Visionary leader, strategic thinker: CGIAR appoints Dr. Ismahane Elouafi as Executive Managing Director

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Following a robust, globally competitive recruitment process, the CGIAR System Board has announced that Dr. Ismahane Elouafi will be appointed as CGIAR’s next Executive Managing Director (EMD), leading the organization to deliver science and innovation for a food- and nutrition-secure future.  

Dr. Elouafi is currently Chief Scientist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. In this role, she represents FAO on the CGIAR System Council and she has previously served as a member of the CGIAR System Board. She was Director General at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture based in the United Arab Emirates, and has held senior scientific and leadership positions including advising the Canadian government.  

“Dr. Elouafi is a visionary leader in agrifoods-focused research and advocacy with a track record of developing strategies to deal with some of the world’s most pressing environmental and human challenges,” said Professor Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chair of the CGIAR System Board. “We are confident that she will be an exceptional Executive Managing Director as CGIAR completes its integration and strengthens partnerships to deliver on our mission to transform food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis.” 

Dr. Elouafi said, “There is no more urgent challenge than providing nutritious food for all by ensuring that small-scale farmers and consumers across the global South have access to the science and innovations they need to adapt to a growing number of challenges, including climate change. I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead CGIAR as it builds on its 50-year legacy and continues to deliver transformational solutions that improve lives.”   

Dr. Elouafi will take on the EMD role on 1 December 2023, with Professor Andrew Campbell serving as interim Executive Managing Director until that time.  

CGIAR is the world’s largest publicly-funded agrifoods-focused research network with nearly 9,000 staff working in over 80 countries. In 2019, in response to demand from its country, regional, science, and funding partners CGIAR began a process of boldly reimagining its mission and strategy to become a more integrated, more impactful, and better funded ‘One’ CGIAR, fit-for-purpose to tackle the complex, interconnected challenges of the era.  

Dr. Ismahane Elouafi: biography  

  • Dr. Ismahane Elouafi holds the position of Chief Scientist at the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, a new position created within FAO’s core leadership structure to lead FAO’s science and innovation agenda, to ensure that the organization applies modern science and technologies, and to adopt innovative approaches in management of resources, projects, and programs.
  • Director General at the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) based in the United Arab Emirates. In this role, she spearheaded the development and implementation of the center’s long-term strategy and expanded its mandate to marginal environments, an agroecosystem concept which she helped to mainstream in the global research and development discourse. 
  • Dr. Elouafi previously held senior scientific and leadership positions, including: Senior Adviser to the Assistant Deputy Minister, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Research Branch in Ottawa (AAFC), Canada (2006-2007); the National Manager of Plant Research Section (2007-2010); and Director of Research Management and Partnerships Division at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) (2010-2012). 
  • She worked as a scientist with several international research organizations, including: the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA); Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS); and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). 
  • Dr. Elouafi has been a member of various strategy expert panels and advisory groups, including the Global Commission on Adaptation, and HarvestPlus. 
  • She was a member of several governance boards, including: the boards of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in the United States; the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International (CABI) in the United Kingdom; and the Professional Development Institute in Canada. 
  • She was a member of the Scientific Group for the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit and of the CGIAR System Board. 
  • Dr. Elouafi is a strong advocate for diversifying into neglected and underutilized crops and rethinking food systems as a whole. She is internationally known for her work on promoting the use of non-fresh water in agriculture and the empowerment of women in science.
  • Her contributions to science and policy have been recognized with a number of prestigious awards and accolades, including the National Reward Medal by His Majesty Mohamed VI, the King of Morocco (2014), and the Excellence in Science Award from the Global Thinkers Forum (2014). 
  • Dr. Elouafi holds a B.Sc. in Agricultural Sciences (1993) and an M.Sc. in Genetics and Plant Breeding (1995) from the Hassan II Institute of Agronomy and Veterinary Medicine, Morocco, and a Ph.D. in Genetics (2001) from the University of Cordoba, Spain. 

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