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. 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 Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes (Legume Innovation Lab) is a four and a half year research and capacity building program (2013–2017) funded by USAID that focuses on edible grain legumes, including common bean, cowpea, pigeon pea, and lima bean, among others. The program builds upon the scientific advances and technological achievements of the Bean/Cowpea and Dry Grain Pulses CRSPs while responding to the agriculture development priorities and objectives set forth in the original Feed the Future (FTF) Presidential Initiative in FTF focus countries and regions, and reaffirmed in the Global Food Security Act of 2016.
Because growth in the agricultural sector has proven highly effective in reducing long-term poverty, Feed the Future’s research strategy focuses on helping developing countries cultivate and strengthen their own agricultural sectors to improve food security and increase economic opportunities and incomes for smallholder farmers, many of whom are women providing directly for their households. Feed the Future’s goals emphasize the use of scientific knowledge and innovation to ensure smallholder farmers sustainably increase food production, can adapt to climate change, and can access and use transformative technologies and innovations.
The Legume Innovation Lab is strategically positioned to fully support and to contribute to FTF objectives and research goals. Legumes are a nutrient-dense staple crop that has 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 Innovation Lab’s research strategy lies in its an 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 systems for legumes in developing countries.
The strategic objectives of the Legume Innovation Lab include:
- Increasing legume productivity
- Improving legume value chains through better management decision making among smallholder farmers and local governments
- Enhancing nutrition, especially among the most vulnerable populations—women and children
- Improving gut health, including the ability to absorb nutrients from food, through the consumption of grain legumes
- Improving outcomes research and capacity building in the countries they’re partnered with to ensure the long-term effectiveness of the program
To fulfill these objectives, the Legume Innovation Lab will continue to focus on such strategic areas as genetic enhancement, marker-assisted selection, root biology, pest and disease management, sustainable community livelihoods, clinical and community nutrition, gender, communication science, value-chain research, and market development.
Through collaborative projects with scientists at research-intensive agricultural universities, nongovernmental organizations, and private sector partners, Legume Innovation Lab scientists will develop technologies and generate knowledge to reduce the yield gap in legume cropping systems, help develop legume value chains in developing countries, accelerate research on disease and pest management in legume crops, and maximize the potential for development outcomes and benefits to stakeholders in developing countries. (For details on these and other research goals and activities, please explore our full website.)
Our new name reflects a renewed commitment to integrating program strengths with Feed the Future goals as well as recommendations from the Technical Management Advisory Committee (TMAC) and the External Evaluation Team (EET) commissioned by USAID. Expanded partnerships and coordinated activities with the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) through the CRP3.5 on Grain Legumes and Africa RISING in areas where the Legume Innovation Lab has comparative strength and ongoing collaborative efforts will also play a significant role in the Legume Innovation Lab.