AIRCA Annual Steering Committee Meeting in Costa Rica

Upper row left to right: Sayed Azam Ali (CFF), Trevor Nicholls (CABI), Scott Angle (IFDC), Dyno Keatinge (AVRDC), Jose Joaquin Campos (CATIE), David Molden (ICIMOD), Dennis Rangi (CABI) 
Front row: Marita Dieling (AIRCA Secretariat), Segenet Kelemu (icipe), Jan McAlpine (INBAR), Leida Mercado (CATIE), John Beer (CATIE).

Directors and representatives of all members Association of International Research and Development Centers for Agriculture (AIRCA) gathered on in early February 2016, for the 5th Steering Committee Meeting of AIRCA. The meeting was hosted by the Centro Agronómico Tropical de Investigación y Enseñanza (CATIE), one of the founding AIRCA members, at their compound in Turrialba. 

CATIE is a regional centre dedicated to research and graduate education in agriculture, and the management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. Its members include Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Venezuela, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the State of Acre in Brazil.

The meeting started with a review of the year 2015, highlighting AIRCA participation in the 2015 Global Landscapes Forum, a side event to the COP 21 in Paris. AIRCA participated for the first time as an implementing partner and hosted a discussion forum on the topic ‘Restoring Landscapes through Climate Smart Agriculture’. AIRCA members also organised and participated in a number of other events around the COP 21 and GLF. 

Other developments in 2015 included the finalisation of the Lake Victoria Concept Note. In terms of publicity and outreach material, AIRCA produced in 2015 the first two editions of the AIRCA Newsletter as well as a brochure on the Sustainable Development Goals and how AIRCA can help achieving a large number of them.

In terms of AIRCA governance, two new AIRCA Deputy Chairs were appointed: Sayed Azam Ali, CEO of Crops for the Future, and David Molden, Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), who will form the AIRCA executive committee together with icipe’s Director General Segenet Kelemu, who succeeded AVRDC’s Dyno Keatinge as AIRCA chair in January 2016.

For the coming year, two new working groups will be established. One of them will take AIRCA work on SDGs further by developing a research capability statement linking AIRCA’s wide range of research portfolios with SDGs and their target, showing the number of SDGs AIRCA is able to address. It was also decided to capitalise on the experience and success stories AIRCA members have in the promotion of healthy landscapes, namely with the development of a concept note on methodologies in measuring the health of landscapes.

Key events for AIRCA in 2016 will include the CGARD 3 Global Event in Johannesburg and the COP 13 on Biodiversity. AIRCA partnerships with regional association like APAARI and CACAARI among others will be strengthened, as well as support to the Tropical Agriculture Platform (TAP), a G20 initiative that aims to facilitate capacity development in agricultural innovations in the tropics.

The AIRCA steering committee agreed to fully support the Global Action Plan for Agricultural Diversification (GAPAD), an initiative led by Crops for the Future and its partners that will help mitigate climate challenges by diversifying agriculture within species, between species and between agricultural ecosystems. Activities for 2016 will include a series of regional symposia in preparation of the launch of the GAPAD at the CBD COP 13 in December 2016. 

AIRCA as an association as well as the members will also become members of GODAN (Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition), a CABI-hosted network which works to support global efforts to make agricultural and nutritionally relevant data available, accessible, and usable for application worldwide.

AIRCA host CATIE organised a presentation of some key aspects of their work, including the Livestock Program and Environmental Management (GAMMA) of the institution and their germplasm collections of coffee and cacao, known for their international importance.

The meeting included a field trip in which participants visited several sites around the province of Cartago, where they discussed development initiatives and landscape management, systems and subsystems landscapes, conservation, ecosystem services and climate change.

The next AIRCA steering committee meeting in February 2017 will be hosted by Crops for the Future at their campus in Malaysia.