The Rockefeller Foundation and Agricultural Development in Colombia's Cauca Valley, 1940-1980

by Timothy Lorek

Jan 1, 2016
The International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) opened with Rockefeller, Ford, and Kellogg Foundation support in the 1960s, replacing the Palmira Agricultural Experiment Station, launched with domestic funding in 1927, as the agronomical engine of research and development for Colombia's Cauca Valley. The Palmira station, at its inception, sought to facilitate and distribute new varietal seeds of food, sugar, and fiber crops while promoting more productive breeds of cattle. Later, CIAT, emerging in the 1960s at the height of the Green Revolution and concerns for feeding a growing local and global population, advanced further specialization and genetic crossing and hybridization of corn, rice, yuca, and livestock. As a result of these institutions, agricultural development in the Cauca Valley drew increasingly international attention and the region became an important laboratory in the spread of genetic improvement from Latin America to Asia. Before becoming a key node in a global network of tropical agronomy, however, CIAT built upon the earlier work of the Palmira station, exemplifying how the individuals and institutions that collaborated to produce the Green Revolution relied on regions with existing traditions and infrastructures for agricultural development. Rather than view the Green Revolution as a sudden and dramatic change orchestrated from without, I posit that we should take a longer and more localized view, one that fully considers the regional histories and tensions that provided the foundations for a global movement.
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