CATAS and CIAT set priority agenda for collaborative research in China and Southeast Asia

China is a major importer of agricultural products and ASEAN’s biggest trading partner. With nearly two billion people and many rapidly urbanizing areas between them, it comes as no surprise that food security and sustainable agricultural productivity are high up in the agenda of China and countries in Southeast Asia.

These key challenges in the region’s agriculture sector provided the backdrop to a 3-day joint workshop by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Tropical Agricultural Sciences (CATAS) and CIAT. Held on April 9th-11th in Hanoi, a visiting team of 17 CATAS scientists engaged with the CIAT Asia team in a series of discussion-planning sessions to prioritize key research areas, co-develop project concepts, and identify target funding sources.

The event took on an especially sharp significance for CATAS – one of the three agriculture research academies under China’s Ministry of Agriculture – as “the first official overseas mission following the Ministry’s change in name to Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs,” according to Prof. Songbi Chen, Vice-Director of the Tropical Crops Genetic Resources Institute at CATAS. “For the Ministry, international cooperation in agriculture is very important,” Prof. Chen added.

“We are building on 35 years of collaboration between CATAS and CIAT – being both scientific institutions dedicated to tropical agriculture,” says Dindo Campilan, CIAT regional director for Asia. “China is one of our key partner countries in Asia, and we are particularly grateful for its increasing its direct funding to CIAT. Together we can mobilize our complementary scientific strengths to solve pressing agricultural issues confronting both China and Southeast Asia.”

Besides longstanding work on cassava and forages, CATAS and CIAT agreed during the workshop to expand the areas of collaboration to include sustaining integrated livestock-crop-tree systems, managing climate risks, promoting inclusive value chains, and promoting safe food and healthy diet.

The new CATAS-CIAT cooperation portfolio includes proposed projects on a number of topics, including: 1) tropical crops such as cassava, forages, coffee, and tropical fruits; 2) sustainable farming systems including the role of microorganisms in enhancing productivity; 3) data-driven agronomy for sustainable agri-food systems; and 4) understanding consumer preferences for quality-traits to guide crop improvement and product development for tropical fruits.

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