Message from the Director General

Martin Kropff
Martin Kropff

This has indeed been a year of resilience, renewal, and transformation.

We began 2020 with grim news of the COVID-19 pandemic spreading from country to country, wreaking havoc on national economies, causing countless personal tragedies, and putting additional pressure on the livelihoods of the poor and hungry. The global crisis exposed the enormous vulnerability of our food system. If we have learned anything from the crisis, it is the absolute necessity to deliver science for renewed food systems that deliver affordable, sufficient, and healthy diets produced within planetary boundaries.

The dedication and resilience of the CIMMYT community this year allowed us to make important advances toward that vision.

Our decades-long joint work with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) was validated this year in a comprehensive review. Between 1995-2015, nearly 60% of all maize varieties released in 18 African countries were CGIAR-related, with yearly aggregate benefits from using post-1994 CGIAR-related varieties estimated in 2015 at between $660 million and $1.05 billion.

In just one year, through the Accelerating Genetic Gains in Maize and Wheat for Improved Livelihoods (AGG) project, CIMMYT and partners implemented rapid-generation breeding methods to shorten the wheat breeding cycle and developed three fall armyworm-tolerant elite maize hybrids for eastern and southern Africa.

Considered a game-changing partnership for smallholder Mexican farmers, the MasAgro project moved to a new level in 2020, with the support of the Mexican government. Today, more than 300,000 farmers grow maize, wheat and rotation crops with sustainable technologies on more than one million hectares across Mexico. Many collaborate with agri-food companies, providing fair wages to farmers and high-quality, sustainably produced maize and wheat products to customers.

The pandemic has seen many of us renew our working style. While we cannot replace our essential field and lab work, we will keep on meeting partners and colleagues partly online, a change that is certain to reduce our future ecological footprint.

Transformation is also occurring in our global research community. CIMMYT staff have been actively involved in working groups, task forces and communities of practice to support the One CGIAR transition. Personally, it has been an honor to co-lead the group of Directors General, funding partners, and science leaders to develop the foundation for the CGIAR 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy.

I want to close by expressing my deepest gratitude to the staff, partners, and community of CIMMYT who overcame unprecedented challenges this year. Thank you to CIMMYT staff and research partners, especially those working in the field and labs, who went above and beyond their usual activities and work schedules to keep CIMMYT’s core business going. Thank you to our funding partners for believing in our mission. To those juggling care for children and ill family members with the challenges of working remotely. To those managing CIMMYT’s crisis response across the countries where we work. To those who have remained committed — both in their work and in their minds — to CIMMYT’s mission. And I wish to express my sincere condolences for the CIMMYT family members who lost their lives to this dreadful pandemic.

I invite you to read this report and join me in continuing to actively work towards resilience, renewal, and transition in our work and in our agri-food systems, to ensure that they are strong in the face of current and future crises.

© 2021 International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
We would like to thank all funders who supported this research through their contributions to the CGIAR Trust Fund.

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Marcia MacNeil, Rodrigo Ordóñez
Project coordination
Leslie Domínguez, Emma Orchardson
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Alfonso Cortés, Nancy Valtierra
Layout and design
Nancy Valtierra
Web design
Ricardo López
Graphics and illustrations
Marcelo Ortiz, Eliot Sánchez, Nancy Valtierra
Writers and editors
Nima Chodon, Madeline Dahm, Leslie Domínguez, Alison Doody, Wasim Iftikar, G. Michael Listman, Marcia MacNeil, Steven McCutcheon, Marta Millere, Emma Orchardson
T.S. Amjath Babu, Frederic Baudron, Hans Braun, Shiela Chikulo, Olaf Erenstein, Velu Govindan, M.L. Jat, Timothy Krupnik, Sylvanus Odjo, B.M. Prasanna, Harminder S. Sidhu, Jelle Van Loon
Francisco Alarcón, Alfonso Cortés, Wasim Iftikar, Peter Lowe, Ranak Martin, S. Mojumder/Drik, Matthew O'Leary, Love Kumar Singh/BISA, F. Sipalla, Dhruba Thapa/NARC, Szefei Wong/Dreamstime, CIMMYT Archives
Silvia Rico
Correct citation
CIMMYT. 2021. Resilience. Renewal. Transition. CIMMYT Annual Report 2020. CDMX, Mexico: CIMMYT.
AGROVOC descriptors:
Maize; Wheat; Plant breeding; Genetic resources; Innovation adoption; Plant biotechnology; Seed production; Food security; Sustainability; Research policies; Economic analysis; Cropping systems; Agricultural research; Organization of research; Developing countries. Additional Keywords: CIMMYT. AGRIS category codes: A50 Agricultural Research; A01 Agriculture– General Aspects. Dewey decimal classification: 630

© International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), 2021. All rights reserved. The designations employed in the presentation of materials in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of CIMMYT or its contributory organizations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city, or area, or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. CIMMYT encourages fair use of this material. Proper citation is requested.


Asian Development Bank
Accelerating Genetic Gains in Maize and Wheat
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics
Bioactive food components
Borlaug Institute in South Asia
CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security
International Center for Tropical Agriculture
International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
CIMMYT Maize Genetic Resource Lines
Carbon dioxide equivalent
Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia
Crops to End Hunger
Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research
CGIAR Excellence in Breeding Platform
Executive Management Team
European Union
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization
Farm Power and Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification
Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office of the United Kingdom
Fusarium head blight
Innovative Applications in Analytics Award
Indian Council of Agricultural Research
International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas
International Food Policy Research Institute
International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement
International Rice Research Institute
Integrated Tribal Development Agency
Jiangsu Academy of Agricultural Sciences
Kenya Agricultural & Livestock Research Organization
Key performance indicators
CGIAR Research Program on Maize
Nitrous oxide
Nepal Agricultural Research Council
National Agricultural Research Systems
Odisha Rural Development and Marketing Society
Punjab Agricultural University
Program for Growth and Resilience
Mexico's Secretariat of Agriculture and Rural Development (Secretaría de Agricultura y Desarrollo Rural)
Sustainable Development Goals
Seeds of Discovery
Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa
Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund
United Nations
United Nations Development Programme
United States Agency for International Development
United Nations World Food Programme
CGIAR Research Program on Wheat
Unless otherwise indicated, all amounts are expressed in U.S. dollars

Sustainable Development Goals

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations (UN) Member States in 2015, provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity, for people and the planet. At its heart are the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are an urgent call for action by all countries to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all.

The SDGs set the pathway for agricultural, social, and economic development. They address the global challenges we face, including poverty, inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, peace and justice.

CGIAR transformed its approach to ensure that its work is aligned with the ambitious goals. CIMMYT, through its research-for-development activities, contributes to empower women, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve the health and nutrition of the world's poorest people.

CIMMYT’s work contributes to the following SDGs:


CIMMYT – the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center – is the global leader in publicly-funded maize and wheat research and related farming systems. Headquartered near Mexico City, CIMMYT works with hundreds of partners throughout the developing world to sustainably increase the productivity of maize and wheat cropping systems, thus improving global food security and reducing poverty. CIMMYT is a member of the CGIAR System and leads the CGIAR Research Programs on Maize and Wheat and the Excellence in Breeding Platform. The Center receives support from national governments, foundations, development banks and other public and private agencies.

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