International symposium stresses crucial role of nutrition in agricultural innovation

Brazil and United States support FAO in improving capacity development for agricultural innovation meeting demands of the 21st century

21/06/2016 - 

Rome, 21 June 2016Capacity development for agricultural innovation needs to include a nutritional dimension, experts agreed at a symposium in Rome, discussing ways to make capacity development for innovation in agriculture better equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century.

Amid growing consensus that to feed a growing world population and meet major challenges such as climate change, agriculture must increase its production and productivity while at the same time save the environment and protect limited natural resources, the role of innovation is at the center of international debate.

“Innovation is key to promote agriculture as the driver of sustainable growth for the future we want,” said Sami Gaiji, Chief FAO Research and Extension Unit. “We need a renewed focus on innovation and investment in research, technology and capacity development,” he added.

“As rural households are increasingly integrated in the globalized world, it is ever more important to reassess the links between agriculture, food security and nutrition,” Edna Maria Morais Oliveira, Senior Researcher, Embrapa, Brazilsaid. “Not only has globalization changed the way in which small-scale farmers produce food, it has a profound effect on what rural households eat.”

Part of the equation

At an international symposium in Rome today, hosted by FAO and the Tropical Agricultural Platform (TAP), representatives from FAO Member Country Delegations, research institutions, government, the private sector, farmers' organizations and development agencies discussed how agricultural innovation should respond to this changing landscape and the implications for capacity development.

The symposium, a result of joint American and Brazilian efforts to promote food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture in the framework of the post-2015 development agenda, and concluded that to make agriculture innovation ready for today's challenges, nutrition should be part of the equation.

Leading up to the event, almost 300 experts exchanged views in an e-conference on capacity development, agricultural innovation, food security and nutrition facilitated by TAP. They stressed the essential role of national and local governments in promoting capacity development, as well the need to include nutrition and nutritionists in agricultural research.

They also presented examples from Brazil, Central America, Mexico and Pakistan, demonstrating that the links between agricultural innovation and nutrition are being explored, and that more is needed to thoroughly assess those links, as well as key issues such as changes in nutritional habits and ways to promote healthy eating habits.

Both the e-conference and the today’s symposium were financially supported by the US.

Innovation in the tropics

The potential for sustainable agriculture growth is huge in tropical countries, but many of them lack the capacities to support innovation processes needed to unleash that potential. That's why the Tropical Agricultural Platform (TAP), hosted by FAO, was set up in 2012 by the G-20 to promote national capacities for agricultural innovation in the tropics.

The Platform has developed a new approach, called the Common Framework on Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems, focused on strengthening capacities of both individuals and organizations, and of the enabling environment in which their innovative efforts can flourish.

 “The Common Framework allows for more efficient and coherent capacity development interventions based on what countries, their small- and medium-scale farmers, agribusinesses and consumers need,” said TAP chair Christian Hoste.

Currently the framework is being applied in eight countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America in collaboration with national organizations through a global project of AGRINATURA-EEIG and FAO with financial support from the European Union, called Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems (CDAIS).