Further investments are urgently needed for human capacity building at universities and R&D agencies to redress the decline in researcher capacity caused by an aging workforce and brain-drain. The latest ASTI research underscores the trend:
Revised data analyses for the Asia–Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean regions, along with initial analyses for Sub-Saharan Africa that have yet to be finalized, indicate that—more than ever—the knowledge divide among rich and poor countries (the so-called scientific “haves” and “have-nots”) is growing.
As Beintema and Elliott point out in their paper Setting Meaningful Investment Targets in Agricultural Research and Development: Challenges, Opportunities and Fiscal Realities, increased investment in agricultural R&D must be assessed in light of the research capacity available at the agencies to absorb the additional funding, and in addition:
. . . the rate at which research capacity can grow is linked to the strength of the higher education system. In many countries, this subsystem itself requires re-tooling. Targets which project annual growth in current research expenditures of 10 percent or more need to be reviewed carefully so that good intentions do not result in wasteful expenditures that press against scarce human and institutional resources.
Dr. Gebisa Ejeta of Ethiopia, World Food Price winner 2009, presented a message from Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator, at the GCARD confence in April in which he highlighted the need for investing in human capacity:
Fundamental to sustaining support for elevated funding is our greater accountability for impact, including in research. This means we will be re-thinking our programmatic structures to place more emphasis on ensuring that advances and technology are delivered into the hands of small-scale producers. We recognize that this cannot happen without stronger human and institutional capacity, particularly at the regional and national levels. Strong partners must contribute to setting the agenda and drawing global advances down to the farm level. We will integrate capacity development in the agricultural innovation system into our program development. These include strengthening individual and collective capabilities, improving organizational processes, and fostering networks and linkages among agents of innovation. We all recognize this as an area that has suffered over the past two decades, but I am very glad to say that it is a central objective in our strategy.