Harnessing Digital Technologies for Timely Decision-Making Across Food, Land and Water Systems


Digital technologies have the potential to transform food, land and water systems for greater climate resilience and sustainability. There are three challenge areas that CGIAR’s expertise can help to address:

  1. The digital divide: The Global South — especially women and rural areas — are underserved by digital technologies and infrastructure. More than 600 million people live outside of mobile network coverage, 67% in sub-Saharan Africa. Enabling policies and investments are urgently needed.
  2. Inadequate information: Weak information systems prevent evidence-based policy responses, exacerbate poverty and slow economic growth. More than 300 million small-scale producers lack access to digital climate advisory services, and unmanaged risks hinder producers’ adoption of improved technologies.
  3. Limited digital capabilities: Digital literacy and skill levels across the Global South remain low, particularly for marginalized and food-insecure individuals and groups, such as women. Research, codesign and capacity strengthening are needed to channel new evidence to decision-makers, tailor digital advisory content and support better risk management.


This Initiative aims to support sustainable and inclusive transformation of food, land and water systems by bridging the gender and urban-rural digital divide, improving equitable access to and quality of available information and systems, and strengthening local capabilities to best make use of the potential of digital technologies.


This objective will be achieved through:

  • Enabling environment for digital ecosystems, including policies, investment plans, frameworks, and innovation support systems, to strengthen local digital ecosystems and support the access of agrifood system actors to digital technologies and their management of climate and market risks.
  • Bridging the gender digital divide, by developing a suite of tools and guidelines to track digital inclusion and present options to strengthen the empowerment and resilience of marginalized women and girls.
  • System dynamics modeling for food, water, and land resource management: Building on system dynamics modeling with real-time data, the Initiative aims to complement natural resource management initiatives in the region with a next-generation decision support system.
  • Real-time monitoring of food systems for decisions to inform multiple stakeholders who make time-critical decisions to respond to variation and shocks.
  • Enabling digital platforms and services for research and development practitioners, facilitating user-specific, appropriate delivery of administrative and private data for the inclusive benefit of the public, and for more effective evidence-based decision making in food-water-land systems in a climate crisis.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

  1. The digital agrifood ecosystem is strengthened through more than 5 policies, investments and partnerships supporting inclusive innovations.
  2. Digital agrifood start-ups are engaged in more than 10 triangular cooperative partnerships to benefit women, youth and vulnerable groups.
  3. At least 10 digital agrifood services improve the gender-responsiveness of their content and services, reaching 100% more users, among whom women and youth represent more than 40%.
  4. Natural resource management organizations improve early warning systems and disseminate reliable, actionable information to 100% more people.
  5. Pilots utilizing real-time data benefit more than 1,000 food-water-land system actors to increase productivity and profitability, manage risks, reduce food waste and consume healthier diets.
  6. At least 1,000 agrifood system actors participate in digital capability strengthening programs enabling women, youth and vulnerable groups to manage climate risks.
  7. At least 10 agrifood research-for-development organizations boost institutional digital capabilities to incorporate high-frequency data and underutilized datasets into decision-making.


Projected impacts and benefits include:


Improved early warning systems benefit 108,000 people at risk of flooding, avoiding at least 360 lives lost to floods. Food, land and water systems stakeholders access climate forecasts to better manage the risks, adopt climate-smart technologies and management practices and improve their climate adaptive capacity. Policymakers use intersectoral data and food, land and water systems status indicators to negotiate global climate agreements on the adaptation and mitigation planning.


Through the adoption of developed data, services and gender-responsive design tools, 6.08 million rural residents in food-production areas with climate hazards are using digital services by 2030, enabling them to detect risks early, make targeted interventions and monitor the effects in real-time to ensure a continued supply of nutritious food and safe water.


Strengthened digital ecosystems with timely, reliable food, land and water systems information allow 6.08 million people to better manage risks, optimize business decisions, create market opportunities, increase income and profitability and improve livelihoods. Digital extension services are strengthened to provide targeted, inclusive advisory information and scale to reach ten times more subscribers, creating more youth employment opportunities.


Bundles of data, services and gender-responsive design tools support innovators to improve the gender-responsiveness of their solutions to better serve the needs of at least 2.43 million women in food, land and water systems, doubling the share of women benefiting from digital advisory and financial services to 40%, from a baseline of 20%. Digital tools empower marginalized groups to voice concerns and influence governance.


Timely information on the state of food, land, and water systems and embedded biodiversity helps stakeholders assess their environmental impacts, such as infrastructure development (natural and built) impacts on surface water availability and deforestation, accounting for environmental costs. Publicizing this information incentivizes food system actors to adopt practices promoting environmental health and biodiversity on at least 8 million hectares.


For more details, view the Initiative proposal


Header photo: A field technician uses Rice Crop Manager, a software developed by IRRI, to get real-time recommendations on his plot. Photo by I. Serrano/IRRI.