Press release by Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).

Investments in agricultural research can help UN climate negotiators and other funders achieve multiple development imperatives simultaneously. A shortlist of ten agricultural innovations have already been identified for scaling up, with early successes being celebrated by the UN in prestigious award

As the UN climate talks play out over the next two weeks, the CGIAR System Organization is showcasing a range of agricultural solutions that require urgent funding to be scaled up to help farmers adapt to climate change, reduce the sector’s greenhouse gas emissions and support resilient crop productivity across the developing world.

“Increased financing can help drive drastic cuts in the environmental footprint of the food system from reduced climate emissions and land degradation to lowered water and land pollution to avoided food waste,” says Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). “There are huge opportunities for more evidence based decisions and even ‘win-win’ efficiency gains focusing on precision agriculture.”

Recent research conducted by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) has identified ten existing agricultural innovations with the potential to transform agriculture around the world in all of these ways, including:

  • Micro-irrigation powered by solar, which could benefit around 185 million African farmers and generate net revenues of $22 billion per year.
  • Stress-tolerant crop varieties. For instance, a drought-tolerant maize hybrid has yielded 40 per cent more than existing commercial varieties under severe drought conditions.
  • Weather index-based agricultural insurance, which helps manage climate risks, improves household food security and empowers women in decision-making
  • Climate-informed advisories, for instance by reaching rural people though radio or mobile phones with seasonal forecasts

The full list of agricultural innovations can be viewed at:


One such initiative led by CCAFS and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) has recently received the United Nations Momentum for Change Climate Solutions Award for their work on climate services in Latin America. The CIAT-CCAFS project has developed tools and applications to collect, analyze, and deliver information to farmers that help them access climate and crop management information.

“This is a huge honor, and we’re delighted to have won,” said project co-leader Julian Ramirez, Climate Impacts Scientist for CIAT and CCAFS. “As a result of our work, we’ve seen a fundamental change — a transformation, in the way farmer organizations plan their businesses. More than anything, this award is proof of the hard work of our partners and our CIAT team of 30-plus researchers in making sustainable and effective climate services a reality for thousands of farmers.”

CGIAR is uniquely placed to catalyze and shape a global transformation of the food system – through its plant breeding work, its global network of genebanks, and improved farm practices such as integrated crop/livestock/forest systems, management of soil carbon, precision application of fertilizers and energy-efficient machinery

For example, CGIAR’s 750,000 plant varieties in 35 genebank collections represent as much as 94% of all the materials shared across borders within the multilateral system of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and also house a sizeable collection of crop wild relatives, recognized as one of the most important resources available to plant breeders in the fight against climate change.

And yet these current technologies and intensification will only achieve 21-40% of the necessary mitigation target required of the agricultural sector. “The existing plausible agricultural development interventions we can use to deliver on mitigation targets are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg,” says Lini Wollenberg, Flagship Leader for Low Emissions Development at CCAFS. “More transformative technical and policy options will be needed, such as methane inhibitors and finance for new practices.”

“Our food system is on the wrong trajectory,” says Elwyn Grainger-Jones, Executive Director of the CGIAR System Organization. “Most of the world’s population eats too little, too much or the wrong type of food – and at an unsustainable cost to human health and the environment.”

With the right amount and type of investments, however, agricultural research can help increase the availability of critical minerals and vitamins in staple grains to enhance nutrition at scale and support thriving, equitable and job-creating rural economies.

Toward this end, CGIAR’s portfolio of research programs is tasked with reducing by 150 million the number of people suffering from hunger in developing nations, 100 million fewer poor people (at least 50% of whom are women), and 190 million hectares of less degraded land.

“Health, and increasingly security, of the world depends on a food system simultaneously capable of delivering sufficient, nutritious food while minimizing its environmental footprint,” says Grainger-Jones.

Agriculture, forestry and other land uses represent 24 per cent of total greenhouse emissions, but a key sector to target in terms of potential emissions reductions. In fact, research has calculated that the world will not be able to keep within its 2°C climate target unless the agricultural sector reduces its annual emissions by one gigatonne by 2030. This represents a reduction of approximately one-seventh its carbon footprint versus baseline figures.

Photo: Great Lakes Bioenergy  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)