From 23 – 26 August, 2015, CIMMYT’s Director General Martin Kropff visited Pakistan to attend the Agricultural Innovation Program’s (AIP) annual conference in Islamabad. Following the conference Kropff met with the CIMMYT team to talk about his observations, suggestions and way forward for continued impact in Pakistan.
Q: Is there room for improvement in the agricultural sector in Pakistan?
A: With an average wheat yield of nearly three tons per hectare, Pakistan’s agricultural sector is in a good position but there are still many opportunities to grow. As highlighted by the Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan, technologies such as precision agriculture and hand-held technologies for soil testing, to increase yields present new opportunities. Many farmers’ I met at this year’s AIP conference are not using these improved technologies, and AIP can help ensure they have access.
Q: What is the role of public-private partnerships in agricultural development?
A: The private sector is essential for scaling up new technologies. CIMMYT, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and heads of international and national companies in Pakistan and other AIP partners are discussing opportunities for future collaborations. This won’t be just a project on maize or wheat – but a full systems approach incorporating the entire value chain.
Q: How can we improve the seed industry’s capacity?
A: When I was Director at Wageningen University, we established an African Agribusiness Academy. Ambassadors from the university would organize groups of young entrepreneurs from across Africa to innovate and learn from our scientists, and vice versa. This type of partnership and co-learning could help AIP improve the industry and farmers’ lives as well as build relationships with the private sector.
Q: What has been your experience with Pakistani scientists and how can they continue to grow?
A: Pakistani CIMMYT scientists are at a really good level. At CIMMYT we are not just conducting research but also applying it in the field, and we need to keep innovating with Pakistan’s national centers and scientists. We also need to continue training and mentoring Pakistan’s future scientists – students from national universities that are an incredible asset to future development.