4 August 2016 – CABI held its 19th Review Conference of Member Countries in Egham, UK, on 26-27 July, and discussed its medium-term strategy for 2017-19. This triennial milestone in the CABI calendar saw 124 attendees from 35 countries come together to agree priorities to solve problems in agriculture and the environment. The Review Conference followed three Regional Consultations and outlined how CABI will address the shared priorities of its member countries by delivering practical, on-the-ground projects and solutions.
The event focused on the theme of ‘Knowledge for a sustainable future’ and, importantly, showed how CABI is aligning its strategy with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In the coming years, CABI will focus on priorities such as helping farmers to trade more of what they grow, increasing food and nutrition security by bringing science from the lab to the field, and putting know-how into people’s hands by enhancing the use of mobile ICTs. Key areas of focus will also include enhancing sustainable climate-smart agriculture, protecting biodiversity and ecosystems and strengthening capacity for development.
The Review Conference also approved a new strategy for tackling invasive species, which builds on the organization’s long history of working in this field. The aim is to protect and improve the livelihoods of 50 million African and Asian farming families impacted by invasive species. The strategy will do this through an environmentally sustainable, regional approach to comprehensive pest management.
At the opening session, delegates were welcomed by Dr Lutz-Peter Berg, Chair of CABI's Executive Council, and Mr Philip Walters, Chair of CABI's Board. In his review address, CABI CEO, Dr Trevor Nicholls, talked about the organization’s progress over the past three years, highlighting the organization’s focus on impact and value: “CABI has continued to make good progress strategically, operationally and financially. Our progress against key indicators is very much on track.” He noted how the CABI-led Plantwise food security programme, operating in 34 countries, has now reached nearly 5 million farmers.
Member countries from Canada, China, Ghana, Jamaica, Pakistan and Uganda gave presentations to showcase their innovative approaches to agriculture. They also praised the valuable partnerships that have underpinned progress achieved so far.
Talking about CABI’s scientific expertise, Dr Michele Marcotte from Canada said, “CABI has provided a value-added environment for training scientists.” Dr Jin Ke commented on China’s significant agricultural transformation and how CABI’s strategy aligns well with China’s national goals. He looks forward to engaging in greater South-South cooperation and technology transfer with CABI, creating a new European laboratory in Switzerland, which builds on the existing Joint Laboratory in Beijing.
Dr Victor Agyeman explained how Ghana has empowered farmers with knowledge and technology, increasing productivity of its agricultural output by building linkages between research, extension, farmers and agro-business. Mr Dermon Spence talked about how two of Jamaica’s nine agro parks for farming intensification have introduced plant clinics. Dr Ahmad Bakhsh Mahar highlighted how research has been critical to a massive increase in agricultural productivity in Pakistan. Dr Ambrose Agona discussed the value of traditional knowledge and conservation in Uganda.
The two-day conference incorporated a mix of panel debate and presentation on issues of global importance. Senior CABI staff gave interactive presentations showcasing CABI’s core capabilities and extensive networks. Speakers were invited to discuss the value of alliances and partnerships for helping to achieve the SDGs. Panellist and CABI Board Member, Prof Ruth Oniang’o, said, “It’s up to us to make something of the SDGs. We need partnerships. We need scientists, the private sector, literate farmers, the media, and we can actually make it happen. CABI is a great organization. I’m so happy to be part of it.”
Pre-Review Conference Tour of CABI Science Site attracts over 30 delegates
Preceding the 19th Review Conference, on 25 July, over 30 delegates from CABI member countries and partner organizations joined a tour of CABI’s laboratories in Egham. A tailored programme enabled delegates to see and hear first-hand CABI’s science in action. The tour focused on knowledge business, trade and commodities, invasive species management, microbial and molecular services and Microbial Genetic Resources Collections, preparing them for in-depth discussions and deliberations on CABI’s revised medium-term strategy at the Review Conference.
Several delegates commented at the Review Conference that CABI’s strong research capabilities, valuable microbial services and collections, and rich information resources can be further shared for mutual benefit between member countries and CABI, helping to deliver the SDGs.
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Image: Review Conference delegates at Dorney Court, Windsor, UK