Giving Numbers to Colored Maps
Coffee with: Bernardo Creamer
Bernardo Creamer is an Agricultural Policy Economist, who occupies a joint position between CIAT and IFPRI. His work focuses on the economic and policy landscape in Latin America and the Caribbean.
We do what is called ex-ante economic analysis. In other words, we look forward into the future. I often hear people saying that DAPA is about colored maps of the future. Well, that can be true in some cases, but what we are trying to do, is to put dollar numbers to these colored maps.
Our main project right now is called Global Futures and Strategic Foresight (GF). This project aims to improve the capacity of the CGIAR centers to evaluate and prioritize research investments, and to support the decision-making of international development partners and national policymakers. The GF project is designed to provide tools to use limited resources more efficiently to support agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability in developing countries. It is focused on evaluating promising technologies, investments, and policy reforms. One of the most interesting features is the development and evaluation of virtual crops for the main food crops, including CIAT’s mandate crops: rice, cassava and beans.
In most of our work, we analyze the future impact of specific technologies, future shocks, climate change and other changing conditions. The GF project combines crop modelling at pixel level with IFPRI’s flagship economic analysis tool: the IMPACT model. First we globally model the main crops at pixel level utilizing a computer High Performance Cluster (HPC), and then use its results to measure effective future changes in yields and costs. The IMPACT model is a state-of-the-art partial equilibrium economic model written in GAMS that generates scenarios of future production, consumption, and trade of key agricultural commodities, and that can assess, for example, the effects of climate change, water availability and other major trends. It is also possible to more effectively evaluate potential research expenditures and their impact on the world’s most important crops, forests, and livestock, as well as disaggregated welfare changes in consumers and farmers due to the changes analyzed.
The research activities conducted in the Global Futures project can assess how changes in global trading regimes, mandates for biofuels and energy prices, land degradation, and climate change affect human well-being. The project tools will make it easier to see how these trends affect developing countries’ progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals of reducing hunger, malnutrition, and poverty. The analysis improves on previous research by incorporating: detailed location-specific data; climate, soil type, crop variety, and other critical variables; detailed models of crop, hydrology, and water supply and demand; improved measurement of effects on human welfare; and the impact of potential agricultural investments on economic growth, incomes, and poverty alleviation.
As Mark Rosegrant, Director of IFPRI’s Environment and Production Technology Division, stated: “Sustainable agricultural growth in developing countries is challenged as never before—by climate change, increasingly volatile food and energy markets, natural resource exploitation, and a growing population with aspirations for a better standard of living. This research will prove invaluable to setting priorities for meeting these challenges and, ultimately, improving the lives of the world’s poorest people.”
We are working under the umbrella of the PIM, RTB, and CCAFS CRPs. Another one of our goals is to look for priorities to research specific crops. The challenge that we face in the analysis is to translate any kind of possible and relevant ‘shock’ into an equivalent mathematical model that we can study, and determine the economic consequences and effects of this shock. An example of a shock is the frequently explored question of the economic impact of climate change. The strategic foresight component involves the definition of dominant trends, important drivers, and of plausible scenarios from where we can assess which priorities or strategies are advisable. We look into the future, and in this future we look at the economic impact of changes and shocks.
Our work does bring about a lot of uncertainty. How important is a certain scenario? What does this mean? And, does the most obvious thing to do also mean the most efficient thing to do?
The important thing is to ‘milk’ the information that is already available out there and that we include this information in the processes of prioritization.
An interesting potential application of what we do is to use ex-ante economic evaluation and foresight to set some of the Intermediate development Outcomes in Phase II of the CRPs, and to link future technologies to impacts in the Impact Assessment Pathway methodology.
For more information on the Global Futures Project, click the following link