The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) was established in 1971 as part of the international response to widespread concern in the 1950s, ’60s and early ’70s that many developing countries would succumb to hunger. Over the course of nearly four decades as the central steward of international agricultural research, the CGIAR has evolved with the changing times and demands of its stakeholders and donors. CGIAR research has broadened from an initial focus on breeding improved cultivars of the dominant staple grains — rice, wheat and maize — to include smallholder farming systems, natural resource management, and policy and institutions development.

In institutional terms, the CGIAR evolved to keep pace with its broadening research mandate. As its “consultative group” moniker suggests, the CGIAR was conceived as a loose association of autonomous research Centers and independent donors that shared objectives pursued with limited strategic coordination. The late 1980s saw the beginning of a series of evaluations of the CGIAR’s research portfolio and governance and management structure. This led to a Change Management Initiative being launched in 2007 that culminated in the adoption of a new business model in December 2009 that emphasizes clear lines of accountability and results-oriented research initiatives.

The core elements of the new model, the CGIAR Fund and the Consortium of CGIAR Centers, were established in 2010. The Consortium of the CGIAR Centers unites the 15 international agricultural research Centers supported by the CGIAR and provides a single contact point for donors to contract research. Similarly, the CGIAR Fund unites donors to harmonize their contributions to agricultural research for development, improve the quantity and quality of funding available, and engender greater financial stability. These two core elements are united by a Strategy and Results Framework  that sets out common goals, objectives and results for the new CGIAR. This businesslike structure and its clarified roles, responsibilities and decision-making processes promise to enable the CGIAR to do more and do better, as it fulfills its mandate to fight poverty and hunger while conserving the environment.

Watch the video “The Story of the Start of the CGIAR as told by Norman Borlaug and Robert McNamara”. (running time: 10mn)

More information on the history and evolution of the CGIAR is available here.