1) An Alliance of Centers helps world's poor farmers

When it comes to research for improving agricultural productivity to improve the livelihoods of the poor farmers, there is tremendous strength in the collective action of 15 international agricultural research centers.

With the formal launching of the Alliance of Future Harvest Centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) at Marrakech, Morocco, last week, the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) can bring the combined strength of 15 international agricultural research institutes for agricultural development in the developing countries of the world.

ICRISAT played a key role in laying the groundwork for the Alliance of Future Harvest Centers of the CGIAR in 2005. This was made possible with the Institute's Board Chair Uzo Mokwunye chairing the Alliance Board, Director General William Dar chairing the Alliance Executive, and Deputy Director General Dyno Keatinge chairing the Alliance Deputy Executive.

According to Dr William Dar, Director General of ICRISAT and the Chair of Alliance Executive, the Alliance will increase convergence and collective action among the CGIAR Centers. Likewise, the Alliance will enhance effectiveness and efficiency to ensure that operations are carried out a minimal cost with optimum benefits.

“The Alliance is the instrument of reform and has become an organic component of the CGIAR,” Dr Dar said. The benefits of collective action include more focused programs, more opportunities for intervention, more effective generation and application of international public goods and lower transaction costs.

Even though the Alliance was formally adopted at the Annual General Meeting of the CGIAR held at Marrakech last week, the CGIAR Centers had already started working on projects that aligned their strengths. In 2005, ICRISAT participated in the Healing Wounds initiative to help rehabilitate agriculture in the tsunami-hit villages of Tamil Nadu in India. It had also launched the Healing Wounds initiative in India in June through a media event held in collaboration with five other CGIAR Centers.

During 2005, the Alliance also undertook collective policy initiatives. In Eastern and Southern Africa (ESA), and West and Central Africa (WCA) the Alliance initiated the process of developing joint medium term plans (MTPs) that focused the strategies of international, regional and national organizations. In ESA, an expert consultation meeting was held at Nairobi in September, which developed a shared understanding of the joint MTP and identified 11 thematic areas that could benefit from greater integration. In WCA, 53 experts met at the Accra and identified 13 thematic areas for integration.

The CGIAR Centers were engaged with the CGIAR Science Council for the development of CGIAR's research priorities. The Centers will continue to work with the Science Council to develop methodologies for implementation. The Centers had developed and submitted proposals on Systemwide and Eco-regional Programs.

The Alliance is reviewing and refining the performance indicators for Centers. Under the US$ 17 million Global Public Goods Upgrading Project funded by the World Bank, the Centers are upgrading their genebanks and important databases.

The Alliance strengthened the dialogue for improved public-private partnership between the CGIAR Centers and the private sector companies. Almost 50 collaboration projects between CGIAR Centers and private sector companies are underway.

by ICRISAT. All rights reserved.