International agricultural research for rural development

Project description

Title: Advisory Service on Agricultural Research for Development (BEAF)
Commissioned by: German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Country: Worldwide
Overall term: 2012 to 2022



Around the world, more than 820 million people are suffering from hunger and almost two billion people are malnourished. Agricultural production needs to increase by 50 per cent by 2050 to feed the growing world population. At the same time, the effects of climate change and unsustainable farming practices negatively impact agricultural resources such as fertile land, water and biodiversity. In addition, many foodstuffs are currently already being lost in the fields or after harvesting due to pests and diseases. To address these challenges, smallholders in developing countries require innovative technologies, improved and adapted crop varieties and sustainable farming methods.


International publicly funded agricultural research develops innovative solutions for sustainable agriculture in developing countries that provides smallholders with increased incomes and healthy nutrition while conserving natural resources.



On behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Advisory Service on Agricultural Research for Development (BEAF) supports 17 international agricultural research centres in developing innovative solutions for sustainable agriculture in developing countries while simultaneously putting these solutions into practice in smallholder farms. Funding is provided to the 15 research institutes of the global research partnership for a food-secure future CGIAR, the World Vegetable Center and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE).

The priority issues for funding of international agricultural research are:

  • The improvement of crop varieties that produce higher yields and withstand extreme conditions.  Efforts focus on conventionally bred crop varieties that are crucial for a healthy and diverse diet. Target crops range from staples such as wheat, maize, rice and cassava to neglected indigenous types of vegetables, root and tuber crops.
  • The development of adapted technologies and cultivation practices that protect soil, water and biodiversity and increase high-quality yields – with respect to arable farming, aquaculture, livestock farming and insect breeding, forestry, as well as water and land management.
  • The preservation of agrobiodiversity in 12 gene banks that protect the worldwide diversity of over 35 crops and trees and are publicly available for breeding, further research and cultivation.

The application of research products in farming practices in cooperation with smallholders. Following a holistic approach, research centres also work with partners in development cooperation and the public and private sectors, for instance to develop business models for new technologies.

Support for international agricultural research involves various areas:

Advice and political agenda-setting: BEAF supports BMZ in shaping Germany’s contribution to international agricultural research. It advises BMZ on strategic and technical matters and is a member of the European Initiative for Agricultural Research for Development (EIARD).

Funding research projects: BEAF selects and manages the funding of research projects and assures their scientific quality, orientation towards development outcomes, the consideration of gender equality and the potential for broad applicability.

Development of human resources: A joint venture of the Centre for International Migration and Development (CIM) and BEAF facilitates the placement of integrated experts from Germany in international research centres.The team of the Task Force on Scaling works on the challenges of scaling innovative technologies and methods and implementing them in agricultural practice. Support is provided for selected master’s students to spend a period conducting research at one of the institutes, which is coordinated by Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Tropische und Subtropische Agrarforschung e.V. (ATSAF).



Funding for international agricultural research is helping to successfully transfer innovations into smallholder agricultural practice:

  • Increasing yields: rice farmers in South-East Asia have increased their productivity by almost USD 1.5 billion per annum since 1985 with the aid of high-yield varieties from CGIAR. Scuba rice strains developed with German support are more resilient to flooding and other extreme weather conditions. They have already helped to achieve food security for over five million people.
  • Securing incomes: integrated pest management has helped to increase the net income of Kenyan mango farmers by 22 to 48 per cent.
  • Protecting animal health: one million cattle die every year from East Coast fever in 12 sub-Saharan countries in Africa, which leads to annual losses of USD 300 million. Many livelihoods have been secured in East Africa thanks to the development of a vaccine, which has saved some 1.5 million cattle since 2012. In future, this vaccine could protect cattle herds of a further 20 million people in this region.
  • Conserving natural resources: more than five million households all over Africa have access to over 550 new, adapted varieties of beans that also prosper in acidic and dry soils. Beans are very nutritious and help to improve soil fertility.

International agricultural research plays an important role in supporting and furthering German efforts in development cooperation. Close ties with farming practice ensure that challenges for rural development are identified and included on the research agenda.


Photo 1: © CIAT/Georgina Smith
Photo 2: © CIMMYT/Alfonso Cortés