New CGIAR Initiative on Sustainable Intensification of Mixed Farming Systems Launched

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This global research and development effort will help increase the productivity of mixed farming systems for more food, nutrition, and income security

The new CGIAR Initiative on Sustainable Intensification of Mixed Farming Systems (SI-MFS) was launched at an inception meeting held at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from May 31 to June 2, 2022.

The three-year SI-MFS Initiative is one of 32 new research and development Initiatives by CGIAR. It aims to provide equitable and gender-transformative approaches to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers who engage in mixed farming systems across six countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Laos PDR, Bangladesh, and Nepal.

Fred Kizito, the Initiative Lead, opened the workshop by laying the groundwork for a shared understanding of the Initiative among participants and clarifying the roles and responsibilities of partner/team members. He said this first face-to-face meeting would help the members get to know each other and bond and define priority activities and implementation plans for each work package and country of operation.

The CGIAR Initiatives are structured according to Work Packages (WPs) or activities. The SI-MFS has the following WPs, which are led by scientists from various CGIAR Centers:

  1. WP 1: Status, trends, and future dynamics of MFS;
  2. WP 2: Building methods and tools (M&T) for SI of MFS;
  3. WP 3: Participatory co-design of MFS with evidence-based, validated SI innovation packages;
  4. WP 4: Advancing and supporting scaling of innovations;
  5. WP 5: Capacity building for MFS design and analyses.

Namukolo Covic, ILRI Director General’s Representative in Ethiopia, challenged the Initiative partners to contribute to Ethiopia’s national development goals by “generating evidence that is well-positioned to inform policy and program decisions of not only government but also the diverse food systems actors who seek to promote better food security, nutrition, and health sustainably.”

She lauded the Initiative’s aim to provide equitable, transformative pathways for improved livelihoods of actors in mixed farming systems through sustainable intensification within target agro-ecologies. “This can be achieved by deploying locally viable socio-technical sustainable intensification innovation bundles that will maximize synergies and minimize tradeoffs between the systems’ biophysical and social components,” she said.

The work of the SI-MFS Initiative is predicated upon CGIAR innovations, tools, and approaches from various thematic specializations, including agronomy, livestock, aquaculture, soil, and water management, mechanization, gender, and socioeconomics. It will promote better food security, nutrition, and health sustainably by:

  • Improving productivity and zeroing in on hunger as measured by the proportion of undernourished;
  • Increasing production diversification and contributing to better diet quality by diversifying the food basket at the household level – from own production or from better access to the market as a result of improved livelihoods;
  • Offering opportunities for sustainable intensification and leveraging regenerative and agroecological principles for better soil health and minimizing the need for chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

According to Martin Kropff, Global Director, Resilient Agri-Food Systems, CGIAR, who also spoke at the event, SI-MFS will develop, adapt, and scale sustainable intensification options suitable to mixed farming systems with due regard to their diversity and multifunctional ability to integrate crop and livestock production. It will work closely with public and private sector actors at the field, farm, landscape, country, and regional levels.

The beneficiaries of the Initiative will include smallholder farmers and other value chain participants, national and international research institutions, policymakers, and other stakeholders.

Among its goals is to ensure that:

  1. Smallholder farmers use resource-efficient and climate-smart technologies and practices to enhance their livelihoods, environmental health, and biodiversity;
  2. Research and scaling organizations enhance their capabilities to develop and disseminate innovations;
  3. Smallholder farmers implement new practices that mitigate risks associated with extreme climate change and environmental conditions and achieve more resilient livelihoods;
  4. Women and youth are empowered to be more active in food, land, and water systems decision-making;
  5. National and local governments use the enhanced capacity to assess and apply research evidence and data in policymaking processes.

Participants fleshed out the details of the five WPs and agreed on priority activities for the countries, including cross-cutting requirements and implementation plans. They also discussed how each CGIAR Center will contribute to the WPs and country, and how all proposed activities interlink and contribute to SI-MFS outcomes.

This was followed by a structured fishbowl discussion featuring various participants that identified the links and collaboration opportunities between the SI-MFS Initiative and other CGIAR Initiatives and bilateral projects.

The Initiative Lead, Fred Kizito (Alliance of Bioversity and CIAT/IITA), and Co-Lead, Santiago Lopez-Ridaura (CIMMYT), then shared how the country, project leads, and teams can engage with the project team and detailed the way forward for implementing activities.

Dr. Chilot Yirga, Deputy Director-General of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research, closed the event and expressed the Ethiopian government’s commitment to the Initiative whose integrated technologies, he said, “would boost agricultural productivity and sustainable use of natural resources in the country.”

More than 60 project implementers, researchers, collaborative partners from national programs and advanced research institutions, private sector representatives, communicators and knowledge management experts, monitoring and evaluation specialists, and administrative and financial project support, attended the launch.


Media contact: Jonathan Odhong, Communication and Knowledge Sharing Coordinator, IITA:


CGIAR is a global research partnership for a food-secure future. CGIAR science is dedicated to transforming food, land, and water systems in a climate crisis. Its research is carried out by 13 CGIAR Centers/Alliances in close collaboration with hundreds of partners, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organizations, academia, development organizations and the private sector.

We would like to thank all Funders who support this research through their contributions to the CGIAR Trust Fund.

Header photo: A. Habtamu/ILRI.

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