ASARECA Boosting Wheat Productivity and Value Chains in Burundi and Rwanda

By Mike Listman/CIMMYT

KIGALI, Rwanda (November 12, 2014)- At the launch meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda, during 27-29 October, Ivan Rwomushana, ASARECA Manager for Staple Crops.

IvanRwomushana-CroppedWith funding from the Multi Donor Trust of the World Bank and WHEAT, ASARECA has launched a project to assess opportunities and constraints in wheat value chains and raise smallholder wheat farmers’ productivity by at least 20% in selected communities of Rwanda and as much as 100% among participating households in Burundi.

“Both countries have favorable agro-ecologies with high potential for wheat production,” said Ivan Rwomushana, ASARECA Manager for Staple Crops, “but the crop is grown mainly by smallholders under rain-fed systems, so domestic production covers less than 25% of consumption and the countries import the rest at a considerable cost.”

Urbanization, a rising middle class and new lifestyles are driving up wheat demand in Sub-Saharan Africa. But regional supplies fall short, so wheat-consuming countries must use foreign reserves to import at least US $12 billion-worth of grain each year. In Rwanda alone, the annual cost of wheat imports has spiraled from US $2.3 million to US $33 million, over 2006-11.

“In Burundi, for example, farmers harvest only 0.8 tons of grain per hectare, on average,” said Gaspard Nihorimbere, wheat breeder at the Institut des Sciences Agronomiques du Burundi (ISABU). “Use of improved seeds with proper agronomic practices and fertilizer could raise that to 1.6 tons per hectare.”

The project is called “Enhancing Wheat Productivity and Value Chains in Burundi and Rwanda.” The work links with regionwide efforts of ASARECA to develop smallholder wheat production systems and value chains and WHEAT’s ongoing “Wheat for Africa” initiative, and will marshal contributions from the Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB), the University of Rwanda (UR)/College of Agriculture, Animal Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (CAVM), ISABU, the Confédération des Associations des Producteurs Agricoles pour le Développement (CAPAD) and CIMMYT. The project will also leverage ongoing work of the Wheat Regional Centre of Excellence of the Eastern Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (EAAPP).

New Study Will Focus on Gender Norms and Wheat-based Livelihoods in Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Pakistan


By Katie Lutz/CIMMYT

EL BATAN, Mexico (November 12, 2014)- In a newly-funded project, WHEAT will explore how the differing roles and rights of women, men and youth influence wheat research and development impacts in three nations whose inhabitants depend heavily on the crop for protein, carbohydrates and livelihoods.

Funded by Germany’s Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the project “Understanding gender in wheat-based livelihoods for enhanced WHEAT research for development (R4D) impact in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Ethiopia” will seek evidence to promote an appreciation of gender integration and social inclusion, as an opportunity to enhance impact. There is ample literature on gender and agriculture, but less on studies that explore gender and social equity issues relating to wheat-based livelihoods, according to Lone Badstue, CIMMYT’s strategic leader for gender research and mainstreaming

WHEAT Celebrates the International Day of Rural Women


Photo: J.Cumes/CIMMYT

By Katie Lutz/CIMMYT

EL BATAN, Mexico (October 15, 2014)- Each year, 16 October is recognized worldwide as the International Day of Rural Women. The United Nations (UN) states that the role and contribution of rural women is crucial in enhancing agriculture and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty.

According to the World Bank’s 2012 World Development Report, women comprise 43 percent of the agricultural workforce worldwide. Gender affects wheat production in many low- and middle-income countries, where women in villages lack legal rights or face social or cultural exclusion from access to land, information, credit or new technologies.

“Research has shown that women spend more of their resources on children than do men,” said Lone Badstue, strategic leader for gender research and mainstreaming in CIMMYT’s socioeconomic program. “Improving women’s access to resources can directly benefit children’s wellbeing and development. In fact, a 2011 report from FAO states that providing women farmers with equitable access to resources and thus bringing their yields up to the levels achieved by men could remove as many as 150 million people from the ranks of the undernourished.”

Gender and social equity are key development issues in South Asia, a region that is home to half the world’s poor and where wheat is a major crop, but where there has been little research on the role of gender in wheat-based cropping systems. “We lack evidence about which groups are poor and excluded and about the nature of their production, consumption and marketing issues,” said Tahseen Jafry, a professor at Glasgow Caledonian University, UK, who specializes in gender and justice issues associated with climate change and agriculture. “But such groups clearly need better ways to access, adapt, adopt and apply new knowledge about technologies, institutions, policies and markets, so they can fully benefit from new developments.”

WHEAT Partner Priority Survey

WHEAT Partner Survey Cover Picture

Click on image to download report.

By Katie Lutz/CIMMYT

EL BATAN, Mexico (October 14, 2014)- To WHEAT, partnerships are paramount. We aim to involve partners at all levels in decision making and steering, and your feedback matters. The WHEAT Partner Priority Survey was sent to more than 200 organizations — national agricultural research institutes, universities, private companies, NGOs and international research organizations — in September 2012. The 92 respondents (44 percent of those surveyed) provided information on institutional priorities, engagement and activities in Strategic Initiatives (SIs), as well as priorities for investment in international agricultural R4D and desired outcomes from SIs.

So, what do 92 WHEAT partners want from international agricultural research?

  • Partners across most regions and institutions prioritized SI 4 (better wheat varieties) and SI 5 (resistance/tolerance to diseases and pests) for institutional and IAR4D investment.
  • Continued investment in research to combat wheat stem rust disease (under SI 5) is a major priority in all regions.
  • Partners expressed a collective desire for enhanced access to training, information, decision-making tools and breeding material.
  • Regarding “WHEAT measures of success,” respondents placed the greatest importance on meeting growing food demands (food security) and expanding the capacity of agricultural research through greater engagement with all stakeholders.

The results highlight opportunities to strengthen and expand the scope of WHEAT, as it transitions through the 2014-2016 extension phase and from SIs to Flagship Projects.

“The survey has shown us how important it is for a global research program such as WHEAT to be aware of partners’ distinct regional priorities and preferences,” said Matthew Audley, visiting Ph.D. student from Rothamsted Research and lead author of the survey report. “We’ll use these results for discussions with partners about content for the Phase II proposal of WHEAT.”

Thanks to all those who responded for your valuable input!

New Integrated Breeding Platform Launched

EL BATAN, Mexico (October 8,2014)- The Integrated Breeding Platform (IBP) providesIBP-Post-image tools and services in a user-friendly and integrated package for the full range of breeding operations, from straightforward phenotyping to complex genomic selection. The IBP website offers public access to products such as diagnostic markers and germplasm, training resources, peer communities and a large provider network. The core product, the Breeding Management System (BMS), offers a greater range of tools than other commercial products and comes with appropriate training and timely support services. The system and complementary services are delivered by IBP regional hubs to ensure adoption, customization and responsiveness to local needs.

Visit the Integrated Breeding Platform web page to learn more.

World Food Prize Honors CIMMYT’s Bram Govaerts with the “2014 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application”

Bram Govaerts Machine

By Katie Lutz/CIMMYT

EL BATAN, Mexico (September 18, 2014)- Dr. Bram Govaerts,  associate director of CIMMYT’s global conservation agricultural program and leader of a joint CIMMYT-government of Mexico major initiative known as the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture (MasAgro), will receive the 2014 Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation. The Award was announced by U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, World Food Prize President, at the USAID Frontiers in Development Forum in Washington, D.C., on 18 September, and will be given as part of the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue international symposium on 15 October. It recognizes work by a researcher under 40 years old who emulates the scientific innovation and dedication to food security practiced by 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Dr. Norman Borlaug.

Synthetic Wheat in China Continues to Flourish Due to Grassy Species

Chuanmai 104 at Langzhong

By Katie Lutz/CIMMYT

EL BATAN, Mexico (September 2,2014)- Wheat x grass crosses – known as “synthetic” wheats – were developed 25 years ago by a CIMMYT research team and have since been used in breeding programs worldwide. The first synthetic-derived variety to reach farms, Chuanmai 42, arrived in the Sichuan Basin of China in 2003 and allowed wheat farmers there to boost yields by as much as 20 percent – the most significant increase in the region for decades.

A new report, “Physiological Factors Underpinning Grain Yield Improvements of Synthetic Derived Wheat in South Western China”, was published in Crop Science and has shed light on the physiological differences that can give Chuanmai 42 and other synthetic derivatives better yields. “In our three-year study, the synthetic crosses were more vigorous in early growth stages and grew more above ground at flowering time than non-synthetic varieties,” said Garry Rosewarne, CIMMYT wheat scientist and corresponding author of the report. “At maturity, more dry matter was partitioned to grain in the synthetic varieties and the plants were more erect and compact.”

Progress on Wheat Genome Sequence a ‘Game Changer’

Bread_wheat_genomeEL BATAN, Mexico (July 21, 2014)- Scientists from Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany and the United States have produced a draft map of the bread wheat genome, as revealed in a 17-July series of articles in Science. A full map of the huge and complex genome—the result of repeated hybridization among three grass species over hundreds of millennia—is due in a few years, but the current map will speed breeding for many valuable new crop traits.

Participation of Women Farmers Increases in Africa and Middle East

Women cook bread in Syria


New research from the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and partners found “modest gains in women’s empowerment” for female agricultural workers in Northwest Syria.

Through field work focusing on female contractors and wage laborers, researchers analyzed gender relations in the region and studied power dynamics within households. Women’s presence in agriculture is increasing in North Africa and the Middle East; in some parts, women comprise 60 percent of the workforce, though this does not necessarily result in increased access to or control of resources like land, information, technical support or income.

Read more on this gender study.