In a recent event which focused on capacity development for agricultural research, Rob Bertram of USAID stated that, “…without capacity being developed in our partner countries, the likelihood that our investments are going to last over time and perpetuate themselves is going to be reduced or compromised.”
National agricultural research systems (NARS), according to USAID, are the backbone of an agricultural innovation system and include all public, semi-public, and private agricultural R&D in a country, including universities, government laboratories, private sector research, and NGO or producer-led research enterprises.
In the early 90’s agriculture and food dropped off the radars of many governments and donors and as a result, funding for agricultural R&D and human resource development stagnated and became highly volatile – resulting in a roller coaster effect for many countries dependent on donors for funding. Underinvestment can be seen in many of the low-income countries of Africa, as detailed by Nienke Beintema’s presentation at the event. Although overall investment and capacity have increased in Africa south of the Sahara, researchers struggle with low salaries, lack of training, and few resources to support the operating and capital costs of research in most countries.
The Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative led by IFPRI, provides up-to-date quantitative and qualitative data and analyses on investment, capacity, and institutional trends in agricultural research and development (R&D) in low- and middle-income countries that will assist R&D managers and policymakers in improved policy formulation and decision making at national, regional, and international levels.
Coincidentally, the theme for the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) Africa Science Week Conference in Accra is: Africa feeding Africa through Agricultural Science and Innovation. In the blog post “I am young, agriculture is not for me,” author Margaret Bulambu explains the need to attract the next generation to agriculture as a career. Building capacity in the next generation of young Africans, and creating opportunities that take into account the needs and interests of the current round of students will be a necessary investment to keep agricultural R&D and food security sustainable for the future.