Excellence in Agronomy for Sustainable Intensification and Climate Change Adaptation


Smallholder farming represents over 80% of the world’s farms, mostly located in the Global South, and supplies 50% of global food. Characterized by low and variable yields and profitability, smallholder farming faces an array of challenges, including water scarcity, climate change, low resource use efficiencies, and declining soil health. These result in negative impacts on food and nutrition security, equitable livelihoods, and ecosystem health. Sound agronomy is key to achieving resilient agri-food systems, but its uptake is hampered by technical and social constraints and ineffective scaling.


This Initiative aims to deliver agronomic gain for millions of smallholder farming households in prioritized farming systems, with emphasis on women and young farmers for measurable impact on food and nutrition security, income, water use, soil health, and climate resilience.

This will be achieved through:

  • A CGIAR-wide alliance to diagnose and resolve the technical and social constraints hampering inclusive sustainable intensification of smallholder agriculture in a changing climate, capitalizing on existing CGIAR expertise and assets.
  • Use of data-intensive and gender responsive agronomic solutions tailored to the diverse needs and circumstances of smallholder farmers.
  • Engagement with public and private sector research and scaling partners, with inclusive impact pathways and co-ownership of innovations.
  • Backstopping of key enabling actors in partner networks by targeted capacity development efforts.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. Eleven CGIAR Centers with agronomy expertise collectively decide on an agronomy-at-scale research portfolio, based on prioritization and partner demand; share data, tools, and learning; cooperate to co-create agronomic solutions through at least 20 use cases; and monitor progress against agronomic gain performance indicators.
  2. All research and scaling partners engaged in the Initiative use available data, tools, and turnkey solutions to support the co-creation of locally relevant agronomic solutions; integrate climate-smart, inclusivity, and sustainability principles in those solutions; and generate primary data on their performance using common protocols.
  3. At least five non-CGIAR advanced research institutes with complementary expertise in geo-nutrition, farming systems analytics, remote sensing, or other relevant research areas, and at least 10 NARS partners, cooperate with the Initiative through at least 10 innovation research projects and deliver results.
  4. At least 20 public and private scaling partners integrate agronomic solutions into their respective initiatives, targeting at least 1 million farmers through extension agents or other social or technological information networks, and use common monitoring, evaluation, and learning concepts to report the performance of these solutions against agronomic gain performance indicators.



Millions of smallholder farming households adopt agronomic solutions that generate a “living income.” This income not only allows households to cross the poverty line but also to invest in improving their overall livelihood status. Jobs are created through service delivery initiatives.


Millions of smallholder farming households adopt agronomic solutions that increase yields and yield quality of key staple crops, legumes, and perennial cash crops in prioritized farming systems by at least 50%, on average. The risk of underperformance of agronomic solutions is reduced by at least 25%.


At least 40% of smallholder farmers engaged are female and several tens of thousands of young people provide agronomic services to smallholder farmers, allowing both groups to exit poverty.


Millions of smallholder farming households adopt agronomic solutions that reduce climate-related yield losses to an average 25% of target yields, while reducing product-based greenhouse gas emission intensities by at least 25%.


Millions of farming households will adopt agronomic solutions that increase resource (nutrient, water, and/or labor) use efficiencies by at least 25%; millions of hectares of agricultural land are converted to sustainable land use through the adoption of practices that surpass thresholds for soil properties below which soil degradation occurs.


For more details, view the full preliminary outline


Header photo: Nepali farmer Sita Kumari uses mobile phone apps to enhance her yields and get access to market and labor. The technology assists farmers in remote areas, who would otherwise have limited access to information on market prices and services. Photo by C. De Bode/CGIAR.