Africa: Global Farm Research Consortium Doubles Funding to U.S.$1 Billion

The world's largest partnership of agricultural research organisations has doubled its annual funding in the last five years, raising it to $1 billion this year from $860 million in 2012 and $500 million in 2008, the CGIAR consortium said on Wednesday.

The increase in donor backing - for scientific research to increase crop harvests and improve farming techniques - comes as an expanding global population demands more food, while worsening extreme weather and environmental degradation are making it harder for many producers to maintain their yields.

"The challenge of producing more nutritious food to feed 9 billion people in 2050 while climate change threatens to roll back years of development progress, making some agricultural lands unproductive, cannot be underestimated," said Rachel Kyte, chair of the CGIAR Fund Council and World Bank vice president for sustainable development.

The food price crisis of 2007-2008, which left many poor families struggling to buy basic foodstuffs, jolted governments into the realisation that they must invest more in raising agricultural productivity, particularly in developing countries. That shift in attitude came after more than two decades of deepening neglect.

Figures from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) show that the share of official development assistance (ODA) going to agriculture, forestry and fishing peaked at a record 20 percent in 1979 before declining to a record low of 3.7 percent in 2006.

It then started to pick up again, and has since benefited from renewed international attention on farmers after the 2008 food price crisis, pledges made at the 2009 G8 summit under the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative, and recognition of the threat to yields from climate change.

OECD data from October 2013 shows that aid commitments to agriculture and rural development rose from an annual average of $8.7 billion in 2006-2007 to $13.2 billion in 2010-2011.

The increase in funding for CGIAR - whose 15 research centres work with hundreds of partner organisations internationally - is in line with the general trend of rising investment in farm support for the developing world.

"The $1 billion in funding (for 2013) will help finance CGIAR's 16 global research programmes and accelerate the development of scientific, policy and technological advances needed to overcome complex challenges - such as climate change, water scarcity, land degradation and chronic malnutrition - greatly improving the wellbeing of millions of poor families across the developing world," said Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium.

Currently, the biggest donors to CGIAR are the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the European Commission, the World Bank, Australia, Britain, Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

REDUCING HUNGER, EMISSIONS

CGIAR aims to bring the latest science to bear on a wide range of problems facing millions of farmers and other poor smallholders in developing countries, who together generate nearly 70 percent of the world's food production, it said in a statement.

Over the past four decades, its achievements include improved crop varieties that are resilient to pests and weather extremes, sustainable farming methods, new fish strains and novel livestock vaccines, it added.

The consortium - known until 2008 as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research - also described some of the potential effects of its research programmes under way today:

By 2035, research on rice will boost yields and lower prices, lifting 150 million people out of poverty and reducing the number of undernourished people in Asia by 62 million.

By 2020, 12 million households in Africa will have access to sustainable irrigation, thanks to research on water, land and ecosystems.

By 2018, 50 million people will have access to staple food crops bred to be rich in iron, zinc or vitamin A in an effort to combat malnutrition.

By 2020, research on forests will prevent deforestation on 0.5 to 1.7 million hectares of land, reducing planet-warming carbon emissions by 0.16 to 0.68 billion tonnes per year.

"CGIAR has a strong track record in delivering solutions, building resilience, and helping people all over the world to grow more nutritious food and thrive in the face of challenges.

The new funding will take CGIAR's work to the next level and be crucial in global efforts to enhance food and nutrition security in a world of climate change," the World Bank's Kyte said.

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