The challenges facing food, land and water systems are numerous and complex: more than 700 million people live in absolute poverty, with millions more young people seeking jobs every year; 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 interlinked challenges, the choices facing national governments and their development partners have become increasingly complicated — synergies are possible, but trade-offs are often unavoidable. Decision-makers need better evidence to help them choose actions that minimize trade-offs and advance progress towards collective goals. Cross-cutting capacity is needed to understand system-level interactions and outcomes.


This Initiative aims to leverage innovative use of data, state-of-the-art analytics and deep and ongoing dialogue with national, regional and global partners to offer better insights into alternative transformation pathways that can inform choices and sharpen decision-making today, leading to more productive, sustainable and inclusive food, land and water systems in the future.


This will be achieved through:

  • Identifying megatrends affecting food, land and water systems at global and regional scales, including changes in population, income, technology, urbanization, inequality, migration, diets, land and water use and climate, along with their impacts on nutrition, poverty, inclusion, greenhouse gas emissions and the environment in order to inform analytical and learning opportunities. 
  • Addressing regional and national challenges and priorities, providing more in-depth and comprehensive foresight analysis and more immediate policy recommendations to national decision-makers and partners.  
  • Enhancing access, transparency and use of tools, data and metrics for governments and researchers, especially in developing countries. 
  • Enhancing foresight skills and making learning actionable by developing training materials and programs to enhance ownership and use of foresight-related data, metrics, models and results by key engagement partners, with efforts focused on selected countries to build greater levels of self-reliance.


This Initiative will work at global, regional and national levels, with Eastern and Southern Africa and South Asia as regions of particular focus. The six focus countries selected are: Bangladesh, Kenya, Malawi, Nepal, Rwanda and Zambia, with additional collaborations planned in Brazil, China, India, Indonesia and South Africa.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. Better-informed global and regional decision-making. Global and regional partners contribute to and use foresight analysis to inform decisions about investments to transform food, land and water systems in ways that improve nutrition, livelihoods, equity, climate adaptation and mitigation, and environmental outcomes. 
  2. Better-informed national policy choices. Governments in at least six countries contribute to and use foresight analysis to better reflect climate risk in policy dialogues and decision-making, including policies and investments designed to make food, land and water systems more resilient, while recognizing synergies and trade-offs with other goals relating to nutrition, livelihoods, equity and the environment. 
  3. Improved access to foresight tools and data. National, regional and global partners in at least six countries and two regions contribute to and can access state-of-the-art foresight tools, data and systems-level metrics that identify major drivers and impacts on food, land and water systems at national, regional and global levels under alternative future scenarios. 
  4. Strengthened national foresight capacity. National partners in at least six countries where foresight capacity is still nascent, and other partners as appropriate, gain enhanced knowledge, aptitude and skills with foresight tools, data, metrics and analysis relevant to food, land and water systems through access to innovative training and delivery platforms and through collaborative research.


        Projected impacts and benefits include:



        More decent jobs are created in agrifood systems, and 1.6 million 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. This results in 5.5 million people meeting minimum dietary energy requirements.


        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. Around 81,000 new jobs for women are created.


        Adaptation to climate change and extremes is enhanced 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. This results in a reduction of 20 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions.


        Evidence-based policy and investments lead to expanded irrigation, improved water use efficiency, and increased soil water-holding capacity, saving 2.64 km3 consumptive water use in food production. Foresight analysis and data identify pathways that ensure environmental sustainability is an outcome of food systems transformation.


        Projected benefits are a way to illustrate reasonable orders of magnitude for impacts which could arise as a result of the impact pathways set out in the Initiative’s theories of change. In line with the 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy, Initiatives contribute to these impact pathways, along with other partners and stakeholders. CGIAR does not deliver impact alone. These projections therefore estimate plausible levels of impact to which CGIAR, with partners, contribute. They do not estimate CGIAR’s attributable share of the different impact pathways.


        Header photo: Three-year old Rosita holds a cabbage seedling to be planted in a nursery in Situ Gunung, Indonesia. Photo by R. Martin/CIFOR.