Authors: Fernando Morales and Francisco Alarcon, CIMMYT
On May 4 and 5, the Regional Dialogue on Science, Technology, and Innovation in the Agri-food Systems of Latin America and the Caribbean was held in Costa Rica, organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the World Bank and the CGIAR, a global research alliance for a food-secure future, which seeks to transform agri-food, land and water systems in response to the climate crisis.
The event brought together more than 100 authorities and international experts from various institutions, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, national agricultural research institutes from various Latin American countries and other international organizations, including CIMMYT and Alliance Bio-diversity CIAT as co-implementers of the regional initiative AgriLAC Resiliente of the CGIAR supporting transformative change of the agricultural sector in the region.
As a result of the meeting, several priorities were identified to achieve the sustainability of agri-food systems, including the promotion of innovation networks and the alignment of public policies; the construction of strategic research and development agendas; the strengthening of institutional and human capacities, support services and incentives; and the promotion of regulatory changes and changes in the financing of national and regional innovation systems. In this regard, Joaquín Lozano, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean of this global alliance, said, “We are called to make a very active and coordinated participation to build an ecosystem that is increasingly suitable for the technological measurement of agri-food systems”.
Latin America is “the most important food exporting region in the world and we have a very important role to play in the fight against world hunger. This challenge will grow because by 2030 it is estimated that there will be 670 million people suffering from hunger”, said Lozano, emphasizing that “We must continue to unite voices, actors, mobilize more resources to invest in science, technology and innovation in the region; this is everyone’s job and the CGIAR will accompany this process of strengthening science, research and innovation in agri-food systems through our regional approach AgriLAC Resiliente”.
Lozano stressed that it is key to identify the technological needs to support transformations and generate resilience and innovation amid the climate crisis. Research centers belonging to the CGIAR are placing the climate crisis at the core of their efforts, such as the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), which has a presence in more than 50 countries, including Mexico, where its global headquarters is located.
CIMMYT seeks to provide support in the region to stimulate science and technology, promoting actions for climate change mitigation and adaptation, health, agricultural competitiveness, and the appropriate use of natural resources, positively impacting social dynamics to join efforts to reduce forced migration in the region and providing support to national research systems.
To add to regional efforts, CIMMYT is transforming and renewing itself. It has extended its mission beyond maize and wheat to include new crops and legumes from arid climates that are highly nutritious for both soils and human health. For this reason, it now also works with sorghum, beans, pigeon peas, chickpeas, millet, and other crops of interest to agriculture in the region.
At a time when it is urgent to consolidate cohesion in the region, such as those of CIMMYT underscore that countries cannot act in isolation and that science and innovation in agriculture are essential for facing today’s major challenges, such as climate change.