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Research on dryland cereals to boost food security

Feb 20, 2013

Strategic, high-quality international agriculture research partnerships on grain legumes and dryland cereals will help to reduce poverty and improve food and nutrition security in marginal environments.

With food insecurity and malnutrition persisting as the greatest challenge facing humanity in the coming decades, two grand research programmes to boost food and nutrition and improve livelihoods particularly of the dryland poor were launched by the world’s largest international agriculture research coalition.

The CGIAR(formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) Research Programs on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (also known by their operating names – Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals) both led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) headquartered in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India are part of CGIAR’s bold effort to help reduce world hunger, malnutrition and poverty while ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources.

The research programs, two of the sixteen multi-Center CGIAR Research Programs and the most comprehensive research-for-development (R4D) efforts undertaken thus far on once ‘orphan’ or neglected crops, have a combined three-year budget of US$225 million.

“We are now faced with the enormous challenge to produce 70% more food to feed more than 9 billion people by 2050 using scarce resources amid the threat of climate change. CGIAR Research Programs like Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals form an integral part of the CGIAR reform process that allows its Centers to function as a unified system, working together to pursue shared goals such as tackling hunger and poverty,” said Dr Frank Rijberman, Chief Executive Officer of the CGIAR Consortium, during the program launch.

Dr William Dar, Director General, ICRISAT, highlighted the importance of the two research programs. “Grain legumes are the ‘poor people’s meat’ – crucial for ending childhood malnutrition. Dryland cereals provide food security to the poorest people on earth. They are vital to the sustainability of mixed crop-livestock farming, and provide genetic resources for adaptation to harsh, marginal environments. In the face of growing global hunger and poverty and the effects of climate change, Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals will help provide nutritious, drought-resilient crops for the dryland poor,” Dar said.

“We are excited to demonstrate the power of partnership in these bold and innovative new research programs, where hundreds of research for development partners worldwide will work together along the grain legume and dryland cereal value chains to develop, adopt, disseminate and promote R4D innovations on these important crops,” Dr Dar added.

“We are fully committed to collaborate with our partners in Grain Legumes to achieve impacts in all target regions, particularly in reducing poverty and food and nutrition insecurity in harsh, dryland systems,” said Dr Ruben Echeverria, Director General, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General, International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), stressed that “combining grain legumes and dryland cereals – both highly nutritious, drought-tolerant crops – in their diets are the best bets for smallholder farmers in marginal environments to achieve food and nutritional security and improve their livelihoods.”

Dr Ylva Hillbur, Deputy Director General for Research, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) expressed her Institute’s commitment to work with the Grain Legumes partners towards attaining economic and environmental gains in the target regions.

“We are delighted by the significant support and commitment of all our partners in ensuring the success of the two research programs. These programs will make a real difference in the lives of smallholder farmers and the poor people,” said Dr Nigel Poole, ICRISAT Board Chair.

The CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes is a ten-year R4D program that focuses on improving chickpea, common bean, cowpea, groundnut, faba bean, lentil, pigeonpea and soybean crops grown by poor smallholder families in five target regions.

It aims to benefit 300 million smallholder farm households from an average 20% yield increase in grain legumes, with a projected US$4.5 billion savings as cumulative benefits of increased food production and nitrogen fertilizer saved (from the crops’ biological nitrogen fixation property). Increased food supplies by 7.1 million tons and improved health of consumers from the extra 2.1 million tons of protein in their diets are also expected to be gained.

Grain Legumes is a partnership among four members of the CGIAR Consortium: ICRISAT as lead center, CIAT, ICARDA and IITA, along with several public and private institutes and organizations, governments, and farmers worldwide.

The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Cereals will work on millets, sorghum, and barley to achieve an increase in farm-level crop productivity and total crop production of at least 16% in ten years. In the target geographies of harsh dryland conditions, total grain production is expected to rise by a total of 11 million metric tons to reach a total value of US$20 billion, along with increases in animal feed and fodder with a value of about US$10 billion. These food, feed and financial benefits will flow to about 5.8 million smallholder farms and around 34 million total beneficiaries by way of improved food quantity, quality and security.

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