International agricultural research for rural development
Title: Fund International Agricultural Research (FIA) Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) Country: Worldwide Overall term: 2012 to 2024
Thanks to innovative technologies, improved crop varieties and environmentally friendly farming methods, international agricultural research helps smallholders in developing countries to be better placed to tackle the challenges of establishing sustainable production and generating income. The problems smallholders face include a decline in the size of farmland, infertile soil, water shortages and the loss of biodiversity, all of which are further exacerbated by climate change. Furthermore, a lot of food is either lost on the fields or after harvesting as a result of pests and diseases, or it fails to meet the requirements of food processing companies and consumers. International agricultural research helps here in meeting the growing demand for healthy food.
Smallholders are increasingly using innovative products from international agricultural research. These are enabling them to generate a higher income, contribute to healthy nutrition and conserve natural resources.
The Fund for International Agricultural Research (FIA) finances and implements measures in three fields of activity:
1. Research management: The project manages the selection and processing of the funded projects in 15 international research institutions. These include 13 centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), as well as the World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE). In this regard, the project ensures the scientific quality of the funded measures, their development orientation, consideration of gender equality and the projects’ potential for broad-based application.
The CGIAR centres are currently being merged in order to make agricultural research more efficient and effective. This process, which is taking place under the name ‘ONE CGIAR’, is supported by Germany and benefits from advisory services provided by the project. From 2021 onwards, therefore, the GIZ project will no longer fund other projects directly but instead support large-scale initiatives involving cross-cutting issues.
The priority areas for the funding of agricultural research include:
Cultivating more nutritious crop varieties that produce a higher yield and are also resistant to extreme environmental conditions
Developing adapted technologies and farming methods that conserve soil, water and biodiversity
Preserving agrobiodiversity in 12 seed and gene banks
Sharing research results in practice
2. Advisory services and policy agenda-setting: The project supports the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) in shaping Germany’s contributions to international agricultural research and adopting a position in respect of current developments. FIA is also a member of the European Initiative for Agricultural Research for Development (EIARD).
3. Staff development: Together with the Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM), the project facilitates the placement of European experts in international research centres. The Task Force on Scaling team is working on the challenge of disseminating innovative technologies and methods and getting them used in practice. Selected Master’s students are given the opportunity to spend a period of time conducting research at one of the institutes, coordinated by the Council for Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural Research (ATSAF).
The findings and products of agricultural research help to improve nutrition and the livelihoods of many smallholders. Projects completed in 2020 achieved the following results:
In cooperation with private partners, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) developed approaches for climate-friendly coffee cultivation and trained around 20,000 farmers to apply them. An application called Stepwise was also developed. This app increased coffee yields in Uganda by between 53 per cent for the Arabica variety and 73 per cent for the Robusta variety. It also led to a reduced prevalence of pests and diseases.
A project conducted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) developed a heat-resistant rice variety (MAGICheat) for smallholders in Bangladesh and Myanmar. Using this variety, it was possible to increase rice production by 1.5 to two tonnes per hectare.
The RDP (Resist Detect Protect) project conducted by WorldVeg developed varieties of tomato and pepper that exhibit a high level of resistance to pests such as whitefly. These varieties are also characterised by better growth and a more attractive appearance than conventional varieties. The resulting increase in acceptance among the target group has cut production costs by 20 to 30 per cent. A total of 1,482 smallholders in India and Bangladesh were given training in cultivation methods for disease-resistant varieties of vegetables.