Press and News Transformative UK-CGIAR Partnership Announced at the Global Food Summit 2023

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced a new partnership between the CGIAR and the British Government at the Global Food Summit, held in London on 20th November 2023. Following over 50 years of collaboration between the CGIAR and the British ‘Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office’, the new ‘UK-CGIAR Centre’ is “a strategic partnership between the UK Government, UK science and the CGIAR, geared towards achieving transformational change in agriculture around the world.” 

The Global Food Summit brought together leading scientists from across the world – including CGIAR researchers and managers from multiple centers – to discuss sustainable pathways towards global food security, addressing challenges such as protecting soil fertility through nature-based methods that avoid chemical inputs. Two CGIAR managers gave interventions at the conference: Lindiwe Majele Sibanda (CGIAR System Board Chair) and Apollinaire Djikeng (Director General of ILRI). Showcasing ways to increase productivity without damaging soils, Sibanda highlighted the wealth of agricultural resources gathered by CGIAR centers over the past five decades. According to Sibanda, the network's seedbanks “hold 700,000 varieties that will allow us to breed climate-smart nutrient-dense seeds. We are sitting on gold”. Sibanda also touched on the CGIAR’s increasing interest in harnessing artificial intelligence to apply the vast data collected. One of the examples given was the AI-driven Tumaini app, developed by the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT to offer diagnoses and recommendations to banana farmers struggling with pests, using cutting-edge imaging technology to compare a photo of the afflicted plant with a collection of more than 50,000 images. 

The Alliance will have an essential role in the management of the UK-CGIAR Centre. Firstly, the CGIAR has selected the Alliance as the one center responsible for collecting funding from the UK FCDO, and distributing it to the other CGIAR centers according to their involvement in this collaboration. Furthermore, the UK-CGIAR Centre will kickstart this collaboration with four project, the first of which will be co-led by the Alliance’s Climate Action team. The four initial projects are as follows: 

  1. Sustainable and Resilient Agriculture (SuRFAR): Supporting decision-making with evidence in small farming contexts (CGIAR centers: The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT, IITA), 

  1. CropAdvance: Leveraging UK Genetic Innovations to Accelerate CGIAR-NARS Crop Breeding (CGIAR centers: ICARDA, CIMMYT, IITA), 

  1. Increasing the intake of fruit and vegetables as components of healthier diets among marginalized populations (CGIAR center: IPFRI), and 

  1. Pilot testing feeds/forage species and their impact on emissions (CGIAR center: ILRI) 

In his announcement, Rishi Sunak said: “We’re launching a new UK-CGIAR Science Center to drive cutting edge research on flood tolerant rice, disease resistant wheat and much more. These innovations will reach millions across the poorest countries as well as improving UK crop yields and driving down food prices.” 

The announcement of the UK-CGIAR Centre has received significant media coverage, including a press release on the UK Government’s website. The announcement is a recognition of decades of productive collaboration between the UK and the CGIAR, and reflects the partners’ joint determination to combine their efforts and expertise to create transformative change to agrifood systems in challenging times.