Pretty Maps Provide Transparency to CGIAR Research Portfolio

As proponents of the open data movement, HarvestChoice works to provide harmonized, spatially referenced biophysical and socio-economic data layers for sub-Saharan Africa. To complement our landscape scale database, HarvestChoice is also leading the effort to capture and geocode the activities of CGIAR centers and sub-regional organizations around the globe.

The CGIAR has long recognized that working in isolation is inefficient, potentially low-voltage, and an increasingly obsolete way to tackle complex issues facing agricultural research for development. As a result, a new infrastructure was created to align the research of their 15 Research Centers and partners into efficient, coherent, multidisciplinary CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs). In addition to this, CGIAR is committed to Open Access; all 15 members of CGIAR Consortium supported unanimously the CGIAR Open Access and Data Management Policy.

Synergy and transparency require a common and open knowledge platform so that at the very least research and development activities, allocated funds, and players can be easily located around the globe. Mapping activities is also important to characterize investment and project portfolios, explore new opportunities for partnerships and research, strategize decision making and investment planning, and follow impact along the R&D chain. Indeed, guiding decision making and investment planning with spatially explicit information is what HarvestChoice is all about.

More than just another pretty map

To this end, HarvestChoice / IFPRI, in partnership with CIAT Decision and Policy Analysis Program (CIAT-DAPA and the CGIAR Consortium for Spatial Information (CGIAR-CSI), co-funded by CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), is mapping CRP activities around the globe and making the data openly available via a web tool. More than just another pretty map, the new tool, CGIAR Agricultural Research Portfolio, is an ongoing development to systematically capture details of activities, outputs, and impacts of CRP activities and map their geographic locations. The CGIAR Agricultural Research Portfolio will soon be available online and is designed to include a user-centric interface and a harmonized database for open access data generated through the CRPs.

Preview of upcoming CGIAR Agricultural Research Portfolio application showing a cluster of activities in East Africa region

The team is also moving towards interactive hands-on workshops not only to review and validate data, but to upload activity information using the simplified web-based entry forms in the tool. The first of such 'Map-a-Thon' workshops was recently held in Addis Ababa in May 2014 to collect and validate geo-localized data on the action sites of CRPs in Ethiopia. This will be soon replicated in various countries, whenever there is an opportunity.

Georeferenced CRP activities in the Horn of Africa region, collectively generated at a recently held Map-a-Thon event at ILRI-Ethiopia

Before planning any new investment, knowing what kind of research and development activities are going on where and monitoring their progress is critical information for any donor. And since this aligns with HarvestChoice’s mission – generate knowledge products for better choices – it’s a no brainer that HarvestChoice is leading this no small effort.


HarvestChoice, 2014. "Pretty Maps Provide Transparency to CGIAR Research Portfolio ." International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC., and University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN. Available online at

Jul 18, 2014