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K-State Today

June 24, 2020

Vara Prasad to serve on new international commission on sustainable agricultural intensification

Submitted by Layne Wilson

Vara Prasad, university distinguished professor of agronomy and director of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, or SIIL, at K-State, has been selected to serve on the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification, or CoSAI. The commission consists of scholars around the world with experience in the Global South. These scientists, experts and decision-makers are serving as CoSAI commissioners to collect and assess evidence to accelerate the urgently needed transformation of agriculture.

Initiated by the Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research, or CGIAR, Program on Water, Land and Ecosystem, CoSAI will work over 18 months to guide investments in agricultural innovation. The CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food secure future dedicated to reducing poverty, enhancing food and nutrition security, and improving natural resources.

The SIIL is focused on conducting innovative research, education and outreach activities, and building human and institutional capacity to serve smallholder farmers across the globe. The SIIL works to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and income that provides food and nutritional security to farmers in Africa and Asia, while maintaining a strong focus on natural resource management, diversification and integrated farming systems research. The SIIL is funded by United States Agency for International Development.

"It is truly an honor and privilege for me to serve on this commission and I am looking forward to working with other commissioners and scholars to contribute and meet the goals and objectives of the CoSAI," Prasad said. "I am thankful for the opportunities I had to work and learn from scholars, faculty and students from across the world."

Prasad has extensive research, education and outreach experience in several countries in Africa and Asia on aspects related to climate change, natural resource management and sustainable intensification. Over the last 15 years at K-State he has trained more than 130 research scholars and graduate students from 26 different countries. He has traveled and presented his research in 40 countries around the world. He has also published more than 250 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters on topics related to climate change, abiotic stresses and crop management.

"Selection of Prasad on this commission is a testament of his leadership, accomplishments of the SIIL, and his team members, collaborators and partners," Nina Lilja said, associate dean of international agricultural programs. "A better understanding of sustainability and resilience of global food systems and farming communities is key to solving the challenges of food production and environmental protection."

"K-State has a long history of research and capacity building activities across the globe, particularly in multiple countries across continents of South America, Africa and Asia, and international collaboration and partnerships are critical to address current crises in the food and agricultural systems including climate, energy, water soil and health," said Chuck Rice, university distinguished professor of agronomy at K-State and chair of the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources, National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. "The work of the SIIL aligns with the recommendation of a recent report from the National Academies that emphasizes the need for transdisciplinary science and systems approaches to solve agriculture’s most vexing problems. Furthermore, the recent U.S. Department of Agriculture Science Blueprint emphasizes the need for sustainable agricultural intensification as one of the key themes of its programs."

Progress toward feeding growing global populations, while protecting the natural environment is behind schedule and calls for solutions to further meet the first two key sustainable development goals of no poverty and zero hunger. The CoSAI commissioners are setting out to fill persistent evidence gaps to support policy-makers and private sector investors to boost investments in innovation and accelerate progress towards sustainable intensification of agriculture. Their efforts will complement insights derived from past commissions and research on agriculture, food and the environment.

"Our 22 newly appointed commissioners include some of the most eminent experts and decision-makers from Africa, Asia and Latin America," said Ruben Echeverria, chair of CoSAI. "They are uniquely placed to bring to light the challenges the Global South is facing in developing and adopting innovations that can help meet our food needs, whilst regenerating the natural environment."

The CoSAI Commissioners will follow a process of open inquiry — a process that will call upon a wide range of input – from farmer organizations to policy-makers, researchers, civil society and leading thinkers — to share their solutions to these big challenges, and debate the practicalities of implementation, taking a Global South lens.

The results of CoSAI’s work will guide global and national decision-makers to support approaches to innovation that boost food production and access, ensure natural environments thrive, and reduce poverty and inequality.

CoSAI will have its official launch in June in a global web event featuring prominent experts sharing their insights on the Global South’s food future.