Research Areas of Inquiry

USAID delineates a range of research that reflects the needs of, and opportunities for, the global “legume community,” and MSU has selected the designated Areas of Inquiry (AoI) for the program’s research focus. These AoIs are further informed by the research findings of the previous Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Legume Systems Research (managed by MSU), and the needs identified at the 2016 Pan-African Grain Legume Research and World Cowpea Conference that MSU organized with the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture as part of the United Nations 2016 Year of Pulses. The 10-year Pulse Research Strategy from the Global Pulse Confederation (GPC) and the Phase II GLDC proposal for 2018-2022 activities additionally confirmed the priority areas to address. MSU’s expertise and experience in legume research, including impact assessments and reviews of previous investments, as well as the long term engagement of MSU and its partners, provides a unique perspective on needs and potential impacts of the proposed research portfolio.

Research in these AoIs will contribute to sustainably reducing global hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. HICD will be included in all subawards, to reinforce the sustainability of the research. The addition of a systems approach into this Innovation Lab contributes to global understanding of efficacy of legume in addressing the challenges of resilience and sustainable productivity growth. This new program component also reflects the needs of the legume community, and is a valuable addition to the work of the previous USAID legume investments.

Area of Inquiry One

Integration of legumes into sustainable smallholder farming systems and agricultural landscapes with possible focal projects on:

  • Increased smallholder farm productivity and resilience of food, feed, or fodder through legume cropping and/or agroforestry systems;
  • Development of market-driven improved varieties through traits that can be brought into market classes through mature or near-mature breeding technologies;
  • Integrated pest management systems in response to pest and disease constraints for legume cropping systems as a mechanism to enable resilience;
  • Farm-level productivity enhancements that may include water management, mechanization, or cropping practices;
  • Increased productivity within the context of biotic and abiotic constraints, through candidate legume crops/varieties, using tradeoff analysis or other approaches;
  • Systems modeling to inform and guide actions, technologies, and policies for resilience, food security, and nutrition within the context of variable climate and complementary cropping systems; and
  • Assessing the impact on women’s labor and assets, as well as determining factors of women’s access to, and use of, technology.

Area of Inquiry Two

Integration of legumes within local/ regional market systems with possible focal projects on:

  • Dynamic assessment of regional, national, and local trade in legumes, assessing resilience and volatility and impacts on livelihoods, as well as participation and impact of trade on women and youth;
  • Evaluation of value chain improvements, including value-added commodities, transport innovations, ICT options, and engagement of the both small and medium scale private sector agents for developing and/or marketing nutritious, convenient, and affordable consumer products;
  • Evaluation of demand and supply throughout the legume value chain to identify patterns of demand, consumer preferences by different consumer groups, and leverage points to enhance the role of legumes in nutrition-sensitive value chains; and
  • Use of combined production and market systems modeling to inform and guide actions related to legumes as they contribute to both human and livestock systems, with possible trade-off analysis across all uses and incomes, with a gendered approach.

Area of Inquiry Three

Analysis of sociocultural and/or economic motivators or barriers to legume utilization at various stages and scales within market systems, with possible focal projects on:

  • Assessment of the factors currently limiting productivity-enhancing technologies for legumes in agropastoral systems and in mixed cropping systems, including issues related to input availability, markets, risk, and information services;
  • Evaluation of legume seed systems as a constraint to scaling, using multidisciplinary research (e.g., supply chain research) and possible pilot programs: identifying technologies and institutions that may lower quality seed production and certification costs, identifying options for seed certification, and identifying models for seed system development based on key features constraining seed system development for legumes;
  • Identification of opportunities to promote behavior change of consumers: overcoming barriers to greater consumption, especially for families with infants and young children, who may reduce malnutrition (nutrient deficiencies and under-nutrition) using legumes;
  • Determination of barriers to and knowledge gaps in legume value chains, and opportunities for engaging youth and women in entrepreneurial activities, including value added processing, marketing, transport, mechanization, retailing, or communications; and
  • Analysis of policy constraints impacting the cost and availability of legumes: constraining local, regional, and international markets, or limiting spread/availability of new technologies, and identifying enabling environment changes to ameliorate the constraints.