Rural communities have little say in their own future and in directing support to create the innovations to get there. Those with greatest need and the least voice – poor and smallholder farmers, women, youth – are precisely those most strategic to involve in order to reach the SDGs. These farmers and social groups are experimenters, producers of knowledge and researchers in their own right, hence they need to be empowered to drive the innovation processes. As key partners in co-research initiatives, development programmes and organizations that place their aspirations and capacities at the center,  they can become dynamic, pro-active players in the pro-poor governance transformation of agricultural innovation systems. Approaches to improve governance include participatory research and foresight, institutionalizing the rights of rural women and recognizing farmers’ rights to genetic resources. Rights to access, use and ownership of open data by smallholder farmers are also crucial as data becomes the new frontier in agricultural development.     

This Key Focus Area includes the following GFAR Collective Actions set out together by Partners in GFAR: 

KFA 1-A: Empowering rural communities to shape their own futures

This Collective Action aims to enable rural communities and agricultural development stakeholders with the capacity to shape and determine their own futures through participatory foresight skills. Participatory foresight process will be leveraged on to provide an inclusive space for decision making and for the exchange of perspectives on what farmers, researchers and other agricultural development actors, consider as their most important innovation needs and priorities. This process will help farming communities to better understand the challenges and opportunities for their own futures. The collective decision making on the pressing innovation needs will aid better adoption of new research and innovation generated by researchers.

This Collective action is supported at the regional levels by regional bodies, such as FARA through the Africa Foresight Academy, and at the global level through the Foresight4Food Initiative – a collaboration between GFAR, ACIAR, University of Oxford, CIRAD and other stakeholders. 

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KFA 1-B: Empowering rural communities as drivers of agricultural innovation

Led by World Rural Forum, this initiative seizes the strategic moment of the launch of the International Decade of Family Farming 2019-2028 (IYFF+10). The Collective Action “Enhancing participatory processes between Family Farmers, Civil Society/Rural Communities, Research Institutes” aims at empowering family farmers and rural communities as drivers of agricultural research and innovation, recognizing the role of farmers in the whole process of research. The value of this initiative resides in applying participatory research in a multi-stakeholder core group in which farmers’ organizations are in full and open dialogue with researchers, civil society organizations and donors institutions. The initiative will bring more public attention to the need for transforming the governance of current agricultural research and innovation processes at various levels to respond to both the demands of family farming and the need for more appropriate knowledge generation and dissemination to serve their specificities. 

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KFA 1-C: Rediscovering Forgotten Foods and Ensuring Benefits to Smallholder Farmers

The aim of this Collective Action is to empower and mobilize local communities, including disadvantaged and displaced farmers, and particularly rural women, to better conserve, sustainably use, improve and benefit from forgotten food crops, contributing to healthy and diverse diets, sustainable environmental services and community livelihoods. Societal awareness of the value of forgotten foods is a major element of this Collective Action. Goals include raising awareness and improving education, changing eating habitats and reconnecting communities to their cultural heritage. 

Expected outcomes include social networked actions to develop incentives for: conserving and using forgotten foods; improving consumer demand and awareness; ensuring market-scale commercialization and participatory plant breeding; strengthening farmers' organizations and farmer's collectives; improving  the legal and policy framework recognizing the value of forgotten foods; and enhancing their use for improved livelihoods. 

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KFA 1-D: Empowering Smallholder Farmers' Data Use and Rights

The objective of this Collective Action is to explore the main challenges and opportunities of harnessing open data for the benefit of farmers, particularly resource poor farmers and communities; recommend strategies and priority areas of intervention at the legal / policy level to ensure farmers’ access and use of data and protect their rights; and then act on these recommendations. The ethical and legal aspects related to farmers’ accessing and using available data and sharing their own data are now seen as key to empowering farmers through regulations, agreements and an enabling policy environment.

The first expected output of the process is an agreed investable and actionable plan with clear commitment from partners, while among desired outcomes are Inter-institutional cooperation around farmers’ aggregation, community protocols, national and international policy frameworks and increased awareness of all relevant actors of farmers’ rights to use and provide agricultural data and knowledge. 

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Complete Information Package on GFAR Collective Actions