CGIAR Priority Interventions to Accelerate Uptake of Research to Rebuild and Strengthen Africa’s Agriculture in the Face of Climate Change

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  • Better alignment to the needs and priorities of African countries;

  • Demand-driven partnerships;

  • Using digital tools to disseminate and scale out research knowledge and technologies to increase agriculture production while taking care of the environment;

  • Providing science-based evidence for decision making to increase farmers’ resilience to climate change and addressing youth unemployment.

These are among the priority interventions of CGIAR — a world leader in agricultural science and innovation for development — for Africa, which will contribute to transforming food, land, and water systems, resulting in improved nutrition, livelihoods, and environmental sustainability in the face of climate change.

These priorities, which are spelt out in CGIAR’s new 2030 Research and Innovation Strategy, were shared with participants of AGRF 2021 by various leaders of CGIAR at a side-event at the forum.

The mission of CGIAR, which has been undergoing an unprecedented  transformation to unify its Research Centers’ knowledge, assets, and people, to work and deliver as one, is to help the continent realize agriculture’s potential to transform food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis, said Claudia Sadoff, Executive Management Team Convener, and Managing Director, Research Delivery and Impact, CGIAR.

“CGIAR will continue to work through dynamic partnerships with diverse actors to scale out knowledge, technologies, and innovations generated from over fifty years of research, to deliver more diverse, healthy, safe, sufficient, and affordable diets, improved livelihoods, and greater social equality, within planetary and regional environmental boundaries,” said Claudia Sadoff.

CGIAR’s Regional Director for Central and West Asia, and North Africa, and Director General of the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), Aly Abousabaa, in spelling out the needs and priorities of the region, said that CGIAR will focus on diversifying food systems, improving dryland biodiversity and genetic resources, and supporting sustainable and equitable intensification of farming systems to increase the profitability of local and regional value chains.

“We will focus on promoting wide-scale adoption of our technologies by digitalizing research to address climate, drought, and heat risks. We will also stress sustainable water and landscape management and promote sustainable energy,” said Abousabaa.

In West and Central Africa, CGIAR is focusing on the development and deployment of climate-resilient and nutritious crop varieties and animal breeds; establishing seed systems; smart institutional arrangements to improve farmers’ access to improved varieties; and investments in digital advisories and early warning systems related to weather, plant health and markets, among others.

“CGIAR will invest in technologies for improved agro-processing and increased food safety as well as investing in the circular bioeconomy,” said Nteranya Sanginga, CGIAR Regional Director, West and Central Africa, and Director General, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA).

According to CGIAR Regional Director for East and Southern Africa, and Director General of AfricaRice, Harold Roy-Macauley, CGIAR will align its research and development agenda to the region’s needs and priorities, and focus on the formation of collaborative partnerships, to deliver climate information services and climate-smart sustainable intensification technologies.

“We will work with a range of diverse partners to scale, across the region, climate-smart technologies and practices; strengthen capacity of value chain actors, and work with policymakers to develop and enact appropriate policies to facilitate the process,” Roy-Macauley said.

Addressing youth unemployment and gender empowerment were stressed upon by all the Regional Directors. CGIAR will prioritize developing employment and entrepreneurship models for youth and women including providing business support and technical assistance. Providing science-based evidence to support policy makers and institutional innovations was another cross-cutting issue.

The side-event also engaged other stakeholders involved in the agricultural transformation process, to provide feedback and help identify priority research areas/actions for CGIAR, that will create more sustainable and resilient food systems in the face of climate change, and to make recommendations on how CGIAR can better work with various actors.

One of the panel speakers, Martin Fregene, Director of Agriculture and Agro-Industry, African Development Bank (AfDB), stressed the importance of research and innovations to address current challenges facing the continent in relation to climate change and COVID-19.

“There can be no progress without innovation; therefore, research and development are fundamental. At AfDB, we work very closely with CGIAR to scale out the best technologies and solutions generated by science and research,” he said.

Emma Naluyima, a veterinarian and smallholder farmer in Uganda, as well as Africa Food Prize 2019 Laureate, welcomed CGIAR’s new way of working and delivering, with most farmers integrating their farming, keeping livestock and growing crops.

“In the past we had to consult each CGIAR Center individually, but if they all work as one, they will be able to better address the challenges we face as farmers,” she said. “We will also like to see increased efforts to ensure that innovations and technologies from research reach farmers.”

Wrapping up the session, Juan-Lucas Restrepo, Global Director, Partnerships and Advocacy, at CGIAR and Director General, Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), stressed the importance of collaborating with CGIAR traditional partners, National Agriculture Research and Extension Systems (NARES), and national governments, to create innovations that are demand-driven and adapted to the local context.

CGIAR’s strategy will deliver through its recently launched new research and innovation portfolio to transform food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis in three Action Areas: Systems Transformation, Resilient Agrifood Systems, and Genetic Innovation.

The Initiatives in the portfolio have been designed to make real, lasting, and positive impacts across the following five SDG-focused Impact Areas:

  1. Nutrition, Health, and Food Security;
  2. Poverty Reduction, Livelihoods, and Jobs;
  3. Gender Equality, Youth, and Social Inclusion;
  4. Climate Adaptation and Mitigation;
  5. Environmental Health and Biodiversity.

Photo by Milo Mitchell/IFPRI.

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