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CIFSRF Fund Call for Concept Note

CIFSRF Call for Concept Note

Canadian Int Food Security Research Fund

Goal and Key Objectives of the CIFSRF Fund

The goal of the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund (CIFSRF) is to foster the development of more productive and environmentally sustainable agricultural systems that increase food security and enhance nutrition in developing countries.

The two key objectives are to:

a)       Increase food security in developing countries through investments in applied research for agricultural productivity and nutrition; and

b)      Harness Canadian expertise and knowledge in food security related science and technology to develop solutions with and for the developing world.

Proposed research should clearly address real, practical development challenges related to the objectives of the Fund, targeting the poor and most vulnerable groups, and with the potential to generate applied research results within the lifetime of the research project—and potential development impacts within three years after the project ends.

Eligibility for the Fund

A.   Applicant NGO and Research Location

This call is open to applicant organizations that will work in partnership with each other to carry out research in one (or more) of the eligible countries listed in Appendix A. Each partnership must be between two or more NGOs, at least one of which must be a Canadian organization, and at least one of which must be an organization based in one of the eligible countries in the South.

Eligible country NGOs are considered to be those that have legal corporate registration in an eligible country.

The research must take place in one or more eligible countries. Applicant organizations will require considerable research experience to be able to lead a project of this nature. The Fund encourages applications from partnerships that include non-governmental, civil society, and private sector organizations that have a strong research focus.

International organizations (excepting United Nations organizations and Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research centres) are eligible to apply as Southern collaborators in this call, provided that they have regional chapters or offices with appropriate legal status to operate and manage funds in the eligible countries where the research will take place.

United Nations organizations and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research centres receive significant Canadian funds via other funding windows and may not apply to this Fund as applicant organizations. They may, however, be included in applications by other research teams, as third-party organizations. Similarly, Canadian federal government agencies or departments may not apply directly, but may participate as third-party organizations. The Fund will contract directly only with successful applicant organizations, which will be permitted to develop contracts with third-party organizations for specific services. Applications that involve third-party organizations must clearly justify their involvement and explain their role(s). Note that third-party organizations are not required to be located in the eligible countries.

The guideline for total third-party participation in a project is a maximum of 20% of the budget.

B.   Collaboration

This open, competitive call for concept notes is designed to promote new or expanded Canadian and developing country partnerships. The partnership may be pre-existing or newly formed.


The Fund promotes joint working relationships between Canadian and developing country NGOs. Effective relationships require a clear description of roles and responsibilities (who will be involved, where, when, with what intensity, and for what specific purpose or end). Effective partnerships should harness and integrate the specific skills of organizations as necessary to achieve the research objectives without creating overly complex managerial structures (e.g., too many participating organizations). Effective partnerships are also reflected by equitable sharing of the budget and shared accountability for research processes and results. The Fund seeks to harness Canadian knowledge, technology, and expertise (see Section 2, Goal and Key Objectives of the Fund) in a manner that adds value and is sensitive to the needs and participation of partners in the South.

Applications must be prepared and submitted jointly by Canadian and developing country NGOs and must include an official letter of endorsement, signed by an authorized officer, from each applicant organization. More details about this letter can be found in the instructions document.

Each NGO (other than a third party) that will be receiving funds must be listed as an applicant organization, and each applicant organization must have a principal investigator (PI). Principal investigators are defined as those responsible for both the intellectual direction and the administration of the project. The percentage of time that each PI dedicates to the project should be sufficient for leading a project of this scale, yet realistic in the context of their other commitments. Each proposed research project will have one or more PIs based in Canada and one or more in an eligible country or countries (depending on the number of applicant organizations), and they will be jointly responsible for the direction and administration of the research (including reporting to IDRC).

Please note that individual researchers are eligible to be included on a maximum of two concept notes in the 2011 Call—either as a PI on one project and on the research team of one additional project, or on the research team of two projects (researchers cannot be the PI on two projects). Any researcher who is currently a PI (or a co-PI) on a funded project from the 2010 Call for Concept Notes (Call 2) is not eligible to be a PI on a 2011 Call project, but he/she may be included on the research team of one 2011 Call application.

C.   Type of Research

This call will support applied field and/or laboratory research projects with potential to generate high impact and innovative results for agriculture, nutrition, and food in developing countries, with particular impact on the poor (including women and vulnerable groups). Basic/fundamental, purely theoretical, and/or policy research will not be considered. All projects require the sound assessment of environmental impact and the integration of social and gender variables.

Research must be completed within the timeframe of the project, and should have the potential for development impacts within three years after the project ends.  Longer-term research (e.g., breeding, farming systems, etc.), weather-dependant research, and intensive participatory research will need to be clearly justified to ensure that work can be completed and results demonstrated within 30 months.

IDRC and CIDA are especially interested in supporting innovative research with the potential for breakthrough results that could be effectively scaled up and easily adopted by small-holder farmers, food processors, post-harvest handlers, and other value chain actors to improve food security in developing countries.

Budget and Duration

Project budgets under this call will be in the range of CAD 1,000,000 to CAD 5,000,000 (please see instructions for more detail on budgets). Project duration must not exceed 30 months, including all research activities and final reporting.

Selection Process

This call will consist of a two-stage selection process to fund full research projects. In the first stage, all concept notes prepared by applicant partnerships will be pre-screened for eligibility and then thoroughly reviewed. A set of concept notes will be short-listed, according to the selection criteria outlined below. The review process draws on the expertise and recommendations of an international Scientific Advisory Committee of the Fund and final short-listed concept notes are approved by the Governance Committee of the Fund.

In the second stage of the process, short-listed applicants will be eligible to receive a small travel grant (must be fully justified) of up to $10,000 CAD, to permit representatives from the applicant organizations to meet to develop the full proposal. Note that provision of such a travel grant does not guarantee funding of any future full proposal, but if such a grant is awarded, a proposal must be submitted, and attendance at the meeting between applicant organizations is considered a prerequisite for submission of a full proposal.

The applicant NGOs whose concept notes were shortlisted will jointly submit a full proposal, which will again be reviewed by the Scientific Advisory Committee. The Governance Committee will make final funding decisions based on the review and recommendations of the Scientific Advisory Committee.

Selection Criteria

Concept notes will be assessed on the following five criteria:

1.        Relevance of the concept note / scientific idea (25%): relevance of the research to the food security and development challenge, to regional priorities, and in particular to the most food insecure in the developing world. Clear demonstration of how the research will add value to existing knowledge, citing past work done on the theme and in the region – both by the applicant organizations and by other researchers.

2.    Research merit and effectiveness (25%): evidence of innovation, clarity of research questions and objectives, conceptual soundness, robustness of methodology and research design, capacity to generate results within the lifetime for the project, potential for scaling up of results (applicability and replicability).

3.        Team strength and collaboration (25%): expertise,  track-record and planned contribution of natural and social scientists involved in the research, level of collaboration in project implementation, and equitable sharing of budget. The roles and responsibilities of each of the partners, as well as their contribution to the expected results, should be identified – including the value-added role that Canadian knowledge, technology, and ideas will play in the research. The role, contribution, and activities of the third parties (including their level of effort), if applicable, should also be briefly described

4.       Special attention to women (12.5%): consideration of women's specific needs in design of the research, participation of women in research, potential impact of research on women. The integration of social and gender variables must be taken very seriously in order to ensure that the research has an impact on the poor and especially women and vulnerable groups, as the Fund intends. Adoption of and effects from improved technology are conditioned by these variables and influence actual development outcomes. Applicants should demonstrate how they will incorporate a gender perspective into the research activities and how they will report on the results.

5.        Environmental sustainability (12.5%): recognition of potential environmental impacts, including identification of steps to maximize positive impacts and minimize negative impacts. Environmental impacts have an important role in determining the long-term success and sustainability of the research. Applicants should carefully consider environmental risks and benefits, and be clear about related activities and how environmental impacts will be measured and reported on.

In addition to the above five criteria, applications must include a budget estimate, which should be commensurate with the proposed work. Value for money is inherent in the overall assessment of criteria.

Target Timelines

1.     January 26, 2011: Launch of call

2.     Feb 9-March 23: Online application available

3.     March 23, 2011 (11:59 PM EDT): Deadline for submission of concept notes

4.     Mid-June, 2011: Successful applicants invited to develop full proposals

5.     September 30, 2011 (11:59 PM EDT): Deadline for submission of full proposals

6.     Mid-December, 2011: Final selection of full proposals recommended for funding

7.     Early 2012: Projects begin

Concept Note Format and Requirements

In order to be considered, concept notes must:

a)  be completed using the online application on the CIFSRF website, between Feb. 9 and March 23, 2011;

b) be submitted in either English or French;

c) provide summaries of the proposed research project, applicant organizations and principal investigators, team composition, and third-party organizations (if applicable) – Sections A to D;

d)    contain a description of the research project that is not more than 24,000 characters (approximately 6 pages, Times New Roman, single spaced), plus maximum of 4,000 characters (approximately 1 page) of references. Research description must include all of the sections noted in the instructions – Section E;

e) provide an overview of project activities – Section F;

f)  include a tentative consolidated budget, indicating expected and reasonable expenses for the duration of the project – Section G;

g) include a CV of the principal investigator of each applicant organization – Section  H;

h) include a signed official letter of endorsement from each applicant organization – Section I.

Submission Deadline

Concept notes must be submitted by the deadline of 11:59 p.m., Eastern Time Zone, March 23, 2011, using the online application form.

Applications received by the deadline and deemed by IDRC to be compliant with the requirements set out in this call will be evaluated in accordance with the process outlined herein.

Applications received after the deadline WILL NOT be considered.

CIFSRF Eligible countries

Please note that any applicant organization not based in Canada must be based in one of the following eligible countries. The research work carried out must also take place in one (or more) of these countries.

1.     Afghanistanℓ

2.     Bangladesh

3.     Benin

4.     Bolivia

5.     Brazil*

6.     Burkina Faso

7.     Cambodia

8.     Cameroon

9.     Caribbean Regional**

10. Chile*

11. China*

12. Colombia

13. Congo (DRC)

14. Costa Rica*

15. Ecuador

16. El Salvador

17. Egypt

18. Ethiopia

19. Ghana

20. Guatemala

21. Haiti

22. Honduras

23. India*ⁿ

24. Indonesia

25. Jordan

26. Kenya

27. Lebanon*

28. Malaysia*

29. Malawi

30. Mali

31. Mexico*

32. Morocco

33. Mozambique

34. Nepal

35. Nicaragua

36. Nigerℓ

37. Nigeria

38. Pakistanℓ

39. Peru

40. Philippines

41. Rwanda

42. Senegal

43. South Africa

44. Sri Lanka

45. Sudan

46. Syria

47. Tanzania

48. Togo

49. Uganda

50. Vietnam

51. Gaza/West Bank

52. Zambia


* Countries for which concept notes will have to address a research problem of regional relevance to be considered eligible for funding. It will need to be clearly demonstrated in the proposal that research results in these countries are applicable to other countries in the region.

** Caribbean Regional countries include Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Jamaica, Grenada, Guyana, Montserrat, Saint-Kitts & Nevis, Saint-Lucia, Saint-Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad &Tobago, and concept notes will have to demonstrate regional relevance.

All applicants from India require FCRA clearance and should provide a copy of the form for their organization when submitting concept notes. An FCRA form must also be attached for any third-party organization based in India.

The Travel Advisory Group at IDRC draws on DFAIT advisories and identifies countries (or areas in countries) where travel is unacceptably dangerous, or requires case-by-case approval. Even if travel is approved, certain conditions may be attached to it. At the time of this CIFSRF Call, IDRC has very restrictive travel conditions for IDRC staff in these three countries, which would severely limit the ability to effectively monitor projects and may negatively influence funding decisions. Depending on local security conditions, researchers should note that the same may occur in specific regions of other countries on this list.

For more info email to:


The NGO Funding Consultants