CGIAR Research Programs and natural resource management

Bernard Vanlauwe,, Alpha Kamara, Stefan Hauser, and Piet Van Asten

Figure 1. Relationships between Humidtropics and other CRPs.
Figure 1. Relationships between Humidtropics and other CRPs.

Over the past few years, the CGIAR system has been engaged in a substantial, research-led restructuring of its research agenda through the creation of the CGIAR Research Programs (CRP), supported by a Consortium Office, a Fund for international agricultural research, an Independent Science and Partnership Council, and an Independent Evaluation Arrangement. A total of seven CRPs are now active with several having a crop-specific focus, others a farming system focus, and others addressing themes related to natural resource management (NRM) or the creation of an enabling environment for the uptake of improved options. IITA is leading the Humidtropics CRP and contributing significantly to the CRPs on Water, Land, and Ecosystems (WLE) and the Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS), all of these having significant NRM components. This article highlights these components in the context of the overall CGIAR research framework and the specific contributions of IITA towards the success of these CRPs.

The humid tropics is home to 2.9 billion of the world’s poorest people. It is the part of the world with the biggest gap between its ecological and economic potential and human welfare. The Humidtropics CRP aims to realize more of that potential to improve the livelihoods of the majority of the population and protect their environment and natural resources from the usual rapid degradation when used for agriculture or forest (timber) exploitation. Humidtropics seeks intensification pathways and critical points of intervention to design superior crop, livestock, fallow, and perennial (tree) production systems along with improved soil, water, and vegetation management practices, and the identification of investment strategies for sustainable natural resource base management.

Interventions will increase overall farm and system productivity and income while improving the natural resource base, particularly soil quality. Humidtropics will strategically select critical entry points that foster more diverse system components to generate more equitable agricultural growth in which rural communities move beyond commodities, reduce their risks, sustainably manage their natural resources, and effectively reduce rural poverty.

Women farmers are one of the target beneficiaries of the integrated research and development programs that aim to help boost agricultural productivity in the humid tropics. Photo by IITA
Women farmers are one of the target beneficiaries of the integrated research and development programs that aim to help boost agricultural productivity in the humid tropics. Photo by IITA

Humidtropics is led by IITA in partnership with the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), International Potato Center (CIP), Bioversity International, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), The World Vegetable Center (AVRDC), and Wageningen University. It will operate in various action areas in Africa, Latin America, and Asia with the Western Humid Lowland and the East and Central African Highland Action Areas led by IITA. Humidtropics is a systems research program that covers all lowland humid and subhumid ecologies (between dry land and aquatic), draws on research in commodity CRPs, and integrates technologies and forecasting ability from the CRPs on Policies and Markets, Nutrition and Health, Water and Land, and Climate Change (see diagram).

Water, Land, and Ecosystems (WLE)
The global population in 2050 will be about 9 billion, with most of the increase between now and then taking place in developing countries. To feed the world in 2050 and beyond, we need to intensify agricultural production. Many observers believe that intensification will cause unacceptable harm to the environment, perhaps undercutting the ecosystems that support agriculture. WLE challenges this perspective and examines how we can intensify agriculture while protecting the environment and lifting millions of farm families out of poverty.

To achieve the vision of sustainable intensification, we must redouble our efforts to increase agricultural productivity, while protecting the environment, and we must conduct new and integrative research on agricultural and ecosystem interactions. Consequently the objective of WLE is to learn how to intensify farming activities, expand agricultural areas and restore degraded lands, while using natural resources wisely and minimizing harmful impacts on supporting ecosystems.

Within the broad topic of WLE, we have identified five strategic research portfolios (SRPs): Irrigated Systems, Rainfed Systems, Resource Reuse and Recovery, River Basins, and Information Systems. The Rainfed Systems SRP, to which IITA is contributing, targets 80% of the world’s farmland that is largely rainfed. Although many farmers in rainfed areas capture and store water for use as supplemental irrigation, millions more entirely depend on rainfall. In many areas, increasing populations have placed substantial pressure on rainfed cropland and on the land and water resources used by livestock. As a result, the land and water resources in many areas are degraded and unproductive. WLE researchers will determine ways to restore degraded resources using multifunctional landscape management approaches, and will develop integrated soil and water management techniques.

In pastoral systems, extensive land degradation and the loss of access to water and land resources threaten the livelihoods of millions of pastoralists, leading to conflicts in some areas. WLE researchers will determine the changes in land and water management and the complementary policies needed to support pastoral livelihoods. The Rainfed System SRP currently works around five problem sets: (1) Recapitalizing African soils and reducing land degradation; (2) Revitalizing productivity on responsive soils; (3) Increasing agricultural production while enhancing biodiversity; (4) Enhancing availability and access to water and land for pastoralists; and (5) Reducing risk by providing farmers with supplemental irrigation.

Figure 2. Suitability maps for Arabica coffee were developed jointly with DAPA team at CIAT with data from national partners across the East African region.
Figure 2. Suitability maps for Arabica coffee were developed jointly with DAPA team at CIAT with data from national partners across the East African region.

Climate Change, Agriculture, and Food Security (CCAFS)
Climate change is an immediate and unprecedented threat to the livelihoods and food security of hundreds of millions of people who depend on small-scale agriculture. To overcome these threats, the CGIAR and Earth System Science Partnership have united through CCAFS, a strategic ten-year partnership. Farmers, policymakers, donors, and other stakeholders are strongly involved to integrate end-user knowledge and needs. Synergies and tradeoffs between climate change, agriculture, and food security are studied to promote more adaptable and resilient agriculture and food systems. CCAFS is structured around four thematic research areas: (Theme 1) Adaptation to Progressive Climate Change, (Theme 2) Adaptation through Managing Climate Risk, (Theme 3) Pro-poor Climate Change Mitigation, and (Theme 4) Integration for Decision Making. Place-based research is focused on five regions: East Africa, West Africa, South Asia, Latin America, and Southeast Asia.

IITA is one of the 15 CGIAR centers involved and it particularly contributes to research on:
•    Theme 1 on crop G × E interactions. The major focus is on the IITA crops cassava, maize, soybean, yam, cowpea, and banana, but with other crops in the system being investigated as well, including horticultural crops and tree crops such as coffee and cocoa.
•    Theme 2 on plant health × climate change: IITA has a strong plant health team that is currently exploring the relationship between climate variables and major pest and disease threats, with the same crop focus as listed under G × E.
•    Theme 3 on analyzing trade-offs and synergies in climate change adaptation and mitigation in perennial-based crop systems in the humid tropics: The research focuses particularly on coffee and cocoa-based systems (see page 44 in this issue).
•    Theme 4 on communicating the results of the trade-off and carbon-footprinting analysis to the stakeholders, in particular policymakers, certification bodies, and the private sector.

Installation of an erosion control trial, Sud-Kivu, DR Congo. Photo by IITA
Installation of an erosion control trial, Sud-Kivu, DR Congo. Photo by IITA

The future of NRM
Most CRPs have moved into an implementation phase and all facilitating structures have been put in place, which is probably the most exciting change in the way of doing business within the CGIAR since its inception. From the foregoing summary, the crucial role of IITA as a whole and the NRM research areas more specifically is clear, especially for the African continent. Although IITA may have lost some of its NRM capacity over the past decade, as shown in some of the articles in this publication, much NRM innovation, strategic thinking, and practical solution development is still happening at IITA and will only be strengthened over the coming decade with the renewed investment of IITA in NRM.