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GFAR was initially conceived in 1996 as an association of public research organizations, working together with representatives of other stakeholders, to reshape and strengthen national agricultural research systems and to promote research on key themes for greater development impact. Times have changed and the Global Forum has evolved greatly over the last decade, as members have worked together to reshape agricultural research and innovation towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Truly sustainable agricultural development, and empowering rural communities to realize their desired futures, require the actions and interactions of many actors and the flow of knowledge and ideas in many directions. In reality, innovation is not a linear process but operates through complex webs. Partners in GFAR hence conceive farmers and rural communities as central and integral to all processes of innovation, rather than at the end of a supposed pipeline from research. Reflecting this reality, GFAR has now been completely restructured through a consultative process of governance reform, creating a unique, open and equitable mechanism for participatory dialogue, collective action and advocacy, to transform and strengthen the roles of agri-food research and innovation in development. GFAR is a collective movement, an action network made up of hundreds of self-committing organizations, themselves setting the agenda, linking science and society and working together to change the dynamics of agri-food research and innovation systems, processes and business models.

This report highlights the changes achieved and the exciting new basis of GFAR. The new governance of GFAR brings together, on an equal basis, all 13 sectors active in shaping agricultural research and innovation around the world, from across public, private and civil society sectors, nationally and internationally. These Steering Committee members are determined either as the elected heads of relevant sectoral networks, or, in the case of grassroots organizations, directly elected by the GFAR Partners within that sector. This balance of international organizations, providing the global presence of GFAR, with grassroots organizations that keep the focus very grounded on real needs and real challenges, is a unique strength of GFAR and is now inspiring similar change in partner organizations and networks.

GFAR’s work reflects this multi-stakeholder governance and is expressed through collective actions, determined and driven by the partner organizations themselves, supported by the GFAR Secretariat. GFAR is a leading-edge organization for the future; an institution without walls that celebrates and recognizes the contributions of our constituent organizations towards development objectives, yet also adds a vital dimension: fostering partnership and synergies among these partners to achieve far more change and impact than any one organization or sector can achieve by itself. Some examples are presented in this report, including work to strengthen smallholder farmers’ rights to information and genetic resources, use of participatory foresight and development of innovation platforms to rapidly and sustainably develop new business opportunity for youth and actions to transform the university experience and ensure tomorrow’s leaders are equipped with the personal and professional skills required to really make a difference. Alongside these, GFAR continues to help inspire and enable change in its constituent networks themselves, from local to regional and international, helping organizations to reflect on their own roles and values and how they can better serve the needs of millions of the world’s poor.

GFAR is a unique bridge linking science and society and is needed now more than ever.  Together, we are tackling the unspoken ‘elephants in the room’ that constrain agri-food knowledge and innovation from benefiting those they are intended to serve; the world’s poor farmers and consumers. By fostering real partnership, common advocacy and collective actions, we are opening out institutionalized silos and breaking down barriers between diverse actors, all of whom are essential to achieving truly sustainable development. With a reformed governance and a newly elected Chair, Bongiwe Njobe, and Vice-Chair, Raffaele Maiorano, GFAR is well placed to drive change in agri-food innovation systems around the world over the years ahead and give rural communities the exciting future they deserve. As this report shows, GFAR is a collective movement that is learning all the time, about what it takes to build consensus and collective action among widely diverse partners and about how Partners can best own these changes themselves and bring change right through to local impacts, if the SDGs are indeed to be met by 2030.


This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

GFAR (2018) GFAR Annual Report 2017. Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation, Rome, Italy.
@ 2018. GFAR. All rights reserved. This publication may be reproduced without the permission of, but with acknowledgement to, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation.

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