Impact Area focus

Climate change

Climate change deep dive

Climate change is the most pressing challenge facing our world today. Smallholder farmers in the Global South with whom CGIAR works are some of the worst affected by climate change, and agriculture and agrifood systems also account for almost a third of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. CGIAR is committed to addressing this challenge through research and innovation. CGIAR’s three main objectives in this area are to:

  • Implement all National Adaptation Plans and Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement.
  • Equip 500 million small-scale producers to be more resilient to climate shocks.
  • Turn agriculture and forest systems into a net sink for carbon by 2050.

CGIAR’s Initiatives made progress towards these objectives in the first year of implementation by building on work done in the past decade.

CGIAR’s climate-relevant research in 2022

By Action Area and Initiative

Of the 3,364 results in 2022, 51.3% (1,726 results) were tagged as either climate-significant (climate = 1) or climate-principal (climate = 2). The Resilient Agrifood Systems (RAFS) Action Area reported the highest number of results with a climate tag of 1 or 2, followed by the Systems Transformation (ST) and Genetic Innovation (GI) Action Areas. Of these 1,726 results, 1,021 were knowledge products and “other” outputs (Figure 1).

In terms of Initiatives, the CGIAR Initiative on Accelerated Breeding under GI reported the highest number of climate-relevant knowledge products, followed by the CGIAR Initiative on Livestock and Climate (RAFS – Global Thematic Initiative), and the CGIAR Initiative on Climate Resilience (ST).

Figure 1. Climate significant and climate principal results reported for 2022. Source: CGIAR Results Dashboard
By region

In 2022, results with a climate change tag of significant or principal were predominantly reported in East and Southern Africa, South Asia, Central and West Asia and North Africa, and West and Central Africa. Some of these results have been incorporated into the development of key result stories:

Delivering with partners

Results with a climate change tag of significant or principal were delivered in partnership with national research organizations and universities, national governments, and private sector companies, among others.

Figure 2. Contributing partners to delivering results with a climate change tag of significant or principal. Source: CGIAR Results Dashboard

CGIAR’s climate change science rationale: a deep dive into 2022 outputs

Of the 1,726 results that were tagged as climate-significant or climate-principal, 400 knowledge products were tagged as climate principal. The majority of these were either reports (163; mostly non-peer reviewed) and journal articles (120; peer reviewed) – the remainder were other types of outputs, such as blogs, presentations and brochures.

Most of CGIAR’s climate-principal outputs fell into three categories, based on the objective of the output. These were:

  • Science for collating methodologies or innovating new methods to understand various aspects of climate change (135 outputs).
  • Science that provides solutions for adapting to, or helping to mitigate climate change (119).
  • Science for understanding the impacts of climate change on crops, livestock, trees, ecosystems, regions, and people (women, men and youth) (62 outputs).

In addition, there were 84 outputs that could not be classified under any of the three overarching categories as they related to themes such as the launch of Initiatives, and opinion pieces and blogs, which did not necessarily relate to scientific outputs.

CGIAR’s science on methods for measuring various aspects of climate change

An overwhelming majority of CGIAR outputs in 2022 were categorized as methods for looking at various aspects of climate change (135). This is understandable given this was the first year of implementation of Initiatives, and developing methodologies was a top priority for many. Figure 3 below provides an overview of the various types of methods used in the context of studying climate change.

Figure 3. CGIAR climate-related outputs that collate and innovate methods on various aspects of climate change.

Some illustrative examples of CGIAR’s science on methods in 2022 included:

  • Quantification of methane emitted by ruminants: A review of methods. Read here. 
  • A simplified approach for producing Tier 2 enteric-methane emission factors based on East African smallholder farm data. Read here.
  • The art of letting go: Transforming participatory research on adaptation practices among local livestock-keepers in East Africa in times of COVID-19. Read here.
  • In-season crop yield forecasting in Africa by coupling remote sensing and crop modeling: A systematic literature review. Read here. 
  • The potential of stable carbon isotope ratios and leaf temperature as proxies for drought stress in banana under field conditions. Read here.
  • Farmer-to-farmer field days for adaptation to climate change in livestock management: Lessons learnt and a guideline for implementation. Read here.

CGIAR science that provides mitigation and adaptation solutions

A total of 119 outputs from 2022 can be classified as “solutions” – which range from climate-resilient seeds and breeds, to technologies, institutions and policies that helped small-scale producers in adapting to climate change and reducing emissions from various sub-sectors such as livestock, fertilizers, and rice paddy cultivation. These solutions can be categorized as adaptation; mitigation; mitigation with adaptation co-benefits; policies and institutions; and finance solutions, as shown in Figure 4 below.


Figure 4. CGIAR climate-related outputs that are about climate solutions.

Below are some illustrative examples of science outputs that provide solutions for adapting to, or helping to mitigate climate change:

  • Silvopastoral systems for offsetting livestock emissions in the tropics: A case study of a dairy farm in Costa Rica. Read here.
  • Genomic regions associated with salinity stress tolerance in tropical maize (Zea Mays L.). Read here. 
  • Improving nitrogen use efficiency and reducing nitrogen surplus through best fertilizer nitrogen management in cereal production: the case of India and China. Read here. 
  • Climate change and seed system interventions impact on food security and incomes in East Africa. Read here. 
  • High-throughput phenotyping reveals differential transpiration behaviour within the banana wild relatives highlighting diversity in drought tolerance. Read here.
  • Full adoption of the most effective strategies to mitigate methane emissions by ruminants can help meet the 1.5°C target by 2030 but not 2050. Read here.
  • The political economy of reforming agricultural support policies. Read here.
  • Women’s resilience and participation in climate governance in the agri-food sector: A strategic review of public policies. Read here.

CGIAR science that contributed to understanding the impacts of climate change

In 2022, CGIAR science looked at the impacts of climate change on crops; livestock; human systems, including gendered impacts; and migration and natural systems, including impacts on forests, soils and extreme events and water (Figure 5).

Figure 5. CGIAR climate-related outputs that are about impacts of climate change on various systems.


Some illustrative examples of climate impact-oriented science include:

  • Monitoring extreme rainfall in Ghana. Read here 
  • Assessment of soil salinity changes under the climate change in the Khorezm Region, Uzbekistan. Read here.
  • Impact of historical climate variability on rice production in Mainland Southeast Asia across multiple scales. Read here. 
  • Climate change and land use change impacts on future availability of forage grass species for Ethiopian dairy systems. Read here.
  • Identifying climate–agriculture–gender inequality hotspots can help target investments and make women drivers of climate resilience. Read here. 
  • Vulnerability mapping of 100 priority tree species in Central Africa to guide conservation and restoration efforts. Read here.

Increasing CGIAR contributions to climate change goals

A little over half of CGIAR’s results were tagged as climate relevant (either significant or principal) in 2022, showing the increasing contribution of CGIAR science to tackling the most pressing crisis of our time. Of particular interest is the science in the solutions space, which covered a wide expanse – from climate resilient seeds and breeds, to ways of adapting to climate change and implementing mitigation solutions that have adaptation co-benefits – along with solutions in the arenas of finance, and policies and institutions, demonstrating that CGIAR science is well poised to tackle the complex problem of climate change by working in multiple solution spaces simultaneously.

Adapting to droughts: from impacts on food security to early warnings and seeds 

In 2022, CGIAR scientists worked on various aspects of droughts. In rural communities in Tunisia, Zaidi et al. (2022) demonstrated that climate change-induced droughts increased the risk of food insecurity. Effectiveness of adaptation measures depended on household characteristics like such as income, asset possession, access to services, adaptive capacity and social safety nets helped reduce food insecurity.  

Sleimi et al. (2022) and Montes (2022) developed early warning systems tools for droughts. Sleimi et al. (2022) developed a monitoring and forecasting system in Zambia using machine learning algorithm and created a multi-source drought index that could effectively track droughts. Montes (2022) developed seasonal drought forecasts for the Limpopo River Basin using climate data, the SPEI index, and machine learning to create probabilistic rainfall forecasts. These studies aimed to improve drought monitoring and decision making in vulnerable regions. 

Two studies documented the development of drought-tolerant varieties of wheat (Zakaria et al., 2022; Atiya et al., 2022). These findings contribute to the development of high-yielding drought-tolerant wheat varieties through marker-assisted selection. They also provide insights into defense gene expression timing and levels for the selection of resistant wheat genotypes. Several papers looked at drought tolerant maize (Sun et al., 2022; Zaidi et al., 2022; Menkir et al. 2022). One study documented genetic increases in drought tolerance and grain yield in maize populations built for drought tolerance. Another study used genomic analysis to identify regulatory hotspots that balance drought tolerance and yield. Phenotypic analysis of tropical maize revealed a diversity of root traits in which water uptake and transpiration efficiency play an important role. Yet another study documented successful development of hybrid maize that is resistant to drought and Striga infestation.

The majority of papers on drought-tolerant varieties were about rice (Singh et al., 2022; Khanna et al., 2022; Fonta et al., 2022; Venkateshwarlu et al., 2022; Badri et al., 2022; Khanna et al., 2022; Siangliw et al., 2022; Liao et al., 2022; Ćalić et al., 2022). These studies demonstrated several genetic gains, for example, showing advanced marker-assisted breeding of rice that combines drought resistance, blight and rice blast resistance, and improved yield while maintaining grain quality. Similarly, integrating genetic and environmental interactions and borrowing information from correlated environments improved predictive models in rice breeding. Deep-rooted phenotypes and rice-specific with root anatomical features were found to be drought resilient. Historical data from an IRRI drought rice breeding program showed genetic benefits for grain yield under different conditions, and a pool of 200 promising lines were identified for future breeding.


Header photo: Dry soil. Photo by N. Palmer/CIAT

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