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What role can agricultural research play in poverty reduction? What are the challenges ahead? An interview with Perez del Castillo, Chair of the CGIAR Consortium Board.

Mr. Perez del Castillo, how must international agricultural research be (re-)organised in order to contribute to hunger reduction and poverty alleviation?

For international agricultural research, the objectives are to increase food security, reduce poverty, improve nutrition and health, and do all this with a sustainable management of resources. Research is more towards food security and poverty alleviation, and this is very much linked to incomes. The idea is to respond to smallholders and their needs in order to improve their livelihood. With climate change now a challenge, research has to focus on plant varieties that are drought tolerant and flood and salinity resistant. The lack of micro-nutrients in our food is a further issue. But now we can respond to this challenge with a research process called bio-fortification.

The aim is to produce 70 per cent more food by 2050 in order to feed the ever-growing population, albeit with less land – because not much of the world is available for agriculture. Having to make food on available land has changed our approach to agricultural research. Food security, climate change and nutrition are global subjects, and our 15 International Research Centres in 150 locations across the world are collaborating to achieve our goals around these situations.

For example, we now look at production systems and dry land systems instead of commodities, and then we combine our research. The advantage is that each of the centres is a specialist in water, specific commodities, policies, nutrition, institutions, post-harvest, etc., and with a holistic view of the production system rather than an individual one, we combine all the research to benefit the farmer.

At CGIAR, we are taking a serious look into the role of women in agriculture. Women from different livelihood scenarios have different problems, and access to knowledge or input may be an issue.

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