How can development research shed light on institutions and governance for climate-resilient food systems?

Understanding what role institutions and governance arrangements play for climate-resilient food systems and how related policies are formulated and implemented has emerged as a key research field for CCAFS new flagship program “Policies and Institutions for Climate-Resilient Food Systems.”

Flagship on Policies and Institutions for Climate-Resilient Food Systems

Starting officially in 2015, this flagship will address adaptation and food system policies, from national up to global level, while looking at cross-scale linkages for enhanced climate governance and increased equitable investments to support climate-resilient food systems.

Learn more about the flagship through this group presentation

In fact, how governance and institutions, from national to global, govern food systems in the context of climate change have been seriously under-explored within the agricultural research for development field.

In the light of this, a workshop with governance experts was held in September to help outline how CCAFS and the development research community as a whole can meaningfully contribute to research on institutions and governance for climate-resilient food systems.

Gathering valuable insights from experienced governance researchers 

The workshop's aim was to learn what role CCAFS and the development research community can play in creating a better understanding of the linkages between governance, institutions and climate-resilient food systems.

Brussels workshop on governance helped CCAFS fast-track its institutions for climate-resilient food system agenda. Photo: C. Schubert (CCAFS)To help fast-track a well-targeted and innovative research agenda for the flagship, a diverse group of thirty experts, coming from the political and social sciences, and the environmental, agricultural and water fields, came together to compare their experiences and share insights.

Their valuable comments are helping the flagship program develop research priorities for their portfolio, building on the body of work that has already been produced, to avoid duplication.

Scoping what has already been done

The workshop kicked-off with a panel presenting reviews of the scope and extent of governance and institutions research within climate change adaptation already underway.

The presentations drew on specially commissioned background papers that responded to CCAFS open call for climate change governance and institutions research contributing towards development outcomes a while back.

Presenter Mark Purdon, a Visiting Fellow in the Department for International Development at the London School of Economics and Political Science, highlighted how political science can help support research on climate adaptation:

At the moment, much research on the governance of food systems and climate adaptation has been comprised of unstructured, single case studies. With the methods and conceptual tools of comparative politics, researchers can discover and better understand empirical relationships among various factors shaping governance outcomes and make better recommendations to steering bodies regarding enabling conditions, institutional set-up and governance arrangements.

View Mark Purdon's presentation:

Livia Bizikova, the director of 'Knowledge for Integrated Decisions' and Anne Hammill, the director in the Resilience Program, both based in the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), presented a systematic review of the research being carried out on the topic of climate change adaptation governance and food security, across scales.

They found that very few relevant articles exist, providing an opportunity for researchers to further support this particular topic.

The two scoping studies will be available later this year as part of the CCAFS Working Paper series.

View Livia Bizikova and Anne Hammill's presentation:


Collaboration helps outline a field of research opportunities

Participants managed to home in on a number of research opportunities where CCAFS and others can help provide new insights:

  • The role of non-traditional actors, including the private sector, think tanks, social movements, and military, in food system governance.
  • How power is exercised at climate negotiations and elsewhere, by different actors through discourses and framings.
  • Move beyond incremental adaptation, towards transformation, and find the required governance and institutional shifts.
  • Find effective governance mechanisms, and look beyond success/failure dichotomy using comparative case studies.
  • Look at governance across scales, including governance arrangements, discourses, actors and cross-scale integration and linkages.Brussels workshop on governance helped CCAFS fast-track its institutions for climate-resilient food system agenda. Photo: C. Schubert (CCAFS)

The workshop prioritised research opportunities and formed interest groups that explored the research questions, processes, methods, and partnerships that the development research community and CCAFS could use to tackle the mentioned research areas.  

Two important sets of conclusions came out of the workshop that the flagship will keep central to its further planning:

The need to recognise the policy-making and adaptation is a process, and not an output, an end state or a goal. This insight will affect how research is being carried out.

Also, governance is not a tool, or an add-on, but high quality social science research needs to be implemented to shed light on institutional and governance challenges to climate resilient food systems, and this brings about new partnerships and stakeholders to do so.

Next steps for the flagship program

Much can be done, to add value to this particular field of research, which combines political and social sciences, and economics, with agriculture and climate change research in an innovative and exciting way.

How the flagship will approach this new field of research will be further developed over the course of this year through ongoing dialogue with the newly formed experts team and other stakeholders. An immediate next step is for the team to review the prioritised opportunities presented by the groups.

Stay tuned on our blog for more updates related to this particular topic!

Learn more about the Governance workshop.
Download: What is CCAFS? And why governance? 

Cecilia Schubert works with communication for CCAFS Flagship/Theme 4. Carl Jackson is the Director of Westhill Knowledge and served as the workshop facilitator. The blog received significant contributions from Wiebke Förch, Science Officer Flagship/Theme 4, and Ioannis Vasileiou, Science Officer Policy Analysis, also linked to Theme 4.