From Lab to Farm: Scientific research and its contribution to family farming and rural entrepreneurship
By Joaquín Lozano, Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, CGIAR
This text reflects some of the thoughts that CGIAR’s Latin America and the Caribbean Regional Director Joaquín Lozano shared with the participants in the XVIII Entrepreneur International Forum that took place in Loja, Ecuador, from 9 to 10 November. The Forum, organized by the Loja National University, the Azuay University, and the Andina Simón Bolívar University, focused on Entrepreneurship and Rural Productive Development.
“From Farm to Table.” In recent years, different Latin American governments have used this and other similar slogans to promote the consumption of food produced by family farmers in their countries.
Food from family farming has several advantages. It’s healthier and more nutritious and benefits the economy of local family farmers, who are responsible for one-third of global food production.
The role of these farmers is essential in a world where the demand for food is expected to increase by 70% by 2050, in comparison with 2010, due to the population increase.
Indeed, there is no need to travel into the future; the current context of the world food crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine shows us the importance of guaranteeing the supply and accessibility of food. The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) asserted in July 2022 that, in the 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries in which it works, there were 9.7 million people in urgent need of food aid. It also noted that, in these same countries, food cost inflation ranged between 11% and 26%.
To these temporary factors, we must add a structural one: climate change is leading to the rapid loss of arable land. Today more than ever it is crystal clear that we must change our food systems, including the way we produce, distribute and consume food.
In this sense, the slogan “from farm to table” should be complemented with a new one: “from laboratory to farm.”
Many factors influence agricultural productivity, but perhaps the most important one is technological innovation, which, in turn, is based on research. The world needs to transform agricultural scientific research into specific technological innovations that can be used by family farmers to increase their production, establish enterprises, and access markets on favorable terms.
As a result, the performance of their agricultural and livestock farms will allow them to survive and live with dignity and thrive. This, in turn, would benefit not only farmers but our a whole society.
To this end, there must be a chain of knowledge transmission that creates a pathway from the laboratory, where scientists examine the quality of the soil or the properties of a seed, to the farm, where that seed is planted.
For this chain to be solid, there can be no missing links. And when I say links, I mean partners. Producer organizations, the private sector, academia, international organizations, and, above all, governments must be a part of this chain, so that the technological innovations developed by scientific organizations such as the CGIAR are made available to the majority of family farmers and rural small and medium-sized enterprises.
We are promoting and strengthening this chain in Latin America and the Caribbean through various initiatives, most notably through the AGRILAC Resilient initiative. Its objective is to increase the resilience, sustainability, and competitiveness of family farmers in the region, providing them with tools to respond to climate change and ensure their continued production of healthy and nutritious food.
The region-headquartered CGIAR Centers, the International Potato Center (CIP), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), and the Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), as well as the Latin America and the Caribbean office of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), will continue to be powerful drivers of change and hubs for collaboration and co-creation of solutions while leveraging CGIAR’s global expertise and capacities.
Only a broad alliance can meet the multidimensional challenge of ensuring that, based on scientific research applied to real life, food security is effectively a right for everyone and not a privilege for the few.
The stability, well-being, and the survival of our societies depends on our success in achieving this goal.
You’ll find here some links that reflect the media coverage that Joaquín Lozano’s visit to Ecuador generated: