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NARES-CGIAR Global Networks adapt Breeding Program Modernization in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa

Meeting the goals of food security while addressing the threat of climate change requires a profound transformation in rice-based agriculture systems worldwide. Farmers need rice varieties resilient to climate change with higher productivity and better nutrition. And they need it quickly.

Bolstering the National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems’ (NARES) breeding programs of the developing countries and their alignment with the global breeding programs of CGIAR is essential to deliver increased genetic gains. Huge opportunities are seen in emerging technologies, genetic developments, modern breeding techniques, informatics, and decision support systems. However, integrating these new technologies into NARES breeding programs across all regions, is challenging and time-consuming.

As a step forward, the Breeding Program Modernization was established in an effort to  speed-up the modernization of rice breeding programs in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. This October, Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)’s  Excellence in Breeding (EiB), Accelerated Breeding Initiative (ABI), Breeding Resource Initiative (BRI), and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in collaboration with  Indira Gandhi Krishi Vishwavidyalaya (IGKV) and the Government of Chhattisgarh, India organized a series of capacity-building events for the stakeholders on Breeding Program Modernization with a theme: “Partnership-Driven Research for Food Secure Future”.

The NARES Capacity Building Events held in 14-16 October offered specialized, practical training courses to gain skills in the basics of rice breeding, best community of practices, enabling cutting-edge speed and smart breeding technologies, breeding informatics, grain and nutritional quality and costing tools. NARES scientists from ten sub-Saharan African nations, as well as those from Nepal, Bangladesh, and India, participated in these training courses.

Dr. Sanjay Katiyar, Breeding Program Modernization Lead CGIAR-IRRI, addressed several aspects of Breeding and Operational Excellence, demonstrating transformational changes and significant impacts on the ground with NARES breeding programs of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Our vision is to support NARES breeding programs to deliver high rates of genetic gain to farmers, through adoption of breeding and operational excellence, and transform breeding to be more focused, efficient, precise, and fast. We provided a unique platform of knowledge-sharing and technology transfer to the CGIAR–NARES- (small-mid size enterprises (SMEs) global and regional networks with a strong culture of continuous improvement,” said Dr. Sanjay Katiyar.

The "International Workshop on Breeding Program Modernization to Deliver Higher Rates of Genetic Gain" is another significant event. On 17-18 October, more than 150 representatives from the CGIAR's EiB, ABI, BRI, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Bill and Melinda Gate Foundation (BMGF), and NARES scientists from 16 South Asian and Sub-Saharan African nations convened   to further increase efforts in helping the NARES to have greater impact and be able to adopt modern breeding principles and practices. Additionally, the group focused on utilizing synergies with OneCGIAR's  global breeding strategies.

Dr. Gary Atlin, Senior Program Manager of BMGF, provided insight on the donor’s perspective and the expected delivery of genetic gain in farmer's fields by NARES-CGIAR networks.

Drs. Peter Coaldrake and Eduardo Covarrubias, CGIAR-EiB emphasized the role of market-intelligence, market-aligned breeding, and optimization of breeding programs to increase genetic gains, while Dr. Sankalp Bhosale (IRRI) and Dr. Bishwanath Das (ABI-Transform) gave an overview of the roles of NARES-CGIAR breeding networks to deliver the genetic gain in farmer’s fields and the roadmap to achieve it.

As one of the highlights of the workshop, Dr. Hans Bhardwaj, IRRI’s Rice Breeding Innovations Platform Lead introduced the following One CGIAR Initiatives: Accelerated Breeding by Dr. Michael Quinn, Director (CGIAR-EiB and Lead-ABI); Breeding Resource by Dr. Young Wha Lee (Lead- BRI); and Seed Equal by Dr. Shobha Venkatanagappa (Lead- Seed Equal).

Honorable Governor of the State of Chhattisgarh, Anusuiya Uikey and Shri Ravindra Chaubey, Minister of Agriculture addressed the closing session of the workshop.

As a future course of action, the CGIAR-NARES- SMEs unanimously agreed to strengthen and expand the “Breeding Program Modernization” efforts and fasten the transformation of NARES breeding to address the local, regional and global food security.