We review evidence on the impacts of CGIAR research published since 2000 in order to provide insights into how successful the CGIAR Centers have been in pursuing the System’s core missions. Our review suggests that the CGIAR research contributions in crop genetic improvement, pest management, natural resources management, and policy research have, in the aggregate, yielded strongly positive impacts relative to investment, and appear likely to continue doing so.
Crop genetic improvement stands out as having had the most profound documented positive impacts. Substantial evidence exists that other research areas within the CGIAR have had large beneficial impacts although often locally and nationally rather than internationally. However, the “right-time, right-place” nature of successful policy research and the relatively limited geographic scale of much natural resource management research often limits the overall scale of impacts of these programmatic thrusts vis-à-vis genetic improvement research.
We conclude that given the evidence available, the CGIAR’s portfolio of research allocations has become overly skewed toward natural resource management and policy research over time. Hence, restoring somewhat the share of resources allocated to crop genetic improvement is warranted. In addition, the CGIAR needs to prioritize impact assessment of resource management and policy research to deepen its understanding of the social and environmental impacts of its work.