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Innovations for a healthy world
CGIAR’s original mission – to solve hunger – has expanded over the past 50 years. Our innovative research reveals human health to be part of a much bigger picture.
The big picture
In a post-War world, CGIAR grew out of international efforts to feed a growing global population. Fifty years later, those efforts have expanded to view human well-being as part of a much bigger picture, encompassing human, animal, and ecosystem health, under pressure of a climate crisis.
Fewer people overall are hungry today than 50 years ago – though numbers that declined over decades have recently once again begun to climb. Climate change is forcing rapid adaptation within our food systems, and the COVID-19 pandemic poses further threats to progress on ending poverty and hunger.
Meanwhile, food-borne disease remains a leading cause of death in many countries, and more than 3 billion people worldwide cannot afford a healthy diet, contributing to an increase in non-communicable diseases in all regions.
CGIAR research continues to expand its focus to meet these interdependent challenges. Our innovations have advanced global understanding of the place of human health within broader ecosystems and economies, while continuing to adapt to emerging 21st century challenges.
Meeting the world’s food needs is not only about quantity – it’s also about quality.
Filling up on staple crops like rice or maize is enough to satisfy hunger, but it’s not enough to sustain overall health. This is the situation for millions in the developing world, where a lack of access to diverse, nutritious foods is causing widespread micronutrient deficiencies.
Nutrients, big and small
A healthy diet is made up of a variety of nutrients, both big and small. Macronutrients are the main type of nutrients that make up the bulk of the food we eat. These include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats which are essential for energy, growth, immunity, and healing. Micronutrients, including vitamins and minerals, are found in much smaller amounts in our food, though they are just as essential for health. Micronutrient deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, and zinc are among the biggest challenges to nutrition in the world today.
‘Hidden hunger’, or a lack of micronutrients in diets, poses a serious threat to human health as it can lead to stunting, anemia, blindness, disease or even death, particularly for women and for children under the age of five.
Over the past half-century, CGIAR innovations have made strides in both feeding and nourishing the world.
Plant & Animal Health
Plant & Animal Health
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic highlights the power of zoonoses – infectious diseases passed from animals to humans – to disrupt our health, economies, and food systems. While this has come as a shock to high-income countries, in fact zoonoses have long been silent killers in low- and middle-income countries, infecting several billion people each year and killing millions, while having devastating economic consequences.
CGIAR research is helping to prevent the next pandemic via the One Health approach, joining the dots between human, animal, and ecosystem health.
Another silent killer in low- and middle-income countries is poor food safety. Infectious food-borne diseases commonly manifested as diarrhea are a leading cause of death in low- and middle-income countries and are strongly associated with stunting and malnutrition in children. The human health burden from food-borne disease is comparable to malaria, HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis, and costs countries more than $100 billion each year.
Supported by decades of CGIAR research, better management of food-borne disease could save nearly half a million lives each year and safeguard the livelihoods of more than one billion small-scale livestock producers.
Disease can strike plants and animals that humans depend on as food sources. CGIAR innovations through biocontrol and breeding have helped to sustain the resilience of food systems over the past half-century, securing health and livelihoods for millions.
Growing food depends on a healthy ecosystem, yet agriculture is a driver of forest and biodiversity loss, a major source of greenhouse gases that cause climate change, and consumes the majority of the world’s freshwater resources.
Agricultural biodiversity is under threat worldwide, as current food production and consumption revolves around a very limited number of crops. Homogeneous diets, limited food access and poorly developed markets for non-mainstream species perpetuate malnutrition and poverty.
Strategic use of locally adapted, nutrient-rich crops can help conserve this important biodiversity, offering environmental, livelihood, and health benefits to communities around the world.
Safeguarding biodiversity and the environment also sustains our future food supply.
CGIAR innovations continue to place human health within the bigger picture, as part of plant, animal, and ecosystem health under pressure of a climate crisis.