The CGIAR (originally the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) is a strategic alliance that unites organizations involved in agricultural research for sustainable development with the donors that fund such work.[1] These donors include governments of developing and industrialized countries, foundations and international and regional organizations. The work they support is carried out by the 15 members of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers,[2] in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organizations, including national and regional agricultural research institutes, civil society organizations, academia and the private sector. The CGIAR now has 64 governmental and nongovernmental members and supports 14 research centers and one intergovernmental research center (AfricaRice).

The CGIAR is sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank.


CGIAR's vision

The vision of the CGIAR is to:

Reduce poverty and hunger, improve human health and nutrition, and enhance ecosystem resilience through high-quality international agricultural research, partnership and leadership.

Strategic objectives

The CGIAR's vision is supported by four strategic objectives:

  • Reducing rural poverty
  • Improving food security
  • Improving nutrition and health
  • Sustainably managing natural resources

Brief history

The early years

The CGIAR arose in response to the widespread concern in the mid-20th century that rapid increases in human populations would soon lead to widespread famine. Starting in 1943, the Rockefeller Foundation and the Mexican government laid the seeds for the Green Revolution when they established the Office of Special Studies, which became the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in 1963. CIMMYT and the International Rice Research Institute, established in 1960 with support from the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation, developed high-yielding, disease-resistant varieties that dramatically increased production of these staple cereals, and turned India, for example, from a country regularly facing starvation in the 1960s to a net exporter of cereals by the late 1970s. But it was clear that these foundations alone could not fund all the agricultural research and development efforts needed to feed the world's population. In 1969, the Pearson Commission on International Development urged the international community to undertake "intensive international effort" to support "research specializing in food supplies and tropical agriculture".

In 1970, the Rockefeller Foundation proposed a worldwide network of agricultural research centers under a permanent secretariat. This was further supported and developed by the World Bank, FAO and UNDP, and the CGIAR was established on May 19, 1971, to coordinate international agricultural research efforts aimed at reducing poverty and achieving food security in developing countries.

The CGIAR originally supported four centers: CIMMYT, IRRI, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). The initial focus on the staple cereals, rice, wheat and maize, widened during the 1970s to include cassava, chickpea, sorghum, potato, millet and other food crops, and encompassed livestock, farming systems, the conservation of genetic resources, plant nutrition, water management, policy research, and services to national agricultural research centers in developing countries. By 1983 there were 13 research centers around the world under its umbrella.[3]

Expansion and consolidation

By the 1990s the number of centers supported by the CGIAR had grown to 18. Mergers between the two livestock centers (the International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD) and the International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA)) and the absorption of work on bananas and plantains into the program of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI; now Bioversity International) reduced the number to 16.[4]

Challenges of the new millennium

Seeking to increase its efficiency and build on its previous successes, the CGIAR embarked on a program of reform in 2001. Key among the changes implemented was the adoption of Challenge Programs as a means of harnessing the strengths of the diverse centers to address major global or regional issues. Three Challenge Programs were established:

  • Water and Food, aimed at producing more food using less water;[5]
  • HarvestPlus, to improve the micronutrient content of staple foods;[6] and
  • Generation, aimed at increasing the use of crop genetic resources to create a new generation of plants that meet farmers and consumers needs.[7]


Since the CGIAR was established there have been large changes in the agricultural research 'landscape'. For example, developing country research has grown and strengthened, and some developing-country national programs, such as those of Brazil, China and India, are now larger than the combined size of the centers supported by the CGIAR. Fluctuations in food and energy prices and in financial markets are adding uncertainty to the environment in which farmers and consumers operate. Climate change will have a wide range of impacts on agriculture, with changes in growing conditions for crops, livestock and fish and the pests and diseases that affect them. Droughts and storms are expected to increase in frequency and severity, undermining the efforts of farmers, foresters and fishers.[8] This will have a large impact on food security.[9]

In 2008, the CGIAR embarked on a change process to improve the engagement between all stakeholders in international agricultural research for development -- donors, researchers and beneficiaries -- and to refocus the efforts of the centers on major global development challenges.[10][11] A key objective was to integrate the work of the centers and their partners, avoiding fragmentation and duplication of effort.

Two years of consultation with stakeholders and extensive deliberations within the CGIAR and the centers it supports led to the development of a new business model for the CGIAR. At the center of this are the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers, the CGIAR Fund[12], the CGIAR Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC)[13] and the CGIAR Strategy and Results Framework.[14] The CGIAR Consortium unites the centers supported by the CGIAR; it provides leadership and coordination of activities among the centers and a single contact point for donors. The CGIAR Fund aims to harmonize the efforts of donors to contribute to agricultural research for development, increase the funding available by reducing or eliminating duplication of effort among the centers and promote greater financial stability. The CGIAR ISPC, appointed by the CGIAR Fund Council, provides expert advice to the funders of the CGIAR, particularly in ensuring that the CGIAR's research programs are aligned with the Strategy and Results Framework. It provides a bridge between the funders and the CGIAR Consortium. The Strategy and Results Framework provides the strategic direction for the centers and the CGIAR Research Programs, ensuring that they focus on delivering measurable results that contribute to achieving the objectives of the CGIAR.[15] A biennial Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD)[16] provides a forum for for closer engagement of developing countries and partners in developing and guiding the research and development agenda of the CGIAR Consortium and the CGIAR Fund. The first GCARD was held in Montpellier, France, in March 2010.[17]

The CGIAR Consortium was established in April 2010. It is based at the Agropolis campus in Montpellier. The CGIAR Fund was established in January 2010 and is based in Washington, DC.

CGIAR Research Programs

CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) are multi-center, multi-partner initiatives built on three core principles: impact on the CGIAR's four system-level objectives; making the most of the centers' strengths; and strong and effective partnerships.

Six CRPs had been approved as of July 2011:[18]

  • Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CIAT)
  • Forests Trees and Agroforestry: Livelihoods, Landscapes and Governance (CIFOR)
  • GRiSP - A Global Rice Science Partnership (IRRI)[19]
  • Harnessing the Development Potential of Aquatic Agricultural Systems for the Poor and Vulnerable (WorldFish)
  • MAIZE - Global Alliance for Improving Food Security and the Livelihoods of the Resource-poor in the Developing World (CIMMYT)
  • More Meat, Milk and Fish by and for the Poor (ILRI)

A number of other CRPs are under consideration.

Impacts of the CGIAR

The impacts of CGIAR research have been extensively assessed, as demonstrated by a review article publishing in the journal, Food Policy, in 2010.[20]

Much of the impact of the CGIAR centers has come from crop genetic improvement. The high-yielding wheat and rice varieties that were the foundation of the Green Revolution were the beginning of a long line of successes. An assessment of the impact of crop breeding efforts at CGIAR centers between 1965 and 1998 showed that 65% of the area planted to ten crops addressed by the CGIAR -- wheat, rice, maize, sorghum, millet, barley, lentils, beans, cassava and potatoes -- was planted to improved varieties. Of this, 60% was sown to varieties with CGIAR ancestry (and more than 90% in the case of lentils, beans and cassava), and half of those varieties came from crosses made at a CGIAR center.[21][22] The monetary value of the CGIAR's investment in crop improvement is huge, running into the billions of dollars.[23]

The centers have also contributed to such fields as improving the nutritional value of staple crops; pest and disease control through breeding resistant varieties, integrated pest management and biological control (e.g. control of the cassava mealy bug in sub-Saharan Africa through release of a predatory wasp); improvements in livestock and fish production systems; genetic resources characterization and conservation; improved natural resource management; and contributions to improved policies in numerous areas, including forestry, fertilizer, milk marketing and genetic resources conservation and use. The introduction of no-tillage systems in the rice-wheat systems in the Indo-Gangetic Plains, for example, generated economic benefits of about US$165 million between 1990 and 2010 from an investment of only US$3.5 million.[24]

Even the most conservative estimate of the measurable benefits of CGIAR research indicate US$2 in benefits for every US$1 invested.[25]

Members of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centers

Active centres and their headquarters locations
Active CGIAR Centers Headquarters location
Africa Rice Center (West Africa Rice Development Association, WARDA) Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire / Cotonou, Benin
Bioversity International Maccarese, Rome, Italy
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Bogor, Indonesia
International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) Cali, Colombia
International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) Aleppo, Syria
International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) Hyderabad (Patancheru), India
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Washington, D.C., United States
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Ibadan, Nigeria
International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) Nairobi, Kenya
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) El Batán, Mexico State, Mexico
International Potato Center (CIP) Lima, Peru
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines
International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Battaramulla, Sri Lanka
World Agroforestry Centre (International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, ICRAF) Nairobi, Kenya
WorldFish Center (International Center for Living Aquatic Resources Management, ICLARM) Penang, Malaysia

Centres no longer active
Inactive CGIAR Centres Headquarters Change
International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases (ILRAD) Nairobi, Kenya 1994: merged with ILCA to become ILRI
International Livestock Centre for Africa (ILCA) Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 1994: merged with ILRAD to become ILRI
International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain (INIBAP) Montpellier, France 1994: became a programme of Bioversity International
International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) The Hague, Netherlands 2004: dissolved, main programmes moved to IFPRI


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  3. ^ Establishment of CGIAR - see Mark Dowie, American Foundations: An Investigative History, Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 2001, (p.114)
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  19. ^
  20. ^ Renkow, M. and Byerlee, D. 2010. The impacts of CGIAR research: A review of recent evidence. Food Policy, 35 (5):391-402
  21. ^ Evenson, R.E. 2003. Modern variety production: a synthesis. In: Evenson, R.E., Gollin, D. (Eds.), Crop Variety Improvement and its Effect on Productivity: The Impact of International Agricultural Research. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK, pp. 427–446.
  22. ^ Evenson, R.E. 2003. Production impacts of crop genetic improvement programmes. In: Evenson, R.E., Gollin, D. (Eds.), Crop Variety Improvement and its Effect on Productivity: The Impact of International Agricultural Research. CABI Publishing, Wallingford, UK, pp. 447–472.
  23. ^ See, for example, Raitzer, D.A. and Kelley, T.G. 2008. Benefit-cost meta-analysis of investment in the international agricultural research centers of the CGIAR. Agricultural Systems, 96 (1–3):108–123.
  24. ^ Renkow, M. and Byerlee, D. 2010. The impacts of CGIAR research: A review of recent evidence. Food Policy, 35 (5):391-402
  25. ^

External links

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