USA- The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research, under the leadership of Michigan State University, has secured a five-year funding extension that also encompasses the expansion of the program into new geographical regions.
Currently active in West and Southern Africa, the program will now broaden its presence into the Great Lakes/East Africa and Central America/Caribbean regions, with cowpea and common bean continuing to be the primary focus crops for the Legume Systems Innovation Lab.
Legumes represent a nutrient-rich staple crop with diverse roles in smallholder farming systems in developing nations, including ensuring food and nutrition security, income generation, and provision of livestock feed and fodder.
Over the course of this five-year extension, the Legume Systems Innovation Lab will pursue four primary objectives centered around focus crops: implementing best agronomic practices and services, promoting inclusive inputs and market systems, scaling and developing targeted crop varieties, and addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Additionally, the Legume Systems Innovation Lab, which uses a unique systems approach, will implement Regional Stakeholder Convenings (RSC) to identify gaps in the current legume systems to drive new activities.
“The RSCs will bring together legume stakeholders to determine how efficiently and effectively the existing systems deliver food security for smallholder farmers and commercial products to consumers in a specific region,” shares Barry Pittendrigh, Legume Systems Innovation Lab Program Director.
“This approach will help us to identify new focus areas to lead innovative interventions and fill the gaps. This may extend or expand the work of previous projects or in some cases be new interventions.”
These interventions could involve new technologies, the expansion of existing ones, data-driven decision-making, or the creation of knowledge products designed for significant impact, collectively referred to as “research for development” by Pittendrigh.
To assist the Lab in achieving its goals, a Technical Leadership Team (TLT) will be established to oversee four critical system functions: seed systems and varietal development, value chains and system integration, climate change and resilience, and gender, equity, and social inclusion.
To ensure scalability, the program will integrate multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) as a core strategy within its market systems approach.
MSPs serve as spaces for learning and knowledge exchange, enabling stakeholders to collaboratively address challenges and identify mutually beneficial opportunities.
According to John Medendorp, Deputy Director of the Legume Systems Innovation Lab, “Every project within our program will integrate an MSP approach to ensure efforts are well interwoven into the demand-driven value chain for immediate uptake into systems that are focused on inclusivity, effectiveness, and efficiency.” MSPs represent a fundamental aspect of the Lab’s strategy for transforming legume systems.
Stakeholder engagement will primarily occur through the MSPs, both at the regional and local/project levels, where the Lab will place particular emphasis on engaging non-governmental organizations, commercial sectors, and the international donor community.
This engagement will also extend to the Legume Industry Consultative Committee (LINCC), an advisory board of private sector partners open to collaboration with international actors.
Anticipated outcomes of this extended work include promoting inclusive and sustainable agricultural-led economic growth, enhancing resilience among communities and systems, and improving nutrition, particularly for women and children.
The first five years of the Legume Systems Innovation Lab have already yielded notable achievements, including the development of 32 technologies, the awarding of 63 higher education degrees, and the education of over 6,200 individuals through short-term training.
The Lab has actively engaged in 30 research and development projects across 13 countries, involving over 100 researchers from 51 institutional partners. Gender data indicates that 42% of those involved in Legume Systems Innovation Lab activities were women.
Funded by Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative led by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Legume Systems Innovation Lab was initially awarded to Michigan State University in 2018.
The extended performance period will continue the Lab’s work until August 2028, with anticipated total funding of up to US$35 million.
Michigan State University boasts a lengthy history of investment in global legume research and development spanning over four decades.