In the nineteen sixties and seventies a marriage of institutional plant breeding and high input agriculture
appeared to offer the opportunity of alleviating the spectre of endemic food shortages in many parts of
the world. This development was spearheaded by the International Agricultural Research Institutes,
established and coordinated by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
In concert with national agricultural research and plant breeding programmes, significant increases in the
productivity of major food crops (notably rice, wheat, corn and a number of food legumes) were realised
in many developing countries. This achievement should not be underestimated. However, improved
technology was no panacea. Replacing local varieties by 'modern' varieties that were more responsive to
inputs and the provision of quality seed generally worked well in more fertile agricultural areas. But, for
the very environmentally diverse and stress prone marginal areas, blanket recommendations and a onesize-
fits-all technology was not an appropriate strategy. To cope with this problem, plant breeders in
different parts of the world started to involve farmers in target environments in setting breeding
objectives and subsequent selection and testing of breeding materials (both on-station and/or on-farm).
The objectives were to better satisfy farmers' needs (driven by their diverse ecological environments and
household requirements) and improve local adaptation (Ceccarelli et al.; 2001; Sperling et al, 2001,
Witcombe et al. 2002; Weltzien et al., 2003).