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IRRI welcomes Dr Yvonne Pinto as incoming Director General

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Board of Trustees officially announced Dr. Yvonne Pinto as IRRI’s new Director General, effective April 22, 2024. Dr. Pinto will also serve as the CGIAR Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific and Country Representative for the Philippines.

Dr. Pinto brings a wealth of experience and expertise to IRRI and CGIAR, having previously excelled in roles such as Director of Strategy, Innovation, and Sustainability at Eagle Genomics Ltd., and Managing Director of ALINE Impact Limited. Dr. Cao Duc Phat, Chair of IRRI’s Board of Trustees, said, “Dr. Pinto brings a wealth of experience and expertise to both IRRI and CGIAR. Her life’s work has been dedicated to improving agriculture systems through science, and she has a proven track record in innovation and its commercialization, ecosystems management, gender, monitoring, evaluation, and learning, environmental, social, and governance, design and implementation, capacity building, international development, and policy influence. These experiences will surely contribute to achieving our overall mission.”

Through her work, Dr Pinto has collaborated with both private and non-government agencies stationed in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas. In her most recent role, she led a team that developed a unique AI-augmented software that aims to understand the microbiome in soil, plant, farm, fork, animal, and human gut. The initiative contributes towards data-driven health, disease prevention, and a generative bio-economy with more sustainable farming solutions.

Dr. Pinto has a rich background in plant genetics and has worked in various positions with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Gatsby Foundation, UN FAO, and the Centre for Environmental Policy at Imperial College. She sat on various Boards, Program Advisory, and Steering Committees, most notably, as former Chair of the WorldFish Board of Trustees. She also previously contributed to creating the strategy for OneCGIAR Biosciences for Africa Hub, including capacity development, research into the use of biosciences and biotechnology, and an organizational M&E system. Dr. Pinto was a Program Advisory Committee member of the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB).

Dr Pinto was born a Kenyan, raised in Ethiopia, and became a UK and ultimately a global citizen. She has a BSc in Plant Sciences and Agriculture from Reading University, an MSc in Biotechnology and a Ph.D. in Virology from Imperial College, and a General Management Executive Education from Cambridge University.

As IRRI’s Director General, she will be responsible for leading the institute’s strategy and governance to meet the needs and expectations of donors, investors, partners, stakeholders, and ultimately the smallholder farmers in rice-based systems. Of particular importance will be leading IRRI in developing and scaling sustainable innovations that help solve some of the biggest global issues of climate change, poverty, hunger, and malnutrition.

As CGIAR Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific (SEA&P), she will coordinate ongoing and new efforts to build CGIAR’s presence in SEA&P by showcasing CGIAR’s work, the value of working as one team, building a vibrant pipeline of opportunities, and shaping the new organizational culture across the region, focusing on inclusion, transparency, and trust.

Dr Ismahane Elouafi, CGIAR Executive Managing Director, said, “We are excited to welcome Dr. Pinto to CGIAR as IRRI Director General. Dr. Pinto is highly respected in the area of agricultural systems transformation and brings with her an excellent track record, starting with a rich background in plant genetics. Her demonstrable strategic vision, drive and energy will continue to solidify IRRI’s world-class reputation and contribute to our shared goals in tackling growing global hunger, malnutrition, and climate change.”

Dr. Pinto makes IRRI history as its first female Director General.