Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  M. / Mr. Frank Rijsberman

CGIAR: a global research partnership
for a food secure future

By Mr. Frank Rijsberman,
CEO of the CGIAR Consortium

Before talking about the role of CGIAR and our strategy to tackle global food insecurity, I would like to explain briefly why agriculture and food are becoming key international issues.
Agriculture and food are the basis of any civilization. Ensuring that people have enough nutritious food at a reasonable price has always been a priority for every country. Agriculture is still the single largest employer in the world. It provides a livelihood for 40 per cent of today’s global population. It is the largest source of income and jobs for poor rural households.
However, over the last 30 years investment in agriculture has dropped. For instance, overseas development assistance for agriculture fell from over $20 billion in the 1980s to $3 billion in 2006. There was a general perception that challenges to growing food had been resolved. This was perhaps a result of the successes of the green revolution and pioneering researchers like Norman Borlaug, who showed how crop variety selection and farming techniques could boost yields enough to beat famine.
Food price volatility in recent years, with food riots in several parts of the world, reminds us that food security, not to say food sovereignty is crucial for peace and development. Several reasons for this food crisis are pointed out: drought-related harvest losses, speculation, the surge of biofuels, trade barriers… Behind this repetitive scenario lies a common explanation. With almost 80 million more people to feed each year, agriculture can’t keep up with the escalating food demand. FAO estimates that we have to double food production by 2050 to feed the expected 9 billion people, knowing that one billion people are already going to bed hungry every day.
Considering the many constraints of today’s agricultural sector, such as pressures on land, water and other natural resources; desertification and climate change; or the massive migration from productive agricultural rural areas to urban areas; the challenge to produce enough food for all is tremendous in the coming years.
We can’t apply the same recipes of more fertilizers or more water, as in the past decades. In Gujarat for instance, one of the main wheat producing regions of India, farmers apply more inputs such as fertilizers, and pesticides, and pump much more ground water than 3 decades ago, as the climate becomes drier. They still sustain the production but the water table has dropped 3 feet per year over this period. Soon production in this region will collapse if nothing changes.
We need to find new ways to sustainably produce enough nutritious food for all with equitable access to natural resources. And we have to act now before this rising food crisis generates irreparable environmental, social and economic consequences.
CGIAR is here to provide the scientific support for long-term solutions to today’s global food crisis.

What is CGIAR: history, mission and activities
Founded in 1971, by visionaries such as Norman Borlaug and Alex McNamara, CGIAR is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for a food secure future.
CGIAR research is dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring more sustainable management of natural resources. Our focus is the 500 millions of smallholder farms in the developing countries, which produce most of the food in the South but also represent the majority of food insecure people.
This research is carried out by 15 international agricultural research centers who are members of the newly established CGIAR Consortium, hosted at Agropolis International, Montpellier and their many partners in developed and developing countries.
The 15 research Centers represent a workforce of over 8,000 scientists and staff present in over 50 countries. They generate and disseminate knowledge, technologies, and policies for agricultural development through the CGIAR Research Programs.
The new CGIAR Fund aims to provide reliable and predictable multi-year funding to enable research planning over the long term and resource allocation based on agreed priorities between the donor and the research community.
The CGIAR Consortium aims to coordinate the work of the 15 CGIAR centers, to mainstream multidisciplinary research on problems in poor and under-served agro-ecosystems and enhance the impact on smallholder farmers and food systems in developing countries.
The CGIAR Board decided to set up the Consortium in Agropolis, Montpellier in 2010 particularly because of the community of highly renowned agro environmental academic and scientific institutions, in Agropolis, such as CIRAD and IRD. It will help enhance the French scientists’ involvement in CGIAR Research Programs such as the Global Rice Science Partnership or on dryland cereals such as millet, sorghum or barley.
The French government, along with Hungary and Denmark, helped established the Consortium as an international organization through an intergovernmental treaty. This international organization status granted in March 2012, will  help the CGIAR Consortium to provide a coordinated view on agriculture and food security issues in the international arena, and key development conferences such as the Rio+20 summit.

CGIAR works to reduce hunger and poverty and improve nutrition and health in developing countries through a holistic approach.
The fifteen global research programs (CRPs) aim at improving the productivity and profitability of crops, livestock and fish for developing world farmers, while managing water, soil and other natural resources in a sustainable and equitable way, and making sure farming systems and communities can adapt and mitigate to climate change. CGIAR also studies which policies and institutions are best to improve food systems and ensure food security at global and local level.
But all this research effort would be in vain if we didn’t work in partnership. CGIAR works in close collaboration with hundreds of organizations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector to solve development issues and ensure proven and adapted solutions reach the field, and ultimately the fork. Research is also participatory from the start with farmers playing a central role in the process, and their feedback shaping the research agenda.
Generating gender-balanced innovation is also central to CGIAR research, as strengthening the status of women is key to solving many agriculture and nutrition challenges. Although women represent more than half the active population engaged in agriculture in developing countries and are crucial in improving family nutrition, their role is often under-estimated.
CGIAR also ensures that scientists from developing countries are an integral part of the global agricultural research programs which also helps build the capacity of the national agricultural research institutions in the South.
Making a greater impact
Today, the countries in the Sahel, struck by a severe drought, face a humanitarian crisis with more than half their population needing food aid. Everybody is asking for long-term solutions to stop the repetitive cycle of famine. CGIAR is developing such long-term solutions with its partners. We are not only working on drought-tolerance crop selection in important smallholder crops for this region, such as millet or sorghum, but also appropriate agricultural techniques such as fertilizer micro dosing or agro forestry which have shown significant yield increases. We work to turn to make chronic food shortages and under-nutrition a memory for the millions worldwide who are now vulnerable. So that nobody has to go to bed hungry.
With a forty year track record, CGIAR has proven that investing in agricultural research has a cost-effective impact on the fight against hunger and malnutrition. Assessments have shown that one dollar invested in CGIAR research results in about nine dollars in increased productivity in developing countries.
In the late eighties, CGIAR’s research on biological control of the cassava mealy bug, a pest which was destroying harvests in sub-Saharan Africa, saved at least 20 million lives for a total cost of only US$20 million. In other words, for every dollar invested, a life was saved.

Securing funding for a food secure future
This is just one of the many examples of how investing in science-based and global agriculture research partnerships, such as CGIAR, can sustainably tackle the problems of poverty and hunger. To do this CGIAR is looking to more than double our research funding from $673 million in 2010 to US$1.6 billion by 2025. CGIAR calls on the international community to support our research effort and collaboration among all agriculture development stakeholders, for a food secure future.     

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