AgriLAC Resilient, new research initiative with an innovative and transformative approach to sustainable food systems in the region

On Wednesday, August 25th, a High-Level meeting of One CGIAR for Latin America and the Caribbean was held virtually to present the portfolio of CGIAR initiatives for strengthening agri-food systems in the region; highlighting AgriLAC Resiliente as the regional integrated initiative that will carry out tailored research to respond to regional challenges and jointly scale impacts with its partners.

To contextualize participants, the current reform of the CGIAR was addressed, which seeks to improve the global research alliance and contribute to the sustainable transformation of agri-food systems and face the global challenges of the 21st century such as climate change and food security.

The new CGIAR will have a regional structure to enhance its effectiveness and to better address priorities, needs, and demands that take place in Latin America and the Caribbean; it will also take into account the strengths of the region and its contributions to designing better responses to the challenges faced around agri-food systems, as said by Jesús Quintana, Managing Director for the Americas of the Bioversity International Alliance and the Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), a member organization of the CGIAR.

He added that Latin America and the Caribbean possess the largest reserve of arable land on the planet, 30% of renewable water, 46% of tropical forests, and 30% of biodiversity, which represents an enormous contribution to the global supply of food and other ecosystem services on the planet.

“These contributions, goods and services are threatened by climate change, the deterioration of the environment, and a non-competitive unsustainable agriculture model, thus increasing the vulnerability and malnutrition of the most unfavored sectors of the region. Therefore, in order to meet the new objectives, the renewed CGIAR structure is designing a new roadmap as part of its 2030 research-innovation strategy. The new strategy will be supported by a network of committed and represented governments a dynamic private sector, a committed and capable civil society, and of course, our regional and international donors and partners who have supported and collaborated with us for many years”.

Martin Kropff, CGIAR Global Director of Resilient Agri-Food Systems, said that the new CGIAR global agenda is based on 33 new initiatives divided into three large units: genetic innovation, resilient agri-food systems, and systemic transformation.

“Resilient agri-food systems include all the work of agriculture, agronomy and crop production at a commercial level, but also livestock and fishing. With these global initiatives; we are looking for a new approach, we already have an example of this, like MasAgro in Mexico, which has already been operating for ten years, and another in Asia, where we are working with the three levels of innovation based on genetics, better crop management, better livestock management, better fishing management and of course, with governance. As it has always been indicated, we cannot get anywhere if we do not combine these three axes”.

He highlighted the importance of regional integrated initiatives and listed the five impact areas that will be monitored globally and in the region: nutrition and health; poverty reduction, livelihoods, and job creation; gender equality, youth and social inclusion; climate adaptation and mitigation; and environmental health and biodiversity.

“This is not just talking and dreaming, but an example of what can be done. In Mexico, we have reached 500 thousand producers who have had a great impact on the corn and wheat systems, but we want to go further, the methodologies have already been developed, they already exist, we are going to improve them, many relate to diversification cultivation systems, but growth will take place little by little, we must increase sustainability in using and producing basic products, otherwise, we will not have space for a greater variety of crops on our soils ”added Kropff.

During the meeting, the Regional Integrated Initiative, AgriLAC Resiliente, was presented to stakeholders from the public and private sectors, regional and international organizations, and partners of the CGIAR network of centers in LAC. AgriLAC will address key challenges for the region, combining and scaling efforts with the other 16 CGIAR initiatives present in the region, as well as with national plans of the governments involved and international organizations.

Bram Govaerts, Managing Director a.i. of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), an organization that is also part of CGIAR, said that the initiative seeks to strengthen agri-food innovation systems at different scales to increase resilience, ecosystem services, and competitiveness of the agri-food systems so that they are better equipped to address the most pressing needs of food and nutrition security, climate crisis and migration.

Also being co-leader of AgriLAC Resiliente, he added that LAC's agricultural research and innovation systems are decisive for developing and deploying socio-technical innovations that can contribute to addressing the region's main challenges. In this context, he mentioned that the AgriLAC Resilience initiative will seek to impact the following pillars: environmental sustainability and preservation of biodiversity; socioeconomic development, income, employment and poverty alleviation; increase in diet-related health problems and exacerbation of root inequality problems.

Govaerts emphasized on the importance of building stable, resilient, and sustainable agri-food systems that contribute to eradicating hunger, preserving the environment, producing more with less, and rebuilding a social fabric to consolidate agriculture for peace.

Deissy Martínez Barón, leader of AgriLAC Resiliente and Regional Director for Latin America of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), commented that the idea of the initiative is that the collaborative research connects with different networks of partners and allies with whom they have collaborated for several decades in the region to use the research generated in the CGIAR for achieving the desired impact and contribute to the challenges mentioned, such as climate change and climate variability.

She added that the five components of research across AgriLAC Resilience’s agri-food systems are:

1) Climate and nutrition, which seeks to utilize collaborative innovations for nutritious and climate-resilient agri-food systems.

2) Digital agriculture through the use of digital and inclusive tools for the creation of actionable knowledge.

3) Competitiveness with low emissions, focused on agroecosystems, landscapes, and value chains that are low in sustainable emissions.

4) Innovation and scaling with the Innova-Hubs network for agri-food innovations and their scaling.

5) Science for making timely decisions and establishing policies, institutions, and investments for resilient, competitive and low-emission agri-food systems.

All these components will be boosted by the global initiatives present in the region. The initiative's focus is to work at all levels to strengthen the agri-food innovation system through collaborative science, effective scaling, and comprehensive impact.

“To implement this approach, we are going to initially focus on four Central American countries -Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador- which are the ones with the greatest challenges on climate variability, socio-economic growth and development, having great potential to innovate and generate knowledge. Meanwhile Mexico, Colombia and Peru will be considered as staggering countries that have great potential for developing innovation and with the ability to scale the innovations that are generated in Central America and to implement them in their countries for generating impact”, commented Deissy Martínez Barón.

Finally, she pointed out the goals set by AgriLAC Resiliente for 2024:

• That local and national research institutions are better equipped with diversified technologies and digital tools for agroclimatic advice and options to improve diets.

• That unions, NGOs, and extension services carry out technical assistance provided by digital media to reduce climate risks, anticipate actions, and intensify sustainable production.

• That stakeholders of the agri-food systems integrate strategies to reduce emissions, increase productivity and monitor the different international commitments that countries have at the global level.

• It is expected that stakeholders of the innovation systems have jointly established Innova-hubs to adapt, adopt and scale productive strategies that are climate-resilient, low-in-emissions, and nutritious in various agro-ecological zones.

• Help national governments to formulate and implement transformative, sustainable, resilient, and inclusive agrifood policies to inform, through science, the redistribution of investments with a gender perspective.

As part of the process of designing the portfolio of research initiatives of the One CGIAR, a series of consultation and validation conversations will now follow with key actors in the region to provide feedback on what is proposed in AgriLAC Resilience and identify various ways of joining efforts to enhance the contribution of this initiative to the great regional challenges hand in hand with all our allies.

* All initiatives are currently in the proposal development stage and will be presented to the System Council for approval of the CGIAR.