Since its inception in 1995, EIARD has striven to extend the benefits of agricultural research to developing countries where some 70% of people make their living directly or indirectly from the farming sector and about 800 million do not have enough to eat. Despite the importance of the sector, the ratio of agricultural research spending to agricultural output in most developing countries is only a quarter of the level in developed countries – EIARD aims to bridge this gap.
In order to build on its mission to “contribute to the improvement of the livelihoods of poor people in developing countries by strengthening the impact … of European investments in ARD [agricultural research for development]”, EIARD has invited the ten new Member States of the European Union to sign up to the initiative.
The current membership of EIARD – which is an informal and voluntary ARD policy-coordinating platform – is made up of the 15 previous EU members, plus Norway, Switzerland and the European Commission.
Reaping development fruits
EIARD’s European Coordination Group held its ninth annual meeting in Belgium, in October 2003, to assess progress and chart a course for the coming year. In 2003, EIARD undertook an innovative reform process designed to enable it to fulfil its mandate better by restructuring around national EIARD networks coordinated by national contact points.
A key milestone was the decision to develop a European Research Area for Agricultural Research for Development (ERA-ARD). This new mechanism will help maximise the impact of research investment by improving coordination between European national ARD programmes.
On the international front, EIARD was a major driving force behind a number of innovations and reforms in the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). This 58-member global organisation – backed by the World Bank and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation – aims to harness research to increase food security, reduce poverty, and manage natural resources sustainably. EIARD members, who provide more than 40% of CGIAR’s funding, helped design and implement such initiatives as the Challenge Programmes on Water and Food, and Unlocking Genetic Diversity in Crops for the Resource-Poor.
With global food production needs expected to rise by 50% by 2020, EIARD does not intend to rest on its laurels. EIARD aims to make ERA-ARD a reality and contribute to the design of the EU’s upcoming Seventh Framework Programme for Research. It will also support CGIAR initiatives, and enhance co-operation with the Union’s developing country partners.