Bioversity International and CIAT sign Memorandum of Understanding that establishes the Alliance foundations

Bioversity International and CIAT sign Memorandum of Understanding that establishes the Alliance foundations

Communiqué n. 5 – Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) continue to make progress toward the establishment of an Alliance focused on tackling key challenges facing our world today: malnutrition in all its forms; climate change adaptation and mitigation; declining agricultural biodiversity; rural employment and environmentally unsustainable food and agricultural systems.

Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) came together in their first joint Board of Trustees meeting on 27–28 November in Washington, DC, USA, and signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) indicating their full support to create the Alliance, which will contribute to the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The MoU establishes the foundations of the Alliance, which will have one Board, one Chief Executive Officer (CEO), one Strategic Results Framework and one Business Plan. Signaling their commitment to the Alliance, the two Boards together appointed Juan Lucas Restrepo to lead the way as the new Director General of Bioversity International and CEO-Designate of the Alliance.

  • The Alliance will have one vision, mission and a common strategic results framework and results-based system, which are subject to change as shaping of the Alliance evolves
    • Vision: Food systems and landscapes that sustain the planet, drive prosperity and nourish people
    • Mission:We deliver research-based solutions that harness agricultural biodiversity and sustainably transform food systems to improve people’s lives
    • Strategic objectives:
      1. People consume diverse, nutritious and safe foods
      2. People participate in and benefit from inclusive, innovative and diversified agri-food markets
      3. People sustainably manage farms, forests and landscapes that are productive and resilient to climate change
      4. Communities and institutions sustainably use and safeguard agricultural biodiversity
  • The Alliance will have a joint Board of Trustees and will be administered by a Chief Executive Officer based in Rome, Italy
  • The Alliance will have hubs in Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America and will build common research programmes and shared offices in these regions
  • The two Centres will harmonize the support services across the two organizations to improve effectiveness and reduce transactions costs.

The joint Board of Trustees meeting marked a key milestone for the Alliance with the appointment of Juan Lucas Restrepo as Director General of Bioversity International and CEO-Designate for the Alliance. Juan Lucas will officially begin his role with Bioversity International in Rome, Italy on 1 March 2019 and transition to CEO of the Alliance on 1 January 2020.

During the meeting, the Alliance invited its key partners including representatives from Canada, Colombia, Italy, the Inter-American Development Bank, USAID, US Department of Agriculture, and the World Bank to a seminar by senior Bioversity International and CIAT scientists highlighting the unique strengths of the Alliance. The presentations detailed how digital technology is transforming and optimizing solutions in nutrition and agriculture, and how novel systems approaches in research that examine trade-offs and linkages in food systems can lead to health, prosperity and sustainability.

Juergen Voegele, Senior Director, Agriculture Global Practice, World Bank Group and Chair of the System Council of CGIAR, warmly welcomed Board members and partners and commended their efforts. Juergen Voegele averred that the Alliance was “more than historic, and more than heroic.” He added that global partners, both in the public and private sectors, are taking notice of the importance of systems approaches in the food and agriculture sphere, where the Alliance will add its unique value.

The Alliance’s initial value proposition will encompass research on diverse markets systems and value chains; crop conservation and improvement, including long-term commitments to specific crops and related systems, and linking to complementary gene-to-fork opportunities; integrated systemic landscape approaches (across crops and scales); risk management for food system resilience; and digital design for sustainable food systems.

The Alliance will continue to deepen its partnerships with the Rome-based UN organizations and International Financial Institutions, and above all the national agricultural research systems, government agencies, private sector and civil society organizations, which are vital to deliver science-based solutions and achieving impact at scale. The Alliance will reinforce its work on high-level policy engagement and action on genetic resources, nutrition, and climate and biodiversity policy.

During 2018, Bioversity International and CIAT have established a strong foundation for the Alliance, that will enable continued harmonization between the Centres towards expected efficiency gains and increased effectiveness in 2019 through joint appointments, shared services, programmes and policies, all supported by several working groups – from staff-level to Board committees – that are capitalizing on quick wins, and steadily addressing larger challenges. 2019 will be a transitional year, paving the way for a formalized Alliance in 2020.

Bioversity International and CIAT wish to thank the World Bank, as well as BMZ and GIZ Germany and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, for hosting important dialogues this year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for its support to building the Alliance, as well as the CGIAR Systems Management Office for their guidance and encouragement as we chart new territory.

For further information about the Alliance process, please contact Juan Lucas Restrepo.


Julia Marton-Lefèvre, Chair, Bioversity International Board of Trustees

Geoffrey Hawtin, Chair, CIAT Board of Trustees