A New Year brings a somewhat arbitrary but often helpful opportunity to reflect on the activities of the past 12 months and look forward with optimism to the year ahead. Since joining CGIAR as the CGIAR Consortium CEO in May of 2012, I have been working closely with stakeholders across the CGIAR system – our partners, our donors, the CGIAR Fund, our Science Leaders, our Research Programs, and our Centers – to help strengthen our contribution to resolving some of the world’s most pressing development challenges. Agricultural research is a key contributor to reducing poverty, improving food security, improving health and nutrition, and sustainably managing natural resources – and CGIAR is leading the way for publicly funded ag research for development.
But leadership is not just about being the biggest or most widely dispersed. It means being able to evolve to meet changing demands. It means being able to demonstrate impact. And it means being able to collaborate and partner effectively.
Our focus in 2012 was to implement the CGIAR Reform, our ongoing effort to improve operational effectiveness, value, and impact. And while we are aware that this is a long term process, we are seeing some very clear results, for example:
- Despite the pressure on development budgets worldwide, the overall investment in CGIAR doubled in the last five years to about $900M. We believe this is due both to the renewed attention to food security as a policy priority, but is also recognition that the Reform is positioning CGIAR to make effective contributions to the food security challenges.
- The full portfolio of 16 CGIAR Research Programs has now been approved. This is a key pillar of the reform – focusing the work of CGIAR on a coherent portfolio of high-priority research programs that cut across the centers that deliver clear development outcomes and are demonstrably value for money.
- The roadmap for CGIAR moving forward, known as the Strategy and Results Framework (SRF), was approved in 2011. At the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2) the CGIAR Funders Forum approved the SRF Action Plan. This clears the way for a bold program of research priority setting at both system and research program level for 2013, with a focus on outcomes, value for money, and performance management.
We saw significant results and acknowledgements for CGIAR’s work getting research into practice, a few of which are noted below:
- In an International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)* project that harnesses more than 200 partners, rice with the PSTOL1 gene, which confers tolerance to phosphorous deficiency and is therefore improving rice yield on problem soils, was shown to produce about 20 percent more grain on average than rice without the gene. The IRRI-led project that isolated the gene is part of the research portfolio of the CGIAR Generation Challenge Programme (GCP). In December 2012, GCP launched its Integrated Breeding Platform.
- Research from a partnership between WorldFish* and the Water Research Institute (WRI) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Egypt and Ghana has led to improved breeds of Tilapia that grow up to 30% faster than unimproved Nile Tilapia. WRI was awarded winner of the National Best Agricultural Researcher Award during the 28th National Farmers Day 2012 celebration in Abokobi, Ghana.
- Research in West Bengal and subsequent policy recommendations from International Water Management Institute (IWMI)* as part of our Research Program on Water, Land, and Ecosystems has led to policy changes that could benefit more than 5.6 million smallholders. The principal investigator of this work, Dr Aditi Mukherji, received the prestigious Norman Borlaug Award from the World Food Prize organization in recognition of her work.
- Two publications — the 2012 edition of the Global Hunger Index – produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)*, in partnership with Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide; and Achieving Food Security In the Face of Climate Change (produced by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS) – demonstrate our continued role as a thought leader in identifying critical areas for current and future research.
Partnership underpins all our work, and we recognize there is always room for improvement. We are in the process of conducting a partnership perception survey mailed to about 4000 partners in December and intend to use those results to help us collaborate more effectively. We know that partnership works, and we have many examples from the past year, including:
- The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)* has been working with the Pan-African Bean Research Alliance (PABRA), through which national partners in 29 African countries work together to solve problems in bean production that few could handle individually. Impact studies conducted in 2012 found that improved varieties and related technologies developed by PABRA members have reached a total of 8 million rural households or about 45 million people.
- The Vision for Change partnership in Côte d’Ivoire, between The World Agroforesty Center (ICRAF)* and Mars Inc., CNRA, Agence Nationale d’Appui au Développement Rural (ANADER), works to improve the livelihoods of farmers through research on developing improved cocoa varieties, securing markets for agroforestry products and quantifying the potential for trees on farms for climate change mitigation and adaptation. The latest program in West Africa is increasing yields up to four times in places.
- In Kenya, the work of International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)*, which partnered ILRI ecologists with Maasai communicators to help pastoralists better manage their lands, livestock and wildlife resources won the 2012 Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America. Lessons from this project are being leveraged in the development and adoption of land-use master plans.
- In larger scale alignment efforts, the so-called “Dublin Process” continues its work to align CGIAR, its Research Programs, and its donors with the agricultural development needs and opportunities being articulated in national agricultural Investment Plans spearheaded by Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).
2012 also was a year of development for the CGIAR Consortium Office in its new location in Montpellier. The leadership team of the office is now complete. Work on our new HQ building will start early in 2013. With these important steps forward, I am optimistic about 2013. I made 15 public Commitments coming out of GCARD2, and I look forward to communicating about our progress.
We will continue to evolve to better match the needs of our sector and our donors. We look forward to being able to report on the outcomes and impact of our Research Programs. And partnerships will continue to be a priority; as an example, next week I will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union concerning CAADP-CGIAR alignment to ensure more comprehensive alignment of research priorities and knowledge exchange. More detailed reflections on 2012 and a look ahead at the priorities for 2013 can be found here.
So here’s to a productive and collaborative 2013; I look forward to continuing this journey together.
*members of the CGIAR Consortium