Foresight and Prioritization of demand driven innovations

While many developing, least developed countries are experiencing policy, social, economic transformation due to local or global changes, they are operating with limited production and natural resources. Their potential in different sectors: agriculture, industry, education etc. vary country by country. Many transition, emerging and least developed countries variously distributing their limited and scarce public investments in priority sectors, according to the national development policies and priorities they have, which is in turn based on understanding, mindsets, level of awareness, and knowledge of those driving forces. Under such circumstances, it is difficult and hardly achievable to advocate the raising investments and extended support to the marginal niches of agriculture, i.e. smallholders, poor, marginal communities, etc.

Given this understanding it is critical now to facilitate dialogue between the main local players in the value chain: farmers, input suppliers, traders, transporters, processors, wholesalers, retailers, regulators, and the research and development institutions, to identify bottlenecks and opportunities in production, marketing and the policy environment. This multistakeholder process should imply systemic consistency based on foresight analysis and future scenarios and setting up priorities based on systematic, participatory and multi-disciplinary approach to explore mid- to long-term futures and drivers of change.

The Central Asia and the Caucasus (CAC) region, as many other regions in the world is facing global transformations. These include globalization and localization processes, the development of ICT, changing consumption patterns, ecological decline and resource scarcity, population dynamics, urbanization, technology development. These drivers of change are interconnected. They will significantly affect our future but in different ways according to the local characteristics where they take place. At the same time, disruptions which have the potential to modify these trends are possible.  The future of food, agriculture and rural development in the CAC region cannot be predicted, but it can be explored, anticipated.

Exploring and anticipating changes do not only require mastering specific tools, it also requires a new and different mindset. For this purpose, foresight capacities and foresight oriented mindsets are required. Foresight is a systematic, participatory and multi-disciplinary approach to explore mid- to long-term futures and drivers of change. However, this capacity and mindset is not yet developed in the CAC region.

There is, therefore, a need to improve the capability of CAC organizations, to enable them to be more pro-active in setting the research and innovation agenda for food, agriculture and rural development and positioning research and innovation in the broader context of development. This is needed at all levels of governance throughout the CAC region at regional, national and local levels. Actions that address research on its own ignore this reality and are bound to fail.

For this reason, and in response to suggestions by those working on the front lines of research for development, Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) has established a Global Foresight Hub to support forward thinking in agricultural research for development. The Hub consists of a global foresight academy, a forward thinking platform and a series of policy dialogue platforms. In CAC region, this concept is promoted by CACAARI in cooperation with CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems (CRP DS) in Central Asia led by International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA). CACAARI in cooperation with CRP DS in Central Asia, is taking the lead in the region to engage its constituencies in using the future to help making decision and priorities for the present.

The direct Beneficiaries are the people and organisations whose careers will be advanced by association with the CAC Chapter, or whose skills and capabilities will be developed by participation in its activities. CRP DS both supports CAC Foresight chapter development and benefits from being engaged in strengthening capabilities to take informed decisions about the future through the joining efforts with CACAARI. There will be indirect beneficiaries whose lives will be affected by decisions about research, policies and investments. They are the ultimate beneficiaries of actual foresight studies. These groups will vary from one study to the next, and include, for example, small-farmers or those whose source of food is at risk from drought.

The value proposition of the CAC Chapter for the ultimate beneficiaries is that studies associated with the CAC Chapter are carried out based on recommended practises that emphasise the involvement of stakeholders groups and bottom-up approaches to gathering intelligence about the future.

As inception event towards establishing a foresight academy in CAC region, the Workshop on developing forward thinking capacities in Central Asia and the Caucasus region was held on 19 November, 2014 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, with the purpose to advocate and raise awareness of different stakeholders of Agricultural Innovation System (AIS), e.g. event participants, of the value of engaging in foresight/forward thinking in the CAC region on the future of food, agriculture and rural development so that they would form a critical mass with which CACAARI can work in order to promote and implement the concept of the foresight academy.

The workshop was held a side event of the Regional RAS conference, and was led by Dr. Robin Bourgeois, representative of GFAR Secretariat based in Rome, Italy and Dr. Botir Dosov, CRP DS Innovation Platform coordinator in Central Asia. The workshop was conducted in kind of interaction and working groups sessions, participants were asked to split into country groups to think and discuss future scenarios of agricultural development. The outputs of the working groups discussions were presented and discussed with all Foresight workshop and Regional RAS conference participants.

As result of the foresight session Participants acknowledged the value of engaging in foresight/forward thinking in the CAC region, and urged CACAARI to promote foresight academy, a forward thinking platform in CAC region. CRP DS activity leaders in CA assured CACAARI to continue joint actions towards establishing and operationalization of Foresight mechanism and stipulate this activity in Plan of Work of CRP DS in CA for 2015.

21 December, 2014

Dr. Botir Dosov

Innovation Platform Coordinator

CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems in Central Asia

Technical Adviser

Central Asia and the Caucasus Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (CACAARI)