Agronomy platform

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By Wandera Ojanji 

Millions of smallholder farmers  in Africa and the Global South  stand to increase farm productivity,  incomes and gain from improved  livelihoods following the launch of  the Excellence in Agronomy 2030 (EiA  2030) Platform. 

EiA 2030, a Consultative Group  on International Agricultural  Research (CGIAR) initiative, was  launched during the 2020 African  Green Revolution Forum (AGRF)  online summit last September. The  agronomy research and innovation  

initiative aims at supporting  agricultural productivity growth in  the Global South.  

The ongoing ‘One-CGIAR’ reform  process provides the opportunity  for an agronomy initiative to  address the productivity, climate  and environmental challenges in  the Global South while enhancing  smallholder farmer’s livelihoods. 

The Global South is made up of Africa,  Latin America and the Caribbean,  Pacific Islands, and the developing  countries in Asia, including the  

Middle East. It is home to Brazil,  India and China, which along with  Indonesia and Mexico are the largest  Southern states in terms of area and  population. 

EiA 2030 is an initiative of nine CGIAR  centres: AfricaRice, the International  Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT),  the International Maize and Wheat  Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the  International Potato Center (CIP), the  International Center for Agricultural  Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA),  World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF),  

A smallholder farmer proudly displays quality tomatoes  harvested from her farm.  

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International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) Central Africa Hub  Director Dr Bernard Vanlauwe. 

EiA 2030 is premised  on demand 

driven agronomic  solutions to develop  recommendations that  match the needs and  objectives of the end  users

the International Crops Research  Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics  (ICRISAT), the International Institute  of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), and the  International Rice Research Institute  (IRRI). 

CGIAR is evolving, consolidating its  partnership, knowledge and assets.  EiA 2030 represents the collective  resolve of CGIAR’s agronomy  programmes to transform the world’s  food systems through demand- and  data-driven agronomy research for  development.  

Sustainable intensification,  agronomy and agro-ecology are the  key science domains in the new One  CGIAR strategy. EiA 2030 will be  driven by science, data and evidence  with particular focus on assessing  what works where, for whom and  why.  

EiA 2030 was created to galvanize  an integrated framework to  identify, diagnose and resolve  yield-limiting factors using data 

driven solutions and innovations  to scale for smallholder farmers.  It responds to public and private  initiatives investing in sustainable  intensification of these systems.  

Through EiA 2030, CGIAR sees  

agronomic gain for millions of  women, men and youth smallholder  farmers with positive impact on food  security, income and health under  climate variability.  

“We have achieved a lot in delivering  agronomic gain at a scale for  sustainable intensification of  smallholder farming systems in  the Global South. But we can do  

through a coordinated research and  development effort in the context of  the One CGIAR,” says IITA Research  for Development Director for Natural  Resource Management Bernard  Vanlauwe, the implementation lead  of the EiA 2030 Platform. 

The initiative could not have come  

private and public sector partners  for agronomy has increased over the  past decade. Diversified demands  focusing on productivity to broader  impact goals such as climate change  adaption, mitigation and sustainable  intensification.  

These longer-term outcomes cannot  be delivered by multiple time limited  and dispersed projects, it requires a  

effort. 

Demand driven impact at scale  through targeting of context specific  and integrated interventions are key  to achieving larger impact at scale  and prioritization of the developed  investments.  

EiA 2030 is proposed as a central  channel to answer these demands  and bring coherence in global  efforts to address the challenges of  agricultural productivity. 

Agronomy has evolved with the  availability of technology such  as data science, remote sensing,  geo-spatial analytics and decision  support tools. EiA 2030 is suited to  champion this new era of agronomy  based on data driven approaches  and tools applicable at scale on the  ground. 

EiA 2030 will combine big data  analytics, new sensing technologies,  geospatial decision tools and farming  systems research to improve spatially  explicit agronomic recommendations  in response to demand from scaling  partners.  

EiA 2030 science will integrate  the principles of sustainable  intensification informed by climate  change considerations, behavioural  economics, and scaling pathways at  

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A researcher explains agronomy features to a group of smallholder farmers. EiA  2030 was created identify, diagnose and resolve yield limiting factors.

national and regional levels.  

Site-specific variability across diverse  farming systems is a major challenge,  requiring evidence on what works,  

understanding of food production  systems to overcome adoption  barriers and enable the application  at scale of research and development  for sustainable agriculture.  

EiA 2030 has set four goals aiming  at sustainable intensification in  the Global South: increased yields/ profitability for key crops in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia,  improved resource use efficiencies  in areas with relatively good soils  and weather, increased yield  stability in areas affected by climate  variability, and improved soil health  in addressing soil degradation. 

EiA 2030 is designed to respond to  the five global challenges – nutrition,  food security and one health,  poverty reduction, livelihoods and  jobs, gender equality, youth and  social inclusion, climate adaptation  and greenhouse gas reductions,  and environmental health and  biodiversity.  

Through a two-year incubation  phase funded by the Bill & Melinda  Gates Foundation, the project  will demonstrate the added value  of demand-driven research and  development. The approach  will make use of novel data and  analytics and increased cooperation  among centres supporting a One  CGIAR agronomy initiative aiming  at sustainable intensification of  

farming systems. 

Speaking during the launch, Dr  Vanlauwe, who is also IITA’s Director  for Central Africa stated: “EiA 2030  is premised on demand-driven  agronomic solutions to develop  recommendations that match the  needs and objectives of the end users.” 

EiA 2030 will use agronomy as the  entry point to address modern  day challenges of productivity,  sustainability and climate change.  It will also embrace key systems  research topics while avoiding the  challenges encountered by the  earlier system of CGIAR research  programmes.  

EiA 2030 embraces the 10 elements or  principles of agro-ecology — diversity,  synergies, efficiency, resilience,  recycling, co-creation and knowledge  sharing, human and social values,  culture and formal traditions,  responsible governance, circular and  solidarity economy.  

Vanlauwe explains that the focus on  agronomy is driven by the fact that  the science of integrative soil and soil  management accounts for spatial and  temporal variability towards targeted  advisories accounting for yield,  profitability, risk and sustainability  and the diverse requirements of end users.  

Farmers commonly take 10-20  decisions relating to their production  systems on a seasonal basis and each  decision interacts with other farming  system components. 

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation  

says the initiative is a cornerstone  for One CGIAR. “It is ingenious to  have a platform like EiA 2030 that  looks at solutions that have worked  

and whether they can be applied in  

CIMMYT Director General Martin  Kropff says the initiative’s goal is  to become the leading platform for  next-generation agronomy in the  Global South, responding to public  and private sector demand. 

It would also increase efficiencies  in the development and delivery  of solutions through increased  collaboration, cooperation and  cross-learning between CGIAR  centres and within the broader  agronomy research and development  ecosystem, including agroecological  approaches. 

To increase efficiencies in the  development and delivery of  solutions, EiA 2030 will address  market failures and organization  deficits.  

Dr Vanlauwe explains that EiA 2030  would be delivered through four  key modules of Organize, Transform,  Innovate and Deliver, driven by  demand, science and data  

EiA 2030 will position its research and  development agenda in the context  of specific public-private demand  and develop solutions in partnership  with scaling partners and national  agricultural research institutes. 

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