Turning research into impact

To mark 50 years of applying maize and wheat science to improve livelihoods, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) held events for celebration and reflection throughout 2016, including a momentous September gathering in Mexico.

In celebrations organized by the CIMMYT offices in Kenya and Zimbabwe in April, distinguished participants enjoyed first-hand tours of research activities and provided input on plans for strengthening maize and wheat agri-food systems through partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa.

“When we speak about Africa’s Green Revolution, it cannot take place without the improved varieties developed by CIMMYT and its partners,” said Willy Bett, Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Kenya.

Vijay Chaikam, CIMMYT maize scientist, explains doubled haploids and their value in breeding research to visitors at the Kenya CIMMYT50 celebrations.

September events in Mexico opened with field and laboratory visits at CIMMYT headquarters and moved to a two-day, high-level conference in Mexico City. Presentations and discussions there acknowledged CIMMYT and CGIAR’s considerable impacts but also highlighted critical food security gaps and the intensifying social and environmental challenges facing agriculture, including climate change and the need to focus on better nutrition and health.

“Without a CGIAR there would be 100 countries in conflict and not the 60 that we know today,” said Juergen Voegele, Senior Director, Agriculture Global Practice, World Bank, and CGIAR System Council Chair, speaking to an audience of over 500 CIMMYT employees, donor representatives and partners and dignitaries, including the Ministers of Agriculture of Bangladesh, Chile, Kenya, Mexico and Pakistan. “The CGIAR has a major role to play in ensuring nutrition security and peace and conflict resolution.”

(left to right): Juergen Voegele from World Bank Agriculture Global Practice discusses the future of agricultural development investment; Tony Cavalieri from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation speaks during a panel session.

During the conference CIMMYT and DuPont Pioneer signed a Master Alliance Agreement on the use of CRISPR-Cas gene editing technology to jointly develop improved crops with traits of interest for smallholder farmers.

In its 50th year CIMMYT achieved an organizational first, launching the online crowdfunding campaign ‘Save a Seed’ that allowed everyone an opportunity to be part of a food secure future and support the Maize and Wheat Germplasm Bank.

Celebrations in India, home of the Green Revolution, included ceremonies and talks during the First International Agrobiodiversity Congress.

(left to right): Deputy Director General Marianne Bänziger, Director General Martin Kropff and Knowledge Management Head Richard Fulss cut the ribbon to officially open the CIMMYT Museum; Lindiwe Majele Sibanda from FANRPAN talks about malnutrition and gender; Kanayo Nwanze from IFAD speaks on the role of smallholder producers; Nora Lapitan from USAID speaks during a discussion panel.

Looking back to CIMMYT’s origins as an international center in 1966, the individuals who signed the launch agreement concurred that the institute “…should become a focal point for joining the critical battle now underway to provide enough food for the rapidly increasing population of the world.”

According to Martin Kropff, CIMMYT director general, the Center’s founders would probably agree that CIMMYT has gone a long way toward fulfilling their lofty aspirations. “But a modern CIMMYT is still needed,” Kropff said, “based on the original ideal of international collaboration in agricultural research for development.”

Text: G. Michael Listman, Miriam Shindler

Contributors: Jenny Nelson

Photos: Alfonso Cortés, Gerardo Mejia, Alfredo Sáenz, Sam Storr

Editors: Bianca Beks, G. Michael Listman, Julie Mollins, Geneviève Renard

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