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Celebrating CIMMYT: what will the next 50 years hold?

Photo credit: CIMMYT

A year of celebrations in honor of Dr. Norman Borlaug’s birth centennial was officially closed last Thursday 9 April in a ceremony at CIMMYT headquarters in Mexico.

“If he (my father) were here,” said Jeanie Borlaug Laube, who chairs the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative, “he would remind you that it is your moral imperative to speak up and protest for the world’s right to science-based innovation.” She was addressing an audience of government representatives, private sector partners, researchers, CIMMYT trustees, and diplomats including the Australian and Belgian ambassadors to Mexico.

The occasion also marked the celebration of a double achievement for CIMMYT: the 2014 World Food Prize being awarded to Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, former global wheat program director, and the 2014 Borlaug Field Award to Dr. Bram Govaerts, leader of the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture (MasAgro) project.

During his distinguished career, Rajaram led work that resulted in the release of more than “480 varieties of bread wheat in 51 countries, occupying more than 58 million hectares,” said Prof. John Snape, Chair of CIMMYT’s Board of Trustees. “A feat unlikely to ever be surpassed by another wheat breeder.”

Rajaram’s merits were also recognized by Mexican government representatives at the World Food Prize ceremony in Des Moines, Iowa, USA, on 16 October 2014. Enrique Martínez y Martínez, head of Mexico’s Agriculture Secretariat (SAGARPA), congratulated him for developing varieties and technologies that have helped boost wheat productivity in Mexico and the rest of the world.

Photo credit: CIMMYT
Photo credit: CIMMYT

During the ceremony, Martínez y Martínez signed and renewed SAGARPA’s technical collaboration agreement with CIMMYT for the implementation of MasAgro, CIMMYT’s major project in Mexico. “MasAgro boosts a new model of agricultural extension based on sustainable technologies and capacity building activities that match Mexico’s Farmer’s Confederation’s development vision,” said Mexican Senator Manuel Cota, who is also President of the Farmer’s Confederation and of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

By the end of 2014, there were over 200,000 farmers linked to MasAgro on more than 440,000 hectares across Mexico. “To address farmer’s needs we must pursue scientific excellence as Norman Borlaug did,” stressed Dr. Bram Govaerts, MasAgro leader. “We must go out to the field and get our hands dirty; take risks and be bold in our research; let innovation flow and get rid of false illusions of control,” Govaerts added.

After the ceremony, Dr. Borlaug’s family, government officials and CIMMYT laureate scientists unveiled a statue of Dr. Borlaug at the Center facilities.

“Next year CIMMYT will celebrate its 50th anniversary,” said Thomas Lumpkin, CIMMYT director general. “For 50 years Mexico has been the cradle of CIMMYT’s global agricultural innovation. Our challenge now is to ask what the next 50 years will hold.”