Feed the Future was established as the US government’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative. Under that Initiative, US Agency for International Development (USAID) developed a set of Innovation Labs for Collaborative Research. The 2016 Global Food Security Act (GFSA) reconfirmed the importance of this effort and as of January 2017, there were 24 Innovation Labs engaging more than 70 top US universities with their collaborators across the globe. The Feed the Future Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab is a five-year research and capacity building program (2018–2022) funded by USAID that focuses on grain legumes, including common bean in Central America and cowpea in West Africa. Building upon the scientific advances and technological achievements of the Bean/Cowpea and Dry Grain Pulses Collaborative Research Support Programs and the Feed the Future Legume Innovation Lab, the program responds to the agriculture development priorities and objectives set forth in the 2016 GFSA.
Growth in the agricultural sector has proven highly effective in reducing long-term poverty. Thus, the GFSA research strategy has three objectives to reach the goal to sustainably reduce global hunger, malnutrition and poverty. First, GFSA research seeks to achieve inclusive and sustainable agriculture-led economic growth. Secondly, the research will contribute to strengthened resilience among people and systems. Finally, GFSA efforts should ensure a well-nourished population, especially among women and young children.
The Feed the Future Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab is strategically positioned to fully support and contribute to GFSA objectives and research goals. Legumes are a nutrient-dense staple crop that have multifunctional roles in smallholder farm systems in developing countries, including food and nutrition security, generating needed income, and contributing to the sustainability of farm systems. The strength of the Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab’s research strategy lies in its innovative and vibrant research, technology dissemination, and capacity-building strategies that not only build upon the technical advances achieved during its previous award periods but its ongoing commitment to exploiting opportunities to make substantial new technological gains to improve the cropping and market systems for legumes in developing countries.
The Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab areas of inquiry include:
- Integration of legumes into sustainable smallholder farming systems and agricultural landscapes
- Integration of legumes within local and regional market systems
- Analysis of sociocultural and/or economic motivators or barriers to legume utilization at various stages and scales within market systems
To fulfill these objectives, the Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab will focus on opportunities that address the unique needs of women and youth, ensure greater resilience of people and systems under stress and shocks and contribute to the development of human and institutional capacity for a sustainable agricultural innovation system. Systems research will entail looking at new opportunities to incorporate legume tree species and lesser known legumes into the cropping systems of smallholders, to improve productivity and to enhance resilience to drought, pests and diseases, and other threats.
Through collaborative projects with scientists at research-intensive agricultural universities, host country government and nongovernmental organizations, and private sector partners, Legume Systems Research Innovation Lab scientists will take a targeted approach to geographic involvement and focus legume species. The regions and species were chosen to address US government and USAID Mission needs, leverage the strength of US universities to enhance local capacity and focus the program on legume systems that can best contribute to reaching the strategic objectives of USAID’s Global Food Security Strategy.