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Irish Aid increases collaboration with universities and research centres to reduce global hunger

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"this exciting collaboration will draw on expertise in Irish universities to increase productivity and improve nutrition. $1 invested in research has the potential to produce $9 worth of additional food in developing countries."

- Minister Power

The Minister of State for Overseas Development, Peter Power T.D., today announced significant funding for collaborative research between Irish universities and international research centres to combat hunger. Outlining the Government's increased support, Minister Power said:

"This initiative represents an investment in research that will ultimately help to increase food production, improve diets and reduce vulnerability to crop failure across the developing world. It will draw on the expertise in Irish universities and international research centres to establish practical and sustainable solutions to the problem of hunger and food insecurity. Irish research expertise can make a real contribution in the fight against hunger.

I have made the eradication of hunger a cornerstone of the Irish Aid programme. Scientific research to improve agricultural productivity is critical to this effort, particularly in the context of climate change and a growing world population. The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, which will receive funding under today's announcement, has clearly demonstrated that for $1 invested in research, $9 worth of additional food can be produced in developing countries.

At home, the research which Irish Aid is funding will play an important role in raising the profile of agricultural research for development within Irish universities and developing a cadre of scientists who are focused on development."

The funding will be dispersed as follows:

Nearly €150,000 will be allocated to support two PhD research projects on plant breeding which will be conducted at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture's facilities in Uganda and Nigeria, the National University of Ireland, Galway, and University College Cork. The first will investigate approaches for improving productivity of East African Highland bananas, a major staple crop of the poor, grown by many small farmers. The second will conduct research to elevate vitamin A levels in varieties of yellow maize consumed by the poor. This will reduce malnutrition as vitamin fortification of staple crops enhances the health and nutrition of children.

In addition, just over €210,000 will be provided to each of the three following research institutes; the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA); the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); and to the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi Arid Tropics (ICRISAT).

The primary goal of IITA is to improve diets, health and productivity. The work of IITA is widely recognised as having had a significant impact. For example, improved drought-tolerant maize varieties which they developed have benefited more than 50 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, and translated to about US$10 billion in net benefits. The majority of direct beneficiaries are poor farmers.

Livestock in developing countries contribute up to 80% of agricultural GDP, and 600 million rural poor people rely on livestock for their livelihoods. The work of ILRI has enabled livestock owners to obtain fitter animals which remain productive under stressful conditions. Increased dairy production improves childhood nutrition while generating jobs.

The semi- arid tropics cover part of 55 developing countries; populated by about 1.4 billion people, of which 560 million (40%) are classified as poor. ICRISAT is currently playing a leading role in understanding and responding to, the effects of climate change in agriculture. One approach focuses on the production of legumes, rice and drought-tolerant grains. Legumes promote dietary diversification, enhance the protein and fat content of the diet, and improve soil fertility through nitrogen fixation.

For further information visit www.irishaid.gov.ie or contact Maggie Collins, Irish Aid, Department of Foreign Affairs on 086-0659630 or 01 854 6926

Notes for the editor

Irish Aid is the Government's programme for overseas development. It is an integral part of the Department of Foreign Affairs. For further information, visit http://www.irishaid.gov.ie

The Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) is an international alliance of agricultural research centres which deploy top quality science for the benefit of the poor. It is part-funded by Irish Aid. Irish Aid funding in 2009 amounted to almost €8 million. http://www.cgiar.org/

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7 January 2010

Press Office