The CRIFS Investment

While there has been a steady supply of innovative agricultural technologies for decades, in many cases, the rate of sustained uptake has remained stubbornly low among small-scale producers (SSP) in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). While development and delivery are necessary conditions for use, they are not sufficient; only end-line adopters can fully translate innovation into impact. Our technical knowledge of potential adaptation technologies and strategies appears to have grown at a much faster pace than our understanding of SSP adaptation decision-making that would allow us to better match supply with demand. And the urgency of addressing this mismatch is growing as exposure to highly variable and extreme precipitation and temperature continues to increase (IPCC 6th assessment)[1].

CRIFS’ mission is motivated by lost opportunities between technology development and SSP adaptation that affect both incremental  and transformative livelihood decisions in the face of risk, and the continuing dearth of locally-generated SSA data and analytics for local decision-making; both of which could contribute to food system adaptations, improved male and female SSP outcomes, and country-led Inclusive Agricultural Transformation (IAT). CRIFS is designed to generate evidence on how to close the gap between technology and system investments towards “last-mile” adaptation, and to connect that evidence in an on-going manner to the highest quality data, trained in-country analysts, and more informed policy and investment decision-makers. 

Figure 1 depicts a stylized decision tree articulating the assumptions and conditions under which successful SSP adaptation might occur; that the technology, practice or income diversification options are viable and risk is manageable, that adequate digital, physical and information infrastructure is in place and that market and policy systems are functioning. If those conditions hold to some extent, then uptake would be expected if SSP perceptions of benefit-cost, or risk-return are positive—unless, that is, psychological, social, or behavioral factors influence SSP decision-making away from the economically optimal choice. Each of CRIFS’ three workstreams addresses a section of the decision tree. 

CRIFS Mission

The Center generates and translates policy and action-focused knowledge to improve the lives and livelihoods of small-scale agricultural producers (SSPs) in low-income countries, inclusive of women, through interdisciplinary efforts that advance cost-effective strategies for managing risks and volatility.

CRIFS Workstreams

Through multiple consultations, we have identified three initial research streams to launch CRIFS work, some with research already underway. We are committed to an up-front gender and SSP perspective in all our work, and meaningful two-way cross-disciplinary and cross-geography partnerships.

Our base assumption is that successful adaptation relies on access to appropriate technologies, relevant, timely and trusted information, the financial, physical, social and institutional means to take action; plus the perception of risk, agency, and future orientation that fosters a willingness to take action.

Workstream 1: Foundational

RQ1: To what extent are existing theoretical frameworks, methods and indicators relevant to better accounting for risk and accelerating inclusion in food systems in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa? 

RQ2: What is the evidence base on food systems risks and SSP adaptation, and to what degree do the upstream assumptions hold, that the: agroecology is viable, technology is appropriate, actors have agency, and infrastructure & institutional (market and policy) systems are functioning?

Projects include data and desk work to:

  • Produce short technical reports on risk, inclusion, and food system frameworks and indicators
  • Document relevant country policies, laws, regulations and financing
  • Catalogue relevant country and local infrastructure (electricity, roads, information, etc.)
  • Advance measures of resilience and adaptation
  • Systematically review SSP adaptation evidence to date

Workstream 2: Building the evidence base on the willingness and ability to adapt.

RQ1: Within food systems, which are the most common, and mutable, bottlenecks to adaptation? Can these be segmented by the likely speed of driving behavior change and the urgency given climate risk? 

RQ2: At what level is scaling feasible given heterogeneity within food systems and food system risks? At what level is scaling feasible given heterogeneity within food systems and food system risks? Are there contexts, e.g., regions or production systems, where scaling is more feasible or where climate and conflict suggest that exiting farming is the most viable long-term strategy? Under those  contexts, what policies and investments are necessary to support relevant transitions for SSPs? 

Areas of focus include desk and field work to inform:

  • Adaptation Behaviors: To what extent are male and female SSPs’ adaptive decisions – including exiting farming - affected by an ability to adapt given the institutional environment, political economy, digital, information, and physical infrastructure, household socio-demographics, and expected net benefits given alternative livelihoods, relative to a willingness to adapt, given future aspirations, risk perceptions, norms or some other socio-psychological consideration.
  • Sub-national and Sub-population Heterogeneity: To what extent do these patterns hold across different agroecological zones (AEZs), climate risk, and local authorities? Are there locally developed adaptation technologies and practices, risk communication channels, or language conventions that affect decision heuristics, biases and ultimately adaptation?
  • Order of Operation and Decision Tools: Integrating maps of predicted climate, conflict and food system risks with adaptation options and risk/return tradeoffs, by urgency, gender, resources, and across production, income, nutrition, and time costs.

Workstream 3: Prioritizing and Communicating the Evidence Base

RQ1: How do we ensure we are testing the right hypotheses ex-ante and prioritize and communicate risk management strategies (and to whom) ex-poste?

Areas for improving dissemination include building partnerships and strategies to:

  • Understand decision-maker priorities and increase the utility of data to inform them.
  • Translate findings on risk and returns to key audiences and stakeholders, including SSPs, implementers, investors and policymakers.