CGIAR and its role in climate change, environment, and natural resource management

The CGIAR, funded by developing and industrialized country governments, foundations, and international and regional organizations, is a global partnership that unites organizations engaged in research for sustainable development. Its complex and unique architecture of partnerships has no equivalent in other international development organizations. Fifteen international research centres carry out CGIAR work in close collaboration with hundreds of national and regional research partners and institutes, civil society organizations, academia, and the private sector. CGIAR objectives include improving food production (by accelerating sustainable increases in productivity and production of healthy food by and for the poor) and creating a better environment (by conserving, enhancing, and using natural resources and biodiversity to improve livelihoods of the poor in response to climate change and other factors).

CGIAR operates within the context of promoting institutional and policy changes that can stimulate agricultural growth and equity to benefit the world’s rural poor. A recent restructuring of the CGIAR system added a new outcome, sustainable management of natural resources, to its three traditional system-level, Millennium Development Goal (MDG)-aligned outcomes (those of reducing rural poverty, increasing food security, and improving nutrition and health). The focus on environmental outcomes is now explicit and environmental impact assessments and evaluations of climate change impacts have become an important element of CGIAR’s work.

Environmental, climate change, and natural resource management activities in CGIAR: development and sustainability

The CGIAR research focus has mainly been on natural resource management. Research on environmental aspects is a more recent but growing focus and research on climate change has progressively taken the central stage over the last two decades. Accordingly, impact assessment and evaluation studies on natural resource management, and the focus on climate change in the last decade, have thus far received more attention than environmental impact assessments.

Natural resource management1 research aims to generate outputs that help maintain or improve the natural resource base for agriculture and to mitigate the often negative environmental side effects of agricultural production. In cases in which benefits from natural resource management research are framed in terms of maintained or improved agricultural productivity, farmers are considered the likely adopters of natural resource management technologies such as improved seed irrigation techniques, pest control, and improved management practices. Often, tradeoffs exist between agricultural productivity and conserving natural resources that a society values. In such cases, the incentives for farmers to adopt or not adopt a technology are not always clear. Additional research outputs include influencing policy and creating new institutions to facilitate socially desirable outcomes.

Environment-related work in CGIAR covers different types of agricultural resource use and issues, including land, water, agrochemicals and pesticides, livestock production aspects related to the environment, biodiversity, climate change, forests and deforestation, and greenhouse gas emissions. Environmental impacts in CGIAR refer to public goods associated with ecosystem services that provide inputs into productive processes, such as consumption goods that confer well-being directly (e.g. enjoyment of environmental quality) or indirectly (e.g. drinking water of a given quality), or have non-use values associated with knowing that a particular environmental resource exists (Renkow 2010). Several impact assessments conducted by CGIAR have refrained of measuring environmental impacts due to complexities in assigning monetary values to non-market environmental services.

Natural resource management research impact pathways flow either via adoption of specific outputs by farmers or via institutional innovations and policy influence. In the first case, the outputs (new technologies for managing farm natural resources) are adopted by farmers, leading to either direct (to adopters) or indirect (to nonadopters, labourers, and consumers) impacts that can be either positive or negative and have an economic, social, or environmental nature. In the second case, institutional innovations or policy influence, the outputs consist of engaging with policy makers through dialogue, scientific presentations, briefings, and technical support in creating new institutions for managing natural resources.The resulting outcomes influence policy decision-making, policy changes, and the creation of new institutions contributing to improving natural resource management. Impacts tend to accrue to those ultimately affected by policy changes. CGIAR research on managing soil, fisheries, water, forests, and pests has shown substantial benefits and positive internal rates of return on investment. However, much of the impact reported is on a small scale (although there are some exceptions, such as reduced or no-tillage technology that conserves soil and water and reduces carbon emissions).

The environmental and natural resource management and development sides are closely interlinked within the context of farming systems. The environment- poverty nexus is very strong; people depend on the sustainability of the natural resources and are affected by environmental issues linked to how they manage the natural resource base in their own farming systems.The public goods deriving from CGIAR research are most often technologies and innovations or policy changes that have a direct impact on the farmers’ livelihoods and income levels.

Various reviews2 reveal that assessing the environmental impacts derived from the use of modern technologies has received limited attention from CGIAR centres. Some progress has been achieved, for example, on quantifying the impacts of research on genetic diversity, soil erosion, and pesticide use (though pesticide studies have focused primarily on human health impacts). More environmental impact assessments are being done at the CGIAR centres, but few results have been published.

The methodology for quantifying productivity impacts of research outputs or outcomes is much more advanced than the methodology' for quantifying other types of research impacts (e.g. social, health, equity, and environmental impacts; Djurfeldt et al. 2009). Even the assessment of impacts of CGIAR research investments in natural resource management (where environmental aspects would be expected to be prominent) done by the CGIAR Science Council Secretariat (2006)3 and Waibel and Zilberman (2007) includes little quantification of environmental benefits, and the principal focus of assessing these investments remains on agricultural productivity aspects.

As CGIAR is moving upstream from individual projects to clusters of projects (focusing, for example, on a watershed or an agro-ecological zone), this has bearing on evaluation, which must also move beyond project thinking and consider the context of national sustainable development.

CGIAR research in genetic improvements, natural resource management, and policy research has generated a large set of technology, management, and knowledge products (Renkow 2010). These produced a similarly broad set of economic, social, and environmental impacts. Over the past two decades, ex post assessment of these impacts has become increasingly institutionalized, following the growing demand for evidence that CGIAR research investments have generated benefits and good rates of return (Walker et al. 2008). Various guideline documents for conducting ex post impact assessments have been followed, both at the CGIAR system and individual research centre level, with a growing emphasis on environmental impacts (Maredia and Pingali 2001; Nelson and Maredia 2001; Shiferaw, Freeman and Swinton, 2005; La Rovere and Dixon 2007; Walker et al. 2008). These documents seek, whenever possible, to build on earlier economic impact assessments, resulting in more comprehensive and integrated types of assessments. In addition, the CGIAR Standing Panel on Impact Assessment serves as a repository of such resources, studies, and methodologies on impact assessment and evaluation (https:// cas.cgiar.org/spia).

 
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