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CIMMYT and the government of India to launch a second “Green Revolution” in South Asia

September 7, 2010

nrelease-sep10With Climate Change and Growing Populations South Asia Will Need to Grow More Food Than Ever Under Increasingly Difficult Conditions

MEXICO CITY (CIMMYT) — In an effort to ensure food security for South Asia, the Government of India and CIMMYT today agreed to build a major agricultural research center for the region. The center, which will be located in India, will develop maize and wheat crops which are more productive, profitable, sustainable, and resilient — and developed with the cooperation of agricultural research partners. Construction will begin later this year.

South Asia is home to a large segment of the world’s population. Yields for two of its main food crops, wheat and maize, will need to increase to feed its growing population. In 2007, South Asia consumed 101 million tonnes of wheat and 25 million tonnes of maize. In ten years, demand for wheat and maize is projected to be 124 and 30 million tonnes, respectively. To meet the demand, South Asia’s annual yields must grow 1.5% for wheat and 3.5% for maize.

A declaration of intent was signed yesterday at CIMMYT headquarters during a visit by the Indian Minister of Agriculture, Sharad Pawar. “Maize productivity and production in India have shown remarkable progress in recent years,” said Mr. Pawar, “however there is still tremendous scope for enhancing the productivity in maize, particularly in Kharif season maize. CIMMYT is an acknowledged leader both in wheat and maize research and can contribute towards productivity enhancement in India as well as other countries of South Asia, in collaboration with members in the region.”

The last major collaboration between CIMMYT and India dates to the early 1960’s, as India was striving to meet its food deficits. CIMMYT’s Norman Borlaug suggested the Indian government import Mexican wheat seed, convinced it would thrive. In 1963, India imported 18,000 tonnes of wheat seed. At the time it was the largest importation of seed in the world. The initiative paid off. Wheat yields increased from 12.3 million tonnes in 1965 to 20.1 million tonnes in 1970. From a food deficit, India became self-sufficient and generated food surpluses. Similar results spread across Asia. It was described as a “Green Revolution.” For his efforts, Borlaug was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. The new institute is named in his honor.

“Dr. Borlaug correctly predicted that the boost in food production from the first Green Revolution would last only 20-to-30 years, buying time for humanity to adopt more responsible policies to manage population growth and the use of natural resources,” said Thomas Lumpkin, CIMMYT’s director general, “Now, with the ban on wheat exports from the drought in Russia and the damage to crops from the floods in Pakistan, we need to act now to make sure that the people in South Asia have enough to eat and the improved means to accelerate economic development.”

South Asia will be hit particularly hard by climate change. Rising temperatures will reduce fertile farmland and by 2050 the amount of maize grown is expected to decline by 6-23% and wheat by 40-45%. The goal of the new research center, to be called The Borlaug Institute of South Asia, is to avert the situation by growing more food, on less land, under more difficult conditions than ever before. In short, the goal of the Institute is a second “Green Revolution.”

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About CIMMYT

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, known by its Spanish acronym, CIMMYT, is an international, not-for-profit research and training organization. With partners in over 100 countries, the center applies science to increase food security, improve the productivity and profitability of farming systems, and sustain natural resources in the developing world. The center’s outputs and services include improved maize and wheat varieties and cropping systems, the conservation of maize and wheat genetic resources, and capacity building. CIMMYT belongs to and is funded by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) (www.cgiar.org) and also receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks, and other public and private agencies.

Established in 1971, the CGIAR is a strategic partnership of countries, international and regional organizations and private foundations supporting the work of 15 international Centers. In collaboration with national agricultural research systems, civil society and the private sector, the CGIAR fosters sustainable agricultural growth through high-quality science aimed at benefiting the poor through stronger food security, better human nutrition and health, higher incomes and improved management of natural resources. The science that made possible the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s was largely the work of CGIAR centers and their national agricultural research partners.

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For more information, please contact:
Chris Cutter, CIMMYT, c.cutter@cgiar.org, +52 55 5804 7561


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