CIMMYT Annual Report 2015 Building resilience to risk

Farming is inherently risky; shifting markets and climates, coupled with increasing demand, land degradation and scarcity of critical resources, pose mounting challenges. Nearly 60 million people are expected to require food aid due to droughts and other extreme weather from the “El Niño” climate effect.

A study by Lloyd’s of London showed that the global food system is under significant pressure, and that coinciding shocks in any given year will elevate maize and wheat prices four-fold.

To address these challenges, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) has redoubled decades-long efforts to develop, test and promote innovative, productive, and resource-conserving technologies and cropping practices in collaboration with partner organizations and farmers.

Research and action to respond

30 years ago – before climate change became a global concern – CIMMYT began to develop climate-resilient maize which is bearing fruit in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Today, farmers are able to harvest more grain in a dry year using CIMMYT maize varieties.

A new study on the impact of wheat breeding during 1994-2004 showed that nearly half of the world’s wheat area is sown to varieties derived from CGIAR breeding lines, providing annual benefits of $2-3 billion in enhanced productivity. These varieties are often strongly preferred because they withstand stresses like high temperatures and provide reliable yields under varying conditions, reducing farmers’ risk.

Innovative agriculture practices aimed at capturing and retaining soil moisture are boosting yields in dry years in southern Africa and highland Mexico. In South Asia, direct seeding of wheat after rice harvest raises wheat yields while reducing water and fuel costs.

Precision leveling of fields improves irrigation, enabling farmers to save up to 30 percent more water, use less fertilizer and produce more grain yield. Specialized smallholder farm machinery is crucial for such practices, including suitable designs for women and support for local manufacturers.

A pioneering new study carried out across 135 rural communities in 27 countries promises to provide “bottom-up” insights on how social rules influence men, women and youth to adopt innovation in agriculture and natural resource management.

Prepared to weather storms

In 2015, CIMMYT also provided direct disaster support; the earthquake in Nepal left smallholder farmers without the ability to plant and harvest crops. In Ethiopia, farmers experienced the worst drought in 30 years. CIMMYT responded to these disasters with drought tolerant seed and modern agricultural power tools.

When new disease threats emerge, rapid collective action is needed to save farmers' livelihoods and prevent a disaster spreading. Maize Lethal Necrosis disease, which has spread rapidly through eastern Africa since 2011, is a case in point.

Long-term investments in agricultural research help prepare for future shocks and ensure that crops and livelihoods can withstand natural disasters. At the heart of CIMMYT's work lies the maize and wheat germplasm collection housed in Mexico, holding the genetic keys to the stress-tolerant varieties of the future.

2015 was a remarkable year for CIMMYT, with scientific innovations that respond to the needs of the poorest and most vulnerable.

I am proud of the achievements of our 1,300 colleagues around the world whose devoted work contributes to the global effort to tackle poverty, hunger and major nutrition imbalances, and environmental degradation.

In 2016, CIMMYT will celebrate 50 years of improving food security and livelihoods. In particular I would like to thank Thomas Lumpkin who served as DG until 1 June 2015 for his commitment, wise counsel and support.

I would also like to thank the many donors who have generously funded CIMMYT’s work, as well as the many partners and stakeholders without whom we would never achieve impact.

Please continue helping us to offer productive, resource-conserving options for farmers.

Events and awards

In 2015, CIMMYT underwent a change of leadership, with Martin Kropff taking on the role of Director General from the outgoing Thomas Lumpkin, who oversaw a large expansion of CIMMYT's partnerships, funding, reputation and impact during his tenure since 2008.

Thomas Lumpkin with Martin Kropff

Kropff was welcomed during the 2015 CIMMYT Science Week, which brought staff from CIMMYT offices worldwide to report on successes and challenges, review activities and jointly plan future work to attain CIMMYT’s mission.

Several CIMMYT scientists, including 2014 World Food Prize winner Sanjaya Rajaram, gave keynote speeches at the International Wheat Conference in Sydney. Distinguished wheat breeder Ravi Singh was also the recipient of the China Friendship Award.

CGIAR Research Programs on Maize and Wheat

In 2015, MAIZE and WHEAT significantly strengthened research and capacity in gender, and both received high marks from the CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council on their pre-proposals for a new phase of CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs), to be launched in 2017.

Publications in 2015

One way that CIMMYT shares its knowledge with the world is through its vast library of publications. This enables spillover benefits and maximizes the return on research investments. In 2015, CIMMYT researchers published over 208 articles in academic journals, with an increasing focus on publishing open access articles. Of the 208 journal articles, 107 have been published as Open Access. CIMMYT also actively publishes reports, field guides and manuals for shared use.

Staff and Management

Headquartered in Mexico, CIMMYT has 1,280 staff members, 225 of whom are scientists and other internationally recruited experts. Of the latter, slightly more than half work outside of Mexico at offices in 14 major maize- and wheat-producing countries of the developing world, assisted by 416 support staff. The 739 CIMMYT staff members in Mexico are distributed among the Center’s main office and 4 other principal research stations.

Remembering Paula Kantor

On May 13, 2015, Paula Kantor, a gender and development specialist, died tragically at the age of 46 in a terrorist attack on the hotel where she was staying in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Kantor joined CIMMYT in February 2015 to lead a project aimed at empowering and improving the livelihoods of women, men and youth in important wheat-growing areas of Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Pakistan.

“Paula had vast experience – she spent most of her working life in these contexts – in very patriarchal societies – and had a great love for the people living in these regions,” said Lone Badstue, gender specialist at CIMMYT. “She also had a deep understanding of what she felt needed to change so that both men and women could have a better chance to influence their own lives and choose their own path.”

A US citizen, Kantor earned a master’s degree in Gender and Development from Britain’s Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex in 1990 and then a doctoral degree focused on international economic development and gender from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2000.

Before joining CIMMYT, Kantor served as a senior gender specialist with the CGIAR’s WorldFish organization. She also worked at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) in Washington, D.C., developing intervention research programs in gender and rural livelihoods, including a focus on gender and agricultural value chains.

Kantor was previously based in Kabul where she worked as director and manager of the gender and livelihoods research portfolios at the Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit (AREU), an independent research agency.

Although only a member of the CIMMYT team for a short time, Kantor’s involvement in “GENNOVATE,” a collaborative, comparative research initiative by gender researchers from a series of international agricultural research centers, was critical.

GENNOVATE focuses on understanding gender norms and how they influence the ability of people to access, try out, adopt or adapt new agricultural technology. Kantor provided key analytical and theoretical guidance, inspiring the group to take action and ensure that Gennovate took hold.

“Paula was a pillar in our gender work and a dear friend to many of us,” said Badstue.

Editors-in-chief: Geneviève Renard, G. Michael Listman

Creative director: Clyde R. Beaver III

Infographics: Gerardo Mejia

Writers/Editors: Ricardo Curiel, Anuradha Dhar, Jennifer Johnson, G. Michael Listman, Katie Lutz, Alma McNab, Julie Mollins, Matthew O’Leary, Geneviève Renard, Katelyn Roett, Nathan Russell, Miriam Shindler, Samuel Storr, Brenda Wawa

Contributors: Bekele Abeyo, Lone Badstue, AbduRahman Beshir , José Juan Caballero, Ernesto Coeto, K.C. Dilli, Olaf Erenstein, Kate Fehlenberg, Mina Lantican, Mauricio Malpica, Cynthia Mathys, Andrew McDonald, Kevin Pixley, Patti Petesch, B.M. Prasanna, Anuprita Shukla, Arturo Silva, George Williams

Photographers: Tsedeke Abate, AbduRahman Beshir, Yoseph Beyenne, Alberto Chassaigne, Xochiquetzal Fonseca, Srikanth Kolari, Peter Kosina, Mike Listman, Peter Lowe, Thomas Lumpkin, Victor Manuel Pérez Campos, B.M. Prasanna, Vinaynath Reddy, M. Waheed, United States Agency for International Development-Pakistan, and CIMMYT archives

Slate production: Sam Storr

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