Global Futures and Strategic Foresight participating in the Global Action Plan for Agricultural Diversity (GAPAD)

Global Futures and Strategic Foresight was invited to share their foresight perspective at the Global Action Plan on Agricultural Diversification (GAPAD) SDG2 Roundtable Forum in Nairobi, Kenya at the end of October 2016.  GAPAD ( is an initiative by the Association of International Research and Development Centers for Agriculture ( to promote agricultural diversification as a tool to address many of the challenges we face today (and will be facing in the future) in food and agricultural systems at the local to global scale.

Global Futures and Strategic Foresight participating in the Global Action Plan for Agricultural Diversity (GAPAD)

Global Futures and Strategic Foresight participating in the Global Action Plan for Agricultural Diversity (GAPAD)

This Roundtable Forum focused specifically on how agricultural diversification could contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 to end hunger, achieve food and nutrition security, and promote sustainable agriculture (SDG2; and involved a broad representation of different experts, scientists, and stakeholders from the agricultural development community.  The successful workshop (Workshop Report from provided crucial material (Workshop Archive from AIRCA) for the GAPAD leaders to bring with them as they participated in the UNFCCC COP22 in Morocco in November (UNFCCC-COP22) and COP13 of UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Mexico in December (UNCBD-COP13).  This Forum also caught the attention of regional media outlets (KTN News Kenya;;


CIMMYT gathers partners to discuss biotic stress and crop model integration

By Kindie Tesfaye (CIMMYT) and Evgeniya Anisimova (PIM)

When crops are damaged by other living organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, insects and other pests, weeds or even cultivated plants competing for space and nutrients, we talk of the biotic stress. Biotic stresses are a major constraint to agricultural productivity in low and middle income countries. They affect poor producers and consumers the most and undermine food security in general.

Examples of some biggest current concerns related to biotic stress are the wheat diseases fusarium head blight (FHB), wheat blast (caused by fungi), and the maize lethal necrosis (MLN) caused by viruses (also read here).

Scientists in the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) know all about biotic stresses to crops. They also know that combatting these stresses is a task beyond the scope of any one organization or discipline. This was evident during the workshop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on June 20-22 that brought together breeders, physiologists, entomologists, pathologists, modelers, and socio-economists from CIMMYT and partner organizations including Auburn University, University of Passo Fundo, and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The workshop titled "How can we take biotic stress into consideration with crop growth modeling in maize and wheat?" was organized by CIMMYT as part of the Global Futures & Strategic Foresight (GFSF) project, a CGIAR initiative led by IFPRI under the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM).

Participants at the CIMMYT workshop.

Participants at the CIMMYT workshop.

Crop growth (or simulation) models are computer programs processing data on weather, soil, and crop management to predict crop yield, maturity date, efficiency of fertilizers and other elements of crop production. Accuracy of the predictions is based on the existing knowledge of the physics, physiology and ecology of crop responses to the environment[1]. So, the more we know about this responsiveness to the environment, including biotic stress, the more accurate these predictions can be. Existing crop growth models do not adequately simulate biotic stress to calculate possible yield reduction. Colleagues who came to Addis Ababa were eager to expand this knowledge and increase the accuracy of the predictions through integrating biotic stress and crop models.

Dr. Gideon Kruseman, an ex-ante and foresight specialist at CIMMYT, and Dr. Bekele Abeyo, a wheat breeder and CIMMYT’s Ethiopia country representative, opened the workshop by reviewing the use of crop models in maize and wheat production systems. Dr. Kruseman explained the importance of integrating the models for biotic stress with crop models for a holistic assessment of the potential impact of new technologies in several environments. Dr. Abeyo emphasized the need for the partners to work together across disciplines.

Workshop discussions were dedicated, among other topics, to CIMMYT’s experiences in applications of crop models (for example, see: Chung et al., 2014; Gbegbelegbe, Chung, Shiferaw, Msangi, & Tesfay, 2014; Tesfaye et al., 2015, 2016), opportunities and challenges of incorporating biotic stress directly into crop growth models, linking crop growth models with biotic stress models through soft coupling[2], phenotyping for biotic stresses[3], and the probabilistic approaches to linking biotic stress into crop growth models. Apart from that, colleagues focused on the scale of biotic stress as a challenge, data gaps, and future action points, emphasizing the importance of collaboration with other initiatives such as AgMIP.

Figure: Example of linkages among biophysical and economic models.

Figure: Example of linkages among biophysical and economic models.

As a way forward, participants agreed that soft coupling biotic stress models with crop models is a feasible approach in the short- and mid-term perspective whereas full integration can remain a long-term strategy. The soft coupling efforts presented by colleagues from Auburn University, USA, and University of Passo Fundo, Brazil, should serve as a springboard to link the major maize and wheat biotic stresses with current crop models such as those comprised in the Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer (DSSAT). Moreover, an approach that considers probability of disease incidence, probability of disease severity, and probability of damage can also offer scope for linking crop growth models and biotic stress either separately or in combination with soft coupled models. The probabilistic approach can be especially useful when linking crop growth models with economic models, for example, to see how the chance of a disease outbreak shapes the choices made by farmers.

As a result of the workshop, partners agreed to start a small pilot project on integrating biotic stress with crop models to prove of concept. Concept notes shall be submitted to the competitive grant by the CGIAR Research Program on Maize. At the next stage partners shall come together to develop a bigger project and approach donors.

“I really enjoyed the workshop because it brought together a very diverse range of scientists that I would never normally get to interact with. Modeling abiotic stresses allowed us to quantify the potential impacts of improved varieties at the regional and national level. I’m excited to be able to do this for biotic stresses” -- Jill Cairns, Maize physiologist at CIMMYT.



Chung, U., Gbegbelegbe, S., Shiferaw, B., Robertson, R., Yun, J. I., Tesfaye, K., … Sonder, K. (2014). Modeling the effect of a heat wave on maize production in the USA and its implications on food security in the developing world. Weather and Climate Extremes, 5-6, 67–77.

Gbegbelegbe, S., Chung, U., Shiferaw, B., Msangi, S., & Tesfay, K. (2014). Quantifying theimpactofweatherextremesonglobalfoodsecurity: A spatialbio-economic approach. WeatherandClimateExtremes, 4, 97–108. Retrieved from

Tesfaye, K., Gbegbelegbe, S., Cairns, J. E., Shiferaw, B., Prasanna, B. M., Sonder, K., … Robertson, R. (2015). Maize systems under climate change in sub-Saharan Africa. International Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management, 7(3), 247 – 271.

Tesfaye, K., Kai Sonder, Jill Cairns, Cosmos Magorokosho, Amsal Tarekegne, Girma T. Kassie, Fite Getaneh, Tahirou Abdoulaye, Tsedeke Abate, and Olaf Erenstein (2016). Targeting Drought-Tolerant Maize Varieties in Southern Africa: A Geospatial Crop Modeling Approach Using Big Data. International Food and Agribusiness Management Review, 9 (A): 75-92.

[1] What Are Crop Simulation Models? United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. accessed on 7/27/16

[2] Soft coupling refers to linking two separate models through an interface that allows information to be exchanged amongst them.

[3] Phenotyping for biotic stress refers to trials conducted specifically to obtain information on how varieties react to pests and diseases, by subjecting the trials to substantial levels of the specified stressors.

Policy dialogue on: “Comprehensive assessment of pressures on water resources and its effect on the agricultural sector and food security in Tunisia”

by Aymen Frija (ICARDA)

On 10 and 11 May 2016, the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) organized a policy dialogue in Tunis to share with Tunisian policy makers and other national partners the preliminary scenarios and results of ICARDA’s research on the impact of pressure on water resources and its effect on food security in Tunisia. Participants included representatives from the National Research Institute for Rural Engineering, Water and Forestry (INRGREF), the National Institute of Agronomic Research of Tunisia (INRAT), the Ministry of Agriculture, Hydraulic Resources and Fisheries of Tunisia, Ecole Supérieure d’Agriculture de Mograne (ESAM) as well as ICARDA and the International Water Management Institute (IWMI).

This research is being conducted as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) activities of ICARDA and IWMI, starting in 2015 through participatory design of scenarios and projections of water availability and demand in Tunisia and Jordan.

Projections of future water shortage and its impact on long-term food security has been conducted using two major tools: the “IMPACT” (International Model for Policy Analysis of Agricultural Commodities and Trade) model and the ASMOT (Agricultural Supply Model for Tunisia) model. The IMPACT model is a global model developed by IFPRI, while the ASMOT model is an agricultural supply model, specifically developed by ICARDA for the Tunisian context.
ICARDA Tunis workshop May 2016

>> Read more

GFSF Extended Team Meeting in Kenya, 17-19 May 2016

By Timothy Sulser (IFPRI)

The Global Futures & Strategic Foresight (GFSF) Program held its semi-annual extended team meeting from 17 to 19 May 2016, bringing team members from all 15 CGIAR Centers together in Naivasha, Kenya. In addition to reviewing work in progress, we discussed plans for future collaboration, joint publications, engagement with decision makers, links between foresight work in the various CGIAR Research Programs, and opportunities to inform discussions about prioritization in the CGIAR and its partners. Team members also took advantage of the opportunity to meet with staff and management at ILRI, ICRAF and other partners in Nairobi.

288 >> Read more

LAC regional workshop on impact assessment for priority setting in agricultural research

By Athanasios Petsakos (CIP)


A large number of public and private initiatives exist nowadays in Latin America which aim to promote innovation in the agricultural sector as a response to existing and future challenges on production systems and nutritional security. Some of these initiatives are financed by international credit institutions, like the World Bank, others by national governments, and others by private national or regional institutions. As a result, there is an increasing
interest from implementing organizations to efficiently allocate resources so that their research and development objectives generate information to all stakeholders and contribute to policy decision making at the national level.

To answer this interest, the International Potato Center (CIP), the National Institute of Agrarian Innovation (INIA) of Peru and theLearning Alliance of Peru, in collaboration with the International Center of Tropical Agriculture(CIAT) and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) organized a workshop on the “Impact assessment for priority setting in agricultural research” to share methods, experiences and results from ex-ante and ex-post impact assessments of agricultural research relevant to the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region. The workshop, which was part of CIP’s implementation strategy of the Global Futures and Strategic Foresight project of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) under Flagship 1, and the Innovative Value Chain Hubs and Platforms activity under Flagship 3 on Inclusive Value Chains and Efficient Trade, took place at CIP headquarters in the city of Lima, Peru in April 20-22, 2016.

During these three days, the campus of CIP became the field for the gathering of about fifty agricultural economists, social scientists and decision makers from agricultural research and development institutes in LAC, all with a common objective: to learn and share on how to set priorities and implement robust impact assessment in agricultural research. Participants covered a broad range of regional institutions: the National Agricultural Research Institutes of Peru (INIA), Colombia (CORPOICA) and Ecuador (INIAP), the Swiss Cooperation for Development in Bolivia (COSUDE) , the Peruvian Institute of Nutritional Research (IIN), the National Agronomic University of Peru in La Molina (UNALM), the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru (PUCP), the Peruvian Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Agriculture, and finally NGOs such as ASOCAM from Nicaragua and PRISMA in Peru.

Read more about the detailed objectives and results of the workshop here:

Exploring Indonesian aquaculture futures: new report from WorldFish

Aquaculture is the fastest-growing food production sector globally, with production projected to double within the next 15–20 years. Future growth of aquaculture is essential to providing sustainable supplies of fish in national, regional and global fish food systems; creating jobs; and maintaining fish at affordable levels for resource-poor consumers. To ensure that the anticipated growth of aquaculture remains both economically and ecologically sustainable, we need to better understand the likely patterns of growth, as well as the opportunities and challenges that these trends present. This knowledge will enable us to better prioritize investments that will help ensure the sustainable development of the sector.

In Indonesia, WorldFish and partners have applied a unique methodology to evaluate growth trajectories for aquaculture under various scenarios, as well as the opportunities and challenges these represent. See the full post here.

IFPRI and partners share insights on climate change and food security in Paris

By Keith Wiebe (IFPRI)

circus_sidebanner_home_pastIFPRI researchers Mark Rosegrant, Keith Wiebe and Alex de Pinto led a session (“Up and down the scales of time and place: Integrating global trends and local decisions to make the world more food-secure by 2050”) on December 5 at the Global Landscapes Forum on the margins of COP21 in Paris. The session explored climate change impacts and solutions at global, regional and country scales, drawing on new research to analyze policy options that promote healthy growth of the agricultural sector and food security in a changing climate. Participants Mercedita Sombilla (Director ANRES, National Economic and Development Authority, Office of the President, Philippines), Kirit N Shelat (Executive Chairman, Indian National Council for Climate Change Sustainable Development and Public Leadership), and Rodrigo Suarez Castaño (Climate Change Director, Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, Colombia) also shared insights and experiences from the national level. >> Read more

IFPRI’s IMPACT model update: a core component of GFSF’s quantitative foresight modeling.

By Daniel Mason-D'Croz (IFPRI)

Models can be powerful tools that help us systematically apply data and theory to test our understanding of complex and interconnected systems. A major focus for the Global Futures and Strategic Foresight project is to use IFPRI’s IMPACT model for quantitative foresight modeling to analyze how agricultural and food systems might evolve under alternative futures across multiple dimensions (i.e. population, climate, economic development, among many others). As new data and knowledge become available, quantitative models need to be reviewed and updated to reflect the improved understanding.


Figure 1- IFPRI’s IMPACT Model

Figure 1- IFPRI’s IMPACT Model

Continual updating is an integral part of the IMPACT model’s history. With improved data and computational power, the IMPACT team works to enhance the model’s relevance for policymakers in exploring critical issues around long-term agriculture development and food security. The latest model improvements are just the next chapter in the model’s history, building on the work of previous efforts to simulate the food system in ever greater detail by expanding the number of commodities and individual countries covered by IMPACT.

In this latest update, the IMPACT model was designed to incorporate not only better agricultural data but also best practices in model structure and coding.  This enables the model to expand to cover new areas of research interest while at the same time ensuring cleaner and modular code. Improvements in model design and structure are explained in detail in the new documentation. Additionally, we go into more detail on the IMPACT modeling philosophy, including discussions on scenario analysis and the role of simulation models in ex-ante analysis.

To read the new IMPACT documentation please go to