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FEATURE STORY
  South Asia Regional Workshop Bringing Together Agricultural Researchers and Policymakers  
Official launch of the GDN Agricultural Policy Briefs in Colombo

“Agriculture continues to be a very important livelihood option for the vast majority of South Asia’s rural population, even though the sector’s contribution to the economy is shrinking” – GDN Policy Brief on ‘Addressing long-term challenges to food security and rural livelihoods in South Asia’.

‘Supporting Policy Research to Inform Agricultural Policy in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia’, a Global Research Project (GRP) of the Global Development Network (GDN), held its second regional workshop on 22 and 23 October, 2012, in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The project is supported by The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The workshop was organized in partnership with the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) of Sri Lanka, an eminent think tank in South Asia. The purpose of the workshop was to present a South Asian perspective on agricultural research and policy issues.

One of the project’s main objectives is to make policymakers and key experts’ working in the area of agriculture aware of the policy issues across South Asia. Dr. Saman Kelegama, Executive Director, Institute of Policy Studies of Sri Lanka also placed greater emphasis on this point in his speech, “New research into agricultural policy is vital because the sector supports 30-60 percent of the population in South Asia and plays a key role in reducing poverty and supporting food security.”

The event was the culmination of a process that brought together agricultural policy researchers and policymakers from South Asia to bring forth policy issues that are relevant to the region.

Some of the eminent participants were, Hon. Dr. Sarath Amunugama, Senior Minister for International Monetary Co-operation, Ministry of Finance and Planning, The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka; Hon. Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, Member of Parliament and Minister of Agriculture, The Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka; Hon. Krishibid Shawkat Momen Shahjahan, Member of Parliament and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Bangladesh; and H.E. Mr. Prasad Kariyawasam, High Commissioner of Sri Lanka to India and GDN Assembly Member. The RNP Head for the South Asia Network of Economic Research Institutes (SANEI), Dr. Mustafa K. Mujeri, Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) was also among the speakers for the event.

Among the other 40 participants were representatives from regional research institutes (Centre for Environment and Agricultural Policy Research, Extension and Development in Nepal, National Agribusiness Council in Sri Lanka and Indian Institute of Management, India), non-government organizations (Oxfam India and Oxfam Australia) and the private sector (ITC Agribusiness India, Valley Irrigation Pakistan Pvt. Ltd., Macro Economic Insights Pvt. Ltd., Pakistan and Hayles Agriculture Holding Ltd. in Bangladesh) along with journalists from Sri Lanka and South Asia, who attended the event.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Hon. Dr. Sarath Amunugama said, “The global economic crisis and increasing energy costs mean Sri Lanka and other South Asian countries can no longer rely on importing foodstuffs like food cereals, so national food security is important for sovereignty and self-sufficiency, so this seminar is absolutely important."

At the workshop, South Asia Country Research Teams presented their main findings of a systematic review of agricultural research conducted over the last 12 months, on five vital agricultural development issues. These include: Irrigation and Water Use Efficiency; Agricultural Pricing and Public Procurement; Managing Agricultural Commercialization for Inclusive Growth; Long-term Challenges to Food Security and Rural Livelihoods; and Improving the Effectiveness, Efficiency and Sustainability of Fertilizer Use.

Speaking to the South Asian media, Dr. George Mavrotas, Project Director and Chief Economist at GDN stressed that “Agriculture remains an extremely vital sector for millions of people in South Asia, including small farmers in the region who are crucially dependent on agriculture. Yet, we need to delve deeper into agricultural policy issues by providing policymakers, the media and the wider public with research which is scientifically rigorous, but at the same time, timely and easily accessible to them. This is one of the reasons why GDN and agricultural policy researchers from South Asia have been working on this project across the region.”

This was followed by the official launch of the five GDN Agricultural Policy Briefs by Dr. Mavrotas. The Briefs summarized the findings emanating from the five key agricultural policy research papers.

The workshop has been enormously successful and attracted substantial media attention from different regional newspapers and online news media in South Asia.

The project has put in place a multi-prolonged outreach plan to enhance the research uptake among policymakers, key experts and media. In doing so, the plan embraces new media technology like mobile applications (for iPad, iPhone, Android, Kindle Fire) and social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Vimeo). In addition, the project has commissioned 10 documentaries on the five key research topics.

GDN will organize an Experts’ Roundtable in connection with this project, on 14 December, 2012, in Rome, Italy. The workshop will be held in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

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NOTE: For more information on GDN, please visit www.gdn.int. For more information on the project and for free download of the Agricultural Policy Research App, visit project website http://agripolicyoutreach.org

 
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