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New international network on agriculture and development launched

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Wednesday, 08 July 2009 08:29

rice-fields

New international network initiative aims to link farmers in rich and poor countries and boost sustainable agriculture.

How can Swedish expertise contribute to sustainable agriculture in the world today? Does meeting the demands of the global market have to come at the expense of household nutrition for the poor? And how can farmers use technology for food production that will benefit the poor as well as the environment?

Difficult questions like these lie at the heart of a new network which begin activities in August this year. SIANI – the Swedish International Agricultural Network Initiative – will link people working in agriculture in both rich and poor countries. After interviews with 142 people from 91 organisations, SEI researchers have identified some of the key issues that the network will be considering.

The SIANI scoping study by SEI researchers Rasmus Larsen, Maria Osbeck and colleagues identified four major sets of issues in agriculture today: conflicts of interest between production and conservation, hindrances to collaboration between public and private sectors on the topic of markets and agro-business, polarising of Swedish professionals over biofuels, and the use of contested technologies, such as genetic engineering, as a response to the food crisis.

- We are excited about SIANI’s potential to contribute to inter-sectoral collaboration and dialogue between diverse national and international stakeholder perspectives in a sector that has become increasingly fragmented and polarised over the past decades, say Rasmus Larsen and Maria Osbeck, SEI researchers and two of the authors of the study.

Addressing controversy in a systematic and integrated manner
SIANI will enable exchange between ‘communities of practice’ that have a stake in agriculture and development. It will also contribute to aid coordination between Sweden and other donor countries, bridging research, practice and policy so that controversial issues are addressed in a systemic and integrated manner.

A workshop held in Stockholm in January 2009 brought together Swedish civil servants, researchers, private sector, civil society and development aid workers to discuss current challenges and how Swedish knowledge can help. One participant commented that, for example, “Sweden has competence that can be used in combating animal diseases outside Sweden but this competence is not sufficiently harnessed as the emphasis is to build protection in Sweden.”

SEI to serve as secretariat
Based on workshop discussions and the scoping study, SEI is currently preparing to serve as the secretariat for SIANI from August 2009.

The full text of the scoping study can be downloaded here, or from the new SIANI website. You are welcome to comment on the study. Comments made by 7 August 2009 will be considered when finalising the first annual work plan.

Feedback from stakeholders is already being shared at www.siani.se.
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