Home' Partners : Partners: Connecting policies with farmer benefits Contents the 1990s, with funding previously devoted
to productivity-based research increasingly
being diverted to environmental and social
Some of the research focus has also shifted
from productivity to maintenance of gains,
ensuring disease, pests and weeds do not
erode the gains already won.
Emerging problems, such as the black stem
rust fungus known as Ug99, and other issues of
interest often result in donors tying funding to
specific projects, rather than providing untied
funding. The increasing push for a clear line of
sight on dollars invested has also contributed
to the desire of donors to tie funds to specific
More broadly, agricultural funding trends
have been impacted by other factors too. Private
sector funding has, like donor funding, sought a
clear line of sight, though with profits in mind.
Changing investment environments,
propelled by IP rights and tax incentives,
skewed private sector investment towards
some spheres of research, particularly where
productivity gains can be leveraged against IP
to maximise profits.
Where such opportunities are not as clear,
for example in soil science or environmental
management, public investment is required to
fill the gap.
Recent history suggests that where
agriculture is delivering sufficient food, and
prices for that food are falling, imperatives
for agricultural research investment are easily
of return were so high.
The original successes may have legitimised
the assumption that agricultural research can
continue to produce these gains well into the
future. The reality is that future productivity
gains will be far harder to secure.
Rates of agricultural productivity growth
are slowing, most markedly in the developed
world, where rates have dropped from around
3.5% in the 1980s to about 1.5% today.
To put this in context, agricultural
productivity growth of around 1.8% is required
simply to maintain pace with population
The multi-decadal lags between investment
and return are grounds for concern. Although
recent renewed interest in food security has
slowed---or in some cases reversed---declines
in investment, the flow through to productivity
growth is some way off.
The Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research, or CGIAR, is the pre-
eminent multilateral body in delivering
public-good agricultural innovation. It
plays an important role in linking these
goods to domestic science, and agriculture,
in developing countries. CGIAR centres,
such as the International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Center (CIMMYT ) and the
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
played key roles in the successes of the Green
The CGIAR is in many ways a microcosm of
the broader trends in agricultural R&D.
Funding to the CGIAR centres stalled during
The reality is that neither public investment
alone nor private investment alone can
deliver the solutions needed for agriculture.
In developing countries particularly, with the
range of markets, coupled with sometimes
fragile policy environments, flexibility is needed.
This may be disappointing to those
seeking a 'one size fits all' solution, or to those
advocating debt relief as an answer to poverty.
The best approaches to ending poverty are
those that truly appreciate the issues present
within a country or region and design respond
The danger in a single approach to the
challenge of ending poverty is implementing
solutions that are not the right package in the
right place at the right time.
Designing the appropriate response begins
with understanding the environment: getting
the balance right between public and private
investment, utilising research outcomes
and domestic policy environments, along
with biophysical characteristics and market
Potential agricultural R&D solutions within
developing countries must be designed to
interact with the reality of governance and
policy environments and market conditions, as
well as biophysical constraints.
So a more realistic response may be a series
of mini green revolutions, each targeting the
specific needs of a country or region. These may
be localised to areas within nations, centred on
similar agroecological zones. The key characteristic
of each mini revolution in agriculture will be
MARCH JUNE 2010 PA R T NERS
ACIAR's CEO Nick Austin
visits aquaculture projects
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