The centrality of sound institutions and good governance in improving agricultural productivity and reducing rural poverty, hunger, and malnutrition has become widely recognized in recent years. Institutions are the systems of rules that constitute the environment within which policymaking, cooperation, and innovation occur. Governance was defined by the United Nations Development Programme in 1997 as “the exercise of economic, political, and administrative authority to manage a country’s affairs at all levels.” Strong institutions allow for more effective management of common-pool resources and environmental services, while good governance facilitates technical dynamism, gender equity, risk mitigation, and inclusion of the poor in shared growth.
Although existing research highlights interventions likely to benefit the poor and improve agricultural performance, there is limited knowledge about how to create incentives for individual actors, civil society, and public administrations to actively pursue such policies. This knowledge gap is being addressed by the Strengthening Institutions and Governance (SIG) research area of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). At the heart of this research are efforts to identify what types of institutional, incentive, and accountability structures are most conducive to improving the incomes, food security, and nutrition of the poor in low-income countries.