A tale of two CGIAR centres’ media presence

by Luigi Guarino on April 15, 2014

It’s a bit of a cheat, but bear with me for a minute and have a look at a couple of quotes from recent articles in the mainstream media. The first one is from the NY Times. Don’t look at the original piece until you’ve read both quotes:

Drought-resistant X is now providing a better livelihood for some 20 million people. The organization aims to double that reach by the end of next year. The drought-tolerant varieties do as well as or better than traditional X when the rains are good, and when they are bad they will save a farmer from ruin.

And here’s something which came out in The Guardian the day before the previous piece:

The … drought-tolerant varieties developed by Y require a high amount of input of chemical fertiliser and pesticides that are not affordable by the majority of poor farmers. Methods like … organic farming are attractive because they are available and affordable and give a better net income.

Just your normal, fundamental disagreement about what works, and what doesn’t, in agricultural development? Well, maybe. But X in the first quote is CIMMYT’s maize in Africa, and Y in the second quote is IRRI’s rice in the Philippines, so there could be other things at work too. Maize is not rice. Africa is not Asia. And, just maybe, CIMMYT’s media relations are not IRRI’s.

That last possibility only really came to mind because of another recent piece, this one from USAID’s Frontlines newletter:

In partnership with international research institutes and with support from USAID, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute developed flood- and saline-tolerant varieties of rice that produce higher yields. Rice plants grown using these improved seeds can survive between 12 and 14 days when completely submerged underwater, compared with traditional rice varieties that can only endure three or four days of submersion. For the most vulnerable country in the world to cyclones and sixth-most prone to flooding, these appear to be the perfect seeds to plant.

Now, when I read that, I assumed that one of those “international research institutes” must be IRRI, but that is not specified anywhere in the article. Discrete enquiries with people who should know revealed that IRRI’s Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) team was indeed closely involved in this work. STRASA has contributed directly to the release of 7 salt-tolerant varieties in Bangladesh and 4 submergence tolerant varieties (BR11-Sub1, Swarna-Sub1, Ciherang-Sub1 and IR64-Sub1), with additional breeding lines combining both traits in the pipeline.

Why would USAID not mention that? Why is IRRI’s message not getting across?



There he is!

by Luigi Guarino on April 13, 2014


Where in the world is Luigi Guarino?

by Jeremy Cherfas on April 9, 2014


The moment he (and we) have been waiting for: #luigigoestosvalbard.

Let’s get that #hashtag trending.


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