Contested Framings of ‘Agricultural Research for Development’

During the BSUFN Symposium: The Diversity of Food Research last month, Ruth Segal (SPRU, University of Sussex) presented her ongoing doctoral research. This is a summary of her presentation and research.

Contested Framings of ‘Agricultural Research for Development’

The 2007-8 global food price crisis raised fresh concerns about the resilience of the global food supply and of national and local food security. There was renewed international policy interest in the functioning of the global agri-food system, and within that, on the role, direction and effectiveness of public international agricultural research (IAR). However, conflicting models of ‘development’ and different conceptualisations of ‘food security’ suggest different desired outputs from agricultural research.

This research aims to increase understandings of how different ways of framing contributions to debates about the global agri-food system (and different conceptualisations of ‘food security’) have affected decisions on the direction of public agricultural research at the global level. It will examine whether – and how – changing pressures on, and perceptions of, the food system are leading to new framings of the debate that might challenge, or reinforce, the mainstream ‘productionist’ paradigm.

The research will examine the changing role for, and mandate of, public International Agricultural Research (IAR) institutions in the light of changing structures and processes in the functioning and governance of the global food system. It will do this through an examination of current and historical attempts to reform agricultural research institutions, specifically the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), and ask how CGIAR has responded to changing pressures and new challenges.

It will examine CGIAR’s evolving understandings of its role in the provision of International Public Goods (IPGs); and how this role has been and is understood and negotiated amongst diverse actors in IAR including public, private, civil society, philanthropic and international institutions.

It will examine influences on the CGIAR reform process, and the mechanisms by which different perspectives gain and maintain dominance in shaping the direction of change in public agricultural research. It will examine how these changing relationships are shaping choices about the priorities of public IAR, and how those priorities fit within wider dynamics of change within the global agri-food system. It will consider the implications of the reform process for CGIAR’s intended beneficiaries, and for the contribution of IAR to reducing hunger and poverty.

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