One CGIAR and the Integrated Agri-food Systems Initiative: From short-termism to transformation of the world's food systems

PLoS One. 2021 Jun 4;16(6):e0252832. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0252832. eCollection 2021.


Agri-food systems are besieged by malnutrition, yield gaps, and climate vulnerability, but integrated, research-based responses in public policy, agricultural, value chains, and finance are constrained by short-termism and zero sum thinking. As they respond to current and emerging agri-food system challenges, decision makers need new tools that steer toward multi-sector, evidence-based collaboration. To support national agri-food system policy processes, the Integrated Agri-food System Initiative (IASI) methodology was developed and validated through case studies in Mexico and Colombia. This holistic, multi-sector methodology builds on diverse existing data resources and leverages situation analysis, modeled predictions, and scenarios to synchronize public and private action at the national level toward sustainable, equitable, and inclusive agri-food systems. Culminating in collectively agreed strategies and multi-partner tactical plans, the IASI methodology enabled a multi-level systems approach by mobilizing design thinking to foster mindset shifts and stakeholder consensus on sustainable and scalable innovations that respond to real-time dynamics in complex agri-food systems. To build capacity for these types of integrated, context-specific approaches, greater investment is needed in supportive international institutions that function as trusted in-region 'innovation brokers.' This paper calls for a structured global network to advance adaptation and evolution of essential tools like the IASI methodology in support of the One CGIAR mandate and in service of positive agri-food systems transformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Climate Change*
  • Food*
  • Investments
  • Public Policy

Grants and funding

This work was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Mexican Government through SADER in the frame of MasAgro, Crops for Mexico. The project is part of the CGIAR Research Program on Maize (MAIZE) and Wheat (WHEAT), which is generously supported by W1&W2 donors, including the Governments of Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, India, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, U.K., U.S., and the World Bank. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of the donors mentioned previously. The funder provided support in the form of salaries for authors BG, CN, TCCV, XCS, ADE, SF, AG, GG, RGS, VK, VLS, GML, SO, NPR, JR-V, JVL, DV, NV, LW, but did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the ‘author contributions’ section.