Transforming Agrifood Systems in South Asia


Home to a quarter of humanity, South Asia carries the highest density of poverty and malnutrition globally. Despite producing over a quarter of the world’s consumed food, the region’s agrifood systems suffer from social, economic, and geographic inequalities, and face formidable environmental issues. These challenges can only be overcome by transforming food, land, and water systems to support healthy diets. Such changes require coordinated actions across the production to consumption continuum.

Agrifood systems fail to produce an adequate and affordable supply of the foods needed for sustainable healthy diets. Unhealthy food consumption is rising. Many nutritious foods are too costly for the poor. Farming systems are threatened by unsustainable groundwater withdrawal. South Asia’s farmers are both contributors to, and victims of, climate change and extreme weather and rarely earn enough to fully support their families, driving youth out-migration and agricultural feminization. Socially embedded and economic inequalities create enormous barriers across the production to consumption continuum, disproportionately affecting the poor.


This Initiative aims to propel evidence into impact through systematic and coordinated engagement with public and private partners across the production to consumption continuum.

This will be achieved by:

  • Testing, adapting, targeting, and positioning agronomic technologies and practices supporting crop and livestock diversification among next-users while developing strategies to render agricultural value chains more inclusive.
  • Galvanizing actions tackling climate risks among farmers. Participatory value chain studies addressing market inefficiencies and infrastructural challenges will inform financial services.
  • Expanding business models supporting rural entrepreneurship for young men and women to contribute to food environments that support sustainable healthy diets.
  • Identifying strategies to reduce agriculture-related air pollution and regenerate land and water resources.
  • Identifying pathways to sustainable healthy diets and positioning with partners focusing on improving sustainable healthy diets and reducing unhealthy consumption at scale.
  • Delivering a coordinated program that improves sustainable healthy diets, boosts smallholder livelihoods and resilience, and protects land, air, and groundwater resources.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. At least three major scaling partners in each target country collaborate with demand and innovation partners to design novel and recurrent data collection, vet evidence, and apply research results to inform catalytic activities towards productive, environmentally sound, and equitable agrifood systems that support jobs and healthier diets.
  2. Policy and extension systems aligned with private sector and farmers’ interests, increasing uptake of farm-management practices and supporting services that create jobs and facilitate profitable production of diverse and healthy farm products.
  3. Policy process evaluations and bundled value chain and business models generated and tested with the public and private sectors enable increases in farmers’ bargaining power, create jobs, address infrastructure gaps across value chains, and strengthen food environments to include healthy and affordable foods for poor consumers.
  4. At least two major nutrition behavior change programs per country focus on the major drivers of food choices to provide consumer guidance to reduce consumption of unhealthy foods and increase access to sustainable healthy diets.
  5. Relevant research influences environmental policies, NGO strategies, and the actions of agricultural extension agencies in ways that build farmers’ resilience while offering viable options for mitigating air pollution, reducing over-exploitation of land and groundwater resources, and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.



Work packages inform strategies used by nutrition programs, agricultural extension, development partners, and governments to increase production and affordable and equitable access to healthy foods. Prominent behavior change programs strengthen activities on sustainable healthy diets.


Applying research insights to private sector partnerships reduces poverty and support jobs by boosting farmers’ access to cost- and time-saving machinery services offered by youth entrepreneurs. This frees time, opening opportunities for additional remunerative off-farm employment to support rural families.


Gender and inclusion issues are made visible. Analyses inform large-scale development programs and private sector partners to improve women’s agency, decision making, and access to agricultural inputs and machinery.


Evidence generated improves climate and farm management advisories scaled by extension agencies. Farm- and policy-level research on efficient use of low-carbon irrigation pathways and energy informs efforts to mitigate greenhouse gases.


Opportunities to mitigate soil degradation, limit unsustainable groundwater use, and mitigate agriculture-based pollution through technologies, practices, and supportive policies are identified and facilitated.


For more details, view the full preliminary outline


Header photo: Jawahar, India. Photo by J. Turner/CCAFS.