CIAT’s World of Science


Decision and Policy Analysis

Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes




Surpassing critical mass, going big in Brazil and the hottest beans yet

When named leader of CIAT’s newest research area in 2018, Marcela Quintero asked her team what they could do differently – not entirely in terms of research, but in terms of how they could take CIAT’s record of accomplishment on solving real-world problems and scaling them up to reach a critic mass of smallholder farmers across the tropics.

Built around the experts and many well-established thematic research areas already at CIAT, the Agroecosystems and Sustainable Landscapes Research Area (ASL) takes a multidisciplinary tack. After all, managing agricultural landscapes sustainably requires multiple scientific disciplines – from agronomists and economists to ecologists and sociologists.

And, crucially, success in scaling up research requires tapping into vast networks of partners, especially those with local expertise who have a personal stake in the benefits brought by scaling up. ASL applies this strategy to its work across Africa, Asia (where ASL is a key part of CIAT’s expansion in the region), and Latin America.

CIAT remains committed to sharing research outputs, data, tools, and information resources under its open-access policy. In 2018, its collaborative research with partners delivered 171 articles published in international refereed journals, of which 85% are open access.

“This ability to reach scale is a big challenge but it’s one we’re going to be able to tackle with this type of research area and CIAT’s expertise in value chains and markets,” said Quintero. “The projects we’ve started this year are already showing great potential for scaling through stronger work with public and private sector partners.”

SERVIR Amazonia, a USAID-funded program where CIAT is the lead implementing partner, is a prime example. It is a multi-country collaboration between local, national, and international partners with an interest in the health of the Amazon Basin and the livelihoods of those who depend on it. SERVIR Amazonia is just one example of how ASL and CIAT’s Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area (DAPA) combine efforts in a large-scale program to use cutting-edge technology and local knowledge to protect one of the world’s most important ecosystems.

Other examples are an International Climate Initiative (IKI)-funded project that will pilot agricultural business models for addressing drivers of deforestation in the Amazon, and a CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE)-funded project that examines governance structures in a Kenyan county to design multi-stakeholders’ efforts for long-lasting landscape restoration investments.

CIAT is “Back in Brazil”

CIAT never really left Brazil, said Andy Jarvis, the director of DAPA, but 2018 marked a recharged presence of the Center in the country.

In addition to SERVIR Amazonia, CIAT took a major role in a USAID program to strengthen private sector alliances to address biodiversity conservation and development in the Brazilian Amazon. This project, called Catalyzing and Learning Platforms and Partnerships for Biodiversity Conservation (CALPP) provides an innovation platform for sustainable business and already involves 20 private sector partners.

Jarvis is confident that 2019 will bring more big news for CIAT on major projects to help sustain the world’s most famous rainforest.

“It’s nice to be back in that region of the world, and it’s super exciting to be innovating through business and finance,” said Jarvis.

In addition to working in Brazil, a number of projects in the Peruvian and Colombian Amazon are underway. They cover numerous research themes and programs and span issues ranging from the consolidation of Colombia’s peace process to making cattle farms more environmentally friendly through the use of specialized grasses and trees.

Beans beat target by 5.4 million households

In 2015, Joe Tohme, the director of CIAT’s Agrobiodiversity Research Area, and his colleagues at the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) set an ambitious goal: reach 10 million households with new varieties of common bean by 2018. When the numbers were tallied in at the end of the period, they found the beans had reached 15.4 million households over that period, beating their target by more than 50 percent.

Tohme and colleagues attribute this success to the bean business corridors approach, which utilizes market forces to drive demand for better beans. Improved beans developed by CIAT and PABRA have a variety of traits that make them superior to business-as-usual beans: high yields, quick maturation, heat and drought tolerance, quick cooking times and higher levels of nutrients such as iron and zinc.

“Seed systems are the vehicle through which farmers get good quality seed of the new crop varieties they want and need. Effective seed systems have the potential to increase production quickly and economically,” said Jean-Claude Rubyogo, a seeds systems specialist who heads up the project. “Give farmers access to good seed and knowledge of improved practices, and their harvests can rise dramatically.”

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Was edited and compiled by CIAT Partnerships and Communications

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