Transforming Agricultural Innovation for People, Nature and Climate

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Launched by the Rt Hon Lord Goldsmith, UK Minister for Pacific and the Environment at FCDO and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) at the 2021 Climate Adaptation Summit and discussed at CFS 47, the Transforming Agricultural Innovation for People, Nature and Climate campaign aims to mobilize a global network of climate champions. Aligned with this campaign, CoSAI and its partners will influence global investment priorities and approaches to innovation in agricultural systems, and foster international agreement on principles and metrics for innovation in sustainable agricultural intensification and their uptake and use by funders and managers of research and innovation.

Presenting the latest evidence at CFS 47

Rescheduled from October 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Committee on World Food Security held the CFS 47 virtually during the second week of February 2021. CGIAR hosted an official CFS 47 side-event entitled Transforming Agricultural Innovation for People, Nature and Climate, where they presented the latest evidence on challenges and opportunities to scale approaches that enhance outcomes for people, nature and climate, and build on innovation and demand-driven solutions. The evidence presented was discussed by representatives of key stakeholder groups.  

The event was co-hosted by CGIAR, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and Thailand, together with partners the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). It aimed to contribute to enabling stakeholders to make commitments or pledges in support of a transformation of agricultural innovation systems as part of the engagement efforts for the United Nations Food Systems Summit and COP26

To fully transform the food system, we must support scaling regenerative production systems, traceable supply chains, and innovations that ensure robust, resilient ecosystems, thriving communities and climate justice.

- Joao Campari, Action Track 3 – Boost Nature Positive Production at Scale, UNFSS | Global Leader of Food Practice, WWF.

Outcomes from the CFS 47 Side-event

The side-event started with opening remarks from Kanayo F. Nwanze (CGIAR Special Representative to the UNFSS), who highlighted the need to achieve innovation in agricultural systems responding to end-users’ needs, through increased investment, improved coordination and meaningful partnerships.  

For that, the Transforming Agricultural Innovation for People, Nature and Climate campaign has been developed to unlock investments for sustainable agriculture, focusing on increased funding to support the goals: 

  • Increase investment in innovation as well as the research and development of climate-resilient, nature-positive technologies and practices 
  • Increase public investment in research that provides ‘end-to-end’ solutions that support the UN Sustainable Development Goals on climate and food 

  • Share and showcase new business models and examples of public-private partnerships that deliver climate-resilient and nature-positive outcomes that can be deployed on a large scale 

  • Share knowledge and build consensus on evidence-based approaches that support this transformation. 

Science and research are not focusing sufficiently on HOW to deliver! We know the 'what', but it is the HOW that should be the priority going forward. 

- Jyotsna (Jo) Puri, Director, Environment, Climate, Gender and Social Inclusion Division, IFAD.

Maria Helena Semedo (Deputy Director-General, FAO) also spoke of the importance of making agricultural food systems more resilient, sustainable and innovative in order to achieve food security. Rachel Glennerster (Chief Economist, FCDO) gave an opening presentation where she spoke of agriculture’s role in climate, food and nature-related challenges as an opportunity, if it is accompanied by incentives for farmers but also innovation. She encouraged others to support investments in innovation, especially for low-income countries. A rich panel discussion followed, drawing from evidence gaps and the best practice approaches that could potentially be implemented. 

For impact at scale, innovation should be directed at strategic areas/points, and researchers should see farmers as partners in solutioning rather than as "beneficiaries" of their outputs.

- Ishmael Sunga, CEO at the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions.

Highlights and take-aways

Joao Campari (UNFSS, WWF) joined the discussion focusing on the scaling of sustainable agricultural systems, with representation from farmers to rural and indigenous communities to international organizations, as a way to achieve a climate-smart future that enables food security. Jyotsna Puri (IFAD) placed the emphasis on focusing science and research on HOW to deliver the solutions necessary to scale sustainable agriculture and implement transformative interventions. Lessons learned on public-private partnerships were presented by Thanawat Tiensin (Thailand), calling for more trust-building and stating that, together with a mutual benefit for all stakeholders, it is crucial for success. Ishmael Sunga (SACAU) stated that innovation needs to target strategic areas, such as markets, policies and institutions; and more importantly, farmers are innovators in their own right and should be assisted and supported. 

We need global and regional organizations to work more closely for breaking silos and building on successful examples.

- Thanawat Tiensin, Chairperson of the Committee on World Food Security and Permanent Representative of Thailand to the FAO, IFAD, WFP.

Kundhavi Kadiresan (CGIAR) closed the side-event looking towards 2030, calling for a focus on smallholders, partnerships and collaboration to speed up and scale up innovations that benefit poor farmers. She emphasized how systemic change has never been more urgent, but 2021 is a milestone year for food systems and climate action.

Aligned with the Transforming Agricultural Innovation for People, Nature and Climate campaign, CoSAI is looking to develop partnerships that share a commitment to contributing to the SDGs through innovative approaches and investment that has an impact on agricultural systems. This partnership is envisioned to include knowledge sharing, event engagement and management, concrete case studies, and influencing strategies on models, among many other alternatives.

In case you missed the CFS 47 side-event, click here to watch in full.