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Tracing the evolution of 50 years of maize research in CGIAR

Publication reviews the history of CGIAR maize research from 1970 to 2020.

CGIAR turned 50 in 2021. To mark this anniversary, two independent and highly reputed experts have authored a history of CGIAR maize research from 1970 to 2020.

The authors, Derek Byerlee and Greg Edmeades, focused on four major issues running through the five decades of CGIAR maize research: the diversity of maize-growing target environments, the role of the public and private sectors in maize research in the tropics, the approaches adopted in reaching smallholder farmers in stress-prone rainfed tropical environments with improved technologies, and the need for maintaining strong financial support for international maize research efforts under the CGIAR.

The work of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) and its partners features prominently in this account. The authors also reviewed the history of maize policy research undertaken by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The authors bring a unique perspective to the challenging task of tracing the evolution of maize research in CGIAR as both “insiders” and “outsiders.” While they worked as CIMMYT researchers in the 1990s, and later on as reviewers of various projects/programs, both are currently unaffiliated with CIMMYT. Byerlee is affiliated with the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA, and Edmeades is an independent scholar based in New Zealand.

“A clear-eyed and unbiased appreciation of our past — both successes and missteps — can only enrich our efforts, make better progress, and effectively meet the challenges of the present and the future,” wrote B.M. Prasanna, director of CIMMYT’s Global Maize Program and of the CGIAR Research Program MAIZE , in the foreword.

According to Prasanna, “The challenges to the maize-dependent smallholders in the tropics are far from over. Optimal, stable and long-term investment in international maize improvement efforts is critical.”

Disclaimer: The CGIAR Research Program MAIZE supported only the review, formatting, and online publication of this document. The findings and conclusions are completely of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the institutional views of CIMMYT, IITA, IFPRI or CGIAR and its partners.