Small farms, big roles: SFIAR makes 2017 Awards

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The Swiss Forum for International Agricultural Research (SFIAR) offers two annual Awards. Prizes go to members of Swiss institutions working in agricultural research for development. The 2017 Award Ceremony took place recently at the School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) at Bern University of Applied Sciences. Anja Christinck from the German Institute for Tropical & Subtropical Agriculture gave the keynote speech.

The current SFIAR President is Yuan Zhou, our Foundation's Head of Research & Policy Analysis. "We made the 2017 Team Award to a large partnership", she explains. "MeteoSwiss, SENAMHI Peru, SDC, WMO and others developed Climandes. This program provides climate services for the Andean region*. Our Master Thesis Award went to Sebastian Mengel. Based at HAFL, he's researched into the agricultural livelihoods of rural youth in Morocco."

The Award Ceremony presented the prize-winning projects in a wider context. "Climandes involves Andean farmers in the development of high-quality climate services", Yuan continues. "Sebastian Mengel aims to understand young people's realities and aspirations as a precondition for engaging them gainfully in agriculture. Both projects thus involve the rural population's opinions and needs. That is really important. However, as we know at the Syngenta Foundation, it can also be challenging."

Smallholders are often meant to be the beneficiaries of research. Their voices are nonetheless not always heard in R&D planning. Researchers tend not to engage them much in implementation either. "At the Ceremony, we discussed how small farmers can become important actors in agricultural research for development", says Yuan Zhou. "Importantly, participants provided some practical examples!"

*Here's information on our own earlier work in the Andes, in this case Peru