A major goal of NAARAP is to engage with APAARI, GFAR and other international and global actors to facilitate a change in the orientation of agricultural research for development (ARD), particularly by adopting a systems approach where Smallholder Farmers Organizations (SFOs) and CSOs can play integral roles in determining the direction, content and conduct of ARD. The newly formed NGO Consortium came up with a plan of action that would promote the empowerment of small farmholders and orient agricultural research systems (ARS), both at the national and international levels, towards involving them and their partner NGOs actively in all research initiatives and use the knowledge and expertise of successful farmers in each area for replication after these have been vetted scientifically.
The Workshop Context
The Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), including the Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), are increasingly playing an important role in providing social services and assistance in activities such as food security, land reform, environmental protection, emancipation of the poor and marginalized sectors of the society, restoration of civil rights, etc., that aim at contributing towards faster economic progress and improvements in the quality of life of the poor and marginalized.
In the agriculture domain, NGOs have largely been promoting “sustainable agriculture” to enhance food security, environmental health, economic profitability, and social equity. Over the years, the CSOs, in general, have also made significant contributions towards advocacy for sustainable agriculture.
NGOs alone, however, cannot achieve the interconnected goals of sustainable agriculture. The whole gamut of sustainable agriculture and the continuum of agricultural research for development (ARD) requires a holistic multi-sectorial, multi-institutional and multi-disciplinary approach, through partnership among various stakeholders such as the Government, the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), the academic and research institutions, the private sector, and the civil society organizations at the national, regional, and global levels.
To operationalize the holistic approach and to ensure required impact, it is imperative to build partnership through an appropriate mechanism such as neutral Forum/Consortium so that various stakeholders are able to share their experiences and find out possible solutions or develop strategies through effective interactions. Such a Forum would also allow better planning of financial, physical, and human resources; avoid duplication and foster closer working relationships among the member institutions/organizations involved.
Recognizing the need for the establishment of a regional mechanism and in keeping with above mentioned objectives, a regional workshop was organized by the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), in collaboration with the Asian NGO Coalition (ANGOC), to discuss possible ways for strengthening regional cooperation among NGO community engaged actively in Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) and to explore possibilities for the establishment of a regional consortium which can provide a neutral platform for regular interactions and to provide legitimacy for NGO representation in the national, regional and global organizations engaged in ARD.
The Birth of NAARAP
The sharing of NGO experiences highlighted the need to redirect agricultural research with active participation of NGOs and agricultural research systems (ARS), national and international, towards meeting the needs of small farm holders (SFHs) and other marginalized groups. Also, much of the research should be in on-farm farmer participatory mode and not only on the research stations. This is essential in addressing the pressing development issues such as rural poverty, nutrition and food insecurity and the degradation of the environment, as have been articulated in the MDGs.
The deliberations were directed towards identifying areas of collaboration and defining a growth path for small holder farmers. Farmers empowering agro-technologies based on articulation of science to farmers’ traditional knowledge and integrated farming systems were supported for inclusion in the ARS mandate and research plans.
On above note, the NGO Workshop participants unanimously decided to form an NGO Association for Agriculture Research in Asia-Pacific or NAARAP. 
All participants as NAARAP members agreed that research partnerships must involve three major players i.e. APAARI research institutions, NGOs, and small farm holders. It was recognized that any follow-up should be inclusive, so that other NGOs not present in the regional workshop are also actively involved in future.
NAARAP members also noted that the partnership will have to focus on the need for a shift in the orientation of ARD, in terms of:
- Research agenda; purpose of research
- Paradigm, e.g. a fresh “learning” framework recognizing farmers as scientists
- Working context of small farm holders, or the reality addressed
- Methods of work; e.g. linking knowledge to field practice and policy; and scaling-out
- Farmer-driven and in partnership with NGOs and Agri Research Systems (ARS) at national, regional and international levels
- Directed at the needs of the poor/vulnerable small farm holders
- Intimately linked to farmer-to-farmer learning
- Based on agro-ecology as a scientific basis, with traditional knowledge as a starting point
- Fully inclusive of women, indigenous peoples and other under-represented groups
- Producing outputs that are not privatized and that remain in the public domain
- Embedded in a larger context of policy development that emphasizes poverty reduction, especially in rural areas
- Directed at nutrition, health and food security, especially in marginal/vulnerable environments where the poor live, and guided by concerns of national food sovereignty, right to nutrition, health, food and equity
- Based on full and real participation of small farm holders and CSOs in priority-setting, agenda formulation, research collaboration, governance and decision-making in partnership with ARS
- Address issues of resource access for poor people, e.g., land, water, genetic resources
NAARAP believes that research partnership must be based on mutually-accepted working principles, which should be formulated and agreed upon. Some of these principles are:
- General principles of mutual trust, and recognition of NGO autonomy
- Inclusiveness and legitimacy
- Built on recognition and credibility, capacity and constituency of each other
- Working towards common goals
NAARAP also framed a plan of action for itself that would be directed towards enabling empowerment for small farm holders and reorienting the agriculture research systems, national and international, to involve them and their NGOs, actively in all research initiatives and use the knowledge and expertise of the successful farmers in each area, for replication after ratification with the needed science.
Rationale for the engagement
- Asia-Pacific is the home for most of the world’s poor, majority of whom are small farm holders
- Civil society carries a responsibility to develop community-based approaches for health and nutrition, food security, poverty alleviation, environment protection and rural development, incorporating the principles of social justice
- Move towards an agricultural research system that combines community knowledge, verified by science, to address the needs of small farm holders and landless farmers, livestock keepers and pastoralists, fisherfolk, forest dwellers, rural and tribal communities, incorporating gender equity.
- A major goal of NAARAP is to partner with APAARI, GFAR and other international and global actors to facilitate transformation from agricultural research institutes (ARIs) to ARS (systems approach, covering national, regional and international) where Small-holder Farmers Organizations (SFHOs) and CSOs play integral roles in determining the directions, content and conduct of ARD.
- Conduct jointly the need assessments based on research prioritization for the region.
- Policy research and advocacy for the region in ARD
- Participate in research evaluation and impact assessment of ARD
The need to involve, from the start, NGOs/CSOs and SFHOs in joint planning, budgeting and in shaping the agendas for research
The need for institutional-research system reforms, including changes in mandates, norms, values and attitudes, and the way by which institutions currently operate; not just “business as usual”
Responsibilities should not just be transferred to NGOs/CSOs and SFHOs; responsibilities should be accompanied by appropriate levels of authority and resources allocated to NGOs/CSOs and SFHOs under this partnership.
 The participants agreed on the following sub-regional focal points: CANGO for East, SARVODAYA for South, ANGOC for Southeast and PIANGO for the Pacific. These focal points will be responsible to bring in other NGOs into NAARAP. NAARAP shall also create sub-committees as needed, to fulfill specific roles such as resource mobilization, identifying research themes, etc. A resource generation committee has also been proposed composed of DST, Members BRAC, ANGOC, APPARI and GFAR. The members also committed to contribute annually US$100 as membership fee to demonstrate their commitment to NAARAP.
The Secretariat of NAARAP shall be small, and shall be rotated to the sub-regions every two years. It was decided that the First Consortium Secretariat will be located with ANGOC for the period 2008-2010.