CGIAR Research Pays Off: New Report Finds 10 Times Return on Investment

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Investments in CGIAR research generate returns of 10 times the amount invested, a new report has found. The report, commissioned by the Supporters of Agricultural Research (SoAR) Foundation, found a 10 to 1 benefit-cost ratio on CGIAR investments of $60 billion in present value terms over almost five decades.

Titled The Payoff to Investing in CGIAR Research, the report was co-authored by Julian M. Alston at the University of California, Davis; Philip G. Pardey at the University of Minnesota; and Xudong Rao at North Dakota State University.

The researchers found that not only did CGIAR research deliver high returns, but that the organization was uniquely positioned to benefit smallholder farmers and protect food systems through embedded partnerships in low-income countries. They noted that additional investments in CGIAR can be expected to perform exceptionally well, and urged accelerated funding for CGIAR to meet the world’s goals on ending poverty and hunger.

“This work by esteemed economists exemplifies the continued need for increased investment in agricultural research across the globe,” said Thomas Grumbly, president of SoAR. “Farmers everywhere need new innovations to be able to adapt to the effects of climate change, while still feeding their communities and the world.”

In some cases, CGIAR’s return on investment could be more than double the overall estimate, the report notes. The 10-to-1 estimate reflects the median value of return on investment, whereas the mean in calculations came closer to 25 to 1.

Despite the high rate of return, international agricultural research including that conducted by CGIAR — remains severely underfunded. This poses threats to food, economic and environmental security, and risks worsening poverty and hunger globally.

The challenge of achieving the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is at risk. After decades of progress, global hunger and malnutrition are again on the rise. Increased cost of food, extreme weather events due to climate change, and now the global COVID-19 pandemic have brought the world further from its goal of ending hunger by 2030.

The highest rates of hunger are occurring in areas where the majority of people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods, often as smallholder farmers. Strengthening smallholder agriculture will be essential to protect food systems globally, the report finds.

International research and development focused on food, land and water systems, and conducted in close collaboration with local partners, equips smallholders with innovations that can help increase their income, feed and nourish their communities, and protect the natural environment, while adapting to climate change.

Yet recent findings from the Ceres2030 international research consortium show that studies related to smallholders make up a minority of agricultural research publications – with CGIAR research as a notable outlier.

CGIAR’s work to improve crop and breed varieties, advise on farming management practices, provide policy recommendations and other innovations resulting from research, has made significant contributions to reducing hunger and malnutrition globally, while delivering economic benefits to the world’s most vulnerable.

Its partnerships in low-income countries, including with governments, universities, farmers and the private sector, are a considerable asset in the development, distribution and scaling up of its impactful agricultural innovations.

Recognising the increasing urgency of its mandate, CGIAR brings together its capabilities, knowledge, assets, people and global presence, aiming for greater integration in the face of the interdependent challenges facing today’s world. As One CGIAR in a unified system, it is pursuing a revised mission to “end hunger through science and innovation to advance food, land, and water system transformation in a climate crisis”, focusing its efforts on the five key impact areas of nutrition, poverty, gender, climate, and environment.

The SoAR report urges accelerated and increased funding to make this work possible, and to assist the world in achieving its goals to end hunger and achieve the ambition of the SDGs.


Download the SoAR Report


Header photo: Members of a women’s group in Nigeria deposit money into a shared savings box. Photo by C. De Bode/CGIAR.

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