Scientists, NGOs working together ‘fundamentally essential’

Steve Jennings of Oxfam discussed the need for research partnerships on Friday. Jennings stressed the benefits and challenges partnerships create. Photo by Meghan Eldridge

Steve Jennings of Oxfam discussed the need for research partnerships on Friday. Jennings stressed the benefits and challenges partnerships create. Photo by Meghan Eldridge

By Meghan Eldridge

CIUDAD OBREGON, Mexico — Partnerships between researchers and non-government organizations (NGOs) are “fundamentally essential” to alleviating poverty worldwide, said an Oxfam program director.

Steve Jennings, head of program policy at Oxfam, an international non-profit, presented the difficulties and benefits of research partnerships between scientists and NGOs to decrease poverty rates and food insecurity on Friday at the Borlaug Summit on Wheat for Food Security.

Twelve percent of the global population was unable to meet their dietary requirements between 2011 and 2013 and were considered food insecure, Jennings said.

“Food insecurity is not the same as food production,” he said. “Yield does affect food security, but there are a few things needed on top of yield. Having enough food in the world is not the same as everyone having enough to eat.”

Four aspects of food security beyond yield are: availability of food and distribution systems; access to affordable, nutritious food; use of available food; and stability of food markets, Jennings said.

Jennings pointed to smallholder farmers as a group particularly vulnerable to food insecurity. Nearly two billion people in developing nations are dependent on smallholder agriculture, which accounts for half the world’s undernourished population, he said.

“Investing in smallholder agriculture is the best way to alleviate poverty and food insecurity,” Jennings said.

Despite the benefits of partnerships, scientists and NGOs often have different incentives and time frames for working on a project, he said.

Researchers typically work on a multi-year timeline. NGOs collaborate with scientists to bring about policy changes, a process that can be as short as two to three months, Jennings said.

“Partnerships can be hugely effective in poverty alleviation, but in reality, we all live in different worlds and finding where research partnerships come together is important,” he said.

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