Science, Technology and Innovation

Science and Innovation Forum 2023 showcases FAO’s approach to implementing the Science and Innovation Strategy and the Strategy on Climate Change in synergy

20 October 2023, Rome, Italy - FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. Implementing the FAO Science and Innovation Strategy and the Strategy on Climate Change in synergy. FAO Science and Innovation Forum 2023.

©FAO/Cristiano Minichiello


Among the numerous events showcasing science and promising innovations for climate action, the Science and Innovation Forum also looked at how FAO is guided by the synergistic application of its two new strategies: the Science and Innovation Strategy and the Strategy on Climate Change, led by FAO Chief Scientist Ismahane Elouafi and FAO Deputy Director-General Semedo.

The FAO Chief Scientist, in her welcoming remarks, emphasized that climate change cannot be tackled without science and innovation.

The FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, in his introductory remarks, stressed his personal commitment to science, and stated that FAO must focus on the country level, and with the support of partners identify synergies between the two strategies.

Six concrete cases from FAO’s portfolio were then presented by FAO’s partners. The cases represented all regions and various innovation types and demonstrated science and innovation from low-income and high-income countries.

FAO is working with the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa)  to deliver south-south cooperation and technology transfer in the cotton sector. Silvia Maria Fonseca Silveira Massruhá, Embrapa President, explained the Plus Cotton Initiative, which involves 18 countries in Latin America. They all benefit from improved cotton seed, among many other innovations developed by the initiative, not solely technological ones. She emphasized the importance of institutional relationships throughout the cotton value chain. More than 10 000 farmers have been trained in using new technologies, including equipment adapted to the needs of small-scale farmers.

The impacts of climate change are particularly significant in arid regions. In Morocco, FAO contributes to the Revitalization of Oasis Agro-ecosystems through a Sustainable, Integrated and Landscape Approach (OASIL) project, which is led by local and national authorities. Mohammed Bachri, Director of Strategy and Partnerships at the National Agency for the Development of Oasis Zones and the Argan Tree, noted that it is the suddenness of climate change that makes it such a challenge. The project is based on scientific analysis and diagnostics, including analysis of climate impacts, monitoring and modelling water tables, and using FAO’s concepts of water accounting and water auditing. As with other initiative showcased during the event, the OASIL project demonstrates the importance of using several innovations in synergy: technical ones such as improved traditional water harvesting techniques and institutional infrastructure, with the involvement of local populations, networks and regional, provincial and community agencies.

Sorlaty Sengxeu, a geospatial land planning expert from the Department of Agriculture and Land Management in the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry of Lao PDR, presented the Strengthening Agro-climatic Monitoring and Information System (SAMIS) project. Its aims to enhance capacities to gather, process, analyze and share climatic and geospatial information for planning and decision-making, including decision-making by farmers. The project uses the most up-to-date science, including machine learning for geospatial data, to provide meteorological and other data to more than 110 000 farmers through Farmer Field Schools and other outreach enterprises such as television, radio and public announcements.

Women compromise about 90 percent of the oyster value chain personnel in Senegal, which involves 13 000 people. The oysters flourish in mangrove ecosystems. Khadim Tine, oyster farmer and Chair of the National Network of the Oyster Value Chain in Senegal, explained that the project, supported by FAO, introduced oyster farming techniques that replace traditional systems, which can be unsafe for the women, while also preserving the mangrove ecosystem. The project is part of the FISH4ACP programme led by the Organisation of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS).

The importance of using the latest computing tools to benefit the global community was highlighted by Domenico Parisi, Professor of Sociology and Senior Advisor for European and Data Science Development at Mississippi State University (MSU). “FAO is championing the use of big data to fight hunger and poverty, but unfortunately high-performance computing is not easily available, and this is why we have the commitment to work with FAO to allow others to use benefit from this technology”, he said. MSU and FAO have been collaborating since January 2023 to update global land and water datasets for agriculture, providing essential information for adapting to climate change. The initiative seeks to use the high-performance computing capacities of MSU to harness big data and geospatial information for FAO’s objectives, bolstering capacity to undertake land and water assessments even at the local scale.

Reducing methane emissions from livestock is key to any strategy aimed at reducing the impact of agriculture on climate change. While agriculture in Ireland is mainly based on livestock, the country is ambitious to reduce agricultural GHG emissions by 25 percent by 2030. Frank O’Mara, Director of Teagasc, the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, outlined an initiative to promote new technologies, including low-emission fertilizers, through 120 pilot farms that use peer-to-peer learning to promote new approaches. O’Mara also highlighted Teagasc’s research into cattle breeding and development of feed additives to reduce methane emissions.

Deputy Director-General Semedo, in closing the event, re-iterated the need to harness innovation for climate action, emphasizing the importance of taking a transformative approach that combines numerous types of innovation adapted to specific contexts.