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From Good Intentions to Good Deeds

April 12, 2011

International development donors added significantly last week to the momentum building behind an unprecedented effort to reduce world hunger and poverty while curbing natural resource destruction and confronting climate change.

Meeting at Montpellier, France, investors and others supporting the CGIAR Fund (set up last year) approved three research-for-development programs dealing with forests, maize and drylands. Donors took other key decisions as well to start the flow of funds into these new initiatives together with two others approved in November 2010 .

CGIAR Fund donors and stakeholders meet in Montpellier, France.

For 2011, donors are expected to provide the CGIAR Fund with a total of US$358 million. This covers about half of the costs of research conducted by the Consortium of International Research Centers including the programs just approved. Donors will cover the other half of the CGIAR’s 2011 budget through bilateral agreements already in place.

“I am especially gratified that, in the year of the CGIAR’s 40th anniversary, we have gone beyond commemorating past achievements to set the stage for even greater development impacts in the coming decades,” said Inger Andersen, CGIAR Fund Council Chair and Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank. “Achieving those impacts, however, is contingent on increased funding for the wider agricultural research effort, which is essential for bringing about the 70 percent increase in agricultural production that is needed to provide food security for a global population of 9 billion people in 2050.”

The new program on forests, including trees grown on agricultural land, promises to deliver important results within 10 years, including a doubling of rural household income for a significant portion of the target group of about 500 million people living in or close to forests in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

This research will also improve the efficiency of new schemes for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+). Within a decade, efficiency gains could boost the amount of REDD+ credits available to developing countries by $108 million to $2.7 billion per year. To be implemented by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in collaboration with three other CGIAR Centers, the program will have a budget of $67.8 million in its first year.

“The world urgently needs a well-conceived and well-resourced research effort to better manage our remaining forests and derive more value from trees cultivated on agricultural land,” said Frances Seymour, CIFOR’s Director General. “Time is no friend of forests and trees, so we have to slash the time it takes to get from science to impact.”

The new maize program is designed to ensure that productivity can be doubled by 2050, enough to meet expected demand (including inexpensive food for some 900 million poor consumers) while stabilizing developing countries’ total maize area to avoid environmental damage. To be implemented by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), this program will have a budget of $54 million in its first year. It is part of a wider effort to strengthen global food security that involves other crops, several of the CGIAR Consortium’s member centers and numerous partner organizations.

“Assessing the impact of this research will be challenging but only because it is expected to be enormous, encompassing not just the value of increased production but other important benefits, like improved health for women and children,” said Thomas Lumpkin, Director General of CIMMYT.

The world’s vast drylands, which occupy 40 percent of the earth’s land area and are home to a third of its population, are especially vulnerable to climate change and thus require a dedicated effort to protect vulnerable people and natural resources. The International Center for Agriculture in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) will implement a program involving eight other CGIAR centers, with a budget of $37.4 million in its first year, aimed at reducing the risks involved through a mix of improved technologies and policies that help diversify and sustainably intensify crop and livestock production.

“This program is about providing poor people – particularly women, who are often the de facto heads of households in drylands – with the right mix of options and helping them blend these into viable enterprises that boost incomes, improve livelihoods and provide food security while reducing the pressure on dryland ecosystems,” said Mahmoud Solh, ICARDA’s Director General.”

A fourth program – set for approval in July of this year after modest adjustments – will put in place the policies and institutions needed for smallholder producers and other rural people, especially women, to gain easier access to markets and thus raise their incomes and strengthen household food security. The two other programs approved last year focus on boosting rice productivity and providing the rural poor with options for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Funders Forum, April 2011, Montpellier, France

While agreeing to support ambitious new programs, CGIAR Fund donors also approved last week the broad strategy within which the programs will operate. It commits the CGIAR to a business-like, results-based approach to management that precisely defines the organization’s development objectives and systematically directs all of its research capacities and investments toward achieving these, with full accountability for measurable progress. At the same time, donors ironed out details of the formal agreements under which they will disburse funds to the new programs.

“Our new strategy and programs provide a strong and flexible basis on which all 15 of the CGIAR Centers can act collectively with hundreds of partners to deliver results that contribute to the Millennium Development Goals,” said Carlos Pérez del Castillo, Consortium Board Chair.

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