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Gates and Carlos Slim Foundations Fund International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Research Complex

Date Posted: February 14, 2013


El Batan, Mexico—With the inauguration of the new research complex at the International Maize and wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the Carlos Slim Foundation reaffirm their support for cutting-edge research.

At a cost of US$ 25 million, the new advanced bioscience research facilities are located at CIMMYT headquarters only 45 kilometers (20 miles) from Mexico City.

The event was attended by Lic. Enrique Martínez y Martínez, Mexican Minister of Agriculture (SAGARPA), and Dr. Eruviel Ávila Villegas, Governor of the State of Mexico.

The new bioscience complex will allow researchers to speed the development of valuable seed, by way of more precise characterization of its genetic traits, such as heat and drought tolerance, disease and pest resistance, and seed health, as well as the nutritional and industrial quality of the grain.

CIMMYT was the cradle of the Green Revolution 60 years ago.

By providing cutting-edge facilities and an enhanced research capacity, this alliance will significantly improve farm productivity.

The complex includes highly-specialized greenhouses for crop breeding experiments involving the field pathogens that can devastate maize and wheat harvests.

About 5,500 square meters of new labs will be used for a series of innovative research projects and include, for example, the Maize Nutritional Quality Laboratory, which will analyze nutrients involved in fortifying maize grain for better human health.

"We are enthusiastic about this alliance," said Bill Gates, co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"Bringing together the collective experience of our respective organizations, we can promote innovation to transform the lives of farmers in Mexico and around the world.

"Investing in agricultural development is one of the most effective investments we can make. It allows farming communities to become self-sufficient and prosperous by growing and selling more of what they produce."

Carlos Slim said: "This alliance to promote research and development by CIMMYT, with the collaboration of national and international scientists dedicated to improved seed and generating more efficient techniques, is a step toward making this knowledge available to farmers everywhere, particularly small- and intermediate-scale farmers, as well as promoting economic growth, employment, and food self-sufficiency and exports from this sector."

The impact of the commitment made today by both foundations will be felt beyond Mexico's borders. The new facilities will bring together the national and international research communities in programs conducted at CIMMYT headquarters in Mexico and having worldwide impact.

Complex processes requiring highly-specialized equipment and the most modern tools can now be carried out here at a lower cost, giving Mexico a strategic position in the region. With increased dormitory capacity and seminar and workshop spaces, the new facilities also allow CIMMYT to double its strategic training activities.

"We will see the introduction of modern and more sustainable farming practices," said CIMMYT Director General Thomas A. Lumpkin. "These include precision and conservation agriculture, backed by intelligent mobile phone services in farmers' fields and digital tools in labs that will open our access to the full genetic diversity of maize and wheat to benefit the world's poorest farming communities."

"It should be noted that SAGARPA and CIMMYT are working together in Mexico in the long-term program known as MasAgro-the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture, which brings together these cutting-edge research and applied tools," said Lic. Enrique Martínez y Martínez.

With the support of public ministries like SAGARPA in Mexico and of committed private sector allies, CIMMYT is now at the vanguard of a renaissance in agricultural research.

Mexico Will Lead Innovation in Agricultural Development for the World

Building on its success a half-century ago pioneering new varieties of wheat and maize that saved a billion people from starvation, Mexico is again at the forefront of advances in agricultural development to help poor countries become food self-sufficient.

Combining the latest breakthroughs in agricultural science and farming practices with digital technology, Mexico's innovative efforts will enable even the poorest farmers to grow and sell more crops.

Against the dramatic realities of climate change, a growing global population, rising food prices, and a shrinking agricultural land base, Mexico's leadership in agricultural innovation is critically important—especially to the countries of Sub-Saharan Africa where hundreds of millions of people face severe hunger and poverty.

At the center of these efforts is Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo (CIMMYT), where Mexican and international researchers have worked for decades to develop higher-yielding, more resilient seeds for maize and wheat, and to introduce better agricultural practices that help farmers be more productive. One of CIMMYT's greatest strength is its partnership approach. In addition to bringing together the world's leading scientists and agricultural experts, CIMMYT has also involved farmer associations, the private sector, governments, international organizations, and NGOs in developing effective solutions to meet the needs of poor farmers worldwide.

This week, CIMMYT will be celebrating the completion of new agricultural research and training facilities made possible through the financial support of Fundación Carlos Slim. These state-of-the-art labs and greenhouses will ensure CIMMYT's continued leadership developing high-yielding maize and wheat varieties equipped to tolerate the stresses of climate change. Expanded training facilities will enhance CIMMYT's ability to develop and deliver resource-conserving farming practices and advance digital technologies that enable poor farming families to increase their productivity and income.

Helping poor farming families increase production in a sustainable way, and sell more crops, is the most effective way to reduce hunger and poverty over the long term. This has been proven in Mexico, India, Pakistan, Brazil, China, and many other countries over the last half century.

The unique partnership between CIMMYT, the government, and our foundations ensures that Mexico will continue to lead in agricultural development—first in Mexico and then the rest of the world.

The new infrastructure funded through Fundación Carlos Slim will enable CIMMYT to carry out cutting-edge agricultural science using the latest digital innovations, and to accelerate the use of mobile technology to provide farmers everywhere with vital information about weather, prices, and new techniques to improve their productivity. The Mexican government's MasAgro initiative is helping farmers adopt more sustainable and profitable farming practices to increase food production. As these agricultural advances achieve scale in Mexico, the Gates Foundation will ensure that they reach maize and wheat farmers in Africa and South Asia, along with the resources needed to improve productivity.

Fifty years ago, Mexico's leadership in agricultural innovation helped lift hundreds of millions of people in Latin America and Asia from hunger and poverty. More recently the UN's Millennium Development Goals have reduced the number of people living in extreme poverty by half, since 1990.

The world is counting on Mexico to continue leading the way in agricultural research and sustainable farming practices to ensure global food security. Meanwhile, the global community must do its part by aligning around a new set of goals –including an agricultural productivity target – and achieving measurable outcomes that improve the lives of the world's poorest people.

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