Annual Report
2015 - 2016

Sustainable Food Futures

Getting the Fundamentals Right


Message from our Board Chair and Director General

BoT 72 Group Photo

From farmers’ fields to business enterprises and government offices, CIAT’s research targeting development impact demonstrated in many ways the validity of the eco-efficiency concept that has guided the Center’s work for nearly a decade. It also provided the groundwork for the idea of “sustainable food futures,” the theme of this year’s annual report.

Over the past year, CIAT has continued to work across the tropics to improve food and nutrition security to benefit rural livelihoods, while ensuring access to healthy and sustainable harvests for the urban poor.

In collaboration with our partners, including policy makers and the private sector, our research contributes to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. As a global organization, one of CIAT’s key strengths is drawing on worldwide expertise and knowledge for solutions to local challenges.

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Seeding innovation

Getting the fundamentals right is vital if countries across the tropics are to succeed in delivering food and nutrition security for growing populations in the face of intensifying environmental pressures.

This challenge was brought into sharp focus by the EATx Cali Forum, held at CIAT headquarters last October. Convened in collaboration with Norway’s EAT initiative, the event’s program focused on rural-urban issues related to access to affordable, nutritious food, and diets.

We also played an active role during October in the World Food Prize “Borlaug Dialogue,” held at Des Moines, Iowa, USA. Our participation included a side event, organized with Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, on strengthening bean seed systems in Africa. Cases from Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda were presented, emphasizing the multiple benefits of effective bean seed systems working in concert with research and government institutions, and the private sector. It concluded with a call for action to target bottlenecks hampering delivery of many improved crop varieties in seed systems.

In a session organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), we presented a major project that will contribute towards SDG 2 on food security and sustainable agriculture: a new agrobiodiversity facility at CIAT headquarters. With this, CIAT expects to significantly expand its capacity for conserving, using, and sharing plant genetic resources, a target in line with SDG 2. A September article in The Economist magazine, highlighting the importance of conserving food crop wild relatives, described genebanks as an “excellent investment” and reported CIAT’s work extensively.

New era in crop improvement

The International Year of Pulses (IYP 2016) – among which common bean is, by far, the most important in terms of global production – is providing further opportunities to scale out the impact of CIAT’s research on this crop. A key message of IYP 2016 is that it’s time to boost investment in beans, a call to which the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and other donors are already responding.

The World Congress on Root and Tuber Crops, held in January 2016 at Nanning, China, provided an excellent scenario to showcase developments in our research on cassava. Among them, the establishment of a regional network of National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in Southeast Asia, supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), to combat pest and disease outbreaks, as well as remarkable breakthroughs in genomics (made possible by several CGIAR Fund donors), which open the way to a new and exciting era in cassava improvement.

Blueprints for action

Another highlight of the Borlaug Dialogue was a CIAT-moderated session on “precision agriculture and big data,” which was usefully informed by a prize-winning approach using big data analytics to provide farmers with site-specific recommendations for the production of rice and other staples. This emerged from a project co-developed with Colombia’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MADR) to better shield agriculture from climate variability.

The World Bank has put its weight behind an initiative started last year in Latin America to develop country profiles on climate-smart agriculture (CSA). These enable policymakers and donors to quickly and easily review the opportunities for CSA prioritization at a national level. Fourteen profiles have been produced so far and have proven extremely useful and popular, driving demand for more countries to be profiled in 2016. This is being made possible through increased World Bank support and funding from USAID to develop six profiles for countries in sub-Saharan Africa. The profiles contribute importantly to the work of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), which CIAT leads.

This land is our land

At the end of 2015, CIAT brought to fruition an intensive, year-long campaign for the International Year of Soils. Involving communications, outreach, and partner engagement, the campaign heightened the Center’s unique soils research capacities, leading to new options for project development with partners in Colombia, Denmark, France, and Germany.

The soils campaign culminated at the 2015 Global Landscapes Forum (GLF), which took place in December at Paris, alongside the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). As at the previous GLF in Lima, Peru, CIAT figured importantly as a partner in Initiative 20×20, a major land restoration project for Latin America. In a forum titled “From Pledges to Practice,” we showed how projects in seven countries are helping governments set priorities and ensure equitable benefits from land restoration initiatives.

Such initiatives must also be informed by a gender perspective on land tenure and rights. This was the main message of a GLF plenary session titled “This Land is Our Land.” The session was a direct outcome of the support we’re providing for the CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network.

Staying the course

This year, the Center stayed firmly on track in its pursuit of sustainable food futures for tropical agriculture – a great testament to the dedication, ingenuity, and perseverance of its scientific and administrative staff, and its many partners. Most importantly, the merit of CIAT’s work is clearly evident in the dialogues, decisions, and actions happening in government offices, community meetings, and farmers’ fields. signature_geoff

Geoffrey Hawtin Chair, Board of Trustees


Ruben G. Echeverría Director General

At a Glance

CIAT Worldwide

Active Projects

New Projects in 2015

We work in 53 countries and have 21 offices and field operation sites around the world.

CIAT has a total of 968 staff across three regions: Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. Many are based from our regional offices located in Colombia (HQ), Kenya, and Vietnam.

In many of these countries, we work through the Pan-Africa Bean Research Alliance (PABRA) in Africa, HarvestPlus in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and the Latin American Fund for Irrigated Rice (FLAR) in Latin America.

CIAT also belongs to Parque Biopacífico [Biopacific Park], a public-private partnership committed to the productive transformation of Colombia based on knowledge, available infrastructure, specialized human capacity, and scientific and technological advances available from the Colombian Institute of Agriculture (ICA), Corpoica, National University of Colombia, University of Valle, and CIAT.


CIAT and the SDGs

Less than a year after world leaders adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, CIAT is already hard at work to advance each of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The new objectives build on the Millennium Development Goals, and define a new era of sustainable development that hopes to see tremendous progress made for the environment, as well as the social and economic welfare of all people. While CIAT’s Strategy is in many ways connected to all 17 goals, six are particularly central to CIAT’s mission.

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In most developing countries the agriculture sector is the single largest employer, promoting smallholder agriculture is integral to ending poverty. We work to lift smallholder farmers out of poverty, whether through our LivestockPlus initiative, which looks to boost milk and meat production, our work on crop and agricultural practices improvement, or policy research that promotes inclusive rural income growth. To ensure such advancements leave no one behind, we work to achieve equality between men and women.

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As the world urbanizes, agricultural value chains are becoming more complex, providing new opportunities for economic growth, but also presenting the risk that smallscale producers and processors will be left behind. At CIAT, experts are working to make smallholder agriculture more market-oriented and competitive by developing tools and knowledge to strengthen value chains, while also working with the private sector to promote inclusive business models.

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CIAT makes affordable, high-quality food more easily available by enhancing agricultural productivity as well as by boosting the nutritional quality of staple crops. For example, our scientists are increasing the iron content of beans and preparing them for an ever warming climate, calling on important crop diversity held in trust at CIAT’s genebank. Taking an integrated approach, CIAT’s FoodLens initiative enables countries across the tropics to provide consumers with easy access to healthy food.

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Climate change is arguably the biggest threat facing humanity. With a historic agreement concluded at COP21 in Paris, international cooperation will focus on preventing, adapting to, and mitigating the effects of this major global issue. Through the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS), CIAT contributes data and methods which help countries climate-proof their agricultural sector.

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At heart of healthy lives is good food. CIAT is working to make sure that health and well-being in all its forms are promoted for all people whether it is through the development of biofortified staple foods which boost levels of iron, zinc, and carotenoids – nutrients often lacking in low-income households – or through cutting-edge techniques to analyze how much of a crop’s micronutrient content is retained from harvest to food preparation, according to different recipes from various countries.

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Terrestrial ecosystems are more important than ever to meet the world’s food needs. That’s why CIAT works to improve soil management from farm plots to whole landscapes to ensure that ecosystem services provide the benefits that are essential for sustainable development. CIAT is also investing in a new global hub for crop diversity to better conserve more than 66,000 unique bean, tropical forage and cassava materials currently preserved in its genebank and make them available to the world.

A year of innovations in #AR4D


Drones in AG: Precision agriculture poised to take off

Thanks to their ability to hover low over fields with sensors, drones provide accurate information on what is being grown and where, as well as the ability to rapidly evaluate the status of crops. They open the door to “site-specific agriculture”, a data-driven approach to agronomy, which helps farmers adjust to variations in growing conditions and optimize their yields.Thanks to their ability to hover low over fields with sensors, drones provide accurate information on what is being grown and where, as well as the ability to rapidly evaluate the status of crops. They open the door to “site-specific agriculture”, a data-driven approach to agronomy, which helps farmers adjust to variations in growing conditions and optimize their yields.
Contacts: Michael Selvaraj and Louis Reymondin

SOC, a new online app to calculate carbon captured in soil

SOC calculates the organic carbon content of a particular soil, as well as the quantity of carbon that would be sequestered by soil conserving management practices. With the ability to adjust variables and see results in real-time, the app visualizes how sequestration would unfold over time, factoring in both the dynamic biological processes of sequestration and the hard-to-pin-down land adoption rates.
Contact: Rolf Sommer

Cassava DNA fingerprinting to discover and preserve unknown varieties

Scientists extracted DNA and conducted DNA fingerprinting to identify what varieties farmers grow in Colombia and Vietnam, which will ultimately allow researchers to assess farmer variety adoption and ensure all known cassava varieties are conserved in CIAT genebank. In Colombia, dozens of varieties were already uncovered that are not yet conserved in CIAT collection.
Contact: Ricardo Labarta

Radar – phenomics: An eye underground

Ground-penetrating radars (GPRs) are used to see what’s below the ground. In 2014 when CIAT began using this technology to assess cassava root development, GPRs were the size of large vacuum cleaner. Today, they look more like a smart phone on a selfie stick and can detect biomass without disrupting soil, which is essential for efforts to improve crops.
Contact: Michael Selvaraj


Plotting opportunities and risk to drive investment

Working with the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania, scientists at CIAT are helping to drive large investment – both internal and external – in the region, by developing an online tool that provides investors with information about what risks their projects may face in a given area. Among other properties, the tool is expected to be able to provide those looking to invest with information related to crop suitability, water and irrigation access, various topographical features, and the proximity of special zones like wildlife corridors. With this information in hand, investors will have the ability to explore new regions and projects that were once deemed too risky because basic information was not readily available.
Contacts: Evan Givertz and Ravic Nijbroek

Sequencing the cassava genome

CIAT has started the sequencing of the first entire global crop collection and scientists are about a year away from defining cassava’s pan-genome, although there’s still another 5,000 varieties of the 6,643 to complete the picture. Thanks to next-generation sequencing (NGS) the process is faster, cheaper, and more accurate. Once the genome fully decoded, scientists will be able to home-in on the genes responsible for increasing yields, boosting protein content, and improving resistance to pests, and they’ll even be able to breed cassava in silico (on the computer) to establish the most effective combinations of parent plants to produce offspring with the most valuable traits.
Contact: Luis Augusto Becerra

Participatory ecosystem services mapping

The lack of tools to rapidly assess and visualize how landscapes and related ecosystem services will be altered by climate change is a serious challenge. Using high-resolution imagery from Google Earth, this new approach engages communities to learn how they access and use natural resources, determines the extent of the coming landscape changes, and prompts discussions on adaptation and mitigation options.
Contact: Justine Cordingley

5Q – Smart feedback in development projects

5Q asks five questions at regular intervals to each stakeholder group, rapidly analyzes responses, and assesses necessary adjustments. By making the process responsive and effective, and by ensuring mutual accountability and integration of stakeholders in a new way, 5Q is revolutionizing monitoring and evaluation for research and development projects.
Contact: Anton Eitzinger


In the last year, CIAT published 192 scientific publications and 40 datasets.






→ 82 of these journal articles are  Open Access


Conserving plant genetic resources for “future-proofing” food supply

Humankind has come to rely on just a handful of staple crops for its survival, namely wheat, rice, maize, potato and, more recently, soybean, sunflower oil and palm oil.

Beside the health risks associated with excessively uniform diets, food systems relying upon just a few crops are particularly vulnerable to major threats like drought, insect pests, and diseases, all expected to worsen with climate change.

But these few crops that the world consumes today come from a huge diversity of wild plants and crop varieties that have evolved over thousands of years and were crossbred by nature, farmers, and scientists.

Crop diversity is a priceless reservoir that can help us:

  • Adapt to climate change
  • Improve food and nutrition security, and health
  • Reduce environmental damage
  • Resist pest and disease threat

Conserving and sharing this diversity is one of the fundamentals of sustainable food futures.

Even though rice, wheat, and maize continue to have pride of place in CGIAR’s global crop research, pulses have enormous potential for helping confront some of the most daunting dietary and environmental challenges faced by smallholders.

For CIAT, the United Nations’ International Year of Pulses (IYP 2016) offers a welcome opportunity to celebrate the major impacts that our research on common bean has registered so far, and to call on donors and partners for renewed support.

Around 300 million people depend on common bean, making it the most important of CGIAR’s six mandate pulses. In terms of global production and area planted, donor investment in research on common bean has yielded especially high returns. According to a 2008 study, bean improvement had an estimated economic value of US$200 million – more than 12 times the cost.

CIAT embraced the International Year of Soils 2015 as an opportunity to renew global awareness of the vital link between healthy, fertile soils and prosperous societies. We also carried the message beyond awareness to the need for research and action.

Only if we bring degraded soils to life through better management, can they store water, deliver nutrients to crops, curb damage from natural disasters like floods, capture carbon, and provide all the other ecosystem services that are essential for sustaining and improving life.

In particular, CIAT has sponsored 5 episodes of an “edutainment” series called Shamba Shape Up – an east African farm makeover reality TV show – to help farmers shape up their soils and their farming systems. The episodes are estimated to reach eight million smallholder farmers.


CIAT is part of CGIAR, the world’s largest partnership of agricultural research-for-development organizations. As one its 15 center members, CIAT’s global research feeds into the collective agenda of CGIAR. CIAT leads the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and shares in the coordination of HarvestPlus, which is a major part of the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health.

In late 2014, CIAT also took on the role of providing Communications, Knowledge Sharing and Data Management support for the CGIAR Gender and Agriculture Research Network, which is comprised of gender experts from across the various CGIAR Research Programs.

CIAT leads CCAFS and shares the coordination of HarvestPlus, and provides Communications, Knowledge Sharing and Data Management support for the CGIAR Gender Network

CIAT also contributes importantly to other CGIAR research programs, building more fundamentals of sustainable food futures.



About CIAT

CIAT works in collaboration with hundreds of partners to help developing countries make farming more competitive, profitable, and resilient through smarter, more sustainable natural resource management. We help policy makers, scientists, and farmers respond to some of the most pressing challenges of our time, including food insecurity and malnutrition, climate change, and environmental degradation.


Diversity is our Strength

By ensuring that essential micronutrients like iron, zinc and carotenoids are available in higher amounts in staple crops and in forms that are more easily absorbed, we improve the overall health and wellbeing of people around the world.

Elise Talsma

Iron woman

Brice Even, Market Access Specialist based in Vietnam, promotes more equitable business models and sustainable value chains

nationalities at CIAT

Rodah Morezio Zulu, CIAT Nutritionist based in Malawi, working with community centers to improve child nutrition in Madagascar

Climate change is very real here in the tropics. Computer models and ICT in general can do magics and help small farmers adapt effectively.

Anton Eitzinger

Top (crop) model

Plant genetics is complex yet fascinating; it’s like a game. Using cutting-edge plant technology, we track down those wonder genes that control interesting traits to increase productivity, micronutrient content, or resistance to specific stress.

Joe Tohme

Plant geneticist, Named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in November 2015

Bui Le Vinh, Systems and Landscapes Specialist based in Vietnam works with small farmers to help them become climate-smart

Our Donors and Partners

We are grateful to all the organizations who have supported our efforts to build an eco-efficient future for tropical agriculture and enabled CIAT to advance our objectives to reduce hunger and poverty, and improve human nutrition in the tropics.

CIAT’s research is made possible by the multi-donor CGIAR Fund as well as by grants from many organizations, some of which are also Fund donors.

  • Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation (Colciencias), Colombia
  • African Development Bank (AfDB)
  • Agrigenetics, Inc., USA
  • Autonomous Regional Corporation of Valle del Cauca (CVC), Colombia
  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), UK
  • Catholic Relief Services (CRS), USA
  • Colombia’s National Petroleum Company (Ecopetrol)
  • Howard G. Buffett Foundation, USA
  • Ingredion Incorporated, USA
  • Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
  • McKnight Foundation, USA
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), Japan
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway (MFA)
  • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), UK
  • Nippon Foundation, Japan
  • Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA)
  • Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)
  • UK Department for International Development (DfID)
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
  • University of Sheffield, UK, with funds from BBSRC-DfID-BMGF
  • World Bank
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Kenya
  • Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Kenya
  • Bureau of Agricultural Research, a staff bureau of the Department of Agriculture (DA-BAR), Philippines
  • Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA)
  • Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences (JIRCAS)
  • Keurig Green Mountain, Inc., USA
  • Monsanto Company, USA
  • National Science Foundation (NSF), USA
  • Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD)
  • Public Enterprises of Medellín (EPM), Colombia
  • Solidaridad, The Netherlands
  • Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU)
  • Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETHZ)
  • Syngenta, Switzerland
  • The Nature Conservancy (TNC), USA
  • United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), USA
  • World Coffee Research (WCR)
  • Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT)
  • Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA)
  • CARE International in Nicaragua
  • Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA)
  • Future Earth / International Council for Science (ICSU), France
  • International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC)
  • International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)
  • Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives of the Kingdom of Thailand
  • Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS), Colombia
  • People’s Republic of China
  • Regional Fund for Agricultural Technology (FONTAGRO)
  • Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADR), Antioquia Governor’s Office, Colombia
  • Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)
  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
  • United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)
  • Villum Foundation

It is a pleasure to see the result of German investments towards “One World, No Hunger”. New greenhouses and growth chambers, recently established next to the site of new agrobiodiversity facility, will allow CIAT to multiply seed to share with farmers and crop breeders around the world.

Dr. Marlene Diekmann

Research Advisor, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)

Agriculture and rural development are essential for a prosperous and peaceful Colombia – that is why the work of organizations like the International Center for Tropical Agriculture is so important.

Eamon Gilmore

EU’s envoy for the Peace Process in Colombia