Innovation and Agricultural Resilience

The OECD report Strengthening Agricultural Resilience in the Face of Multiple Risks, makes the point that managing risk is intrinsic to agriculture – risks that include weather, market volatility, financial instability, biosecurity and policy changes or distortions.  However, it contends that moving into the future we need new risk management strategies that shift from reactivity towards a proactive resilience stance. This approach requires all actors to consider the risk landscape over the long term, with a sharp focus on what can be done in advance of events “to reduce risk exposure, increase preparedness and prioritise investments that build resilience capacities”.  Their analysis of agricultural risk management policy frameworks suggests that resources are disproportionately allocated to risk absorption rather than to building the sector’s capacity as a whole to adapt and transform. 

It was with these issues in mind that CEAT has been exploring the proactive steps that are needed to support adaption and transformation in the Ag sector.  Over the coming months, CEAT will work with Policy Partners (PP) and the Institute of Water Futures (IWF)to undertake a systems analysis of the nexus between water, drought, resilience, and ag innovation. CEAT sees the role of innovation as critical to meeting the emergent and enmeshed challenges facing Australian agriculture. Historically, challenges arising from interconnected systems at the natural, designed and social levels were often dealt with in siloed ways both at a policy and at an innovation level — which can impact on science and technology investments, and the uptake and utilisation of them by producers and industry.  Such business-as-usual practices will not deliver the transformational change needed for agricultural sustainability and intergenerational equity.

While innovation has been a strong element within Australia’s farming systems, recent declines in productivity growth, coupled with emerging environmental and social challenges requires a concerted focus on where and how transformation needs to occur. The project with PP and IWF will begin this exploration by initiating what are often difficult, but necessary conversations to have, across a broad range of stakeholders to identify what they see as critical future challenges and what that necessitates for strategic partnership between public, civil and private sectors. The project will evolve through three rounds of consultation, workshopping and provocation papers to canvas the concepts and issues being explored. The project will use scenarios which have a high likelihood of disrupting current agricultural practices to explore opportunities for agricultural innovation. This will offer structured opportunities for engaging in:

  • imagining a future world based on preferred outcomes, rather than the current state of play
  • designing integrated policy and research approaches to deliver those outcomes
  • considering the required supporting institutional arrangements, including those needed to accelerate innovation in agricultural RD&E.

If you are interested or want more information about this project please contact CEAT Fellow Nadeem Samnakay via email: [email protected]

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