Rethinking Food Markets


In recent decades, agricultural productivity has steadily grown and technological and institutional innovations have proliferated within agrifood markets and value chains, helping to reduce poverty and food insecurity around the world. But despite these critical contributions, the ways in which food markets are structured and operate have negative impacts. Much of the rural population employed within the agrifood sector remains poor and food- and nutrition-insecure, and evidence suggests that at least 3 billion people globally cannot afford nutritious diets. These populations have been unable to benefit from expanding food markets.  

In addition, the sector’s overuse and misuse of natural resources has also degraded the environment and exacerbated the climate crisis and biodiversity loss. Many of these failures are rooted in markets hindered by multiple deficiencies in infrastructure, equipment and standards; incentives that do not foster sustainability, nutrition or inclusiveness; concentrated market power; and weak value chain integration. 


This Initiative aims to provide evidence on what types of bundled innovations, incentive structures and policies are most effective for creating more equitable sharing of income and employment opportunities in growing food markets, while reducing the food sector’s environmental footprint. 


This objective will be accomplished through:

  • Piloting and scaling of bundled innovations on inclusive business models for improved vertical coordination and fair trade and product quality certification in globally integrated value chains to improve income opportunities for farmers and agrifood small and medium enterprises (SMEs), and lower barriers to participation for women and youth in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras and Uzbekistan. 
  • Piloting and scaling of bundled innovations for improved storage and logistics, inclusive value chain contracting and product quality certification in domestic markets for high-value and nutrient-rich foods, aiming to improve income and employment opportunities for farmers and workers in agrifood SMEs, reduce food loss and environmental footprints in Bangladesh, Nigeria, Uganda, Guatemala and Honduras. 
  • Innovating and designing policies to develop cross-valuechain services that leverage new employment and income opportunities by testing the potential for digital innovations delivering financial and logistics services to generate better opportunities and employment in the agrifood sector, particularly for women and youth, in Bangladesh, Nigeria and Uganda. 
  • Promoting knowledge tools for policy coherence and market reform to enable evidence-based policy and public and private investment decisions that help create inclusive and sustainable food value chains and markets. 


This Initiative will work in several countries globally.


Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

    1. At least 15,000 people in households of farmers, the self-employed and workers in agrifood sectors (at least 45% women and 20% youth) benefit from piloted innovations in global value chains in three geographies. 
    2. At least 15,000 people in households of farmers, the self-employed and workers in agrifood sectors (at least 45% women and 20% youth) benefit from piloted innovations in domestic market value chains in three geographies. 
    3. Pilot innovations on digital technologies for a) logistics and b) finance benefit at least 4,000 agrifood small- and medium-sized enterprise workers. in Bangladesh, Nigeria and Uganda. At least 45% of the pilot beneficiaries are women and 20% youth. 
    4. Policymakers in six geographies change policies to enable scaling of innovations adopted by 10,000 smallholder farms and agrifood SMEs. 


          Projected impacts and benefits include:



          Market access for smallholders and agrifood SMEs is improved, raising income and increasing employment opportunities, especially for the many poor people whose livelihoods depend on small-scale agrifood activities, assisting 3.5 million people to exit poverty. 


          Inclusive value-chain integration increases the prospect of a decent living for 1.6 million women and 0.7 million youth by creating new, off-farm job and income opportunities. Promoting skills development, entrepreneurship and access to sustainable and digital technologies, and addressing structural and normative barriers to participation through gender-transformative approaches bundled with innovations, help close existing gaps in opportunities and empower women and youth. 


          Income improvements for the poor from integrated and inclusive value chains generate commensurate improvements in food security, assisting 3.5 million people to meet their minimum dietary energy requirements. Socio-technical innovations in value chains for nutrition-rich foods also improve the availability and affordability of healthy diets for all.


          Testing and scaling of cost-effective and productivity-enhancing innovations contributes to climate adaptation and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, including an averted 150 kilotonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, along value chains and provides evidence on how food market incentives can be reset to promote the diffusion of such investments and innovations. 


          A deeper understanding of the trade-offs between market efficiencies, income generation and environmental outcomes for environmentally sustainable land, water and energy use and production practices in turn furthers understanding of the evidence and tools needed to support public and private sector agents to redirect policies and investments in support of conservation of biodiversity and environmental health.


          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: A roadside fruit and vegetable market in Matunga, Mumbai, India. Photo by IITA.