More than one billion people in the developing world suffer chronic undernourishment and without radical changes to global agricultural research systems another billion risk going hungry, says Uma Lele, writing in Science.
At the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) this week, world leaders in science and society will gather to organise these crucial changes (see Global summit seeks to transform agricultural research).
One of GCARD's main aims is to improve public and private investments in agricultural research to better address food security and poverty reduction, says Lele.
A new fund proposed by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) should help harmonise donor contributions to help the group deliver research outputs and impact on poverty, said Lele. And the 2009 pledge by the G8 countries of US$20 billion in food and agriculture aid will help boost research expenditure, as will the predicted expansion of South–South partnerships (see G8 countries of US$20 billion).
But it's not all about money. Lele argues that agricultural development requires "a combination of enabling policies, secure land rights, and farmers' access to knowledge, technologies and markets". She adds that while international sources can provide some technologies, such as new plant varieties, certain developments, including natural resource management and the involvement of women, will need to be tailored to individual conditions.
It is critical that GCARD meets its goal of transforming the global architecture of agricultural research, concludes Lele.