Global agricultural alliance sets its research agenda

The alliance will ensure that scientists share their research findings with farmers in countries other than their own. Copyright: Flickr/CIAT/Neil Palmer

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[WELLINGTON] A global research alliance that aims to produce more food for the world’s growing population while reducing carbon emissions from agriculture has laid out its plans.

The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases — launched at the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009 (see Agricultural alliance vows to grow more and emit less) — held its first meeting in Wellington, New Zealand, earlier this month (7–9 April) with 28 of the 29 member states in attendance.

The alliance aims to bridge gaps in research on agricultural greenhouse gas emissions, which account for around 14 per cent of the world’s total emissions. It also seeks to coordinate such research on an international scale, ensuring that scientists share their findings with research communities and farmers in other countries as well as their own.

This was the first time policy officials and scientists had come together to discuss the alliance’s work for the next year, David Carter, New Zealand’s agriculture minister and the meeting’s co-host, told SciDev.Net.

Alliance members agreed on three research strands: crop management research led by the United States; livestock issues led jointly by the Netherlands and New Zealand; and rice paddy farming investigations led by Japan. A further research area to study the role of soil carbon in agricultural emissions is also under consideration, said Carter.

Member states, including 13 developing countries, can decide which research groups are most relevant to their needs and join any of them, said Carter. The work across all three strands will initially focus on mitigation of greenhouse emissions, he added, and research must be clearly defined to avoid overlap with existing knowledge.

Developing countries are important to the alliance, he said, because a large proportion of their emissions usually comes from agriculture.

"The quickest way [developing countries] will get access [to the alliance’s research], without doubt, is to become members. But if you’re talking about a particular project and whether that technology will be free — we don’t know yet. Those are some of the tricky issues surrounding intellectual property we have to work through in the future."

The United States announced at the meeting that it will provide ten fellowships for agricultural researchers from developing countries to collaborate on the alliance’s research.

The meeting also agreed a draft charter that will be finalised in 2011. New Zealand will act as the interim secretariat.

Developing country member states of the alliance are: Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Uruguay and Vietnam. Brazil and China attended the Wellington meeting as observers.