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CIMMYT Board of Trustees Out of the board room and into the field: Engaging with stakeholders

The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)'s Board of Trustees visits the Center’s headquarters in El Batán, Mexico once a year for its Spring meeting, to discuss progress, challenges and future directions.

On their last visit to Mexico, during the week of April 21-28, the Board had the opportunity to meet with a number of CIMMYT stakeholders to gain insight and feedback on the Center’s progress.

Board member Bongiwe Njobe with Esther Carillo, Contracts Manager, Legal Unit and daughter. Photo: M.Olvera, CIMMYT.

Getting out of the Board room, the Board Members met with staff who have children in CIMMYT's daycare facility - CENDI - to listen to their varying perspectives about happenings at CIMMYT, and their suggestions for improvement.

"Every time the Board meets, we engage with a group of CIMMYT employees, to listen to their comments and hear their questions. The difference with this lunch we had with the CENDI parents was that the interaction was two-way, we listened to what they had to say, and then we were able to engage back with them. We also had a lovely interaction with some of their children....it was a very nice interlude to an otherwise packed three days." - Nicole Birrell, Chair, Board of Trustees, CIMMYT.

CIMMYT BoT meets with parents and children in CENDI. Photo: M.Olvera, CIMMYT.

As their meetings in El Batán came to a close on Tuesday, after hearing from all program heads at CIMMYT and signing off on the 2017 financial statements, the Board was invited on a field trip.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Board of Trustees along with members of CIMMYT’s Management Committee, left in a caravan of mini-buses towards the city of Celaya, in the Mexican state of Guanajuato.

Over the next two days, the Board met with stakeholders from Guanajuato at a MasAgro field station as well as a several farmers' fields. The group heard from students and scientists working in breeding and agronomy, technicians who further the work of CIMMYT by working to help farmers implement sustainable intensification techniques, the farmers who are reaping the benefits of this support, and private partners such as small-scale seed companies, who benefit from CIMMYT's locally adapted lines.

Collage of CIMMYT BoT field trip to meet stakeholders in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico. Photos: K.Pixley, CIMMYT.

They learned about the work CIMMYT does in the area, including the importance of local farming networks established. The goal is for innovations from CIMMYT to be passed along by network connections, and create a network in which innovations and knowledge will be passed between farmers, with minimal interference by CIMMYT.

"The different projects in the Guanajuato area, like MasAgro Guanajuato, permit the development of a self-sustaining network to generate AgriFood Systems for nutrition, nature conservation, national and international security through innovation systems." - Bram Govaerts, Regional Representative for the Americas, CIMMYT.

Erick Ortiz describes MasAgro's network. Photo: K. Pixley, CIMMYT.

A local farmer who works with CIMMYT, Luis Angel Melendez, talked about his experience with implementing sustainable intensification. He detailed how much deeper water is able to move within the soil, and how much more yield he has obtained while spending less money on inputs.

Jelle Van Loon, Mechanization Specialist for Latin America, discussed mechanization used in the area and detailed the capabilities gained from devices like direct planting tractors and threshers in conservation agriculture.

Top left: Jelle Van Loon, Top right: Martin Kropff checking the depth of direct-planted seeds, Bottom left: MasAgro technician and farmer, Bottom right: Direct-till tractor demonstration. Photo: F.Alarcon, CIMMYT.

The Board met and ate lunch with a large number of partners in Guanajuato including farmers, technicians and extension agents as well as local and federal government representatives.

BoT and MC of CIMMYT meet with technicians and farmers working with MasAgro in Guanajuato. Photo: F.Alarcon, CIMMYT.

Birrell and Director General, Martin Kropff took turns addressing stakeholders, expressing their appreciation for the strong partnerships forged through the MasAgro program and their hope that these activities would grow and continue to thrive both in Guanajuato and throughout Mexico.

Nicole Birrell, Chair, Board of Trustees and Director General, Martin Kropff addressing MasAgro technicians, farmers and partners. Photo: F.Alarcon, CIMMYT.

Throughout the trip, in-field presentations were blended with more personal sit-down meals to encourage discussions and the exchange of ideas. Board Members were excited to meet stakeholders, learn about their unique challenges and how CIMMYT science, technologies and programs affect them and impact their lives.

BoT and MC eat lunch with stakeholders. Photo: K.Pixley, CIMMYT.
The BoT and MC eat with stakeholders from public and private sectors. Photo: F.Alarcon, CIMMYT.

After the trip, Birrell expressed what an honor it had been to meet with such a wide array of stakeholders, and how much it had meant to her.

"This is something I have wanted to do for a long time, to see these programs in action and see how all the aspects of these programs interact. It was just an incredible couple of days." - Nicole Birrell

"It is great for the board to make connections to stakeholders of CIMMYT, and to hear from Mexican leadership directly in situations like this. It's really important for them to be engaged with our work and see firsthand how what they talk about in the board rooms really comes alive in the field." - Martin Kropff, Director General, CIMMYT.

CIMMYT BoT and MC visiting a mixed vegetable farm in Guanajuato. Photo: F.Alarcon, CIMMYT.
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Laura Strugnell
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