Centers of Innovation will spur global crop development

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement (ILCI) has announced approximately $4 million in funding to launch four Centers of Innovation for Crop Improvement, aimed at developing more resilient, nutritious crops in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The centers will act as regional hubs for crop improvement, driving tools, technologies and methods that will target crops that are essential for food security in a range of environments, cropping systems and key stakeholders. Each center will be funded for three years and will be led by National Agricultural Research Institutes (NARI) in those countries to pave their own path toward sustainable, climate-smart, equitable and effective crop improvement programs.

The selected Centers of Innovation will be hosted by four NARIs across East Africa, West Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean including:

Costa Rica and Haiti: The Central American and Caribbean Crop Improvement Alliance will focus on common bean, sorghum and sweet potato and be hosted by Costa Rica’s National Institute of Innovation and Transfer in Agricultural Technology and Quisqueya University in Haiti.

Malawi: The Center of Innovation for Crop Improvement for East and Southern Africa, led by Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Malawi. (Affiliated countries: Mozambique and Tanzania).

Senegal: Crop Innovation in West Africa will lead genetic gain and for rapid development of varieties of sorghum, pearl millet and cowpea, led by the Institute for Agricultural Research in Senegal. (Affiliated countries: Burkina Faso and Niger).

Uganda: East African Center of Innovation for Finger Millet and Sorghum, led by the National Semi-arid Resources Research Institute in Uganda. (Affiliated countries: Kenya and Tanzania).

“Together we are creating impact and forming sustainable solutions to reduce hunger on a local and global scale. The Center of Innovations will leave a lasting impact on food security for many years to come,” said Stephen Kresovich, program director and professor of plant breeding and genetics in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

The Innovation Lab for Crop Improvement launched in October 2019 with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. The multi-institution lab is based in the Department of Global Development.

The Innovation Lab at Cornell equips each NARI with the power to define its unique goals and drive advancement in crop improvement to reduce malnutrition, hunger and provide equitable benefits to women and youth.

“Our mission is to be a support system for scientists to improve crops in a way that fits their own priorities,” said Hale Ann Tufan, associate director of the Innovation Lab and extension associate in Global Development. “We are committed to co-developing sustainable solutions alongside national programs in ways that answer their needs and those of local communities.”

Bonnie Glick ’88, deputy administrator for USAID, said that innovation labs like ILCI are bringing science and discovery to bear to improve agricultural production and livelihoods.

“This work is especially essential now,” she said, “when food security is becoming a pressing issue more and more each day.”

Kelly Merchan is a communications specialist in the Department of Global Development.

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