Frequently Asked Questions

What does CoSAI mean by “Sustainable Agriculture Intensification” (SAI)?

“Sustainable Agriculture Intensification” (SAI) is a term with many definitions and past controversies. CoSAI has a broad vision of the term SAI, that goes well beyond the narrow concept of ‘producing more food with less environmental damage’. For CoSAI, SAI refers to the transformative changes in agriculture and food systems that are urgently required to meet rapidly-increasing global needs for affordable, nutritious, safe and healthy food, while protecting and improving the natural environment and promoting resilient livelihoods and social equity.

CoSAI's own focus is on agricultural systems rather than the whole of food systems. SAI should promote, or at minimum not cause harm to, the following objectives, consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goals:

  • Increased availability and broad access to affordable, safe and nutritious food; [SDG2]
  • Improved productivity and efficiency of resource use, with reduced pollution, loss and waste [SDG12]
  • Improved natural environment, including climate action and promotion of One Health;  [SDG15, SDG13, SDG3]
  • Reduced poverty and increased resilience of livelihoods [SDG1, SDG8
  • Improved social equity, including reduced gender inequality and social exclusion [SDG10]

What does CoSAI mean by “innovation”?

CoSAI uses the FAO definition of agricultural innovation:

Agricultural innovation is the process whereby individuals or organizations bring new or existing products, processes or ways of organization into use for the first time in a specific context in order to increase effectiveness, competitiveness, resilience to shocks or environmental sustainability and thereby contribute to food security and nutrition, economic development or sustainable natural resource management

CoSAI will investigate and promote innovation for SAI in four main areas: 

  • Policy
  • Social institutions
  • Finance
  • Science and technology

Why is CoSAI commissioning studies?

CoSAI has commissioned four major studies to build evidence in areas where there are critical gaps. The studies will support CoSAI’s advocacy for:

  • A big boost to investment in innovation for SAI. Two CoSAI-supported studies will provide evidence on the current global investment in agricultural innovation and calculate the global investment gap.    
  • Better-targeted investment in innovation for SAI. Some important areas of investment will be highlighted by forthcoming CoSAI meetings and briefings, drawing on a range of sources. CoSAI is also working with partners to develop principles and metrics that will help innovators and investors ensure that important aspects of SAI are considered during the innovation process.
  • Better-managed investment in innovation for SAI. One CoSAI study is reviewing how different instruments and approaches to innovation can help or hinder achieving SAI in different contexts. Another is learning from past SAI innovations in Brazil, India and Kenya to understand what makes successful innovation pathways.

Learn more about our studies and other CoSAI activities. 

Why is innovation in SAI so important at this time?

It is widely agreed that food systems are off track. How can the Global South strengthen agricultural systems and accelerate agricultural production to deliver broad access to affordable, safe, and nutritious foods, while at the same time protecting and improving natural ecosystems, and reducing poverty and inequality? Current technology, policies, institutions, and financial instruments are not up to the job.  Investment in innovation is critical.    

Ensuring investment in innovation to meet different objectives is a huge challenge – especially in many parts of the Global South, where demand for food is rising quickly and resources are limited. Investing in innovation in policy, institutions, and financial instruments, as well as science and technology, is a crucial way forward. 

Why should my organization partner with CoSAI?

The evidence CoSAI is developing can support organizations (public and private) make decisions around investment in innovation that supports sustainable agriculture intensification. Much of this evidence, such as the Principles and Metrics will be supporting the development of tools that can be used as the investment is being considered and also during the implementation of the investment – improving the likely impact of the investment across the multiple dimensions of SAI.   

How much is spent on innovation in agricultural systems in the Global South?

Based on CoSAI's Investment in Innovation Study, carried out by Dalberg Asia, every year USD 60 billion is spent on innovation in agriculture. The majority of this funding (roughly 85%) is coming from governments and the private sector. Development partners, although being catalytic in this space, only contribute 10% to the funding total. It should be noted that Chinese investments skew the government funding figures as they contribute roughly 30% to the total USD 60 billion funding pool.

Looking at these investments in innovation from a sustainable agricultural innovation perspective, only 7% include explicit environmental objectives, and only half of this 7% contain explicit social objectives. This is alarming considering the urgent transformation required of our food systems for feeding a growing population in an equitable manner that remains within the confines of planetary boundaries. These figures highlight the urgency for investments in innovation to reorient to include environmental and social objectives. Read the full study here.

What is the investment gap?

CoSAI's Investment Gap Study models a missing 15.2 billion p.a. in required investments in innovation to contribute to three global goals, namely reducing the risk of hunger (SDG2), contributing to agriculture's commitments in the Paris Climate Agreement, and reducing agricultural water use.

The modelled USD 15.2 billion annual funding gap per year, if funnelled into agricultural research and development, scaling climate-smart technologies, and water modernisation, could:

  • Reduce the risk of hunger in all regions to 5%, except in sub-Saharan Africa, where the risk of hunger would be halved to 12%.
  •  Reduce greenhouse gas emissions to put agriculture on track to achieving its Paris Climate Agreement commitments. It should be noted that in order to achieve agriculture's commitments, land-use change would need to be halted; and this investment, although slowing land-use change, does not completely halt it. 
  • Reduce agricultural water use by 10%. 

It should be noted that this study is one among many modelled funding gaps with varying funding objectives and contributes to the suite of information highlighting the need for increased investment in innovation. Read the full report here.