Public, private and NGO leaders come together to tackle issue of global food security
Day Two of the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA), currently being held in Abu Dhabi, had a strong focus on Africa and Arid Agriculture.
GFIA is held under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister of the UAE, Minister of Presidential Affairs and Chairman of Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA), and has been organised in strategic partnership with ADFCA and with official support from the Ministry of Environment and Water.
The exciting day’s events began with a discussion on Africa: the Frontier for Arid Farming, which brought together experts from around the world, including Johan Steyn, the Managing Director for Cargill in the Middle East and Africa, Dr Roy Steiner, Deputy Director of Agricultural Development at the BIll & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Pierre Herben, Chief Technology Officer at Yara International, one of the world’s largest fertiliser and crop nutrition companies.
“The key to addressing the challenges of food security is business model innovation, and collaboration between different stakeholders. We need to shift the focus of the industry towards sustainable intensive agriculture. For an inaugural event, GFIA has done an impressive job of bringing together such a diverse audience, particularly from the Middle East and Africa,” said Herben.
The panellists discussed innovation, private sector engagement, capacity building and entrepreneurship, and how to accelerate impact by changing the decision-making process of local and regional bodies in Africa.
The program also included the Landscapes Forum, a panel discussion with members of the Association of International Research and Development Centres for Agriculture (AIRCA) on the value of healthy landscapes for increasing agricultural sustainability and food security for smallholder farmers.
“GFIA 2014 is proving to be a resounding success. New partnerships are being formed, the public, private and non-profit sectors are collaborating, and we are being presented with some of the world’s most astounding innovations, many of which show great potential for being adopted by farmers here in the UAE,” said Mohamed Jalal Al Rayssi, Director of Communication and Community Service at ADFCA.
Other major highlights of the second day included a plenary session on The NGO Revolution, in which African NGO leaders analysed the role of NGOs in advocacy, advice and driving innovation to revolutionise the way in which Africa and the wider world produces food, and a forum on Risk Management in agriculture and aquaculture that focused on the use of insurance and index-based solutions to manage the risk posed by adverse weather events.
Day Two also saw 52 game-changing innovations presented in four theatres as part of GFIA’s innovative Power Sessions format. Speakers each had 15 minutes to demonstrate their technology or projects, and how they believe they will revolutionise the future of agriculture.
Many focused on the sustainable intensification of hi-tech agriculture, particular in cities. They ranged from ‘elevated gardens’ – urban farming in virtually any outdoor location using an automated solar powered watering system and a growing medium that is a by-product of the coconut industry – to ‘film farming,’ a minimum-water technology in which plants are cultivated on a hydro-membrane composed of water-soluble polymer and hydrogel, and agro-ICT solutions for countries based on geo-mapping.