33) International Agricultural Research Centers Move towards Closer Regional Integration to Make South Asia Food Secure (March 2001)

Representatives of 16 international agricultural research institutes are participating in a Meeting on South Asia Regional Integration at ICRISAT, Patancheru, 1-3 March 2001, to brainstorm on a unified and focused research strategy to fight two of the biggest challenges facing South Asia today - poverty and environmental degradation.

Welcoming the participants, ICRISAT Director General, said, "Many world leaders do not realize that South Asia alone is home to half the developing world's poor. Together Bangladesh and eastern India have as many poor as all of sub-Saharan Africa."

Dr Dar said that the Worldwatch Institute's recent report on the State of the World 2001 states that 522 million people live on less than $1 a day. The report has also described the Indian subcontinent as "the hungriest region on Earth."
Pointing out that the world's attention has been mostly focused on poverty and hunger in Ethiopia and Somalia, "the longstanding suffering, hunger, and hopelessness of South Asia's desperately poor have been somehow overlooked," Dr Dar said.

He said that the idea for closer regional integration was inspired by the new CGIAR Vision and Strategy. "To streamline and enhance partnerships and impact, Directors General of CGIAR Centers have agreed to move towards closer regional integration, including research, research support, and administrative functions."

As part of South Asia regional integration development, the Center Directors asked ICRISAT to convene the South Asia process. The participants include representatives of 13 Centers supported by CGIAR (CIMMYT, IRRI, ICRISAT, IWMI, ILRI, IPGRI, CIP, ICARDA, ICLARM, ICRAF, IFPRI, CIFOR, ISNAR) in addition to three affiliated centers of the CGIAR (AVRDC, ICIMOD, ICBA).

National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) partners and their regional forum APAARI, as well as NGOs, the private sector and development organizations, will also be actively involved in the regional integration process at a later date.
ICRISAT Deputy Director General, Dr. Jill Lenne, who has coordinated this meeting presented an overview of ICRISAT's vision and mission as well as the research projects.

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