It was just as we in agriculture feared – after seeing agriculture rise on the agenda in 2008-09, there are signs that momentum is waning. An important symbol is the planned exit of the World Bank from funding for the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research commonly known as the CG. The CG is the most important public research body into agriculture and food.
The World Bank has been a funder of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) since 1972 with their $50 million contribution. Recent budget discussions have resulted in a World Bank plan to phase out their support entirely in the coming two years. This is a very critical investment for hunger alleviation. Global food security will not be achieved quickly or sustained without continued investment and innovation.
So this withdrawal of resources would send a terrible signal. Ariculture is facing challenges: weather extremes and gradual changes in temperature that affect yields, invasive pests and diseases, consumer demands for more product diversity and improved nutritional qualities, and the need for greater productivity to feed the world’s growing population from roughly the same amount of soil and water resources currently being used. World-class research is needed to address these challenges and the CGIAR must continue to generate the public knowledge that will spark global innovation.
In 2009, in L’Aquila, Italy, a Food Security Initiative was pursued by world leaders to prevent a reoccurrence of the crises created by the soaring food prices of 2007-2008 and better prepare for a food-secure future. Initiatives such as the Global Food Crisis Response program by the World Bank, or the bilateral Feed the Future initiative in the United States and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition were launched to significantly increase global investments in food and agriculture, reversing years of stagnant or declining interest in these sectors. Withdrawing funding would be a terrible message and all countries should be reminding the World Bank of that.