Are you looking for some of the key latest research findings, keynotes, videos regarding trees, forests and agroforestry contributions to sustainable development? Go to the newly launched web-portal of the groundbreaking FTA Science Conference 2020 by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA).
The fully digital conference, titled Forest, trees and agroforestry science for transformational change, ran from 14 to 25 September 2020 and drew more than 520 participants from 69 countries around the world. It featured close to 200 interventions from scientists involved in the FTA program spread over 10 days and 26 different sessions. It included keynote speeches, controversial panel debates on “hot topics”, and technical presentations and posters.
The conference put an emphasis on collaborative research between FTA and the broader community, as 60% of the presentations were between FTA’s seven managing partners (CIFOR, ICRAF, The Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI) as well as the many national partners. The 179 abstracts accepted for the event are now made available in a book on the new web-portal, with more coming next, such as selected videos.
The conference was organized around six key technical themes that are pathways for transformational change:
- Inclusive value chains, finance and investments
- Towards resilient and diverse landscapes and food systems
- Transforming livelihoods through agroecological approaches with trees
- Nature-based solutions to address the climate crisis
- Inclusive governance for sustainable landscapes
- Designing, implementing and evaluating research for development impact
Three plenary sessions allowed for overall framing, linking-up across themes, stock-taking of discussions. The conference featured two sessions addressing “Hot & Controversial” issues, be it in science, in development, or in the media:
- Competing understandings of the restoration problem and solutions
- Systemic approaches in a ‘silver bullets’ world.
Restoration has emerged in the last decade as a key global political objective and debates on the topic are intense. The “Hot & Controversial” session used a variety of techniques, including role-playing, quick polls and devil’s advocacy, to highlight and debate some of the most disputed points, allowing to discuss strengths and shortcomings of the argumentations behind, and to debunk myths.
An innovative “Green” Dragons’ Den event was organized for the second “Hot & Controversial” session, to trial five innovations coming from the program. These were defended by their authors in quick elevator pitches, trying to convince the Green philanthropist dragons to invest a “virtual” sum of three million USD. The audience was also called to a virtual crowdfunding exercise. The session was a “live learning” event, for scientists to get better at telling convincing stories on often very complex issues and tools, to best sell their results, as well as understand needs, objectives, and ways of thinking of investors.
It was the second time FTA organized a global virtual conference, after the first one held in March 2017 on “cool insights for a hot world”, that gathered 200 participants over two days.
For the 2020 conference, technical developments, including live (“synchronous”) online collaborative tools such as Mural, virtual poster rooms, live polling, role-playing sessions, and the experience of FTA’s events team, allowed for a lively and smoothness event, marking probably a new era for large scale scientific conferencing.
Participation from within the program was double the size of what it would have been if held in-person, and several high-level stakeholders could join for engagement sessions, for which otherwise they may not have been able to travel for a full week. Also, with 3 hours of “air time” per day, it left participants still with time for their other activities, while allowing participation from scientists in time zones situated 15 hours apart, from Vancouver to Hobart.
As a follow-up, the FTA is now organizing a series of “Science to Action” webinars, which are open to all, and which will focus on the way forward for actors on the ground. The first webinar was held on 26 November 2020 on the topic: Innovations to overcome barriers to access to finance for smallholders, SMEs, and women, and was developed in coordination with FTA partner Tropenbos International. You can replay the whole event here.
Looking forward to engaging even more in 2021, as we wrap up a full decade of research since 2011.
By Sandra Cordon.
This article was produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA). FTA is the world’s largest research for development program to enhance the role of forests, trees and agroforestry in sustainable development and food security and to address climate change. CIFOR leads FTA in partnership with ICRAF, the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, CATIE, CIRAD, INBAR and TBI. FTA’s work is supported by the CGIAR Trust Fund.