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CIMMYT’s Hub Model – a learning field in Mexico for the Indian Scientists


Dr. Nele Verhulst and Richa Sharma Puri

The historical ties between India and Mexico go long back to 1950 when both countries established their diplomatic relations. The Mexican wheat variety ‘Sonora’ was instrumental in India’s Green Revolution in the 1960s. Since then, India-Mexico relations have consistently been friendly, warm, and cordial. Both countries have maintained comparable levels of economic and technological development. The writings of Nobel laureate Octavio Paz, who was Mexican Ambassador to India, on his long experiences in India have had a profound impact on Mexico.

CIMMYT’s partnership with the Indian government, spanning more than five decades, is one of the longest and most productive in the world. The collaboration started with the visit of Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman E. Borlaug in 1963 to usher in the Green Revolution in active partnership with the Government of India. This long partnership led to the birth of the Borlaug Institute for South Asia in 2011. BISA since then, has been contributing with its scientific discoveries & approaches toward food, nutrition, livelihood security, gender equality and capacity building.

Regular trainings are organized for students, scientists, and farmers in India on aspects ranging from breeding techniques to crop insurance, from knowledge sharing to emerging climate-resilient technologies. To take this vision forward, BISA adopted a new approach to organise exposure visits of Indian scientists to countries like Ethiopia, Kenya, Bangladesh, Nepal, Australia and Mexico. Therefore, in the month of October, a group of around 18 scientists from Bihar Agricultural University (BAU), Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), and Dr. Rajendra Prasad Central Agricultural University (RPCAU) visited CIMMYT HQ in Mexico to participate in the course on ‘Innovation in Agri-food Systems through the Hub Model’.

This course was designed to provide hands-on training on the development and practical implementation of the hub model so that participants return to India with new knowledge & skills as innovators & champions of the Hub Model. CIMMYT’s Hub Model was a central theme of discussion around which issues related to food security, economic development, nutrient use efficiency, agri-food system resilience and different techniques for capacity enhancement were taught in Mexico by a team of CIMMYT scientists. As a part of the hub model, CIMMYT by integrated management, seeks to improve farmers’ livelihoods by working hand in hand with a large network of stakeholders, developing and promoting sustainable technologies tailored to farmers’ needs.  

Participants through this Hub Model learnt that the central position of farmers as drivers of change is very crucial to achieve innovation, and it is more effective with an innovation systems approach than through classic extension methods. This can be scaled up and leveraged for impact in other areas and agri-food systems.

To understand more about the Hub Model, teams were taken to Chiapas and Guanajuato to witness its functioning at the research platform and at the farmer’s field. A visit to farmers’ maize fields in Irapuato, a city in Guanajuato, was organised where participants met the farmers and other community members while taking a trip to their farm fields. They also visited a farm machinery unit in Irapuato to understand the latest technology and inventions being used in the Mexican agri-food system.

Chiapas was also very enriching as the scientists exchanged experiences with smallholders growing native maize, more commercially oriented smallholders and other stakeholders like researchers and farm advisors. They learnt about agroforestry, residue management, and intercropping of maize with faba bean, black bean, and marigold along the hilly terrace with high returns for sustaining the livelihood of smallholders here.

After an enriching experience in the fields, participants gained more from the classroom theories. Topics covered were methods for relevant agronomic research, an introduction to the global wheat & maize program of CIMMYT, digital tools like e-Agrology, scaling, gender inclusion, carbon credits, network results from Mexico etc.

They also had a chance to witness the legacy at CIMMYT HQ by having a trip to the beautiful radiant campus. CIMMYT has very well preserved its rich history. A museum with Hi-tech design & technology gives historical background and context for scientific research into maize and wheat, emphasizing agricultural achievements in the world. A trip to CIMMYT’s Gene Bank was exhilarating at -18 degrees for our scientists. They experienced the state-of-the-art infrastructure – facilities, labs, trial fields, etc at the beautiful premises of the CIMMYT HQ.

In the end, the closing ceremony was held with certificate distribution and a vote of thanks from both CIMMYT and Indian scientists. The Indian delegates brought back rich scientific knowledge, technical skills, hands-on experience & innovations to take Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA) project in Bihar to new heights.