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FAO and CIMMYT Partner to Strengthen Climate-Resilient Agrifood Systems

FAO and CIMMYT have partnered to advance the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) initiative, aiming to enhance agrifood systems through climate-resilient, nutritious crops and healthy soils.

Saurabh Shukla
FAO and CIMMYT Partner to Strengthen Climate-Resilient Agrifood Systems (Photo Source: Pixabay)
FAO and CIMMYT Partner to Strengthen Climate-Resilient Agrifood Systems (Photo Source: Pixabay)

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), a CGIAR Research Centre, have entered into a strategic partnership, marking a major step towards resilient agrifood systems. This collaboration, formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding, aims to advance the Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) initiative.

The FAO-CIMMYT partnership is set to play a critical role in fostering and expanding the VACS initiative, which highlights the cultivation of diverse, nutritious, and climate-resilient crops in healthy soils. FAO Director-General QU Dongyu expressed optimism about the partnership, highlighting its potential to synergize efforts and promote the FAO's Strategic Framework 2022-31, which focuses on better production, nutrition, environment, and life.

Launched in 2023 by the U.S. Department of State in collaboration with the African Union and FAO, the VACS movement seeks to build sustainable agrifood systems. It leverages opportunity crops and promotes healthy soils to bolster agricultural resilience against climate change while improving diets. The initiative focuses on nutrient-rich and traditional crops such as sorghum, millet, cowpea, and mung bean, which are crucial for food security and nutrition but have been largely overlooked.

The VACS initiative has already facilitated several impactful projects. These include the Quick Wins Seed Systems Project in Africa, which encourages the adoption of climate-resilient dryland grains and legumes. The initiative also supports smallholder farmers by providing access to seeds of local nutritious crops and connecting them with markets and agricultural services. Additionally, the VACS Fellows program trains African breeding professionals, thereby strengthening regional agrifood systems. In Central America, InnovaHubs, in partnership with CGIAR, Mexico, and Norway, link farmers with markets, technologies, and high-quality seeds.

The new FAO-CIMMYT partnership aims to enhance and streamline efforts across the VACS movement by leveraging the expertise of both organizations. It seeks to establish a comprehensive VACS strategy, mobilize resources by engaging donors, and facilitate coordination among major VACS donors and implementers. The partnership will also boost stakeholder engagement through programs like the VACS Community of Practice and the VACS Champions program. Furthermore, it aims to influence policy, promote the significance of diverse crops and healthy soils, and track progress through a robust results management framework.

Bram Govaerts, CIMMYT’s Director General, emphasized that the joint initiative is in line with CIMMYT's 2030 Strategy. The strategy aims to strengthen agrifood systems by improving nutritional value and climate resilience. Govaerts highlighted the importance of providing farmers with resilient seeds and climate-smart cropping systems to support and regenerate soil health.

This collaboration represents a significant step towards creating resilient and sustainable agrifood systems capable of withstanding climate challenges and ensuring food security for future generations.

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