For anything but forest farming or gardening this is madness – and certainly not related to any kind of principle based on real ecology, where biodiverse communities such as coral reefs and tropical forests are massively fragile when subject to stress.
    The management of arable fields of annuals cereals (providing a large part of our food) is a mimic of the substantial and often annual stress suffered through fire and flood by annual wild cereals. The evolutionary response to this stress was monodominance by large-seeded cereal ancestors. This – for sound ecological reasons – is the exact opposite of the complexity recommended under the mistaken belief-system of agroecology. This natural monodominance in the wild (toughness rather than fragility) is what current farmers try to maintain in their fields through the substantial disturbance of tillage.
    Sadly, more than half the supposed principles recommended by the HLPE report are socio-economic rather than ecological, having no relation to the original definition of `agroecology’. Please stop using the pretence that real ecology is involved and that biodiversity is the sole option.

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