Stories tagged: IFPRI

Mark Rosegrant: What is the Role of Agricultural Technologies for Global Food Security?

A wealth of technologies is now at our disposal for boosting yields of the world’s key staple crops, in order to face the large demands on our food supplies by 2050. But how can we measure which ones will be most effective, when, and where? Which combinations of technologies will have the largest impact? Until now, policymakers have struggled to make informed decisions on how to boost productivity in their regions in the most sustainable way.

The book “Food Security in A World of Natural Resource Scarcity: The Role of Agricultural Technologies” launched today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks to answer these questions. This ground breaking study divides the world’s arable land into a grid of 60 kilometre by 60 kilometre cells and shows how eleven different agricultural innovations might affect maize, wheat and rice yields by 2050 under climate change conditions. Through linking this yield assessment with a global economic model, the book also reports on technology impacts on food prices, trade and food security.


The report reviews 11 agricultural technologies ranging from traditional low-tech practices to more advanced technologies:

1.         No-till – minimum or no soil disturbance, often in combination with retention of residues, crop rotation, and use of cover crops

2.         Integrated soil fertility management – a combination of chemical fertilizers, crop residues, and manure/compost

3.         Precision agriculture – GPS-assisted delivery of agricultural inputs, as well as low-tech management practices that aim to control all field parameters, from input delivery to plant spacing to water level

4.         Organic agriculture – cultivation with exclusion of or strict limits on the use of manufactured fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, and genetically modified organisms

5.         Water harvesting – water channelled toward crop fields from macro- or micro-catchment systems, or via earth dams, ridges, or graded contours

6.         Drip irrigation – water applied as a small discharge directly around each plant or to the root zone, often using microtubing

7.         Sprinkler irrigation – water distributed under pressure through a pipe network and delivered to the crop via overhead sprinkler nozzles

8.         Heat tolerance – improved varieties allowing the plant to maintain yields at higher temperatures

9.         Drought tolerance – improved varieties allowing better yields due to enhanced soil moisture uptake capabilities and reduced vulnerability to water deficiency

10.       Nitrogen-use efficiency – plants that respond better to fertilizers

11.       Crop protection – the practice of managing pests, plant diseases, weeds, and other pest organisms that damage agricultural crops


The book finds that widespread adoption of these technologies can significantly reduce global hunger by 2050. The number of food-insecure people in developing countries in 2050 could be reduced by 12 percent if nitrogen use efficiency technologies were successfully developed and adopted, by 9 percent if no-till is adopted more aggressively and by 8 percent with widespread adoption of heat tolerance and precision agriculture.

The book also finds that the use of no-till on a global scale can increase biophysical maize and wheat yields by about 30 percent, with small variations depending on climate change scenario. On a regional scale, it could increase maize yields in Sub-Saharan Africa by more than 30 percent in rain-fed environments and more than 100 percent in irrigated environments.

On a global scale, biophysical yield impacts for crop protection products for disease, insects and weeds are close to 10 percent each across the three crops; and will constitute an important tool to address likely growing pest pressures under both intensification and climate change.

Irrigation water savings on fields under drip irrigation are 24 to 27 percent, depending on crop and climate change scenario, much higher than water savings for sprinkler irrigation systems calculated at 11 to 12 percent.


Agricultural technology impacts differ substantially by region and within regions by country. For example, when the impact of drought tolerance is tested globally, it seems to have a low impact, as drought only affects some regions in some seasons and years. Yet at the right time in the right region, impacts can be significant. Detailed drought yield assessment in the United States and China, two of the world’s largest maize producers shows yield benefits of up to 13 percent for this technology and crop.

Given that the study generated vast datasets on these technologies and crops for all countries in the world under varying climate change scenarios, an online tool has been developed to allow policymakers and researchers hands-on access to the results.


Combining multiple technologies (or ‘stacking’ them) can have an even greater impact. Adopting the three types of crop protection (weed, disease and insects) together could reduce the number of food-insecure people by close to 9 percent.

Moreover, if all technologies with positive yield impacts were adopted together for these three crops, prices of maize, wheat and rice could be reduced by 49 percent, 45 percent and 43 percent, respectively. This is equivalent to reducing the number of people at risk of hunger by 40 percent.

This first of its kind study can truly equip decision makers to take action now to secure a sustainable food supply for a healthy planet in 2050.

Find out more by visiting

Food Security in a World of Growing Natural Resource Scarcity

IFPRI roundtable discussion: “Investing in Strengthening the Resilience of Smallholder Farmers”

On October 21, 2013, IFPRI will host a roundtable discussion on “Investing in Strengthening the Resilience of Smallholder Farmers” as a lead-in event for the 2020 Policy Consultation on Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security. Panelists include:

  • Tom Arnold, Special Representative for Hunger, Concern Worldwide
  • Shenggen Fan, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute
  • Kathy Spahn, President & CEO, Helen Keller International

The speakers will share their experiences and insights on helping smallholder farmers anticipate, prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks, and suggest ways in which policies and investments can help strengthen their resilience.

Join the roundtable discussion by visiting here:

Averting Food Crisis: Improving Smallholder Agriculture

Global food prices have returned to the spotlight in recent weeks, owing to the devastating drought in the United States that has caused crop prices to climb. The global food price index produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) rose by 6 percent to 213 points in July, causing concern that we could be heading towards another crisis similar to that of 2007/8 that pushed 44 million people into poverty.

But what can be done to prevent this from happening? An immediate reaction from producer countries may well be to impose export bans, to protect food availability in their own countries. Director-General of the International Food Policy Research Institute, Shengenn Fan, warns against this. In a recent statement he said:

Countries must stay away from imposing export restrictions when food prices increase because they lead to tighter market conditions and panic purchases by food-importing countries, thereby exacerbating food price hikes.

The production of biofuels has also fallen under scrutiny, with FAO Director-General Jose Graziano Da Silva speaking out in the Financial Times last week. Currently, about 40 percent of total maize production in the United States is used to produce ethanol. The US Department of Agriculture’s forecast for maize production is at its lowest level since 2006/07, sparking debate as to whether the mandates in the US and EU should be relaxed in times of food shortage. Da Silva commented:

While the current situation is precarious and could deteriorate further if unfavourable weather conditions persist, it is not a crisis yet. Countries and the UN are better equipped than in 2007-08 to face high food prices, with the introduction of its Agricultural Market Information System, which promotes co-ordination of policy responses. Risks are high and the wrong responses to the current situation could create it. It is vitally important that any unilateral policy reactions from countries, whether importers or exporters, do not further destabilise the situation.

When food prices rise sharply, it is those in the developing world, who spend a large percentage of their income on food that suffer most. The following infographic, produced by the World Food Programme demonstrates varying income expenditure on food, and what happens when the poor are forced to spend more on food: they are left with barely any income for health, education and shelter.

It is therefore critical we avert another food crisis, and research shows we have it within our power to do this. Vulnerable families in the developing world need not rely on industrial powerhouses such as the United States for their crops, they could be self-reliant, and produce enough food not only to feed themselves, but their continent.  As Marianne Bänziger, Deputy Director-General at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) recently commented:

There are many developing countries where productivity could be increased to reduce overreliance on imports and benefit rural poor and development in those countries at large. The potential for improvement is enormous. Providing farmers with knowhow and improved agronomy, seed, and storage methods can produce dramatic effects both for individual families, entire countries, and the globe as a whole.

To enable smallholder farmers to rise to this challenge, it is imperative that we invest in the infrastructure necessary in rural areas, and improve access to stress-tolerant seeds and fertilizer. Weather-based index crop insurance mechanisms that protect farmers from adverse climatic events, and extension services that train farmers in agroforestry, crop diversity and smart irrigation, can all play critically important roles in creating a resilient new crop of farmers that will stave off hunger for future generations.


Economy-wide Framework for African Agriculture

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has released a new book, Strategies and Priorities for African Agriculture Economywide Perspectives from Country Studies. It explains the unique ability of agriculture to achieve pro-poor growth in Africa by linking poor individuals to crop and livestock production in order to achieve desired results in poverty reduction and agricultural development. It explores agriculture as a platform for simultaneous growth and poverty reduction, and ends with some key remaining challenges that Africa faces when setting the above premise into practice.

The book is a collection of research results from 20 IFPRI colleagues and contributors. It provides evidence to inform the design of African development strategies and to address the ongoing debate on the role of African agriculture. Analysis is based on ten country case studies which reflect the diversity of agroecological conditions and development challenges facing low-income Africa.

The majority of Africa’s poor population is heavily dependent on farming. Poverty is still concentrated in rural areas, whilst the agricultural sector accounts for a large share of national income and employment. Agricultural development is therefore central in development strategies to reduce poverty and hunger on the continent. From a global perspective, African agriculture has fallen further behind that of other developing regions, despite a rapid growth period beginning in the year 2000, and continued to widen the rural-urban divide in Africa.

The book provides an economy-wide modeling framework that captures the linkages between sectoral and national economic growth on the one hand, and spatial and household level poverty on the other. It uses this framework to identify crops and sectors that have the greatest potential to generate pro-poor growth.

Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia represent the ten case studies. The chosen countries are archetypal examples of the continent because of their respective agricultural production, poverty rates, and other variables that will help to realistically predict the steps forward for Africa.

The case studies were developed using a typology of African countries designed to capture four dimensions of the role of agriculture in development: the first two relate to natural resources and geographical factors, and the second two relate to agriculture’s situation in the broader economy and its relationship to poverty reduction. The ten countries selected cover Africa’s three regions: five in eastern Africa, three in southern Africa, and two from Western Africa. They also account for fifty-seven percent of low-income Africa’s total population in 2005. The book uses these case study countries to reflect general trends in Africa during the 2000s and the diversity of growth and poverty-reduction performances.

Results from the case studies suggest that, in general, agriculture cannot be excluded

from the current development model. The case studies show how even fairly modest improvements in currently low yields can greatly accelerate agricultural growth. As agriculture generates between 20 and 50 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in low-income African countries, faster agricultural growth will foster additional growth at the national level, including in nonagriculture.

Findings also point to export agriculture having high growth potential, which is expected to become a prominent part of agricultural strategies. Broad-based growth will be difficult to achieve without expanding staple food crop production and livestock production, given they have the scale and linkages to poor households needed to reduce national poverty. The case studies also confirm the need for increased investment in African agriculture, however the efficiency of these investment will have to increase if development targets are to remain attainable.

Lead editor, Xinshen Diao, comments:

“This is the first book to put agriculture into an economywide framework and to analyze the potential contributions of different agricultural growth options to broad economic growth and poverty reduction for African countries.”

You can read the book online here.



Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index Launches

Women's-empowerment-in-agriculture-indexAn innovative new tool for measuring levels of empowerment amongst rural women was launched yesterday, to coincide with the 56th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI) was developed in collaboration by The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) andOxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative at Oxford University.

Women play a vital role in agriculture and account for over 40% of the global agricultural workforce, yet they face many restrictions, such as lack of access to inputs, land rights and credit. This new index seeks to measure the empowerment of women in the agriculture sector, to therefore identify ways to overcome the constraints women face. Given that gender equality is the third Millennium Development Goal and there is a growing need for tools to measure the impact of funding programmes, the WEAI is a useful new tool in understanding the gender empowerment gap in agriculture and therefore, tackling it.

How does it work?

The index is composed of two sub-indexes:

1) Five Domains of empowerment (5DE)

This sub-index shows the degree to which women are empowered in their households and communities, assessing the women in five different domains:

  • Production: Sole or joint decisionmaking over food and cash-crop farming, livestock, and fisheries as well as autonomy in agricultural production
  • Resources: Ownership, access to, and decisionmaking power over productive resources such as land, livestock, agricultural equipment, consumer durables, and credit
  • Income: Sole or joint control over income and expenditures
  • Leadership: Membership in economic or social groups and comfort in speaking in public
  • Time: Allocation of time to productive and domestic tasks and satisfaction with the available time for leisure activities

2) Gender Parity Index (GPI)

This sub-index shows the degree of inequality between men and women of the same household. To achieve this, both a principal male and principal female of a household (who are not necessarily married) were interviewed.


Click here to view a Case Study from Guatemala

What has it shown so far?

In 2011, pilot surveys were conducted in Bangladesh, Guatemala and Uganda, covering over 1,000 households. In all three regions, women’s empowerment in agriculture according to the WEAI came under 40%. Uganda had the highest score, with 37.3% of women in the five regions examined qualifying as empowered. In southwestern Bangladesh, the percentage of empowered women according to the WEAI was 31.9% and in the Western highlands of Guatemala, only 22.8% of women ranked as empowered.

Results found by the index reveal the need to invest in the empowerment of women. The report comments:

Evidence has shown that equalising access to assets and opportunities for men and women helps achieve better development outcomes – such as better health and nutrition for women and their families, greater investments in education for children and poverty reduction.”

Click here to read the full brochure and several case studies

Improving Nutrition and Health Through Agriculture

IFPRI-Reshaping-agriculture-for-nutrition-and-healthThe International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has launched a new book entitled “Reshaping agriculture for nutrition and health”. Originally the policy briefs for the conference “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health,” facilitated by IFRPI’s 2020 Vision Initiative in India one year ago, this book compiles revised edits from leading experts, practitioners and policymakers on the links among agriculture, nutrition, and health.

Much of the rhetoric around agriculture centres on production – the need to increase yield and output. This book reinforces the need to recognise agriculture’s deeper purpose – to grow healthy well-nourished people.

One of farmers’ most important tasks is to produce food of sufficient quantity (that is, enough calories) and quality (with the vitamins and minerals needed by the human body) to feed all of the planet’s people sustainably so they can lead healthy, productive lives. This is effectively one of the goals of agriculture, although it is rarely made explicit.

In order to meet this goal, the book argues that the agriculture, nutrition and health sectors should work together, yet they are currently working in isolation. They examine how much more agriculture could do to improve human well-being if it included specific policies, actions and interventions to achieve health and nutrition goals; what kinds of changes would maximize agriculture’s contribution to human health and nutrition; and how could human health and nutrition contribute to a productive and sustainable agricultural system.

Several areas are explored by the various authors, including: the specific roles played by economic and agricultural growth, innovations in crop science and food supply chains, the health of agricultural labourers, agriculture associated diseases, women’s place at the intersection of the three sectors in question and the challenges of advocacy and policymaking.

To read the full document “Reshaping agriculture for nutrition and health”, click here.