Science Forum 2018

Win more, lose less:Capturing synergies between
SDGs through agricultural research

Video credit: Peter Lowe/GENNOVATE

Maggie Gill (ISPC Chair), Jennifer Thomson (ISPC & SF18 Steering Committee Chair) and Holger Meinke (ISPC & SF18 Steering Committee Member) talk about why SF18 is special, what the CGIAR will gain and how they hope the Forum will provide a challenging environment that will stimulate discussion and get people to think beyond their comfort zone.

About Science Forum 2018

Science Forum 2018 (SF18), Win more, lose less: Capturing synergies between SDGs through agricultural research, will be held from 10-12 October 2018 in Stellenbosch, South Africa. SF18 is organized by the CGIAR’S Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) and co-hosted by the South African Agricultural Research Council.

The objective of SF18 is to identify substantial interactions between the Sustainable Development Goals (both positive and negative), the role of agricultural research in augmenting synergies and managing trade-offs, and the ensuing implications for the science-policy interface. Results will contribute to the discussion of developing research themes and frameworks in CGIAR.

The United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development provides an aspirational and practical roadmap for action by all countries for achieving long-lasting sustainable development outcomes, while ensuring that no one is left behind. Agriculture lies at the heart of this agenda with an essential, multifunctional and catalytic role to play. While at a global level agriculture has delivered substantial gains in terms of increased food supplies, it has been less successful in generating the full range of social, economic and environmental benefits needed to realize Agenda 2030. To achieve these multiple benefits, it is necessary to reposition agriculture in the overall food system and which must be undertaken in the context of the complex and rising set of challenges facing the sector. These include pressures from a growing and urbanizing population, changing dietary patterns, natural resource depletion and climate change, as well as novel opportunities offered by technological and institutional innovations.


  • Credits: Curt Carnemark / World BankCrop productivity and agrobiodiversityInteractions between increasing staple crop productivity, resilience to climate change, improving nutrition and sustaining agro-biodiversity

    • What are potential trade-offs of staple crop breeding for productivity with 1) sustainable use and conservation of agricultural biodiversity; and 2) dietary diversity?
    • What are trade-offs between climate resilience, nutrition and agricultural productivity?
    • What are the implications for the agricultural research agenda?
  • Credits: Camille Hanotte / ILRILivestock production and vulnerability to AMR/ZOONOSESInteractions between intensifying livestock production for food and nutrition security, and a) increased vulnerability to antimicrobial resistance and zoonoses; b) land use change

    • How can we improve both human and animal health and welfare while sustainably improving farm productivity?
    • How can we improve land use management while sustainably meeting the increased demand for animal source foods?
    • What are the key trade-offs?
    • What are the implications for the research agenda?
  • Credits: Flore de Preneuf / World BankWater – Energy - Food nexusInteractions between water, energy and food

    • How can we apply the water- energy- food (WEF) nexus in the agricultural research context?
    • What are the implications for trade-offs between climate resilience, productivity and emissions; and, what does that mean for a future research agenda?
    • Assessment of synergies and trade-offs based on integrated modelling, and implications for agricultural research seen from a water-energy-food-land-climate nexus perspective. 

The Speakers

Keith Wiebe

Senior Research Fellow International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Ana Paula Aguiar

Research Fellow Stockholm Resilience Center

Nighisty Ghezae

ISPC Member; Director International Foundation for Science, Sweden

Boulanouar Bouchaib

Principal Livestock Officer African Development Bank (ADB)

Izabella Koziell

Program Director CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems, Sri Lanka

Melinda Smale

Professor of International Development Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics, Michigan State University

Patrick Webb

ISPC Member; Professor of Nutrition, Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Tufts University, USA

Ruth DeFries

Professor of Ecology and Sustainable Development Columbia University, New York

Jacques Wery

Deputy Director General and Director of Research International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)

Jean-Pascal van Ypersele

Professor of Climatology and Environmental Sciences Université catholique de Louvain, Earth and Life Institute

Mathew Kurian

Head of Unit, Capacity Development and Governance (CDG) United Nations University (UNU-FLORES)

Karen Macours

SPIA Chair; Associate Professor and Researcher Paris School of Economics and French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA)


Science Forum 2018 is organized by the CGIAR’S Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) and co-hosted by the South African Agricultural Research Council.

The ISPC is a part of the CGIAR, a global research partnership for a food secure future dedicated to achieving a world free of poverty, hunger and environmental degradation. One of the main functions of the ISPC is to provide a credible challenge function to both the funders and the implementers of CGIAR research on the overall direction and composition of the research portfolio. An essential element of this function is taking a close look at the research programs’ theories of change and their underlying assumptions, for example how the research activities of the CGIAR are expected to generate impacts. One mechanism that the ISPC utilizes to realize the challenge function is the organization of a biennial Science Forum (SF) to catalyze discussion on emerging issues of strategic importance to CGIAR, bringing in external perspectives to engage in dialogue and discussion with CGIAR stakeholders.

Four SFs have been organized to date, the last three have focused on analyzing the assumptions about how agricultural research in general, and CGIAR research specifically, can deliver impacts on each of the three CGIAR System Level Outcomes (SLOs). The 2016 SF focused on reassessing the pathways for agricultural research to contribute to reducing poverty (SLO1); whereas the 2013 SF examined the pathways from agricultural research to improved nutrition (SLO2); and, in 2011, the Forum discussed issues related to the agriculture-environment nexus (SLO3).

Steering Committee

  • Jennifer Thomson

    Jennifer Thomson

    Chair, Council Member, ISPC and Emeritus Professor Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, University of Cape Town – South Africa
  • Izabella Koziell

    Izabella Koziell

    Program Director CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems - Sri Lanka
  • Leslie Lipper

    Executive Director ISPC Secretariat
  • Holger Meinke

    ISPC Council Member and Head School of Land and Food; Director, Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture – Australia
  • Bongani Ndimba

    Senior Research Manager ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij – South Africa
  • Virgilio Viana

    General Director Sustainable Amazon Foundation – Brazil
  • Eric Witte

    Senior International Affairs Specialist USAID – USA
  • André Zandstra

    Head, Funder & External Engagement CGIAR SMO – France
  • Preet Lidder

    ISPC Technical Lead and Ex-Officio Member - Agricultural Research Officer ISPC Secretariat