Integrating Value Chain research across CGIAR


by Evgeniya Anisimova, Alan de Brauw, Kathryn Pace | December 10, 2018

In early October 2018, PIM’s Flagship on Inclusive and Efficient Value Chains hosted a workshop on Integrating Value Chain Research across CGIAR. The goal of the meeting, held jointly with our partner Wageningen University and Research (WUR), was to catalyze the development of a CGIAR Value Chains community of practice (CoP), which would facilitate collaboration on the topic among the CGIAR research programs (CRPs).

"...An excellent opportunity to learn from each other’s frameworks for value chain research"

The meeting brought together representatives of ten CGIAR programs (A4NH, Fish, FTA, GLDC, Wheat, Livestock, Maize, PIM, Rice, and RTB) and two platforms (Big Data in Agriculture and Gender). The Dutch NGO SNV also attended the workshop to provide external perspective on key research questions, particularly on research in interventions at scale.

Prior to the meeting, participants identified the following potential key topics to help develop communities of practice: 1) processing along the value chain; 2) the broader institutional environment; 3) scaling of value chain interventions; 4) gender and youth employment in value chains; 5) trade and markets; and 6) services.

During the workshop, both broad and in-depth discussions made it quite apparent that CGIAR scientists study value chains from a wide variety of perspectives. Many different tools and methodologies are being used to study each of the key topics, including case studies, framed field experiments and systems modeling. As a follow up on these discussions, PIM’s Value Chains team is taking stock of different methods currently used by the colleagues to provide the basis for improving and sharing research methods on value chains.

Though scientists came from a variety of regions, perspectives, and disciplines, participants found common threads. According to Matty Demont of IRRI and the Rice CRP, “The meeting was an excellent opportunity to learn from each other’s frameworks for value chain research. It made us realize that we all face similar constraints in our research and that we all have similar objectives.”

Framing the future value chain research agenda for CGIAR

It became clear both prior to and during the discussions that the Big Data and Gender platforms could play an important role in framing the future value chain research agenda for CGIAR. Improving management of metadata and ensuring open data sharing will provide opportunities for greater collaboration across CGIAR programs and centers. It is also important that data are collected and catalogued with the intention for use in more than one project.

Closer collaboration between gender and value chain experts, as well as adopting new tools such as the WEAI4VC (Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index for Value Chains) will ensure that gender analysis becomes an important part of value chain studies. The CGIAR Collaborative Platform for Gender Research can be instrumental in bringing the research communities together.

Another important workshop conclusion: it is important to take scaling discussions beyond agricultural technologies, such as biofortified, pest resistant, or more resilient seeds. From the perspective of value chains, it is important to understand, why the private sector takes up certain innovations related to processes and techniques, but not others.

Next steps

“The sharing of information and subsequent discussions made clear the need for a CGIAR Value Chain community of practice.  The workshop was also instrumental in helping to define priority value chain research topics for meeting the needs of CGIAR,” said Frank Place, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM). “PIM will make investments to contribute to these priority research areas and to fora for value chain researchers to develop ideas, share findings, and develop key messages.”

Next year, the CoP will work together on syntheses of lessons from completed work in CGIAR. “We will plan to try to further discussions about how to learn from one another’s methodologies as we begin more collaborative research activities,” said Alan de Brauw, senior research fellow at IFPRI and co-leader of PIM’s research cluster on Approaches to Value Chain Improvement at Scale, who helped plan the 2018 meeting.