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CIMMYT scientist attends global forum in Middle East

DTMA seed systems specialist Peter Setimela (right) with BBC journalist Stephen Sackur, who chaired the meeting’s opening session. Photo: Peter Setimela

By Peter Setimela/CIMMYT

CIMMYT Seed Systems Specialist Peter Setimela participated in the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture from 3-5 February in the United Arab Emirates. The theme of the conference was “driving innovation for an agricultural revolution.” More than 1,800 delegates and 120 exhibitors were hosted by Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF).

The forum showcased global innovations in sustainable agriculture through keynote sessions, panel discussions, an African ministerial discussion and 150 innovation presentations by 180 speakers. The opening ceremony was chaired by BBC journalist and broadcaster Stephen Sackur. Keynote speeches were given by philanthropist Bill Gates, co-founder of BMGF, Frank Rijsberman, CGIAR chief executive officer, Mark Post, the scientist behind the Google-funded lab-grown hamburger and Andras Forgacs, chief executive officer of Modern Meadow and cultured meat and leather pioneer.

Addressing the participants via Skype, Gates emphasized the significance of technological innovation in combating poverty. “In a world where most of the poorest are farmers, investments in agriculture are the best weapons against hunger and poverty,” Gates said. “To help the poorest seize agriculture’s potential, we need to unleash as much innovation as possible.” Setimela, who works on the BMGF-funded Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA) project, presented “Why the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funded the DTMA Project.” It highlighted the breeding and dissemination of droughttolerant maize in Sub-Saharan Africa and the potential benefits for smallholder farmers who are affected by challenges related to climate change, such as drought and infrequent rainfall.

Representing CGIAR, the world’s largest consortium of agricultural research institutes, Rijsberman emphasized why dry areas should invest massively in innovation to ensure food security. “History shows us that the most effective route to keeping global food prices low is to massively increase investment in agricultural innovations,” Rijsberman said.