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Improving lives by solving problems in agriculture and the environment

Executive Council members visit CABI

Executive Council members visit CABI

CABI held an open day for Executive Council representatives from our member countries on 17 June. 15 representatives from 14 member countries heard about and saw demonstrations of some of CABI’s work in agriculture and the environment through a familiarization visit to CABI’s UK Centre in Egham. This event showcased a wide range of CABI’s work in invasive species, trade and commodities, mobile agriculture and plant science. It also included three overview presentations CABI as an organization, the UK centre and CABI’s new Knowledge Business, a tour of some of CABI’s research facilities and show-and-tell sessions.

Dr Trevor Nicholls, CABI’s CEO, highlighted several examples of CABI’s work including the hugely successful Plantwise programme, and projects which demonstrated CABI’s core strength in plant health, capabilities in soil health, seed health and human health (nutrition) etc., mobile expertise, development know-how and technology transfer; reflecting CABI’s focus on losing less, and feeding more, putting research into use. He described CABI as a unique international organization, which has been transformed from a traditional, research-oriented Commonwealth institute (established in 1910) into a truly international, science-based development and information organization. CABI works on behalf of 48 member countries who influence CABI’s mission and direction and guide the activities CABI undertakes. This governance structure marries the interests of developed and less developed member countries.

Dr Dick Shaw, Country Director of CABI’s UK centre, provided an overview of resources, capabilities and strengths, which include the valuable microbial collection (housing a vial of Fleming’s Penicillin producing strain) and microbiology services, outstanding research on sustainable invasive species management, biopesticide development, and trade and commodities work. Dr Shaw also told Executive Council members about CABI’s ambitious plans to promote Integrated Pest Management (IPM) and sustainable, biocontrol-based options to combat invasive species, which are displacing people and crops and massively impacting food security, livelihoods and health. CABI is also leading research efforts on damaging weeds like Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam.

Dr Elizabeth Dodsworth, Global Director of Knowledge Management, informed representatives of CABI’s new Knowledge Business which integrates IT and Publishing. This sustainable business model serves traditional information markets, as well as supports CABI’s broader development agenda. Dr Dodsworth provided examples of CABI’s involvement in global initiatives, such as the development of a ‘Global Agricultural Concept Scheme’ (a hub for thesauri in the agricultural field) in collaboration with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the US’s National Agricultural Library. CABI also hosts the global secretariat for ‘Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition’ (GODAN), an initiative which was announced at the Open Government Partnership Conference in October 2013 following 2012 G8 discussions.

Projects, products and services showcased at the event included:

A tour of CABI’s microbial services

• microbial collection
• microbial identifications for agriculture and industry
• other mycological services

Show-and-tell

• CABI’s bibliographic databases and Compendia
• Plant Clinics and Knowledge Bank
• African Soil Health Consortium project
• mNutrition/ D2F (mobile information delivery)
• Joint Laboratory for Biosafety between the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture and CABI
• cocosafe project and other commodity work
• invasive species management projects

Many Executive Council representatives appreciated CABI’s scientific endeavours, knowledge generation and support of food security agendas in their countries, and expressed a strong desire to promote further collaboration between their country and CABI. “It was indeed a great pleasure for me to benefit from such a great exposure to CABI’s unmatched wealth of knowledge and a great team of experts housed together under one roof under the banner of CABI. I look forward to greater collaboration between Uganda and CABI,” said Mr Alfred Balinda, CABI’s Executive Council member for Uganda.

In his farewell remarks, Dr Nicholls emphasized the importance of CABI’s governance by member countries in shaping CABI’s future directions, and expressed his gratitude to active engagement and input from many Executive Council members and in-country Liaison Officers. He noted that to align CABI’s work more effectively with regional needs and strategic plans, CABI will hold three regional consultations (two in 2015 and one in 2016), and a Review Conference in 2016. Dr Nicholls expressed that he looks forward to developing even more productive and mutually beneficial partnerships with member countries.

View the programme, overview presentations and related information.