Foresight and Metrics to Accelerate Inclusive and Sustainable Agrifood System Transformation


Today the challenges facing food, land, and water systems are numerous and complex: over 700 million people live in absolute poverty; at least 2 billion people are hungry, micronutrient-deficient, or overweight or obese; gender gaps persist; natural resources are under stress; and climate change compounds these challenges.

In addressing these challenges, trade-offs are unavoidable, and the choices facing national governments and their development partners have become increasingly complicated. Decision-makers at global and national levels have expressed their need for better evidence that can help them choose actions that minimize trade-offs and advance progress towards collective goals. The difficult questions they must answer demonstrate the need for cross-cutting capacity to understand system-level interactions and outcomes.


This Initiative aims to provide decision-makers with the evidence and capacity needed to identify policy and investment options and socio-technical innovation bundles that lead towards inclusive food, land, and water systems. To do this, the Initiative will improve and combine two foresight elements that are too often provided separately: rigorous analytics and close interaction with decision-makers.

This will be achieved through:

  • Systematic engagement to help assess and articulate foresight needs, identify plausible and desired futures, create metrics, develop and apply analytical tools, share results, and discuss implications for policies and investments that support inclusive, sustainable systems transformation under uncertainty.
  • A focus on indicators and processes over medium-to-longer-term time horizons, capturing interactions between socioeconomic and biophysical factors and between geopolitical levels.
  • Analysis of six systems-level challenges with a particular focus on poor populations in low- and middle-income countries. Three challenges will be examined at global, regional, and national scales, and three will focus on specific regions and countries.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. Global partners, national governments, private sector actors, and researchers are actively engaged in a regular series of discussions and share foresight analytics that enable the development of a common understanding of current and alternative inclusive and sustainable food, land, and water system pathways and priorities across spatial and temporal scales.
  2. National governments, regional organizations, and development partners use information generated by a regular cycle of foresight engagement, analysis, and reporting, leading to better targeted and more efficient and cost-effective policy and investment decisions.
  3. Decision-makers, researchers, and other partners have access to new system-level metrics that better capture the drivers and outcomes of inclusive and sustainable transformation and use these data to better diagnose challenges, set priorities, manage risks, and track progress.
  4. National, regional, and global partners have access to innovative training and delivery platforms so that their knowledge, aptitude, and skills with foresight tools, data, and analysis are enhanced and their engagement and strategic planning processes are more effective.



More decent jobs are created in agrifood systems and people are supported to move out of poverty by identifying sustainable, inclusive development pathways that enable CGIAR technologies and innovations and national policies and investments to more effectively reach target populations, including smallholder farmers, the working poor, and vulnerable consumers.


Nutrition is improved by providing national governments, regional organizations and funding agencies with credible and useful information on the impacts of changing demand, novel technologies, and alternative policy and investment strategies on nutrition-related outcomes, including diet costs and quality, under a range of climate and socioeconomic conditions.


The gender gap is narrowed, creating more and better livelihood opportunities for women and youth, and promoting inclusion of lagging regions and marginalized populations by analyzing the distributional implications of policy and investment options (including gender-intentional interventions), and identifying more equitable development pathways.


Adaptation to climate change and extremes is improved through improved quantification of climate impacts and options to address them, and greenhouse gas emissions are reduced while carbon sequestration is increased in agrifood systems through improved analysis of costs and benefits of alternative technologies and of changes in poverty, employment, and diets.


Foresight analysis and data provided by the Initiative help to identify pathways that ensure that environmental sustainability is an outcome of food systems transformation, recognizing that while food systems rely on the environment for inputs such as land, water, and genetic materials, agriculture is the biggest driver of environmental degradation.


For more details, view the full preliminary outline


Header photo: A seed multiplication specialist takes notes in the field during a CIMMYT workshop. Photo by X. Fonseca/CIMMYT.