Q: What prompted you to join the CGIAR?
LLP: Joining the CGIAR is really a continuation of the focus of my career to date – increasing agricultural productivity and rural incomes. Today the planet is faced with some tremendous challenges. Not only are we behind in meeting the MDG’s goals, we also face the ongoing global challenges of a rapidly growing, increasingly affluent, urban population who demand more food quantity, increased diversity of diet, and greater dairy, livestock, fish and poultry consumption. This is driving increased demand for all farm products as well as increasing demand for water, energy and other resources. These changes can lead to higher food prices, impacts on climate, environmental degradation, loss of habitat and social insecurity.
The CGIAR, its center staff, and its many partners are key to understanding and solving these complex challenges that cannot be solved by any one sector alone. I am thrilled to be a part of so much commitment, passion and knowledge. Together with the donors, national governments, private sector and civil society, we must build a strong foundation for lasting economic growth through agricultural productivity improvements and intensity. I strongly believe in the power of agriculture as the engine or catalyst for growth that not only helps to solve food security needs, but also to build incomes and livelihoods. That power starts with good seed and genetics, the CGIAR’s core and history. Agricultural incomes in turn provide better health and education, and ultimately reduce pressure on fragile environments.
Most particularly, improving agricultural livelihoods and reducing poverty is critical, with more than 60 percent of people living below the poverty line living in rural areas and relying on smallholder agriculture
Q: How have your past experiences prepared you for this role?
LLP: First, my years spent with DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred, one of the world’s leading agribusinesses, has been extremely valuable, working with a highly matrixed global organization operating in over 70 countries worldwide. Pioneer is truly a remarkable company and a thought-leader in the area of partnerships and agricultural development. I will treasure what I have learnt there. Second, I grew up travelling and spending time in many parts of rural Africa, but especially Malawi. In both my childhood and career I have seen the tremendous impact that better yields through improved seed and agronomic practices can bring to rural farm households in many parts of the world. I have also seen the devastating effects of drought, civil disturbance and disease on rural and household economies. Even in small farmer situations, farming should be viewed as a family business. As a business, solving cash flow, managing risk and maximizing incomes are key. My experience with farm management, grain, horticulture, livestock, fish, agronomy, production and quality management, out-grower systems, agro-processing, export markets, communication and employee systems, change management, advocacy, and public-private partnerships at all levels gives me a broad base from which to work. But there is much to learn and I look forward to working together with CGIAR teams in understand and solving complex challenges.
Q: What will be your first tasks?
LLP: My first priority is to listen, learn and understand the complexity and challenges of the CGIAR and the centers at all levels, both from the inside and from the view point of other stakeholders. A key task over the coming months is to work with the CGIAR Board, Fund and stakeholders to finalize a location and establish and staff a permanent consortium office. Work is advanced to ensure a suitable location is chosen which will enable us to do the job most efficiently and effectively. The recruitment of top quality leaders for various roles is underway. After many hours of dedication and commitment by many, many people to prepare for change in the CGIAR, we now need to take bold steps to implement these changes effectively, guided by the Strategic Results Framework, the Board and the Fund Council. The CGIAR Research Programs are a key part of that.
Q: What is your vision for change?
LLP: We must resolve to support sustained and optimized agricultural growth globally more than ever. To feed and provide livelihoods for over 9 billion by 2050 in the face of increasing competition for scarce water resources, changes in climate, with the resulting shifts in water availability, disease, insect and weed pressure, and societal shifts demands urgent action and a long term commitment to impact-driven research and innovation. The CGIAR centers have joined together in the new Consortium and joint research programs to do this more efficiently and in closer alliance with other partners in the public, private and non-profit sectors. We must remain focused on research, but we must work together with others to ensure that research is meaningful and reaches the farmer through new and innovative partnerships and approaches that can be measured and evaluated. I am excited to be part of an organization that has already made commitments to those changes, and is supported by donors and other stakeholders to achieve those goals.
Q: What challenges do you feel lie ahead?
LLP: Understanding the complexity, diversity and networks within the CGIAR and its key partners is both a challenge and opportunity. In addition, change never happens overnight in terms of thinking and institutional culture. We must be aware of that. We are all aware of where we want to be, but we need to communicate that well throughout the organization and to stakeholders, and then take the first ‘baby- steps’, imperfect as they may be, toward that target. At the same time there is sense of urgency needed if we are to set and execute on research priorities that will help to solve food and income security challenges in the shortest possible time. Senior Scientists in the centers spend much of their time managing relationships, preparing donor reports and solving non-science issues. We need to support them more effectively to enable them to spend more time on research priorities.
Q: On a more personal note what are the kinds of things you do to relax outside of work?
LLP: Of course I love spending time with family and close friends socializing. And I enjoy sailing, kayaking and good music. Being an African, I love spending time with African wildlife