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Bright times ahead: summary from the Board meetings

CIMMYT Board of Trustee meetings of 06-09 April 2008 ended on a high note, with a presentation to Staff from the Chair of the Board, Lene Lange. Lene began by welcoming CIMMYT’s newest Board member and in-coming Chair of the Audit Committee, Tom McKay, and bidding a fond farewell to the Committee’s outgoing Chair, Edwina Cornish.

She also spoke enthusiastically about new Director General Tom Lumpkin and the sense of direction and energy he will bring to CIMMYT. She welcomed his emphasis on building on respect for staff to make CIMMYT a great place to work—attracting, recruiting, and retaining high quality staff, particularly female scientists, and maintaining high morale.

“CIMMYT is so important for the world that we need the very best,” said Lene, and staff need to be happy and motivated to be able to give their very best. It will take time, she said, but “it looks like we are getting up and setting up for really good times, where we will have leadership and at the same time build on consultation and transparency.”

Lene spoke of the challenging times facing the center and the need and opportunities for change, including CGIAR reforms, improving CIMMYT’s relevance, responding to the changing funding landscape, and implementation of a new intellectual property rights policy.

On the topic of stronger and broader partnerships, Lene spoke of making efforts to better explain and document CIMMYT’s value for Mexico and Mexican farmers and fighting for the best possible conditions, as well as fostering new collaborations with Mexican institutions. She also discussed the importance of improving and sustaining relationships with strong developing-country NARS such as India and China, and CIMMYT’s potential to act as a broker leveraging their research for the benefit of the poor of the wider world.

Lene ended by emphasizing the need for good internal communication, with dialogue between the Board and the NRS and IRS Committees, and recognizing CIMMYT staff in Kenya and Zimbabwe for their excellent work under difficult conditions. Finally, she thanked her fellow Board members and discussed future appointments, including maintaining a strong representation of women and members with a scientific background, and seeking connections with China. “It is a privilege and an honor to serve on the Board of CIMMYT, and we are doing our very best,” she said.

This was Lene’s final Board meeting at El Batán, and Julio Berdegué, Vice-Chair of the Board, spoke of her as both forceful and flexible, with a clear idea of where she wants to go but always willing to listen and build consensus. “She is a person who sees opportunities where many of us see a crisis,” he said. He recognized Lene’s many achievements, particularly building a cohesive, high-performing Board that CIMMYT can be proud of, and leading the transition in CIMMYT’s leadership.

In his closing talk, Tom Lumpkin spoke of making Mexico a partner rather than a client, and reassessing CIMMYT’s relevance to Mexico and Latin America as well as many other places in the world. He reflected on the globalized food economy and the need for a new, more flexible approach building on the ideas and knowledge within CIMMYT.

“We have a fabulous mission and…opportunities to take on some of the greatest challenges the world is facing,” he said. “Let’s work together, let’s rebuild, reshape this place, and a couple of years from now let’s look back and see a CIMMYT that’s got even more passion, and that’s busting at the seams with new people and new ideas and new activities.”