Global research partnership for a food-secure future - CGIAR

Glasstubes filled with small, green plants. Genebank plant sample, Colombia, Photo by N.Palmer CIAT.
With its support of CGIAR, Switzerland contributes to the safeguarding of a unique global resource for crop and tree diversity, for example with these Genebank plant samples in Colombia. © N.Palmer, CIAT

CGIAR is a global research partnership for a world free of hunger, environmental degradation and poverty. CGIAR dedicates its research to reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, improving human health and nutrition, and ensuring sustainable management of natural resources. As these objectives are in line with those of its foreign policy, Switzerland is contributing to them.

The global research partnership CGIAR consists of 15 renowned international agricultural research centres spread around the world, with most centres located in the global south. Switzerland supports CGIAR by strengthening the CGIAR system with technical and financial contributions to important research and innovation programmes, as well as by fostering national agricultural research in Swiss priority countries through specific projects. The SDC is an active member of the European donor group that has an important strategic guidance role.

CIGIAR’s mission is two-fold:

  • To advance agricultural science and innovation to enable poor people, especially women, to better nourish their families
  • To improve productivity and resilience so that recipients can share economic growth and manage natural resources in the face of climate change and other challenges

CGIAR has a strong asset base in terms of skills, science and worldwide reach thanks to its unique research for development partnership network. This unique group of research centers has the ability to respond to today’s pressing global challenges of food insecurity, environmental degradation, unequal prosperity, a changing climate, and the burden of nutrition-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. There is a need for collective action and the provision of new opportunities for dynamic innovations in order to produce more diverse, nutritious foods with lower environmental footprints. CGIAR stimulates exactly this.  


To avoid the recurrence of major food crises, further innovations in agricultural productivity must occur. Among the greatest barriers to successfully introducing such improvements are the rampant degradation of natural resources such as water, arable land, biological diversity and forests, and the predicted increase in severe weather events, disease and pests because of climate change.

Due to an increasingly globalised and interconnected economy, new challenges continue to emerge. Food safety, antibiotic resistance, and the spread of invasive insects, plants, as well as plant and animal diseases are new threats that do not adhere to country borders and will inevitably affect all countries, including Switzerland.

With 50 years of experience, CGIAR will be an inevitable and critical international research organisation in the search for sustainable solutions to sustain and feed a planet of 10 billion people by 2050.

CGIAR’s aims

The aim of CGIAR is to reduce poverty and hunger, improve human health and nutrition, and enhance ecosystem resilience through high-quality international agricultural research.

To achieve this aim, CGIAR's work includes increasing agricultural productivity, improving access to affordable food staples and micronutrients, as well as sustainable management of natural resources.

The new knowledge and technology that CGIAR establishes plays a major part in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the 2030 Agenda.

CGIAR’s results

Selected impacts from the last 10 years:

  • Improved climate resilience in farming communities across 21 countries through the establishment of Climate Smart Villages, which test and scale resilient food system innovations.
  • Improved nutrition for 20 million people in low-income countries through increased access to critical nutrients via micronutrient-fortified crops that contain a higher content of vitamin A, iron and zinc.
  • Improved harvested income for farmers and nutrition for children under 5 years of age through the development of new tilapia strains, fisheries management practices, and integration of agriculture-fish crop systems.
  • Led responses to urgent and emerging crop and livestock diseases with global experts, including Fall Armyworm outbreak in sub-Saharan Africa, Wheat Blast epidemic in Bangladesh, and East Coast fever, a deadly cattle disease in East Africa.
  • Scaled access to improved wheat varieties reaching almost half the world’s wheat areas. Annual benefit of wheat breeding ranges from $2.2 to $3.1 billion.
  • Increased rice yields across 13 countries in sub-Saharan Africa by 0.5 to 1 ton per hectare and profitability by US$ 200 per hectare through a smart mobile crop management tool called ’’RiceAdvice’’.

By 2030, in collaboration with more than 3’000 partners, CGIAR aims to make a significant contribution to the SDGs. This includes 100 million fewer people living in poverty and 150 million fewer people facing chronic hunger. This represents more than ten times the whole population of Switzerland.

Switzerland’s commitment

The way the world grows, catches, transports, processes, trades, and consumes food is one of the main challenges facing humanity. Living within planetary boundaries, sustaining food availability, promoting equality of opportunities, securing public health and creating jobs and growth are challenges that will shape food systems in the future. With its open and highly globalised economy, Switzerland depends on a stable and collaborative international environment. Switzerland's security, independence and prosperity depend greatly on a stable and predictable international context. Therefore, Switzerland is committed to work together with CGIAR centres as a donor to:

  • Ensure a system which is united by a coherent, focused, coordinated and adequately resourced strategy to deliver results at scale and have a positive impact on the livelihood of the poor. In a world where change is taking place at an increasingly rapid pace and in view of the major challenges that lie ahead, the establishment of an efficient and effective CGIAR research system is a permanent endeavour.
  • Increase the coherence and relevance of CGIAR research. Switzerland expects further strengthening and substantiation of the strategic and thematic orientation of CGIAR’s research by means of indicators measuring CGIAR’s contribution to food security, agricultural development, as well as reductions in poverty and environmental footprint.
  • Actively promote research and adoption of agrobiodiversity systems, which reflect the dynamics and complex relationships between human societies, cultivated plants, and the environments in which they coexist.

Switzerland’s contributions

Switzerland supports CGIAR in three ways. On the one hand, it strengthens the CGIAR system and on the other, it fosters national agricultural research and consultancy in Swiss priority countries through specific CGIAR projects. Moreover, it enhances synergies between Swiss research institutions and CGIAR centres. To this end, CGIAR and Switzerland signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2017.

Switzerland is an active member and chair of the European Initiative for Agriculture Research for Development (EIARD) for the period of 2018 - 2020. EIARD represents 45% of the funding in the CGIAR Fund and thus also has an important strategic guidance role.

Of the 50% of food imported into Switzerland each year, more than 20% comes from countries outside the European Union. Products from low-income countries such as sweet potatoes, quinoa and brown rice are becoming increasingly important in our eating habits.

Although the majority of the research conducted by CGIAR is located in the global south, Switzerland benefits directly from the research partnership’s knowledge and services. CGIAR’s gene banks are an important source for the development of new drought and disease resistant varieties of crops planted in Switzerland such as maize, wheat or potatoes. For instance, common tropical fruits consumed in Switzerland, such as bananas, mangos or sweet potatoes have been developed with higher vitamin contents, and have been maintained by CGIAR gene banks.