On February 16-17th I joined hundreds of leaders from around the world at the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture (GFIA) in Abu Dhabi. It was a great opportunity for ICRISAT and its partners to forge new partnerships and find ways to use innovation to address malnutrition, environmental sustainability and most importantly ensure farmers are commercially viable.
The topic I took part in, chaired by Dennis Garrity, was on the restoration of lands, specifically an initiative by the Clinton Climate Initiative, World Resources Institute and the International Union for Conservation of Nature. We focused on how to bring agriculture and agro-forestry together to restore the large area of land that’s degraded.
Two countries have already come forward and made commitments to restore land within their countries – Ethiopia has pledged 15 million hectares and India 13 million hectares. ICRISAT is working with a wide-range of partners to realize those goals.
I saw first-hand how digital agriculture is really happening. There were companies at the forum with technologies such as drone technology and micro satellites as well as the use of geo spatial data for decision support to farmers and logistics for the agri-food industry.
I met with captains of industry including the leadership of Skybox. This is a company that commercially generates and sells remote sensing imagery to support agriculture, environmental services and other activities as eyes in the sky for us to manage our resources. Once fully operational, images at 5m resolution will be available on a daily basis.
I also had the privilege of meeting several food processing industries to talk about how to make sure consumers are eating nutritious food and achieving a balanced diet through diversified diets.
Water is a critical area of concern for everyone in agriculture, so it was interesting for me to meet others such as Jain Irrigation. They’re looking at how to optimize the use of our natural resources like water. Currently we use about 70% of our fresh water to support agriculture. That’s going to be difficult to sustain in the future as there will be increasing demands on water for urbanization and industrialization.
So we have to get more crop per drop or more nutrition per drop so that farmers can earn more dollars per drop so agriculture is attractive to youth as a business. I’m looking forward to the advances over the coming year and I look forward to coming back with our colleagues at GFIA in 2017 to gauge our progress and forge new ideas and partnerships to address the challenges of set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in which we want to eliminate poverty and malnutrition within 15 short years.