Breakfast with Sir Gordon Conway: learning about the genesis of participatory rural appraisal

IFAD's Conference on New Directions for Smallholder Agriculture brought together numerous leading development actors. One among them is Sir Gordon Conway.

Last night, I had the pleasure of listening to a presentation by Sir Gordon. What struck me was how he managed to convey complex concepts in such a natural way. And this was because he actually told us a story - another example of the power and potential of story telling. Maybe next time, anyone out there decides to do a powerpoint presentation, they can at least try and give it a nice plot and actually TELL the story, rather than reading the slides!

This morning, I decided to be bold and ask Sir Gordon whether he would agree to do a short interview. It was a privilege and an honour to have this short conversation with him.

In less than 4 minutes he:
  • shared an important piece of rural development history: the genesis of participatory rural appraisal 
  • complimented IFAD for doing analytical work which is grounded in farmer's realities and challenged us to boil down the messages of comprehensive approach to smallholder development emerging from the  Rural Poverty Report 2011 to simple messages so that the people can understand and act upon them
  • challenged IFAD to do more on climate change and to take the lead on climate change and agriculture
  • shared his optimism on future of agriculture by saying that smallholder farmers in developing countries can feed the world and ensure food security. What we need to do is to use the available the technology and link farmers with markets and the outside world


Ben Onyango said…
My attention was captured by the 4 minute interview you had with sir Gordon.On his two challenges to IFAD, 1,to synthesize approaches contained in the rural poverty report 2011to simple messages for people to understand and act on, this is key often rural development actors miss small turning points on peoples minds, hidden either in attitude,customs and beliefs which end up affecting the way commnuities perceive change.
2, On IFAD to take the lead on Climate change and Agriculture, my view is that the biggest transformation that IFAD needs to lead in the developing world is transforming the peoples mind sets into Undertaking "Agriculture Business" complete with profit and loss accounting, as things stand now we are still trying to convince the rural poor to view "Agriculture as a Business" The other challenge will be in the use of PPP to persuade Governments to slowly pull out of "Agriculture Business", and remain as regulators, just as they have done in all other Private business ventures