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CIMMYT planning report: a look ahead 1980-86

Author: Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT)
Year: 1980
Abstract: The evolution of CIMMYT's programs has constantly been shaped by the accumulated experience of its staff and by continuing communication with agriculturists and planners in developing countries and international development assistance agencies. This process of review and planning has been synthesized in three earlier planning reports. The first covered the years 1966-69, and the second, the period from 1971 to 1975. Finally, two international conferences held at CIMMYT in 1973-74 helped shape general program directions in maize, wheat, barley and triticale improvement during the 1970's. This new report, the latest in CIMMYT'seffortstoassessandplan its future, represents the thinking of staff and trustees. In its final form, it will also have gone through an intensive review by trustees, donors, staff and informed critics. The preparation of this planning document has been a long and somewhat arduous process. It began nearly a year ago with discussions between CIMMYT staff and the members of the CIMMYT Trustees Program Committee. During the past year, Program Committee meetings focused on these planning issues. CIMMYT's internal review in 1979 also was devoted to this purpose. Staff have reviewed numerous publications related to world trends in population growth, food production, land resources, energy issues, etc. The year 2000 was taken as a basic reference point to focus CIMMYT's view of the circumstances of mankind toward which we should devote our activities over the next few years. The prognostications concerning absolute population levels, changing trends in food production, and the land and water resource base available for food production vary considerably. But all estimations point in the same direction: world population by the 2000 will be substantially larger, the land available for food production limited, and the need for expanded production of staple foods more critical if human welfare is to be improved, or indeed, even maintained at 1980 levels. The pace of population growth and the existing plight of all too many of the world's people dictate the dimensions of the challenges ahead in feeding the world. Massive levels of capital investment are needed to improve the productivity and dependability of the land and water resource base used for food production. Even under the best circumstances, many of these investments will have only a marginal impact on food production in the next 10-or perhaps even 20-years. Given the continued rate of population growth then, dependable additional production must be achieved largely from land currently under cultivation. In the process of reviewing the world food situation and its implications on future CIMMYT activities, the staff prepared over 400 pages of background materials concerning the current status of CIMMYT programs and likely future directions of research and production activities. CIMMYT's editorial staff, in summarizing the major ideas developed during this program review and planning process, aimed at producing a short document which presents the program highlights in non-technical language for an informed agricultural development audience. The conditions faced by resource poor farmers have always featured heavily in the planning and execution of CIMMYT's research and production programs. Recognizing that in most environments, the genetic potential of CIMMYT materials far exceeds the production levels achieved, CIMMYT plans to spend relatively more of its available resources on problems related to improved crop management (agronomy) and yield dependability (largely through genetic resistance or tolerance). The location-specific nature of these problems dictates that most of CIMMYT's further staff expansions will occur in regional programs where staff are much closer to the problems and can relate more closely on a sustained basis with scientists in national programs. The eight people who make up CIMMYT's current directing staff collectively have spent 131 years living in the developing world and working on problems related to agriculture. To summarize their collective perceptions is not an easy task. It is often difficult for the non-scientist to comprehend the complexity and long-term nature of biological processes. Based on years of experience and a great deal of data a scientist must decide which crosses to make between desirable plant types, with the full knowledge that even if a particular cross proves to be the one among thousands which will survive the selection process, a decade will 'elapse before it becomes a commercial variety used in any appreciable amount on farmers' fields. Further, since many pests and pathogens constantly change in their ability to attack newly developed varieties, the usefulness of any particular variety may be short-lived. Thus, unless the scientific program is constantly progressing, it faces a tendency to revert to former, lower levels of productivity. Unless policy makers in developing countries and representatives of donor agencies funding research organizations understand these complexities, sustained progress cannot be made. The lack of communication between agriculturists and policy makers remains one of the most vexing problems in agricultural research and production. In CIMMYT's view, there seldom has been a time in recent history when predictions of future developments are more difficult to make than at present. The rapidly increasing cost of fuel and its related price increases have left many irrigation pumps idle, field vehicles used by researchers and extension workers parked at headquarters, and personnel idle attheirdesks. In many countries, funds available for agricultural development are woefully inadequate in comparison to the job which lies ahead. The rate of inflation currently being experienced by many countries makes it difficult to mobilize funds, even to maintain current activities.Despite the difficulties facing developing countries, CIMMYT staff is convinced that, from a biological view point, it is possible to expand agricultural food production over the next 20 years at a rate that will equal or slightly exceed the rate of aggregate population growth. Achieving this increase and distributing it more equitably, however, will require political stability, the determination of national governments to increase investments in their agricultural sector-including research and extension-and the sharing of new knowledge and genetic material among the community of nations. While there will be changing comparative bureacritic advantages and different tasks to perform for the many organizations concerned with agricultural development, CIMMYT believes the network of agricultural research institutes has a vital role to play in the years ahead. The ability of CIMMYT to continue to effectively respond to its mandate will depend substantially on a continuation, in real terms, of the generous support which donor organizations have provided in the past, and a recognition that the flexibility of the Center must be maintained to meet the ever-changing challenges of the years ahead.
Format: PDF
Language: English
Publisher: CIMMYT
Copyright: CIMMYT manages Intellectual Assets as International Public Goods. The user is free to download, print, store and share this work. In case you want to translate or create any other derivative work and share or distribute such translation/derivative work, please contact indicating the work you want to use and the kind of use you intend; CIMMYT will contact you with the suitable license for that purpose.
Type: Report
Region: Global
Place of Publication: Mexico
Pages: ii, 58 pages

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