At its 401st Executive Council meeting held this week, CABI reaffirmed its commitment to support its Member Countries through the COVID-19 pandemic. The Executive Council includes representatives of all CABI Member Countries and convenes each year as a key part of CABI’s governance.
Dr Daniel Elger, CABI’s CEO, told the meeting that 2020 was a year of unexpected challenges and that he recognises the substantial additional burden COVID-19 has imposed on CABI’s Member Countries and the millions of smallholder farmers CABI supports every day through its projects, programmes and research.
Welcoming representatives from many of CABI’s 50 member countries, including its newest member, Ethiopia, to the first ever online Executive Council meeting, Dr Lutz-Peter Berg, Chair of Executive Council, noted the focus of the meeting on working in partnership in the face of COVID-19.
Dr Elger added, “We stand with our Member Countries and will continue to support them in any way we can through this very difficult period, as we work together to advance projects tackling problems in agriculture and the environment across Africa, Asia and the Americas.
“Disruption of programmes has been unavoidable during this pandemic, but we have worked hard to adapt our activities and find new ways to achieve impact.”
Digital and remote approaches have been brought to the fore. In the Plantwise programme, for example, CABI remained at the frontline by providing advisory services to farmers virtually via telephone and social media platforms. During 2020, this programme achieved a cumulative reach of over 50 million farmers, and was recognised with the International IPM Award of Excellence.
The meeting heard that CABI had secured a record £37m in new funding for future development work during 2020. This work will include a new flagship programme, PlantwisePlus, which builds on CABI’s previous successes in Plantwise and its Action on Invasives programme.
The 10-year PlantwisePlus programme will seek to reach more than 50 million female and male farmers in 20 countries, helping them to make their farming more sustainable and improve the quality and safety, as well as quantity, of the food they grow. The programme will be funded by multiple donors, including the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), EU DEVCO, Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency (SDC), and the Directorate General for International Cooperation of Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (DGIS).
Beyond major programmes, CABI conducts many smaller projects to address local needs. The meeting heard how a range of consultancy projects with Member Countries were completed successfully during 2020 in the Bahamas, Chile, China, Philippines, Rwanda and the Caribbean.
CABI has also sought to assist directly in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. 37,000 relevant records from across Global Health and CAB Abstracts have been made free to access for public health professionals, researchers, academics and policy makers. CABI’s SciDev.Net service, which brings science and development together through news and analysis, has also played an important role in highlighting issues of access and gender equity during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Members attending the meeting approved an updated and enhanced package of Membership benefits. Member Countries receive privileged access to projects, products and services developed by CABI, and the new package extends these and seeks to ensure that benefits provided are well tailored to the emergency and changing needs of individual countries.
Dr Elger said, “The relationship with our Member Countries is a unique and vital feature of CABI, and so we are very focused on how we can further enhance engagement and ensure CABI continues to be a trusted partner and provider of relevant support to our Members in these testing times.”
Main image: CABI CEO Dr Daniel Elger (Credit: CABI).