Home garden harvesting. Photo: J.Raneri/Bioversity
We often hear that solving the enormous and wicked problems our society faces requires transdisciplinary research, holistic and system-oriented approaches, understanding trade-offs, using robust metrics, and anticipating unintended consequences of interventions. Modelling systems can help bring all these requests together and address these challenges.
One such challenge lies in identifying desirable development pathways for smallholder farmers, for whom producing food of sufficient quantity, quality, and diversity is a key objective. These farms are often managed by multiple household members, who have additional activities and income sources besides farming. More and better tools and methods are needed to address the complex and sizable problems these households face.
Three recent publications show advances in the analysis of smallholder farms and households that depend on farming for their food and nutrition security and livelihoods. We extended and used the whole-farm model FarmDESIGN in combination with other methods such as participatory approaches to explore opportunities to improve productivity, environment, income, nutrition and equity.
Through each of these studies, we show how a modeling tool can be an effective method for decision makers as they seek to understand trade-offs and potential outcomes of agricultural interventions at the household level. The work, driven by A4NH and a focus on improving nutrition, also demonstrated how addressing issues in a way that cuts across CGIAR research programs can complement and enhance commodity-based research done by CGIAR and elsewhere.
This post was developed collaboratively by Jessica E. Raneri, Natalia Estrada Carmona, Carl Timler, Lenora Ditzler and Jeroen Groot.
This approach was applied in case studies within the CGIAR Research Program (CRP) on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH), but also in collaboration with CRPs MAIZE; WHEAT; Roots, Tubers, and Bananas; RICE; Water, Land, and Ecosystems; and Humidtropics.
The authors map national food system transformations in a recently developed typology, using economic, social, dietary, and environmental outcomes to examine whether there are linear patterns as countries move from one categorization to another.
PhD candidates with A4NH's Food Systems for Healthier Diets research flagship reflect on what they learned about engaging in national food system transformation during the course of their study.
Inge Brouwer and Ruerd Ruben have helped shape A4NH's food systems thinking and research agenda.