The French Research Institute for Development (IRD) is a public science and technology institution whose two supervisory ministries are the French Ministries of Research and Cooperation. It fulfils three fundamental missions: research, expertise and training. It carries out scientific programs focusing on the populations’ relationship with their environment in Southern countries with the aim of contributing to their sustainable development.
The IRD’s scientific priorities are:
The IRD conducts research in Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific and the Mediterranean basin. Since September 2008, it has been based in Marseilles. The Institute also has 30 branches, including two in mainland France (Bondy, Montpellier), five in Overseas Communities and Regions (Reunion Island, French Guiana, Martinique, New Caledonia, French Polynesia) and 23 in countries mainly located in the intertropical zone. The Institute’s researchers work in more than fifty countries worldwide.
The Institute has a budget of €231 million in 2010. Its workforce totals 2,210 employees, including 830 researchers, 1,040 engineers and technicians and 340 local members of personnel. 38% of its employees work outside of mainland France, many of its technicians hark from the South and its research programs involve foreign researchers. Committed to a wide range of European and international scientific programs, the IRD relies on its role as an agency to call on all research organizations and universities in favor of research for development.
The Institute will provide the Alliance with:
From the Alliance, the IRD hopes for better coordination of health initiatives conducted in the South, for the South.
The two major research focal points in the field of life sciences are health safety and health policies and food safety in the South.
This focal point involves combating the main diseases associated with poverty. Emerging diseases and mother and child health must be given priority access to health care.
AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis mainly affect the poorest countries, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa. These three diseases alone represent an obstacle to development and are a threat to the progress made during the 20th century, particularly in terms of life expectancy and economic activity. The fight against these great scourges obviously requires better access to current treatments and strengthened research in Southern countries so as to develop better-suited diagnostic tools as well as more effective prevention initiatives and therapeutic techniques.
The intertropical zone is still the incubator of emerging diseases because of environmental disruption, sociocultural behavior (human-animal proximity, deforestation and other forms of intrusion in the biotopes) and the lack of research on these subjects. Research must put forward approaches that are applicable to local contexts, without losing interest in “overlooked tropical diseases” such as leishmaniasis, Dengue fever and trypanosomosis.
Mother and child morbidity and mortality are particularly high in Southern countries. The Institute is focusing its research on reproductive health, prevention of mother-to-fetus transmission of the AIDS virus, genetic and perinatal epidemiology and study of the specifics of child malaria. In these areas, recourse to human sciences is essential for analyzing cultural, religious and social obstacles that might hinder access to health care.
This research focal point calls on some one hundred researchers. A budget of around €17 million was devoted to it in 2009. 280 publications have been written on the subject.
Our planet will have a population of nine billion in 2050. Demographic growth coupled with the spread of poverty, globalisation of agri-food markets in a context of energy and agricultural raw material price fluctuations, competition between agro-energy and food plants, the purchase or rental of land by rich countries in poor countries and, last but not least, climate change, are all factors that affect food safety in many Southern countries.
To meet these challenges, IRD researchers are studying the adaptation of agricultural production systems with a view to improving yields while protecting the environment and minimizing erosion. Working with teams in the South, they are developing such innovative projects as the adaptation of certain African cereals to specific soil conditions and to climate change, or crop pest control. Programs also focus on public policies aimed at improving productivity and natural resource management.
The IRD is carrying out research on malnutrition, particularly in Africa. Since the health situation is beginning to evolve in some Southern countries because of epidemiological transition, the Institute also works on the civilization diseases obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
This research focal point calls on almost 150 researchers. A budget of nearly €21 million was devoted to it in 2009. 217 publications have been written on the subject.