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CIMMYT to address South Asia and food security at world sustainable agriculture congress

July 20, 2012

[For more information, please contact: Chris Cutter, CIMMYT, c.cutter@cgiar.org, +52 (1) 595 104 9846]

The conference takes place from 10-12 July 2012 in Singapore and is expected to gather representatives from the agricultural ministries of 10 Asian countries, as well as over 200 participants from farming associations, food manufacturers, and agricultural research organizations.

Dr. Duveiller has worked extensively in South Asia, most recently as a CIMMYT Regional Pathologist based in Kathmandu, Nepal. His areas of expertise include agricultural sciences, crop sciences, and plant pathology. Dr. Duveiller, a member of staff at CIMMYT since 1987, will be returning to India this year in order to lead the research activities at the newly established Borlaug Institute for South Asia (BISA).

In an effort to ensure food security for South Asia, the Government of India and CIMMYT recently established BISA, a major agricultural research center for the region. The center, which is located in India, will catalyse sustainable productivity growth in both irrigated and rainfed production areas by adapting wheat and maize systems to the emerging challenges of climate change, natural resource scarcity, and market demands. It will accelerate the development of hybrid maize and wheat crops which are more productive, profitable, and resilient to biotic and abiotic stresses. BISA will promote precise new agronomic practices that require fewer inputs and improve the soil, and decision-support and marketing systems to integrate R&D with value streams. The institute is being developed with the cooperation of agricultural research partners.

Yields for two of South Asia’s 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. In addition, 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 25-30%.

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

The World Sustainable Agriculture Congress is supported by Fauna & Flora International (FFI), Asian Farmers Association (AFA), National Farmers Federation (NFF) and the Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives.