by Meaghan Murphy, Agriculture and Food Security Portfolio Manager at The QED Group. This item was originally posted at Agrilinks.
Peter McPherson, President of the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities, opened the Feed the Future Research Forum welcoming the over 300 participants in the room. He highlighted the 10 themes raised through the e-consultation process that will be taken on through the forum, encouraging participants to think with specificity in the work sessions and throughout the three days, about the framework and partnerships needed to address them.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah reinforced this forum as an opportunity for the US government and USAID to continue deep listening, engagement with and learning from the convened community of experts. He challenged participants of the Forum to bring a lens of strategic focus and also discipline to identify the few “big ideas” and breakthroughs needed to guide the FTF research agenda. He highlighted a new Leadership Initiative, announced earlier in the day which will support higher education initiatives and institutions, leadership development and capacity building. Administrator Shah proposed several hypotheses to be considered over the coming days, including a focus on dramatic change in four systems globally: 1) Rice and wheat system in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, 2) the Maize mixed systems of Central and Southern Africa, 3) Sudan and the Sahel, and 4) the Ethiopian Highlands. Also encouraged was a hard look at what type of research is invested in and an alignment of funding allocated to these priorities. Other hypotheses emphasized crop research (with focus on climate resistance), animal research, and research on human nutrition, as well as the importance of both public and private sector engagement in moving these forward. Finally, Shah highlighted the combined excellence of USAID and USDA and the importance of strong partnerships moving forward for the common goal and purpose of Feed the Future.
Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the National Security Council, highlighted why this initiative is such a priority to President Obama and this administration and where it came from. She reinforced the theme of engagement and the critical role expertise from the broad community represented in the room will continue to play at all stages. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of USDA closed the session highlighting both the great opportunity and enthusiasm of having such focus and attention on this issue from the very top as well as the very real challenges and the very difficult resource decisions facing us all. Both underlined the emphasis on focus, partnership, and demonstrable wins to keep the support and continued momentum in place.