Food systems worldwide are falling far short of sustainability goals. Not only do they leave a global total of 820 million people undernourished, they also worsen social inequities and  at every stage from food production to consumption  contribute to biodiversity loss, water pollution and natural resource depletion. Moreover, food systems account for about a third of global greenhouse gas emissions. 

A redesign of food systems is urgently needed to achieve ecological, economic and social sustainability. Agroecology is gaining prominence as key to this radical shift. Evidence demonstrates how agroecological approaches can contribute to the development of sustainable, resilient agriculture and food systems.  

However, despite many appropriate agroecological solutions at farm level, mechanisms for scaling them to broader food, land and water systems are limited. Barriers include: a) insufficient evidence on what innovations work where, when and why for widespread implementation; b) insufficient integration of capacities and resources; c) lack of, or misaligned, policies, institutions and governance; and d) lack of financial mechanisms.  


This Initiative aims to develop and scale agroecological innovations with small-scale farmers and other agricultural and food system actors across different socio-ecological contexts in seven low- and middle-income countries. 


    In territories referred to as “Agroecological Living Landscapes,” the Initiative will engage with diverse stakeholders, including farmers’ associations or communities, researchers from multiple disciplines, private companies, international and national NGOs and local, regional, and national policymakers.  

    The objective will be achieved through food actors: 

    • Co-creating agroecological innovations (practices, business models and institutional arrangements) and assessing which work best, where, why, and for whom. 
    • Identifying business opportunities and financial mechanisms for local enterprises to deal with agroecological innovations. 
    • Determining the most suitable policies and mechanisms of policy integration for promoting effective and sustainable agroecological transitions. 
    • Developing strategies and action plans that encourage and support sustainable behavior change oriented to agroecological principles and transitions. 


      This Initiative will work in the following countries: Burkina Faso, India, Kenya, Laos, Peru, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.


      Proposed 3-year outcomes include:

        1. At least 250 national and international researchers collaborate with food system actors (comprising at least 7,000 male and female small-scale farmers, 70 policymakers and 35 private-sector businesses) in an international network of Agroecological Living Landscapes that promote integration of research and innovation processes to facilitate co-design and testing of context-specific agroecological innovations and broader learning of the biophysical and socio-economic conditions required for agroecological transitions.
        2. Researchers, policymakers, communities, investors, farmers and other food sector actors use knowledge gained from past or new science-based assessments, implemented in all the living landscapes, to implement at least seven agroecological innovations that are sustainable and enhance resilience. 
        3. Investors, private sector, NGOs, and farmers participate equitably in partnerships to co-develop at least seven business models, linking agroecological innovations to markets and investment. They co-design or adapt at least seven financial mechanisms that support agroecological innovations.
        4. National and regional policymakers and sectoral organization representatives co-develop and promote recommendations to strengthen the horizontal (across sectors) and vertical (across scales) policy integration required to mainstream agroecological principles in at least four countries.  
        5. Local organizations and authorities co-develop, strengthen or adjust local institutions and governance mechanisms to better support agroecological transitions in at least four countries.  
        6. Scientists, funders, policymakers, business partners and civil society actors re-orient or adjust at least seven strategies and action plans based on knowledge gained from scientific studies underpinning behavioral change mechanisms and capacities of farmers, business partners and consumers to implement agroecological transformation.


                  Projected impacts and benefits include:



                  Biodiversity and diverse farming practices are supported, and the use of environmentally harmful inputs limited, saving about 4 km3 in consumptive water use, averting 6,000 hectares of deforestation and bringing 300,000 hectares of land under improved management. 


                  Evidence indicates that agroecological practices can have positive outcomes on food security and nutrition in households in low- and middle-income countries, through e.g. greater production diversity and reduced use of harmful agrochemicals, as well as increased accessibility to, and consumption of, diverse foods, benefiting about 8 million people. 


                  Increased farmer profitability and strengthened non-financial components of livelihood capital through promotion of diversified markets and green jobs, and support for diverse forms of small-scale food production, benefit more than 2 million people. 


                  Evidence to address food system inequities and the inequitable processes and policies that create them, and an improved understanding of how different aspects of marginalization interact in different contexts, create opportunities to empower women and youth, as well as marginalized groups, in decision-making processes, benefiting more than 4 million women and 1 million youth. 


                  Climate resilience increases, both through application of agroecological principles and by strengthening social aspects through co-creation and sharing of knowledge in Agroecological Living Labs. An expanded evidence base on the role of agroecology in climate change mitigation and adaptation in land and food systems across diverse contexts, averts an equivalent 5 million tons in CO2 emissions. 


                  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: Nepali farmer Sita Kumari walks in her field. Photo by C. de Bode/CGIAR.


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