I saw the huge impact of the Green Revolution as it unfolded, the lives it saved, the millions of people it spared from hunger, and those it helped rise out of poverty.
These are complex issues that cut across scientific disciplines. But I believe CIAT has never been in a stronger position to help the global community address them.But I also witnessed the new challenges as they began to emerge. Today, 40% of land is severely degraded, hundreds of millions of people have an abundance of calories but suffer from poor nutrition, vital ecosystem services are undervalued and at risk and, of course, climate change threatens to destabilize many of the world’s most vulnerable people.
That’s because in the 50 years since CIAT was established, science has been revolutionized by new tools, techniques, and technologies. Some of these were developed by CIAT itself. They are helping science keep pace with the challenges.
It means that, as an institution, we can now aspire to impacts that previously we could only dream of. Until recently it was inconceivable to undertake research to improve entire landscapes, or quickly bundle multiple traits into crops through gene editing. Soon the data revolution will enable us to breed crops in silico – using computers and DNA information alone. This will help us quickly develop new varieties of beans, rice, cassava, and tropical forages that are targeted to specific environments, markets, and nutritional requirements. Big data approaches will help us refine and deliver site-specific advice to farmers about what to plant, when to plant, and how to best manage their crops.
Many of these advances were once the realm of science fiction; now they’re tools at our disposal. And that’s the power of pioneering science: it pushes the limits of knowledge; it makes the inconceivable achievable.
Our donors, investors, and staff have made this possible. Their visions of a better world have helped improve the lives of millions of people over the last 50 years. The same goes for the many governments, universities, research organizations around the world, who have shared our passion, belief, and optimism. Our successes are their successes; our impact their impacts.
Now, new partnerships are emerging that will help us build on what we’ve achieved. Governments and development banks are increasingly coming to CIAT to help them devise strategies for climate-smart crop and livestock production, healthier diets and more sustainable food systems. We’re also working even more closely with the private sector to ensure smallholder farmers play active roles in profitable international value chains for high-value crops such as coffee and cocoa, as well as livestock products. These developments promise more long-term impacts, and even better value for money for those whose investments continue to drive our research.
But as we look to the future, there are some things that definitely won’t change. Agriculture will continue to be one of the most important drivers of economic and social development on the planet. And that means CIAT will remain committed to producing high-quality scientific research that policymakers can use to improve the productivity, competitiveness, and profitability of farming. It means we will remain committed to innovation and impacts that are targeted, inclusive, and long-lasting. It means we’ll continue to strengthen our global network of partners across Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, to accelerate progress and improve lives – particularly with our national research partners, to proactively respond to the emerging threats and opportunities. And of course, it means we’ll continue to demonstrate the enormous potential of our research in helping achieve a sustainable food future for all.
This is why I’m immensely proud to look back at five decades of CIAT in this landmark Annual Report, and equally keen to share my excitement about the huge opportunities ahead. After all, we now have 50 years of experience behind us, showing us clearly the way forward.