A new road map charts constructive ways forward to revitalize African agricultural research and development (R&D). Strong national agricultural R&D programs are crucial to enable farmers to be more productive and prosperous. Published by the Agricultural Science & Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative—facilitated by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)—the road map describes the current situation and major challenges in four key areas: (i) sustainable financing for agricultural research, (ii) training the next generation of scientists, (iii) evaluating research performance, and (iv) aligning and rationalizing institutional structures.
Most importantly, the road map offers practical, solution-oriented guidance in each of these areas. The guidelines are written for policymakers, national governments, and donors. They set out ways to bring agricultural research capacity in line with the problems of today—problems such as rapidly growing populations, climate change, water scarcity, and volatile food prices. Addressing these problems requires increased, consistent, and coordinated funding from governments, donors, and development banks.
The road map document "Reflections on the Conference" synthesizes the paper presentations, panel discussions and deliberations by participants at the conference “Agricultural R&D: Investing in Africa’s Future” convened by ASTI/IFPRI and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in late 2011. The wide interest in the conference and its outputs is indicative of the high priority of agriculture on today’s development agenda—due in part to rising global food prices. Smallholder farmers especially benefit from agricultural research tailored to their local climate and farming conditions. Nonetheless, ASTI data confirms that African governments have persistently underinvested in agriculture, especially agricultural research. Now, as much of Sub-Saharan Africa experiences relatively brisk economic growth, the time is right for greater investment in research capacity.
While the organizational structure of African R&D is in place, it is highly complex. Key contributions are made by national, subregional and international institutes. Strong linkages between these levels can stimulate local breakthroughs, because countries alone are often too small to provide the required capacity.
Beyond a more interconnected global agricultural research system, higher and more stable levels of government funding are needed. A focus on longer term objectives will promote financial stability, institutional efficiency, and overall quality of research outputs. For this, governments need to identify long-term national R&D priorities and design programs to match.
Finally, expanded investment in agricultural higher education will enable universities to train more agricultural scientists, offering more PhD and master’s programs and improving curricula of existing programs.
Please visit the conference website for more information and to download conference papers, case studies, presentations, discussant notes, and panel discussion summaries: http://www.asti.cgiar.org/2011conf
Posted in Overview publications, Sub-Saharan Africa