The Global Forum's Secretariat provides support to the Partners’ Assembly, the Steering Committee and to the Partners in GFAR, catalysing their collective actions as they work together to transform agricultural research and innovation for greater impact in sustainable development. Located in the FAO Headquarters in Rome, the Secretariat is a tightly-focused team, comprising the GFAR Executive Secretary, senior officers/advisers responsible for specific areas of operation and administrative and technical staff. 

Current staff of the Secretariat:

Prof. Dr. Hildegard Lingnau

Executive Secretary

Hildegard Lingnau is a development professional with more than 30 years of experience in research, policy development and management positions in institutions and countries all over the world: with a leading sustainable development think tank (German Development Institute, GDI), with governments in Latin America, Africa, Asia and in the Arab World, with German government and implementing organizations (BMZ, AA & GIZ) and with international organizations (WFP, OECD).

Hildegard qualified as a Professor at University (Habilitation) (Siegen University) and holds a PhD (Dr.rer.pol.) and a Masters (Diplom) (both from FU Berlin). She also studied at the IEP Paris, the HfV Speyer and the GDI in Berlin.

Hildegard is (inter alia) a member of the Advisory Board of the UNU Institute for National Resources in Africa (UNU-INRA), the Multidimensional Poverty Peer Network (MPPN) and the German Association of University Professors (DHV).


Caroline Muganda

Programme Officer

Caroline Muganda holds an MBA from Warwick Business School, Coventry UK. She joined FAO in 2016 and has been part of the operations team in Bangladesh, Malawi and UAE working in Emergency and Resilience as well as government cooperation projects. This role primarily entails supporting projects through the different stages of the project life cycle, drafting agreements and contracts with various entities, project proposal writing and formulation of budgets, ensuring timely provision of inputs, contributing to communication, reporting and visibility activities for the field programmes and ensuring compliance during project implementations.  Caroline joined GFAR in May 2021 and will work with the multi-stakeholder partners that make up GFAR and with FAO management on all administrative issues. She will also support the Executive Secretary in mobilizing GFAR partners to engage in collective advocacy through communication and knowledge sharing.


Charles Plummer

Office Assistant/Communications Support

Charles Plummer has been part of the GFAR Secretariat team since 2009. He has provided logistics and communications support for all three Global Conferences on Agricultural Research for Development held in 2010, 2012 and 2016. Charles has managed GFAR’s websites and social media channels since 2014, and has provided administrative and partner management support. He is from the United States and has been living in Italy since 2006.


Gwyneth Byrd 

Admin and Programme Support

Ms Gwyneth Byrd holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Trinity College, Hartford CT, USA, in English Literature and Italian Studies. She has been working at FAO since 2001.  She has worked in several divisions within the Organization  Most recently, she was an Audit Assistant in the Office of the Inspector General and a Programme Assistant for the ABNJ Programme in Fisheries.  She provides administrative and programme support to GFAR.  She is from the United States and has been living in Italy since 1998.


Alessandro Meschinelli

Consultant - Collective Action for Forgotten Foods

Alessandro Meschinelli holds a degree in Political Science completed by a Master in Environment-Population-Development, with further training in Eco-Pedagogy . After working for a private firm and the Italian Foreign Trade promotion institution, he joined the UN system in 1992 as evaluator of projects and then research officer at IFAD. He managed a multimillion grants portfolio enhancing the participation of smallholders farmers to knowledge generation as a means to empower them and increase the adoption of innovations jointly developed with scientists and technicians. Alessandro joined GFAR in 2017 to Coordinate the area of « Empowering farmers at the Center of Innovation » contributing to shaping its Collective Actions according to co-innovation and co-research principles applied to the governance of research.


Valeria Pesce

Consultant - Collective Action on Inclusive Digital Transformation of Agriculture

Valeria Pesce has worked for more than 15 years in the areas of knowledge management, data infrastructures, data sharing, data standardization and more recently data policies, especially concerning agri-food data. She was already Project Manager at the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR) for 13 years until 2018 and had consultancies with CTA and the World Bank on digital agriculture policies and previous collaborations with FAO on agricultural data standards. She joined GFAR again in 2021, while also working for the FAO Statistics Division, and is coordinating the Collective Action on "Inclusive Digital Transformation of Agriculture".