IFPRI's strategy toward food and nutrition security

Food policy research, capacity strengthening, and policy communications

Now available: IFPRI Strategy 2013-2018

Executive Summary

This document sets out the strategy for the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) for the next decade. The Institute's vision and mission are cornerstones of the strategy:

  • IFPRI's Vision is a world free of hunger and malnutrition, and
  • IFPRI's Mission is to provide policy solutions that reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition.

The strategy addresses issues relevant to its vision and mission, including:

  • poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in the developing world, which remain persistently high;
  • a rapidly changing policy environment, which makes the decisionmaking process more complex and diffuse, involving many more actors at global and subnational levels and within the private and civil sectors, as well as the public sector;
  • new technologies, which offer great promise for advancing food and nutrition security and for which research is needed to identify policies and institutions to ensure that poor people benefit from these technologies; and
  • global health issues, which pose significant threats to food security and nutrition.

Setting IFPRI's Priorities

IFPRI's mandate and strategy are directly relevant to the CGIAR System Priorities. Coherence between IFPRI's program and the CGIAR's priorities is tracked in the context of medium-term plans. To determine its priorities with regard to research, capacity strengthening, and policy communication, IFPRI's work program will

  1. conform to IFPRI's mission to provide policy solutions that reduce poverty, hunger, and malnutrition—soon and sustainably—to as many people as possible;
  2. be innovative and focused on impact, paying attention to CGIAR priorities and addressing current and emerging issues that affect food security, nutrition, poverty, and gender equity, in consultation with stakeholders and partners; and
  3. be based on IFPRI's dynamic comparative advantage to produce results applicable to many countries—that is, international or global public goods.

IFPRI's research and outreach activities must meet all these criteria to be included in IFPRI's agenda. The implementation of the participatory approaches shall be transparent and means tested, including institutionalized feedback mechanisms, such as satisfaction surveys among research partners.

The actual "how to" of priority setting and implementation at IFPRI is driven by the philosophy not only of defining strategic research projects from the "top down," but also of placing high value on the creative initiatives of its researchers and their collaborators in the broad context of priority areas identified from the "bottom up." The think tank culture of IFPRI and its broad global network is nurtured for that purpose, encouraging initiatives and risk taking to address new issues within the framework of this strategy.

IFPRI recognizes that the need for policy change and the opportunities for policy reform differ significantly—and increasingly so—by region; thus the set of priorities has different weights by region (for example, Africa, Latin America, Asia), and each region is catered to by IFPRI's decentralized approach.

IFPRI's activities are funded from many sources, and the Institute responds with flexibility to fund its strategic research agenda on a sustained basis. IFPRI operates in a complex international environment of funding for food policy research, which includes both strategic funding of (partly unrestricted) resources for the Institute, as well as a competitive market for research funding. Priority setting at IFPRI, therefore, is not just a budget-allocation process. Rather, it involves constant two-way interactions with stakeholders and donors, whose agendas IFPRI also aims to influence, always driven by its overarching goal of improving policy for enhanced food and nutrition of the poor.

The thematic priorities set under IFPRI's strategy have very different weights at any point in time; thus, the actual set of priorities is narrower than the number of themes. At any one time, IFPRI has a portfolio of projects in support of its mission and in pursuit of this strategy. Projects at IFPRI move through a natural cycle: some activities are at an early stage of conceptualization and exploratory program development, while others are at the stage of data collection and analyses, others are at a mature stage of synthesis, and still others have moved into the post-research stage, involving capacity strengthening, training, and impact-assessment activities.

The Research Themes

The cornerstones of IFPRI's work are research, policy communications, and capacity strengthening for policy and research. Based on the priority-setting criteria mentioned above, IFPRI groups nine research themes under three overarching focus areas. In doing so, IFPRI takes a systems perspective regarding the policies affecting food and agriculture.

IFPRI's priority research themes are interlinked. As such, they are pursued not in isolation but as components of an integrated research program. Policy-communications and capacity-strengthening activities are crosscutting; they are therefore linked to and embedded in the research agenda in addition to being key elements of achieving impact in the follow up to the research.

Focus Area A. Efficient and Fair Functioning of Global and National Food and Agriculture Systems

This area focuses on policies that address constraints to achieving food and nutrition security and that support more efficient functioning of the global and national food, nutrition, and agriculture systems, including policies that promote the inclusion of lowincome countries, improve the food and nutrition security of poor people, enhance the pro-poor functioning of supply chains from producers to consumers, and support the sustainable management of natural resources:

  1. Outlooks and global change Global food and agriculture outlooks and options for policies, including climate change and technology scenarios
  2. Globalization, trade, and markets Guidance on globalization processes and on trade and domestic market policies for inclusive growth
  3. Natural resource policies Sustainable and efficient natural resource management (water, land use, soils, biodiversity, and energy)
  4. Risks and emergencies Identifying risks to people's food security, and improving policies on emergencies and postcrisis development

Focus Area B. Effective Strategies and Governance at the Global, Regional, and National Levels

This area focuses on policies that improve global, national, and local governance, and enhance political participation in, and institutions for, the development of pro-poor food, nutrition, and agricultural policies and related services:

  1. Governance and policy processes Improving governance and policy processes in food, nutrition, and agriculture
  2. Development strategies Strategies for development focusing on pro-poor growth, the role of agriculture, the transformation of smallholder farming, enhanced urban-rural linkages, and nonfarm rural employment
  3. Poverty, nutrition, and social protection Policies and interventions for poverty reduction, social protection, and nutrition improvement, including a focus on smallholders

Focus Area C. Enhancing Pro-poor Food and Agriculture System Innovations

This area focuses on policies that foster scientific and institutional innovation and technology use of benefit to poor people in developing countries. The themes are as follows:

  1. Diet, health, and food safety Policies to enhance food and diet quality, health, and food and water safety in developing countries
  2. Science and technology Food- and nutrition-related science and technology policy and innovations serving poor people

As indicated in a stylized way in Figure 1, not only are the three overarching focus areas linked, but the nine research themes are also partly interrelated.

Policy Communications

Research results can only achieve impact for the malnourished and poor when they are relevant and when they are known by and available to those who can use them. This involves two-way communication with key stakeholder groups in developing and developed countries and the provision of factual, timely, and competent information on all questions related to food and nutrition security and natural resource management.

Capacity Strengthening for Policy and Research

To reduce poverty and end hunger, it is also vitally important, through the provision of research-based knowledge, to develop the capacity of researchers, policymakers, trainers, practitioners, administrators, extension workers, students, community leaders, and others. IFPRI's focus in capacity strengthening is on research, analysis, communications, policy formulation, institutional change, and organizational management.

Key Features of IFPRI

IFPRI aspires to be a trusted global research center that provides the knowledge needed for food and nutrition policy serving poor people; to boldly and independently communicate findings based on sound analysis, even when they are controversial; to be a source of in-depth understanding of the linkages between research and policy change; to respond quickly to changing conditions and opportunities for designing improved food policy serving low-income countries; and to be a valued strategic partner within the CGIAR system and within an enlarged community of partners and stakeholders, with a strong presence in developing countries through partnerships, networks, and decentralized operations. The Institute's main outcome is policy information that leads to changes in food policy that improve the lives of poor people and promote sustainable food production.

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International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
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