Reducing hunger in the world – Swiss international cooperation supports agricultural research

Press release, 21.12.2016

At its meeting on 21 December 2016, the Federal Council approved the continuation of Switzerland’s financial contribution to the Global Agricultural Research Partnership (CGIAR) for the period 2017 to 2019. The partnership provides targeted and efficient solutions to the challenges of hunger and malnutrition, and, by supporting it, Switzerland is contributing to the fight against hunger, one of the objectives of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Global Agricultural Research Partnership aims to enable 100 million people to escape poverty and 150 million to avoid chronic hunger by 2030. It therefore contributes to the second of the 2030 Agenda’s sustainable goals which is achieving ‘zero hunger’ within this timeframe. Switzerland will contribute CHF 16.8 million a year to the partnership for the period 2017 to 2019.

Today, almost 800 million people are suffering from hunger worldwide. The number of those who are malnourished or have a poorly balanced diet – made up solely of starchy foods – is in the region of two billion. The vast majority live in developing countries. In view of the growth in the global population, pressure on natural resources and the increase in people affected by drought or flooding, this trend could continue to move on an upward trajectory.

The Global Agricultural Research Partnership maintains and conserves the world’s largest collection of cultivated plants, thus preserving genetic resources for future generations. Each year, a number of these 750,000 varieties are used by international and national research centres, such as those in Switzerland, to improve agricultural production, nutritional value and dietary diversity, in particular for smallholder farms and therefore the poorest and most vulnerable population groups.

In 2012, for example, a new viral disease in maize spread at tremendous speed in several African countries. It caused the loss of harvests – sometimes up to 90% – jeopardising the agricultural production of tens of millions of small farmers. CGAIR’s rapid response and the availability of its gene bank ensured varieties resistant to these viruses were quickly identified, developed and made available, preventing a humanitarian catastrophe.

In a number of countries, CGIAR researchers also facilitate cooperation between smallholder farms and the local processing industry. Thirty new varieties of maize adapted to regional climatic conditions were therefore developed and planted in Africa in 2016 on over 2.3 million hectares. This benefited almost six million smallholder farms. In Nigeria, at the initiative of farmers and in cooperation with the milling and baking industry, the government decided to triple the farmland available for drought-resistant varieties of wheat.

An independent evaluation showed that CGIAR’s research achieves an impressive return on investment – each Swiss franc invested is multiplied by a factor of up to seventeen.

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