Transforming CGIAR breeding impact: 3 key points to understand the improvement plan initiative

In 2019, all CGIAR Centers are focused on taking breeding program impact to the next level.

Each center is developing an improvement plan that identifies key innovations and investments that will transform the rate at which new varieties can be developed and adopted by farmers. EiB is working closely with these breeding programs to identify a bold and strategic agenda for breeding program improvement, and proper support to ensure that these changes go ahead as planned.

Ahead of the next stage of this process, creating the second draft of each plan, here are some key points to understand the initiative and how CGIAR breeding networks intend to benefit. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are also being collected in this live document (available here).

1. Improvement plans articulate a vision and roadmap for CGIAR centers to transform the impact of breeding programs.

Although the Centers are adopting a common approach and format, this is not an external accountability or reporting exercise.

The creation of an improvement plan is a process driven by Center management to document current breeding realities (staff, costs, etc.), identify gaps and key opportunities across the organization, set priorities and develop a clear vision for how to move forward.

The specific improvements identified in the plan should fall under a high-level strategic vision for the transformation of breeding program impact. This allows improvements to be identified, evaluated and prioritized in an actionable way.

2. Most improvements require little or no investment.

The main purpose of the improvement plan is to identify how to achieve the greatest impact with current funding levels, including through the adoption of best practices and approaches.

Many of the core innovations being promoted through EiB fall under this category, such as driving down breeding cycle time, product profiles, product advancement meetings, stage and gate systems, and the identification of the target product environment for each product pipeline.

In addition to the impact that these innovations have on their own, they are also key to the impact of any investments. For example, investments in new seed storage facilities will not deliver value for money unless tied to effective protocols, policies and breeding program goals.

3. While the Crops to End Hunger initiative is primarily focused on enhancing the impact of existing funding, a limited amount of funding is available for high-potential interventions.

The secondary purpose of the improvement plans, and the value of adopting a common format, is to develop a convincing business case for high-impact funder investments. EiB is working with both CGIAR centers and funders through the Crops to End Hunger (CtEH) initiative to identify the best opportunities that are in harmony with donor impact targets.

CtEH funds will be used to either kickstart or to enable transition to modernized breeding practices in the CGIAR, transforming the impact of existing operations rather than expanding breeding program scope or funding. To improve through being faster and more accurate, not through expansion. These funds are not for ongoing investment in operations.

Again, the overall strategic vision and roadmap provided by the improvement plan is essential to developing a business case for funder interventions. For this reason, the planned improvements that require no additional funding are even more important than those that do.

In addition to considering where new funding could have a real impact, it is just as important to identify where other forms of external support or knowhow are available.

EiB exists to provide access to tools, services and knowhow that supports the modernization of CGIAR breeding programs. The co-development of improvement plans with Centers helps to communicate where these needs and opportunities are.

For more information and to ask additional questions, please visit our Improvement Plan page in the Toolbox.

In upcoming posts on this topic, we will cover: 

  • How to describe improvements and make use of the Breeding Program Assessment Tool. 
  • What is Crops to End Hunger and what does it mean for CGIAR and NARS breeding programs?  
  • Prioritizing interventions with real impact: the next steps for continuous improvement of CGIAR and NARS breeding networks.