Researchers met in New Delhi today to formalise the launch of a programme that aims to jointly address some of India’s most pressing food security challenges.

This unprecedented programme of joint activities will enable capacity building both in the UK and India, and shape the policy needed to define a second Green Revolution for India.

Prof Howard Griffiths

The adoption of modern methods and new technologies in agriculture that propelled India to self-sufficiency in grain production in the second half of the 20th century is known as the country’s “Green Revolution”. It allowed India to overcome poor agricultural productivity, especially in regions like the Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, although it relied on overuse of water, fertilisers and pesticides.

Today, climate change, continuing population growth and the rapid process of urbanisation have put added pressure on India’s ability to feed its population. TIGR2ESS – an acronym for “Transforming India’s Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies” – is a £7.8 million programme funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to develop more resilient, equal and diverse food systems in India. It aims to define the requirements for a second more sustainable Green Revolution, and to deliver this through a suite of research programmes, training workshops and educational activities

The TIGR2ESS launch event took place in the context of a three-day workshop that brought together all the UK and India partners to discuss and finalise a plan for the programme’s effective implementation.

TIGR²ESS will support 14 postdoctoral researchers employed at partner research institutions and universities across India, as well as eight post-doctoral research associates from collaborating institutions in the UK

The programme will create 3-year research opportunities for a total of 22 early-career researchers in the UK and India, and also promote academic exchanges at all levels in laboratories across India and the UK.

One of TIGR²ESS’ objectives is to foster mutually beneficial knowledge exchange and collaborative research through workshops in Cambridge and India. In addition, it will deliver a programme of outreach, education and entrepreneurship. In doing so, TIGR²ESS will help strengthen Indian research capacity in key areas of the food system, and will contribute to the development of smart agriculture in India.

At the heart of the TIGR2ESS proposal are a series of Flagship Projects tackling fundamental research questions, and addressing the associated social issues facing farmers in the context of increasing urbanisation and climate change.

Professor Stephen Toope, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, said: “TIGR²ESS will inform best practice in crop development and growth. It will allow greater genetic understanding of crop resilience to drought and disease. It will contribute to more effective use of scarce water supplies. It will build capacity and foster education.”

“It will empower women and entrepreneurs, and encourage innovation along the food supply chain. It will create opportunities for early-career researchers, and in doing so will contribute to India’s efforts to ensure it is able to meet the needs of its growing population. I am delighted that Cambridge is a part of this extraordinary initiative.”

Professor Ashutosh Sharma, Secretary of India’s Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology, added: “"India is a diverse country, and negotiating this diversity is the key to developing any interventions. The TIGR²ESS programme takes into account this diversity, and that will define its success. We need to take a holistic view at the nexus between agriculture, environment, water, climate, energy and health. Assessing the impact of technology applications or interventions in a larger setting is very important."

Presenting TIGR²ESS, the University of Cambridge’s Professor Howard Griffiths, the programme’s principal investigator, said: “This unprecedented programme of joint activities will enable capacity building both in the UK and India, and shape the policy needed to define a second Green Revolution for India.”

“TIGR²ESS will address the challenges identified by our colleagues in India, and translate research outcomes to build agriculture systems that support sustainable livelihoods, enhancing the well-being and health of rural communities with a particular focus on improving the opportunities for equality, female empowerment and youth employment, and market-led entrepreneurial opportunities.”

Daniel Shah, Director, Research Councils UK (RCUK) India, said “TIGR²ESS is a great example of the UK and the Indian research teams partnering to address issues around food security and agriculture systems. This initiative also aligns with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to double farmers’ income by 2020."

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