Adaptation Futures Conference | Transforming agri-food systems: moving from science to action

Event Date and time


Cape Town International Convention Centre, Convention Square, 1 Lower Long Street, Cape Town

Panel and lecture at the world’s premier conference on climate change adaptation.

Session S166

19th June 2018, 14:15 - 16:00

Cape Town International Convention Centre, Room S1.61

The evidence of impacts of climate change on agri-food systems is growing and farmers in many countries are experiencing rapid changes in phenomena such as the traditional start of the rains, planting dates, amounts and patterns of rainfall, and frequency of extreme weather events. In the context of such rapid changes, previous experience may count for little, and incremental adaptation efforts may not be sufficient to protect assets, livelihoods and food security; rather much more drastic action will be required. In recent years, the concept of transformational adaptation in agri-food systems has gained traction in response to challenges faced by farming communities. Vermeulen et al. (forthcoming) has proposed the following definition for transformational adaptation in agri-food systems:

  • a response to climate risks, usually in combination with other drivers
  • a redistribution of at least 33% in the primary factors of production (land, labour, capital) and/or the outputs and outcomes of production (the types and amounts of production and consumption of goods and services arising from multi-functional agri-food systems)
  • mediated by a change in collective decisions or decision-making processes (governance)

How can transformational change in agri-food systems be facilitated at scale? This session will highlight results from a systematic review of literature on transformational change in agri-food systems, thus capturing lessons from case studies around the world. Based on these lessons, opportunities for facilitating transformational change at scale in agri-food systems will be presented, for example through investments, technology application, institutional innovations, policy changes, and women as agents of change.

The session will involve one keynote presentation on the results from the systematic review, which will be followed by a panel discussion with scientists and implementers on translating lessons into action.  This will be followed by discussions and development of an action agenda on transformational change in agri-food systems.


Welcome, session objectives, introduction to speakers

Mark Howden, ANU (Chair)

10 minutes

Keynote presentation: Transformational change in agri-food systems

Philip Thornton, ILRI

15 minutes

Moderated Q&A with the audience

10 minutes

Towards an action agenda for transforming agri-food systems

Moderated panel discussion

Women as agents of transformational change 

Tatiana Gumucio, IRI

35 minutes

Financing transformational change in agri-food systems: Experiences from IFAD’s Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP)

Ilaria Firmian, IFAD

Transformational adaptation: Challenges and opportunities for farming communities

Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba, FANRPAN

Transformational change though investment Jerry Velasquez, GCF

Moderated Q&A with the audience

20 minutes

Closing remarks from panellists Mark Howden 5 minutes

Final remarks and wrap up

Bruce Campbell, CCAFS

10 minutes

This session is organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in cooperation with the Australia National University (ANU) Climate Change Institute; the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI); International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University (IRI); Women in Global Science and Technology (WISAT); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); Climate Smart Agriculture, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN); and Green Climate Fund (GCF).