Overview – Ian Scoones and John Thompson

When the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) began, there was a different context in debates about agriculture. Policy research was being done, but not much. FAC was providing a space that was underrepresented at that time – not any longer. There are many things going on now and the policy environment is changing with more and new actors (e.g. ISTD, AGRA, CAADP, Millennium Villages, etc.) and urgent issues – food crisis, fertiliser crisis, more publications). And there are now bigger players and bigger debates around policy-focussed research. We need to continue to argue for our space at this table.

In the FAC phase II proposal, we described a broad mission: aims “to encourage dialogue and the sharing of good practice by policy makers and opinion formers in Africa on the role of agriculture in broad based growth”.

There are others that also cover similar territory (e.g. CAADP, AGRA IFPRI, etc.) – where do we fit? What do we do that’s different? How to insert FAC into more mainstream processes where we can challenge, critique, confront? What is our niche?

  • We are situated in the international scene – imbedded in particular areas conducting ‘real research’ in ‘real places’) and this speaks to broader debates and contributes to interesting insights.
  • We are a diverse partnership – multiple institutions, UK and Africa – membership – university, NGO consultants, disciplinary diversity (e.g. agriculture economists) so we don’t have a singular focus.
  • We commit ourselves to process-orientation (Policy Processes) multiple scenarios – constructing future agricultures – no definitive view about what should be but open to creating debate.
  • We are independent, flexible, etc. – values noted in external report. One of our selling points – particularly as the mainstream (right hand column).
  • We provide research that is not automatically available – we are able to challenge conventional wisdom.