Simone D. McCourtie / World Bank

Working Together to Realize Agriculture’s Potential in Achieving SDGs 1 and 2

If you think seriously about what it will take to achieve SDGs 1 and 2*, you quickly realize that it needs an immense, focused and coordinated effort on the part of many people and organizations over the next decade.  You will also see that agriculture – and the way we manage it – plays a key role.  That’s exactly why a group of senior staff members from major international public sector agencies dealing with agricultural development have started a joint initiative (JI).  The JI is intended to develop a common understanding and coordinated approach to managing investments in agricultural research and rural development to meet SDGs 1 and 2. 

This JI started from informal contacts between people working in the Rome-Based Agencies (RBAs), including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS) team, talking about how their organizations were responding to SDGs 1 and 2 and realizing there was much to be gained from coordinating efforts.   This initial spark has broadened into an initiative that also involves the European Commission (EC) and other partners.  The ISPC role has been to provide technical inputs to the initiative and facilitate participation from other parts of the CGIAR system.

The first activity of the JI was an expert consultation held at FAO headquarters in Rome in January 2017.  The consultation brought together around 100 researchers, development experts, donors, and representatives of agricultural organizations to discuss what we already know about how agricultural research and investments can, and have, led to reductions in poverty and hunger.  The discussion indicated that we've had greater success reducing poverty than hunger over recent years – and we can’t assume that success in one will automatically lead to success in the other.   We do have considerable evidence that agriculture and rural development have played an important role in reducing both poverty and hunger – but not always in the ways we expected.  For example, productivity increases in staple crops might not be the best way to reduce poverty, but rather actions to stabilize incomes or improve access to value chains could be more effective.

One of the big issues that emerged from the discussion was the need for a concise and updated mapping of the evidence on the relationship between investments in agricultural research and development and reductions in poverty and hunger – including potential tradeoffs between SDGs 1 and 2.   How we can better utilize the information and knowledge we already have in hand – including data – to inform policy-making was another major concern.   The need for a country-level pilot of coordination of agricultural research and development activities was raised as an important step to move from conceptual discussions to on the ground outcomes among the participating agencies.  And finally, pretty much everyone agreed that we needed to keep having informed discussions and debates about the role of agricultural research and rural investments in meeting the two SDGs.

Over 2017 the JI has moved forward to address the issues raised by developing four main activity areas:

  • Mapping the evidence base of the impact of investments in agricultural and rural development on SDG 1 & 2 and identifying gaps;
  • Developing pilots of coordinated action from research to development for two countries: Tanzania an Ethiopia;
  • Holding an annual expert consultation to revisit, update and expand our joint knowledge; and
  • Establishing a joint research facility/fund.   

Members of the CGIAR community, from the System Management Office (SMO) to CGIAR Research Proposal (CRP) and Center scientists are getting involved in various aspects of these activities.  What does the CGIAR stand to gain from this initiative?  One important benefit is better coordination of research activities with agricultural development agencies at a system level.  There are already considerable interactions between CGIAR and development agencies: FAO has contracted a total of $12.5 million to CGIAR Centers for technical services since 2015 alone.  Enhancing these linkages and ensuring they fit into commonly shared strategies to achieve SDGs 1 and 2 can enhance the effectiveness of CGIAR in delivering development outcomes.   Greater coordination in data collection and analysis across agencies will enhance the value and use of CGIAR data.  Other potential benefits include strengthening linkages between research and development activities at country level and the potential for funding through a facility aligned with CGIAR System objectives.

Further information about the JI and any of the activities can be obtained from the JI Coordinator – Federica Alfani (

* SDG1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere   SDG2:  End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

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