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 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 centers.
Because all three crops are cereals, IRRI and CIMMYT believe that research into their sustainable development and use—especially harnessing science 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 for potential first programs of the new Alliance:
Intensive crop production systems in Asia—specifically, rice-wheat and rice-maize—and 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, the 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.
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. The first steps involve appointing two common Board members by March 2006, and establishing a joint board committee to assess how best to achieve such a unified system. It will include two trustees from each center, the two directors general, and two external consultants.
A second joint board committee will look at shared programs and services and 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.
CIMMYT and IRRI, which were the first and second centers formed in what became the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (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 chair, and Dr. Alexander McCalla, CIMMYT chair, said the new Alliance will contribute significantly to international efforts to achieve the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals mainly because of the vitally important roles 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.”