Research Themes – Grounding three core areas in local realities
PRCI is committed to a process that grounds a global research agenda in local realities and priorities. Following initial discussions among the consortium members, we propose three broad themes for this global agenda:
- Inclusive agricultural and rural transformation to raise rural household incomes (including small farmers) , and to create more decent jobs particularly for young women and men;
- Development of healthy food systems, including regulatory issues and private sector engagement, in ways that address food safety and the triple burden of malnutrition; and
- Enhanced resilience at individual, household, national and regional levels (to climate and other sources of shocks) to achieve economic and environmental sustainability.
Inclusive agricultural and rural transformation
As economies and diets transform, agriculture needs to play a different role in providing food security: shifting from staple grains to more diversified crops, and in creating jobs throughout agricultural value chains. While productivity-enhancing technology and inputs remain critical, trade and the private sector play an increasing role. Finding the appropriate enabling environment for the private sector to engage with farmers and rural workers is a key policy issue. While commercialization, diversification, and agro-processing create opportunities for increasing incomes, these opportunities often go to those with the most education or other assets; women in particular are often disadvantaged. The security and distribution of property rights can contribute to, and be affected by, such transformations. Analyzing the constraints and opportunities involved in agricultural and rural transformations is key to ensuring equitable outcomes.
Healthy food systems
The transformation of food systems and diets, with more processing, greater distances, and more intervening actors from producer to consumers, creates opportunities and challenges. Opportunities exist to reduce malnutrition related to insufficient caloric intake, as well as “hidden hunger” stemming from micronutrient deficiencies. Yet many processed foods have high fats and sugar content that can contribute to obesity and non-communicable diseases, both of which are rising rapidly in developing countries. Appropriate regulatory systems are required to ensure food safety, without imposing undue costs on the private sector, including small-scale processors or vendors. All these areas require more and better research linked to policy action.
All outcomes—whether agricultural production, incomes, food consumption, or health—need to be evaluated not only in the short term, but in terms of how they are affected by shocks and stresses, which are increasing in frequency and intensity. At the individual level, illnesses can affect agricultural production and incomes. Weather shocks, pest outbreaks, and conflicts similarly affect productivity at the farm, community, and national levels. Strategies to increase resilience to these shocks and stresses include improved agricultural practices (using sustainable crop and livestock practices and inputs), livelihood diversification strategies (for example, migration, off-farm work, and small enterprises), and risk mitigation strategies (such as improved food and water storage). The governance of natural resources is fundamental to sustainability and climate resilience. Insurance and social protection policies also contribute to resilience to different sources of shocks, including weather and illnesses.
Locally grounding the global research agenda
PRCI’s Executive Committee is currently revisiting these proposed themes at the start of the program, and will consider the implications of local stakeholder input on the appropriate definition of themes. The themes now serve as a guiding framework that will make local research more consistent with and complementary to the global policy agenda. Collectively, they will help address important trade-offs that local policymakers continue to grapple with.