The Chair of the Consortium Board of CGIAR, Dr Carlos Pérez del Castillo has commended the high quality of research work being undertaken by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), emphasizing that this is needed now more than ever to tackle the challenges to food security of tropical nations not only in Africa but also the rest of the world.
Dr Pérez del Castillo was at the Ibadan campus of IITA last week for an official visit. He was accompanied by the Chief Executive Officer of the CGIAR Consortium, Dr Frank Rijsberman; IITA Board Chair, Dr Bruce Coulman; and the Directors General of two other CGIAR Consortium Centers: Dr Papa Seck of AfricaRice, and Dr Jimmy Smith of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).
Dr Pérez del Castillo said, “We are very impressed with our interactions with IITA scientists and the high quality researches they are doing in various fields. Their degree of commitment and passion to IITA’s mission of eradicating hunger and poverty through their science is nothing short of amazing. We are extremely happy with what we’ve seen during this visit.”
He particularly cited IITA’s “food production systems” approach to addressing agricultural constraints, stressing that such a strategy would greatly benefit farmers and help feed the world’s growing population.
Rather than addressing agricultural development bottlenecks on an individual commodity basis, the “production system” approach integrates the diverse options available such as crop improvement, markets, and natural resource management, among others. It is a holistic way of thinking that seeks to improve livelihoods, increase incomes, and promote sustainable development.
“In the past, most of the research was centered around either commodities or natural resource management, but the production system approach—which brings together all the components from different centers—will deliver better impact on the livelihoods of the poor in different ecosystems. This different way of doing things will certainly bring about solutions that couldn’t be achieved on an individual mandate,” Dr Pérez del Castillo explained.
The CGIAR chief said that he sees IITA playing a vital role in leading holistic global research initiatives to find workable solutions to the challenges of agricultural underdevelopment, food insecurity, and natural resource degradation, given its impressive track record of research-based achievements in sub-Saharan Africa.A CGIAR-commissioned study showed that IITA research is responsible for 70 percent of the CGIAR’s impact in Africa.
“Probably not the whole solution, but I am sure that agricultural research is very much needed to meet these challenges whether it is climate change, food price volatility, energy—food crops being diverted to biofuels—and feeding the growing population,” Dr Pérez del Castillo added.
IITA Board Chair, Dr Bruce Coulman explained that under its new Director General, Dr Nteranya Sanginga, the institute is embarking on a comprehensive 10-year strategy that outlines its bold plans of raising 20 million people out of poverty and also reclaiming 25 million hectares of degraded land in the tropics including Africa, Asia, and the Latin America by 2020.
In the last decade, the CGIAR has been undergoing a wide-ranging reform process to make it more responsive to the changing agricultural development landscape, positioning itself to offer greater impact and improve the livelihoods of millions of people. One important outcome of the reform is the agreement by international agricultural research centers to work closer together using a common strategy to ensure a food secure future for all while sustaining the natural resource base.
Dr Rijsberman said the reforms would ensure that centers offer “good value for money”, referring to investments by donors to agricultural research.