BY Erick Akasa
CGIAR and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) have jointly announced the launch of an alliance to accelerate crop improvement targeted at the developing world.
According to Marianne Bänziger, CIMMYT’s deputy director general for research and partnerships and convener of the Initiative, recent advances in genomics, breeding and information technologies offer huge opportunities to get more resilient, nutritious and productive crops and animal breeds to farmers faster, yet farmers in the developing world have been deprived from reaping associated benefits.
“The pace of modernization in breeding programs targeting the developing world has been slow. In particular, low and lower middle income countries – where half of the world’s food crops are grown and 84 percent of the world’s poor are living – receive just 5 percent of all private sector investment in breeding,” She said.
“It is unimaginable that future food production will simply come from the developed world where most of the plant breeding investment is focused. Social tensions and lack of employment opportunities are a primary cause for large-scale migration,” She added.
Dr. Bänziger said that, we need to generate vibrant rural economies in the developing world. Directing a greater proportion of plant breeding investments towards the developing world is part of that.
Over the course of the 21st century, demand for food will increase by over 50 percent. The bulk of future population growth will occur in the developing world countries where every degree rise in temperature due to climate change will decrease yields by 5 percent.
“Given that between 30 to 60 percent of yield increases in farmers’ fields can be traced back to the genetic improvement of crops, it is imperative that we strengthen efforts at generating better cultivars. Heat and drought tolerant cultivars – possible to develop much more rapidly with modern breeding approaches – are at the core of countries’ strategies to adapt to climate change,” she said.
CIMMYT will lead the new CGIAR initiative – the “Excellence in Breeding Platform” – to modernize breeding programs targeting the developing world. The announcement was made during a conference to celebrate CIMMYT’s 50th anniversary.
The Excellence in Breeding Platform will allow agricultural research for development organizations and their partners in the public and private sector to increase their impact on food and nutrition security, climate change adaptation and development.
Drawing from innovations in the public and private sector, the platform will provide access to cutting-edge tools, services and best practices, application-oriented training and practical advice.
“This initiative, sharing tools and methodologies, brings all breeding programs from all CGIAR centers to a higher level,” said Martin Kropff, CIMMYT’s director general.
CGIAR provides more than 80 percent of the germplasm exchanged in the public sector internationally. CGIAR calls for public and private sector partners that implement breeding programs targeting the most important crops and farming systems in the developing world to work together to adapt and make use of advanced tools and approaches that until now have only been available to multinational private sector companies.