Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes (Legume Innovation Lab) was established on April 1, 2013, with a five-year award from USAID–Washington to Michigan State University to serve as the Management Entity.

Grain Legumes
Grain Legumes represent a diverse group of edible leguminous crops including common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), chick peas (Cicer arietinum), fava beans (Vicia faba), lentils (Lens culinaris), and the like. These crops have the unique potential to provide solutions to health and hunger challenges and generate income and agriculture sustainability in developing countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, and Asia. As traditional staple foods, legumes constitute a major source of affordable protein, complex carbohydrates, essential micronutrients, dietary fiber, vitamin B, and anti-oxidants in the nutritionally challenged diets of both the rural and urban poor. Due to their adaptability to marginal production agroecologies and relatively high market value, legumes are extensively cultivated by resource-poor, smallholder farmers for both household food security and as cash crops. Moreover, legumes are valued by farmers for their contribution to soil fertility and health and compatibility with cereal and root crops in a cropping system.

Global Program Vision
The Legume Innovation Lab seeks:

  • To build upon the technical advances in legume research and capacity building achieved during the Pulse CRSP award period (2007–2012)
  • To exploit opportunities to make substantial new technological gains while contributing to USAID’s Feed the Future Research Strategy of “enhancing grain legume productivity and nutritional quality of diets”
  • To focus efforts on priority technical constraints and challenges facing grain legume value chains, utilizing the innovative research approaches afforded by modern science and the capacities of U.S. universities
  • To integrate program-strengthening measures in response to lessons learned over the past five years and recommendations from the Pulse CRSP’s Technical Management Advisory Committee and the External Evaluation Team (EET) commissioned by USAID
  • To strengthen partnerships, complementarity, and coordination of research activities with the CGIAR through CRP3.5 Grain Legumes and other FTF research projects (i.e., USDA/ARS and NIFA, etc.) in areas where the Legume Innovation Lab has comparative strength and ongoing efforts
  • To position the Legume Innovation Lab to better link and contribute to the achievement of FTF agricultural development strategies of country and regional USAID Missions and to provide development aassistance through the Associate Award mechanism

Strategic Objectives
The research program of the Legume Innovation Lab will focus on four Strategic Objectives (SOs) during the five-year extension (2013–2017). These SOs are consistent with the Global Themes of the Pulse CRSP award (2007–2012) but reflect a better programmatic alignment with USAID’s Feed the Future Global Food Security Research Strategy.

Strategic Objective 1. Advancing the Productivity Frontier: To substantively and sustainably increase grain legume productivity by improving adaptation to diverse agroecologies and reducing smallholder farmer vulnerability to climate change, with special consideration for the livelihoods of women

  • SO1.A: To substantively enhance the genetic yield potential of grain legumes by exploiting new research tools afforded by genomics and molecular breeding approaches (e.g., MAS), with a focus on improving resistances to economically important abiotic and biotic constraints that limit yield in the agroecological regions where legumes are commonly grown in Africa and Latin America
  • SO1.B: To sustainably reduce the yield gap for selected grain legume crops produced by smallholder, resource-poor farmers in strategic cropping systems

Strategic Objective 2. Transforming Grain Legume Systems and Value Chains: To transform grain legume-based systems through improved smallholder production management decision making and more effectual governance management of grain legume value chains by stakeholders, including smallholder farmers and consumers

Strategic Objective 3. Enhancing Nutrition: To improve the nutritional quality of diets and to enhance the nutritional and health status of the poor, including gut health and especially among women and young children, through the consumption of edible grain legume-based foods

Strategic Objective 4. Improving Outcomes of Research and Capacity Building: To improve outcomes of legume research and capacity building projects and to assess impacts to improve decision making regarding future investments

Institutional Capacity Building
The strategy of the Legume Innovation Lab for enhancing the capacity of agricultural research institutions in developing countries involves:

  1. Support of degree training to address identified Host Country institutions’ staff needs and priorities
  2. Utilization of Legume Innovation Lab funds to leverage additional resources to achieve institutional capacity objectives and to strengthen the collaborative research effort
  3. Utilization of advanced regional HC institutions for degree and short-term training, including cross-training in other regions
  4. Short-term training in cutting-edge research technologies, analytical tools, and program management,
  5. Support for equipment purchases, research facility improvement, and professional development activities to strengthen institutional capacity for research, teaching, and outreach.

Program Structure
The Legume Innovation Lab is implementing a technical program for the period April 1, 2013 through September 29, 2017.

Additional funds will be available on a competitive basis to achieve specific program institutional capacity building goals, to address gaps not addressed through the projects, and to stimulate innovation in training approaches.

Program Management
The Legume Innovation Lab is administered by a director (Dr. Irvin Widders), deputy director (Dr. Cynthia Donovan), an administrative officer (Angelica Santos), and communications specialist (Dr. Marguerite Halversen), who staff the management office in partnership with the Office of Contract and Grant Administration at Michigan State University. Since USAID established a Leader with Associate (LWA) Cooperative Agreement contract with MSU, the Agreement Officer’s Representative (AOR) assigned by USAID to the Legume Innovation Lab (Jennifer Vern Long) will have substantial involvement in the review of implementation plans, approval of key personnel and participate on the key program advisory committee, the Technical Management Advisory Committee (TMAC).

Program Administrative Committees
Technical Management Advisory Committee (TMAC): an advisory body comprised of external and internal members who monitor the program’s strategic planning functions.
External Advisory Panel (EAP): an advisory panel of experts with no conflicts of interest convened for the review of proposals and the selection of projects for funding.

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