Global Food and Natural Resources

Climate Change

Climate change poses great risks to the global population, specifically the rural poor whose livelihoods depend directly on agriculture and forestry, and whose lives depend directly on natural resources. IFPRI has been deeply involved in climate-change research in the lead up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Copenhagen this December, focusing on the assessment of, adaptation to, and mitigation of weather-related risk, and on defining agriculture as a top priority at the negotiations. Toward that end, IFPRI produced a food policy report on the impacts of climate change and the costs of adaptation, as well as a series of briefs on climate change in which international experts present their perspectives on the issues (to access the briefs, see the section on the 2020 Vision Initiative at the end of this report).

Two of IFPRI’s main climate-change related activities in the past year have involved food and water security and the HarvestChoice program.

Food and Water Security under Global Change

In the past year, IFPRI’s project on food and water security has focused on providing farmers and other stakeholders in Ethiopia and South Africa with tools to make better adaptive policy decisions in the face of climate-related risk. The project combined household surveys and stakeholder forums, which examined local perceptions of the long-term effects of global warming, with climate-change impact analysis. The findings indicate that adaptation strategies need to move beyond improved water storage, additional irrigation, and new crop varieties to include a focus on improving farmers’ access to information, credit, and markets. Information is the key to adaptation, and to ensure that the right information gets to the right people, proactive investments, policies, and extension services must explicitly target those who are most vulnerable to climate change: subsistence farmers, women, children, and marginalized or less-educated groups. Additional investments of US$2 billion per year in public agricultural research and development, rural roads, female secondary education, irrigation, and access to clean water could significantly reduce the adverse effects of climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa. US$5 billion per year could help reduce the number of malnourished children to one-third of its current level in the next 50 years. With substantially more investment it should be possible to actually end the nutrition problem in the coming decades.


Research under HarvestChoice—a collaborative program between IFPRI and the University of Minnesota that focuses on informing investment choices to raise smallholder productivity and commercialization in Sub-Saharan Africa—is evaluating technology and policy alternatives in an integrated, cross-country, and spatially explicit framework. With an initial focus on cropping systems, improved technologies and practices, and greater market integration, this research evaluates the scope for and potential payoffs of a range of potential interventions, including crop-trait enhancements (such as drought or pest tolerance), improved soil fertility management strategies, and lower market transaction costs. HarvestChoice also recently launched a new website with a comprehensive collection of steadily expanding data, knowledge products, and interactive query tools regarding crop production, productivity, and market-sheds in Sub-Saharan Africa; the HarvestChoice website has quickly become a “go-to” resource for analysts and policymakers.