CoSAI Blogs

4 + 6.5 + 4.7 = 15.2: is that all it will take?

By Uma Lele (CoSAI) and Mark W. Rosegrant (IFPRI)

A new report from the Commission on Sustainable Agriculture Intensification (CoSAI) and Transforming Agricultural Innovation for People, Nature and Climate campaign, undertaken by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), shows that investing USD 15.2 billion more in innovation will bring food, climate and water goals into reach. Read the full blog here.

Paying for Nature and Society: Innovation in Financial Incentives for a Sustainable and Inclusive Transition in Agriculture

By Josefina Achaval-Torre, CoSAI Secretariat

Can financial incentives change the agricultural landscape to enable more sustainable and equitable food systems? What are the financial incentives that have worked thus far, and have the potential to be scaled up in the Global South? Through significant innovation, new examples are emerging that enable the transformation of agricultural systems to contribute to reducing the risk exposure of lenders. However, there is still limited evidence on instruments that work with farmers to support adoption of improved practices and concurrently support positive environmental and social outcomes in sustainable agriculture intensification (SAI). Read the full blog here


By Rasheed Sulaiman V, Director, Centre for Research on Innovation and Science Policy (CRISP), India; CoSAI Commissioner

As the need for new approaches to sustainable agriculture increases, agroecological approaches have gained prominence in scientific, agricultural and political discourse. One way to encourage the adoption of agroecology is with Extension and Advisory Services (EAS). However, EAS are not designed to support farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices like agroecology, which need the development of local solutions, horizontal learning and community action. There are a number of challenges to be overcome, but by proactively developing pathways for embracing agroecology, EAS can be an important part of the solution to address agricultural sustainability. Read the full blog here.

New CoSAI study exposes scale of under-investment in innovation for sustainable agriculture

By P.V. Vara Prasad, Distinguished Professor of Crop Ecophysiology, and Director of Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, Kansas State University; CoSAI Commissioner

A new study, executed by Dalberg Asia and commissioned by CoSAI, reveals that only 4.5% of the Global South’s total agricultural output is spent on agricultural innovation – equating to USD 50–70 billion per year. This groundbreaking study focused on who is investing in innovation for the Global South; where it is being used; how they are using it; and how much of it promotes the multiple domains of productivity, economic, environmental, social and human benefits that derive from sustainable agriculture intensification. Read the full blog here.


By Dr Maurício Lopes, Senior Researcher, Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa); CoSAI Commissioner

Brazil is a large country spanning several climatic zones. Its bountiful supplies of fresh water, abundant solar radiation and rich biodiversity have enabled it to become one of the world’s largest producers of food, feed, fibers and renewable fuels. But it is not these natural endowments alone that put Brazil decisively on this pathway: it is also the country’s advanced capacity in technology development, put to use over decades. Now, that same capacity is being directed towards a sustainable future. Charting new ‘sustainable agricultural pathways’ will revitalize Brazil’s landscape and serve as a model for countries facing similar challenges across the planet’s tropical belt. Read the full blog here.


By Alice Ruhweza, Regional Director for Africa, WWF;  Former CoSAI Commissioner

From farm to table, almost every transaction in the food value chain has wide ranging impacts on nature and the environment. Food systems across Africa are leading to invasion and degradation of forests, savannahs and wetlands, as well as polluting water, “mining” soils and producing greenhouse gases (GHGs) in ever-increasing amounts. Total arable land in use in Sub-Saharan Africa has increased from 133 million hectares four decades ago to 240 million hectares in 2020. By 2050, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that this could increase to 291 million hectares. Read the full blog here

Sustainable agricultural intensification to feed the cities and grow Africa

By David Simon, CoSAI Commissioner

In Africa, as elsewhere, people are increasingly living in urban areas –up to 1 billion people could live in African towns and cities by 2040. Just 20 years ago, Africa’s population was around 75% rural. This means that considering future food security scenarios must take a food systems approach that integrates, rather than separates, rural and urban populations. Consider that of the 9% of the world's population currently classed as undernourished, almost 20% are in Africa. These numbers do not yet include the global estimates of 100 million people expected to be driven into extreme poverty by COVID-19 in the coming months. Read the full blog here.

An urgent task: we must innovate to sustainably intensify the Global South’s agricultural systems

By Ruben Echeverría, CoSAI Chair

These challenging times are forcing us to rethink the prominent paradigms that govern our lives, from how we work to how we shop in this “new normal”. As other sectors scramble to keep people healthy and keep children in school, the food sector faces a daunting challenge: ensuring that the 7.8 billion people in the world have access to food. Read the full blog here.

What We're Reading

Going local?   Two recent publications come to radically different conclusions about local food production for local needs. The first one (Bello 2020) is a passionate plea for food sovereignty – moving away from global food supply chains to local, small-scale production in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. The second paper (Kinnunen et al. 2020) models the numbers and concludes that “local food crop production can fulfil demand for less than one third of the global population… Although yield gap closure and food loss reductions could favour more local food systems, particularly in Africa and Asia, global supply chains would still be needed to ensure an adequate and stable food supply”. 

What are the global priorities for agriculture R&D?   A new paper by Cassman and Grassini (2020) argues that the looming global food shortage and the long timeline needed for most R&D means that global research priorities must be set "with a ruthless focus on the dual objectives of achieving large increases in yields on existing farmland coupled with substantial improvement in environmental performance".  They discuss different scenarios, assumptions and objectives and state that "As we see it, the most likely scenario is that the global food system in 2050 becomes increasingly globalized and trade-dependent due to the demographic weight of urbanization, which is expected to rise from 55% of global population today to nearly 70% by 2050".