CIMMYT International


CIMMYT is a non-profit research and training center headquartered in Mexico. (The abbreviation "CIMMYT" derives from the Spanish version of our name: Centro Internacional de Mejoramiento de Maíz y Trigo.)

Mission

Maize and Wheat Science for Improved Livelihoods

Vision and strategic goal

CIMMYT works with and brings together public research and extension organizations, private companies, advanced research institutes, NGOs, and farmer associations in countries worldwide, working pragmatically and apolitically to fight hunger and poverty. The Center applies the best science to develop and freely share:

  • High-yielding, stress tolerant maize and wheat varieties.
  • Large, unique collections of maize and wheat genetic resources.
  • Productivity-enhancing, resource-conserving farming practices.
  • Training and information relating to the above.

Through these activities and outputs, CIMMYT works to foster global and local food security, helping farmers meet rapidly rising demand from expanding populations and affluence, while addressing the emerging challenges of global climate change and resource degradation and scarcities.

CIMMYT achieves the above with about 105 specialized research staff and 500 support staff from about 40 countries, on a yearly budget of some USD 50 million. The Center is funded by international and regional development agencies, national governments, private foundations, and the private sector. It is a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).


Origins

CIMMYT grew out of a pilot program in Mexico in 1943, sponsored by the Government of Mexico and the Rockefeller Foundation. The project developed into an innovative, sustained collaboration with Mexican and international researchers. It established international networks to test experimental varieties. Under the leadership of late wheat scientist Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, the team developed shorter wheat varieties that put more energy into grain production, responded better to fertilizer than older varieties, grew well at different latitudes, and were resistant to the devastating wheat disease known as stem rust. By the late 1950s, Mexico was self-sufficient in wheat production. Mexico’s success inspired project researchers to become fierce and effective advocates for the Mexican innovation model in other countries.


Around 1965, South Asian cereal production was in dire straights. Population was outstripping wheat and rice production, and more than 10 million tons of grain were regularly being imported to make up for the deficits. Hunger was widespread, and government leaders in Pakistan (which then included East Pakistan, now Bangladesh) and India were desperate to improve national cereal production. The following year, CIMMYT was established as an international center with its headquarters in Mexico. In 1967 India imported 18,000 tons of seed of the improved Mexican wheat varieties, and Pakistan soon began to use them. During 1967-71, the two countries doubled their wheat production.


The successes of the new crop varieties, along with improved management practices like the use of fertilizer, sparked the widespread adoption of improved varieties and farming techniques in the developing world—a phenomenon that came to be called the "Green Revolution." The social and economic benefits of this movement were recognized worldwide when the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Norman Borlaug in 1970. The following year, a small cadre of development organizations, national sponsors, and private foundations organized the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to spread the impact of research to more crops and nations. CIMMYT was one of the first international research centers to be supported through the CGIAR.

Why do maize and wheat matter?

  • Seventy percent of the world’s poorest people live in the countryside. Many depend on farming, especially of maize and wheat, for food and income.
  • According to FAO, maize and wheat account for about 40% of the world’s food and 25% of calories consumed in developing countries.
  • Millions of people—including poor people in urban areas—get more than half of their daily calories from maize and wheat alone.
  • Maize and wheat occupy almost 200 million hectares in developing countries. We must grow these crops in environmentally responsible ways, or the results could be devastating.
  • To meet the need for food, developing countries will need 368 million additional tons of maize and wheat by 2020 (today, they need about 700 million tons).