Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research

The major global player in agricultural research for development is the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). It was created in 1971 as an informal association of donors to provide financial support to four international agricultural research centers that the Ford and Rockefeller foundations had established over the previous decade. In the 1980s and 1990s, new centers joined the CGIAR, enjoying the benefits of core research funding provided by the donor group. These extended the research activity of the CGIAR beyond food crops to include livestock; living aquatic resources; forestry and agroforestry; water resources; agriculture capacity building and policy.

Since their establishment in the 1960s up until 2001, the centers, supported by the CGIAR, have spent about $7 billion (in 1990 U.S. dollars). Cost-benefit studies indicate that, by conservative criteria, including a very limited set of directly attributable impacts, the overall economic benefits attributable to CGIAR research have been at least double the research costs. Another cost-benefit meta-analysis using broader criteria estimated that by 2011, the benefits would be as much as 17 times greater.56

Sixty-five percent of the global area under improved varieties of the ten most important food crops is planted with varieties derived from the CGIAR-f unded research. Without the CGIAR contribution, it is estimated world food production today would be 4 to 5 percent lower and in developing countries 7 to 8 percent lower.57

Fundamental to the success of the CGIAR centers has been the development of partnerships with national scientific centers that form the core of the national innovation systems. Box 7.8 describes the way in which the Centro International de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center; CIMMYT) has partnered with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI).

Box 7.8 The Partnership between CIMMYT and KARI

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maiz y Trigo; CIMMYT) is in effect a large-scale international research and training consortium with offices in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and over 600 staff. It has built up considerable expertise on maize crops; maize varieties, developed by CIMMYT and its partners, are now planted on nearly half of the area sown to improved varieties in nontemperate areas of the developing world. CIMMYT’s gene bank holds 25,000 unique collections of native maize races.

To effectively bring this high-Sevel knowledge to the national and local levels in Kenya, CIMMYT has been working with the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI). Established in 1979 by the Kenyan government, KARI brings together national research and dissemination efforts in food crops, livestock management, and land and water use.

In one project CIMMYT researchers found maize plants resistant to the maize stem borer in the center’s gene bank, in maize seed originally from the Caribbean. Working with Kenyan farmers, KARI scientists used conventional plant breeding techniques to cross the introduced varieties with maize varieties already adapted to the conditions found in eastern Africa, selecting for traits that the farmers valued. KARI then facilitated the testing of the new varieties through the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Services


Box 7.8 (continued)

and helped to create a dissemination process involving local seed distributors and extension agents. One of the new varieties, named Pamuka 1, is now being distributed to farmers. It is not only high yielding but resistant to stem borers and drought tolerant.58

It is a good example of a global innovation system in operation, driven by the applied problem defined by KARI with CIMMYT acting as a translational research partner. Nevertheless in Sub-Saharan Africa, as of 2000, only around 10 percent of cropland was planted with improved varieties, and technology adoption is only in the tens of thousands of hectares.59

The CGIAR has not been without its challenges. The critical core funding from donors has declined over time and centers have operated independently, missing opportunities for synergy. More important, investment in the CGIAR centers has not been matched by investment in national research capacity in many regions, particularly Africa. This has led in some cases to research resources flowing disproportionately to CGIAR centers, as well as to a brain drain from national programs into better- supported center jobs, undermining the partnerships between centers and national scientific research systems. All of these problems are the target of an ambitious plan, launched in 2008, to reform the CGIAR system, bringing centers and partner institutions together around a single strategic results framework with more sustainable funding.60

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