January 2005 - Los Baños, Philippines, and Mexico City, Mexico:
Two of the world’s leading agricultural research centers - the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) - have announced details of a new IRRI-CIMMYT Alliance aimed at boosting international efforts to fight rural poverty and strengthen food security in the developing world.
The groundbreaking new scientific Alliance is especially focused on harnessing science to provide the world’s millions of poor farmers with improved access to new technologies that will make them more productive and help lift them out of poverty, as well as developing sustainable solutions to the developing world’s urgent need for reliable food supplies.
The Boards of Trustees (BOT) of the Philippines-based IRRI and the Mexico-based CIMMYT met in Shanghai, China, on 7-9 January to map out details of their new Alliance. Made up of eminent persons and top scientists from around the world, the two boards are the highest policy-making bodies at the two centers.
Because all three crops are cereals, IRRI and CIMMYT believe that research into their sustainable development and use - especially to benefit poor farmers and enhance food security - can be much better coordinated through a strong, new Alliance.
At the meeting in Shanghai, the two boards identified four research priorities as the potential first programs of the new Alliance (each would have a single leader and one budget):
- Intensive crop production systems in Asia - specifically, rice-wheat and rice-maize - that would involve research on crop and resource management, crop genetic improvement, and socioeconomics.
- Cereals information units to provide information for researchers and partners working on genetic improvement and the management of cropping systems involving the three staples.
- Training and knowledge banks for the three crops that would take advantage of modern technologies to provide training events, development of learning materials and education methods, distance learning, Web-based knowledge systems, library services, and logistical support.
- Climate change research directed at both mitigating and adapting the three crops to global changes that are affecting temperature, water, and other factors having crucial effects on them.
Once these four initial Alliance programs are further considered by the staff of both centers and approved by each Board of Trustees by the second half of 2005, other programs will also be considered. Possible areas for consideration are
- Work on intensive crop production systems in sub-Saharan Africa that would improve the livelihoods and food security of farmers by further developing maize- and rice-based farming systems.
- A community of practice for social science research on the three cereals that would be extended to the national partners of the Alliance, other CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) centers, and academic researchers.
- Genomics - or the study of genes and their functions - that could involve the development of a common transformation facility for the three crops, enhanced microarray analysis capacity, marker-assisted selection, functional genomics and trait development, and allele mining. All of this would be done in close collaboration with the CGIAR’s new genetic resources global challenge program (“Generation”).
To further maximize the operational efficiency of the two centers, the IRRI-CIMMYT Alliance will also share a range of support services. These include services related to management and regulatory affairs for intellectual property rights and biosafety, information and communication technologies, public awareness, scientific publishing, library services, and external auditing. There is also good potential for sharing the country offices of the two centers in developing nations such as Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, and Nepal.
Further, the IRRI-CIMMYT Alliance agreed to develop a unified governance and management system commensurate with these shared activities and to establish a joint board committee that will assess how best to achieve that objective. It will include two trustees from each center, the two directors general, and two external consultants.
To accomplish these aims, the two boards agreed to
- Create a second joint board committee to oversee the integration of programs and services, consisting of two trustees from each institution and the two deputy directors general.
- Appoint two common board members by March 2006 who will provide direct links to the governance of the Alliance.
- Hold regular joint-board meetings to oversee the Alliance’s development and performance.
Working groups made up of staff members from both centers will be formed immediately to draft implementation plans for the four priority programs in consultation with stakeholders.
IRRI and CIMMYT, which were the first and second centers formed in what became the CGIAR, are the world’s leading research and training institutes for rice, wheat, and maize. The three staples provide 60 percent of global food needs annually, and cover more than 70 percent of the planet’s productive cropping land.
Dr. Keijiro Otsuka, IRRI BOT chair, and Dr. Alexander McCalla, CIMMYT BOT chair, said the new Alliance will contribute significantly to international efforts to achieve the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals simply because of the vitally important roles that rice, maize, and wheat play in attaining food security, managing natural resources, generating income, and improving the livelihoods of the poor.
They said the new Alliance will particularly focus on mobilizing and applying science for increased impact in the developing world. “The IRRI-CIMMYT Alliance will more effectively harness the world-class scientific expertise of the two centers to benefit the world’s poor. The process should lead to a continuous evolution toward even closer integration of certain research programs to better achieve the missions of both centers.
We believe the Alliance will not only enhance our vitally important partnerships with the national agricultural research systems of developing countries and advanced research institutions but also strengthen the centers’ contribution to the overarching goals of the CGIAR.”
They also thanked the Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China and the Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences for hosting the milestone joint meeting in Shanghai, IRRI and CIMMYT stakeholders for their valuable inputs, the Working Group and the Oversight Committee, and the Rockefeller Foundation for its support and mentoring since the working group studies and consultations began in late 2003.
ACIAR supports both CGIAR Centres through core funding and project specific funding.