Bringing science and development together through news and analysis

  • French centre to use research as tool for development

France's national centre for agricultural research for development plans to set up more local partnerships to study topics agreed with organisations in developing countries "for the benefit of the world's poorest people and with a view to ensuring sustainable development".

This is part of a ten-year strategy — with the tagline 'making research a real tool for development' —  published last month (25 March) by the Centre for International Cooperation in Agronomic Research for Development (CIRAD).

The organisation works with more than 60 developing nations, mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa but also in emerging countries such as Brazil, China and India, to tackle international agricultural and development challenges. Its new strategy will feed into its contractual objectives to be agreed with the French government.

SPEED READ

  • CIRAD aims to increase the number of local research partnerships from 20 to 30
  • It wants to move away from Western-controlled research and focus on local development
  • Its ten-year strategy also aims to support innovation, produce more science and measure its impact

Other 'ambitions' in the strategy are to expand scientific production, measure the impact of its research and support innovation, all with the aim of turning research into a development tool in the global South.

Pierre Fabre, head of CIRAD's environment and society department, says the organisation hopes to increase the number of its local partnerships, called partnership platforms, from 20 to 30 over the next ten years because experience shows them to be "instrumental and effective".

"We want to concentrate our efforts on partnership platforms that address problems and boost local expertise," he says."We will have an even stronger emphasis on development through research."

The partnerships bring together several key local players to agree common research projects that tackle specific needs, Fabre explains.

Each platform hosts several collaborations, combining research with academic training for local researchers.

For example, in Zimbabwe, research into infectious diseases in wild and domestic animals involves collaborations between two Zimbabwean universities, two French research institutes and the French embassy in the country.

The approach differs from a traditional partnership in which developed nations decide what research should be investigated in the developing world.

"We need to research together — not being driven only by Northern and international resources and research priorities," says Fabre. "The only way for citizens to develop a region is to do it themselves. There is no substitute for local knowledge and human resources."

Each new platform requires CIRAD to provide seed funding of around €20,000 to €30,000 (about US$26,000 to 39,000) to meet initial management costs, with scientific funding bodies then funding further research.

CIRAD also wants to encourage other Western countries to help establish further platforms, Fabre adds.

Bernard Hubert, president of Agropolis International, a scientific network focused on agriculture, food, biodiversity and environment, says that strengthening partnership platforms "provides a unique setting to study major changes regarding food safety, environmental issues and development at the global level".

He emphasises that agricultural issues can be identified "in partnership with local partners, taking into account a diversity of cultures, world-views and perceptions of these problems".

However, he cautions that the strategy must consider the best ways to build interdisciplinary and systemic research programmes that are alternatives to conventional agricultural approaches.

Link to CIRAD's strategy