28 April 2008

Salzburg Global Seminar: Towards a Green Revolution in Africa?

This week I'm attending the Salzburg Global Seminar conference, "Toward a 'Green Revolution' in Africa?"

"Toward a 'Green Revolution' in Africa?" is an Initiative of the Salzburg Global Seminar, the Institute of Development Studies and the Future Agricultures Consortium.

The title is posed as a question, which of itself is an interesting statement.

I like that it's a question, because it implies the seminar organizers are not wedded to one idea or one approach to what ails Africa.

It also implies that there are lingering questions about whether a "Green Revolution" is what's needed in Africa.

A healthy skepticism is important when people come together in dialog about issues as important as the health and future of the African continent and its people. I admire the seminar organizers for sticking that question mark in the title.

At the heart of this question are two overarching additional questions:

1. How can new interest and investment in African agriculture be used to bring about real and sustainable change; and

2. How can these efforts be aligned strategically with other investments and development activities (be they from private donors, public aid, or private business) and new strategic alliances and partnerships be created to ensure success?

As the conference organizers write in an Overview provided to participants: "There is a clear need for a new vision for agricultural development in Africa that can deal with the complexities of agriculture in diverse settings across Africa and meet the conditions necessary to achieve more equitable benefits for Africa’s farmers. But whose vision should this be?"

The conference brings together "diverse stakeholders, from within Africa and beyond, who are experts (in their given areas), leading thinkers, change-makers and are, or can influence, senior decision-makers."

At last count, there are 90 participants from government, business, academia, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), "who will explore a set of issues of vital concern to the future of agriculture in Africa, and, indeed, to Africa’s development agenda."

We'll be asked to "devise the conceptual framework within which a new agricultural development agenda in Africa can be set and implemented, and to recommend specific actions," including "recommendations for policy adjustments, streamlining practice, and creating strategic alliances."

It will be interesting to see what the outcomes of the sessions will be. For now, I'm really looking forward to this dialog, both as a learning experience and for what I think I can contribute in terms of linking agriculture to biodiversity health, social entrepreneurship, and investments.

Click here for more on the Salzburg Global Seminars.