Tata-Cornell initiative to tackle poverty names Pingali as head

Prabhu Pingali Former World Bank economist Prabhu Pingali has been appointed by the Cornell University to lead an effort funded by the Tata group to help reduce poverty and malnutrition in India

The Tata-Cornell Initiative in Agriculture and Nutrition (TACO-AN) is a long-term project established through a $25 million endowment from Tata Trusts, chaired by Ratan Tata.

Pingali has been appointed director with effect from 1 June. He will oversee a research, development and education programme focused on the design and evaluation of innovative interventions that link agriculture, food systems and human nutrition, including the impacts of nutrition and agriculture policies on poverty and nutritional status, the Cornell University said in a statement.

Pingali has over 30 years of experience as an agricultural development researcher and practitioner, and is the author of several books.

He said the TACO-AN initiative comes at a time when agriculture and nutrition are at the top of the policy agenda in India and across the developing world.

"TACO-AN can play an important leadership role both in research and policy advocacy," he Pingali said.

"Pingali's broad experience as a scholar, statesman and practitioner will propel the programme forward and further enhance Cornell's status as a land-grant university to the world," Cornell President David J Skorton said.

The goal of the initiative is to reduce poverty and malnutrition in rural India while protecting environmental, economic and human health, said Alice Pell, Cornell's vice provost for international relations.

Under the project, Cornell researchers will collaborate with their peers in Indian universities as well as governmental and non-governmental organisations to enhance individual and institutional capacity in the areas of agriculture, nutrition and rural development.

"There is substantial evidence that failures of food systems are both the cause and consequence of persistent poverty," Pell said.

"Until communities and countries make scientific and institutional advances to meet nutritional needs reliably through better production, processing and more functional markets, economic and physical health will remain hampered."

Research conducted at the centre will draw from the cross-disciplinary expertise found across Cornell, according to Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

This may include improved animal and plant germplasm, environmental management, food processing technologies, food safety and supply, water availability, and government food policies.