Initiative Result:

Transforming breeding partnerships for greater impact

A new approach to collaborative breeding and partnerships is revolutionizing demand-driven varietal development and boosting regional breeding capacity for many crops in Africa and South Asia.

Accelerated Breeding has a bold and exciting vision for a new way of developing international varieties in collaboration with partners, often National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES). This approach is more inclusive, demand-driven, and effective – leading to greater impact. CGIAR breeding teams are deploying innovative methods to grasp local needs and align regional crop breeding efforts with national priorities. They are also supporting partners in expanding and taking the lead in breeding efforts, where they have a clear comparative advantage.

Developing and deploying new crop varieties in developing countries, especially in regions with minimal private sector investment, demands extensive collaboration involving a multitude of partners with different mandates and priorities. For over 50 years, CGIAR has led the development of germplasm as international public goods, while supporting partners in building their own breeding capacities and disseminating improved varieties.

As capacity at national institutions has developed, and to respond faster to rapidly emerging challenges (pests, diseases, population growth, sustainability, and climate change), a new mode of partnership is required to ensure ownership and effective division of labor among partners, acknowledging their comparative advantage and ambitions.

This new approach more effectively utilizes all the available talents across CGIAR and national systems while ensuring clear roles and responsibilities for variety development and rapid deployment.

CGIAR and partners each offer comparative advantages to the international variety development effort. By integrating international and national breeding efforts, synergies are achieved, resulting in higher rates of genetic gain for all countries within a given region.

This approach will result in more impactful breeding for millions of farmers in Africa and South Asia who rely on CGIAR and national systems for improved germplasm. And greater involvement of those making variety release decisions in the development process will increase the likelihood of the best variety being registered and released to farmers.

The process begins by better understanding national priorities through broad in-country stakeholder consultations – Product Design Team (PDT) meetings – with farmers, consumers, processors, industry, and social scientists. The outcome is the alignment of regional and national breeding efforts with farmer and consumer demand. Thus, CGIAR breeding is becoming more demand-driven and inclusive.

Close to 100 Product Design Team (PDT) meeting have been conducted throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia since early 2022 across a range of crops including maize, sorghum, matooke (cooking banana) and potato, resulting in significant shifts in regional breeding strategy and partner roles.

By actively participating in the international breeding process and with technical support from CGIAR, partners are expanding their breeding capabilities.

Many partners have developed detailed plans specifying the areas in which they intend to enhance their breeding capacity and impact
through breeding. With support from CGIAR to implement these plans, partners gain comparative advantage in the international breeding effort, augmenting their role and elevating the overall quality of breeding at the national and international level. In turn, spurring an upward spiraling of the benefits described above.

In Southern Africa for instance, several unique maize country specific market segments have been identified that are best addressed through national breeding programs which are now receiving support from CGIAR to scale up their breeding efforts. Similarly in West Africa, as a result of mapping national capacities and identifying regional priorities for various dryland crops including sorghum and millet, up to 50 percent of operational budget from CGIAR-coordinated breeding projects has been allocated to national partners who have a stronger comparative advantage to breed for specific regional market segments.

The systematic augmentation of national partner roles ensures regional breeding efforts are better aligned to national needs, while continuously supporting local breeding. This approach fosters strong ownership from national partners, who are often also responsible for variety deployment.

This new mode of collaboration is a win-win for both CGIAR and its regional partners. Supporting national partners to scale up their breeding efforts builds local capacity and ensures local ownership, while allowing CGIAR to focus on upstream research and regional priorities.

The new approach CGIAR is using to engage with partners is refreshing and quite distinct from past ways of working. It is inclusive and takes into consideration our own national priorities and development plans. It also allows us to grow as national programs and develop essential skills and expertise to manage our own breeding pipelines.

Maryam Daud, Sorghum Breeder at Lake Chad Research Institute


Header photo: Breeding Better Banana projectin Tanzania. The project seeks to  develop and deliver improved hybrid cooking banana in Tanzania
and Uganda. IITA.

CGIAR Centers

CGIAR Centers contributing to this result: AfricaRice; Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT; Centro Internacional de la Papa (CIP);  International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA); International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); International Rice Research Institute (IRRI): International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)


This result was made possible by our valued partners: ACIAR – Australian Center for International Agricultural Research; ARC – Agricultural Research Corporation; ASARECA – Association forstrengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa ; BARI – Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute; BMGF – Bill & Melinda  Gates Foundation; BMZ – Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung / Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development (Germany); CCARDESA – Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa ; CORAF/WECARD – West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development ; CSIR – Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (Ghana); DARS – Department of Agricultural Research Services; DR&SS – Department of Research and Specialist Services (Zimbabwe); EIAR – Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research; FCDO – Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (formerly DFID) (United Kingdom); IAR – Institute of Agricultural Research (Nigeria); ICAR – Indian Council of Agricultural Research; IER – Institut d’Economie Rurale (Mali); IGKVV – Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya University; IIAM – Instituto de Investigacao Agraria de Mozambique; ISRA – Institut Senegalais de Recherche Agricole; KALRO – Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research organization; NARO – National Agricultural Research Organisation (Uganda); TARI – Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute; USAID – U.S. Agency for International Development; ZARI – Zambia Agriculture Research Institute.