New projects in Global Food Security

December 2012

McGill University scientists awarded 2.79 million dollars to improve potato, for increased food security of indigenous communities in Colombia, based on functional genomics |McGill press release

Scientists from McGill University, led by Professor Ajjamada Kushalappa, in collaboration with scientists from Universidad Nacional de Colombia and the indigenous communities education institute Fundelsurco, are to develop potato cultivars with resistance to late blight disease and high nutritional content, based on state-of-the-art metabolomics technology, to improve food security of the indigenous communities in the Nariño region of Colombia.

The $2.79-million project, announced today by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), in cooperation with McGill University, will improve the food security of several indigenous communities, who are very small farmers growing only potato as their staple food. Reduced pesticide application, higher yield and nutritive potato will improve the communities’ livelihood, daily diet and health.

“We welcome the opportunity to work with leading scientists and institutes in Colombia and Peru to raise the income of poor farmers and make food more nutritious and secure,” says Professor Kushalappa. McGill is one of the world leaders on metabolomics of plant stress, and they will team up with the Universidad Nacional and other scientists on molecular biology to breed improved potato cultivars that are resistant to late blight disease and also high in nutritional content.  Read the press release.


Fighting Malnutrition with Science in Guatemala

A three-year IDRC project to make food more secure and nutritious in Guatemala ─ a country with one of the highest rates of chronic malnutrition in the world ─ was launched in Guatemala on December 5. Food Insecurity and Under-Nutrition in Guatemala brings together leading researchers at Guatemala’s Instituto de Agricultura, Recursos Naturales y Ambiente at the Universidad Rafael Landivar, in collaboration with scientists [Professor Humberto Monardes, Dr. Hugo Melgar-Quinonez] at the Faculty of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences at McGill University in Canada, to measure and compare the effectiveness of food security and nutrition initiatives in Guatemala to determine which have proven most effective in improving small-scale farming.

Roughly one-quarter of Guatemalans do not have enough to eat. Children under five fare the worst: almost half ─ 49% ─ are chronically malnourished, the highest rate in Latin America. The Guatemalan government, international donors, NGOs and the private sector have funded hundreds of initiatives ─ mainly focused on food distribution and income transfers ─ but food security and poverty indicators have not improved in twenty years, indicating that past investments have been ineffective. Visit the project webpage.

Working with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, the IDRC-supported researchers will also ensure that research recommendations help influence decisions by the Guatemalan government and other national and international development actors.

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