Photo of researcher evaluating cowpea plants in the field, by International Institute of Tropical Agriculture.
Breakthroughs in food and agriculture research, development (R&D), and innovation have improved the quantity and quality of food production around the world, while reducing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. Yet, after decades of progress global hunger is trending up. Supply chain disruptions due to the Covid pandemic along with increasingly challenging weather and climate conditions have threatened food supplies and thrown hundreds of millions of people into poverty.
By significantly increasing international
agriculture R&D investments and by providing social safety nets, we can
help families and communities thrive while improving our food systems in the
One such successful story of
international food and agriculture research and collaboration is the commercial launch of Pod Borer Resistant (PBR) Cowpea.
Cowpeas are a nutrient-rich source of food, with high protein and fiber content, and are central in the diet of many low-income people in West Africa. PBR Cowpea, officially
called SAMPEA 20-T in Nigeria, is the first public-sector biotech food crop
released in Africa. Resistant to the pest, Maruca vitrata, the
insect that is responsible for up to 80% of annual cowpea yield losses, PBR
Cowpea will benefit consumers and about eight million Nigerian farmers. This
commercial launch was made possible through an international partnership under
the coordination of the African Agricultural Technology
Foundation (AATF), with the Institute for International Crop
Improvement at the Donald
Danforth Plant Science Center leading the regulatory submission process.
The Supporters of Agricultural Research
(SoAR) Foundation strongly encourages governments, the private-sector and
foundations to accelerate their funding of international food and agriculture
research, like that for the PBR Cowpea, to strengthen smallholder agriculture
and protect food systems for future generations.
Of particular interest are international
agriculture research centers such as CGIAR. Formerly
called the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, CGIAR is
the world’s largest global agricultural research network. Established in 1971,
CGIAR comprises 15 research centers working under an One CGIAR mandate to reduce
poverty, enhance food and nutrition security, and improve natural resources.
CGIAR’s early scientific work included Dr. Norman Borlaug’s development of high-yielding
wheat, credited with spurring the Green Revolution and saving a billion lives
primarily in Asia, where many people were on the brink of starvation. Today,
CGIAR focuses on ending hunger through science to transform food, land, and
water systems in the climate crisis.
SoAR’s commissioned work, The Payoff
to Investing in CGIAR Research report, coauthored by Julian M.
Alston, University of California, Davis; Philip G. Pardey, University of
Minnesota; and Xudong Rao, North Dakota State University, examined the
benefit-cost ratio of CGIAR investments. The report found that CGIAR investments of roughly $60 billion in present value
terms has generated a benefit-cost ratio of 10 to 1 over the past five decades.
The Payoff to Investing in CGIAR Research provides a strong economic
investment case for funding partners as they consider future investments in
international agriculture research and development. With a strong presence and
long-term partnerships in developing countries, CGIAR is uniquely positioned to
further create and develop needed innovations. Additional investments in CGIAR
research would continue to yield dramatic returns on investment and benefits
for poor communities, particularly in Africa and South Asia where smallholder
farmers and local food systems are most vulnerable.