CGIAR COVID-19 Research Response: Food Systems


Before the COVID-19 crisis began, the need for food system transformation was already clear. Most of the world’s population eats too little, too much, or the wrong type or combination of food – at an unsustainable cost to the climate, the environment and human health.

The way this crisis will unfold in the medium to longer term is uncertain, but one thing is clear: it presents a unique opportunity to reset the world food system, to ‘build back better’ – to finally implement what has been advocated for some time by CGIAR and many others: a sustainable food systems revolution – as urgent as the agricultural revolution that launched CGIAR, yet exponentially more complex.

The CGIAR research response to COVID-19 addresses four thematic areas to maximize the relevance and utility of support to policymakers and practitioners. In addition to food systems, research will also focus on One Health, inclusive public programs, and policies and investments.

Researchers across the CGIAR system will work to improve functioning of the full food supply chain and its enabling environments to secure jobs and livelihoods, and to ensure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for all. Food systems research will carry through and evolve during the different stages of the pandemic:

  • As a crisis response in the short term, researchers will support production of adequate and diverse foods, monitor supply and accessibility of vital agricultural inputs, provide options for supply chains and markets for both staple and perishable foods, and monitor and propose measures to reduce market volatility and enhance access to food among vulnerable groups.
  • In the medium-term recovery phase, work will focus on adapting systems for greater supply and access of nutritious foods, using digital technologies to monitor, predict and adapt food flows, and analyzing COVID-19 impacts on household livelihoods and assets, labor supply, and gender and equity issues.
  • To build long-term resilience, researchers will identify ways to build back better and make food, land, and water systems more robust and resilient to shocks and adapt systematic approaches to food systems transformation that link health, sustainability, and socioeconomic outcomes.

Learn more about the CGIAR COVID-19 Hub, and CGIAR research on COVID-19.