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CIMMYT Socio-Economics Program (SEP)

The potential of agricultural development for poverty alleviation and food security is widely acknowledged, particularly for resource-poor farmers in the developing world. But actually realizing this potential is inherently complex. The CIMMYT Socio-Economics Program (SEP) plays a key research-for-development (R4D) role at the supply-demand nexus of agricultural innovations for wheat and maize – two of the three leading global cereals. Therefore, SEP aims to help prioritize, target, understand and enhance wheat and maize interventions for greatest impact. In doing so it will help optimize the use of scarce research resources, accelerate the uptake of such innovations and enhance the impacts and their social inclusiveness for poor producers and consumers of wheat and maize in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

SEP aspires to provide the premier maize and wheat R4D social science expertise and be the premier partner globally, building a long-term vision and detailed understanding of the maize and wheat sectors in the developing world and the role of agricultural R4D in enhancing food security, reducing poverty and enhancing social/gender inclusiveness. SEP envisages providing a pivotal R4D role for impact – by helping set priorities; contributing to high-impact research outputs and outcomes; providing quality feedback and understanding; and creating the evidence base by documenting impacts. Therefore, SEP plays multiple roles along the research-to-development continuum and associated research phases. In the prospective (ex-ante) phase, it helps in positioning, prioritizing and foresight, i.e. how to realize the “biggest bang for the buck.” In the implementation phase, it helps to keep or adjust course by providing current perspectives on progress, process and operational issues. In the retrospective (ex-post) phase, it helps document impact and draw out lessons. SEP thereby aims to provide the necessary guidance, an objective reality check and whether interventions are worth the money – while keeping an eye on the big picture and the changes that are transforming agriculture and rural landscapes. These diverse roles are not linear or a static process, but require a dynamic balance and an evolving role so as to predict, realize and document impact pathways and intermediate development outcomes including social/gender inclusiveness. It also calls for diversity, in terms of different research approaches (with a mix of quantitative and qualitative tools) and expertise (with a mix of social science R4D expertise in the broadest sense, including agricultural economics and the analysis of gender, agribusiness, policy, geography and anthropology).

SEP provides a unique commodity center perspective for wheat and maize, which inherently enables multi-disciplinary and cross-program research and collaboration with each of CIMMYT’s programs – Global Conservation Agricultural Program, Global Maize Program, Global Wheat Program and Genetic Resources Program. SEP has staff out-posted in CIMMYT’s locations across Africa, Asia and Latin America and typically embedded in cross-program R4D projects and working in close association with the national agricultural research systems. SEP’s R4D is also fully embedded in and an integral part of four CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) – MAIZE; WHEAT; Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS); and Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM) http://www.cgiar.org/our-research/cgiar-research-programs/).

SEP’s R4D revolves around four research strategies:

  1. Foresight & Targeting: Developing and using applied foresight, targeting and modeling tools to help prioritize, guide and target R4D investments for maximum impact; exploring future wheat and maize needs spatially and dynamically and translating these into innovation investment needs and innovation adaptation requirements; exploring current innovation investments and opportunities and assessing their likely future impact.
  2. Adoption pathways and impact assessment of Seed & Grain Innovations: Developing and understanding associated impact pathways and impacts for both wheat and maize, including associated value chain analysis and assessments of seed and grain markets and producer/consumer acceptance.
  3. Adoption pathways and impact assessment of Sustainable Intensification: Developing and understanding sustainable intensification impact pathways and impacts for both wheat and maize systems, including natural resource and system dynamics and interactions and associated measurement of adoption and impacts.
  4. Gender research & mainstreaming: Strategic gender analysis and mainstreaming to enhance the social inclusiveness of disadvantaged groups in wheat and maize R4D includes gender disaggregated data collection and analysis to help prioritize, guide and target R4D investments.

SEP’s research is primarily funded through the CRPs and a number of bilateral projects, including:


  • Sustainable Intensification of Maize-Legume Systems for Food Security in Eastern and Southern Africa (SIMLESA)
  • Farm power and Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification (FACASI),
  • Adoption Pathways (AP)
  • Effective Grain Storage Project (EGSP)
  • Drought Tolerant Maize for Africa (DTMA)
  • Improved Maize for African Soil (IMAS)
  • Conservation Agriculture for Smallholder Farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa (CASFESA)


  • Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA)
  • Heat Stress Tolerant Maize for Asia (HTMA)
  • Abiotic Stress tolerant Maize for Asia (ATMA)
  • Agricultural Innovation Project (AIP) in Pakistan

Latin America

For more information, please contact: Olaf Erenstein, Director of the Socio-Economics Program (o.erenstein@cgiar.org).