Home' Partners : Partners June 2011 Contents KEY POINTS:
nThe best approaches to ending poverty are
those that understand the issues present
within a country or region and design
nFlow-on benefits from investment in
agriculture include freeing-up labour,
generating community growth, ensuring
better health and education outcomes, and
improving environmental management.
nResearch priorities need to adapt to
BY ALEX BAGNARA
D isaster management, education,
gender equality, infrastructure ...
such diverse needs all compete
for aid funding. So what makes
investment in agricultural research
and development a priority?
The answer is that half the world's people
living in poverty are smallholder farmers.
Dungi Tudu is one of these smallholders.
Her life has been one of closed opportunity:
her husband Jamiswar was forced to migrate
to find work; the land she was left to farm is
leased; the income from her work is minimal
and the food not enough to keep her children
from hunger. Dungi's story of life in Amagara
village in India's West Bengal mirrors that lived
by families in Papua New Guinea, Tanzania, Lao
PDR, Indonesia and elsewhere.
Many of these smallholders struggle to
grow enough food for their families. For most,
food security is a daily challenge because
they do not have the money to buy food they
Often, smallholder land is also marginal---on
the sides of hills, far from water, in low-rainfall
areas and even on the edge of deserts.
Lack of income also prohibits these farmers
from buying fertiliser or pesticides. If they do
lose their crop to poor yields or insect attack,
often they cannot afford to buy more seed, and
what seed they do have in storage may have to
This is the harsh reality of life for the world's
rural poor. Opportunities taken for granted
in developed countries---education, access
to health care, and sufficient daily calorie and
protein intake---just do not exist.
Improved agricultural productivity is one
way of changing this. Agricultural development
research helps to transform smallholder
production from subsistence to surplus;
small perhaps, but enough to start paying
for health care, supplementary nutrition and
The return on investment in agricultural aid
therefore extends far beyond the immediate
on-farm productivity improvements.
ESTABLISHING RESEARCH PRIORITIES
The Australian High Commissioner to India,
Peter Varghese, commented on the importance
of establishing partnerships during a formal
consultation held earlier this year.
"The priorities articulated are both a guide
and a touchstone to determine progress in the
years ahead," he said. "Meeting these priorities
will go a long way to changing lives mired in
One of those lives is Dungi. Her involvement
in an ACIAR project saw her participate in
a fertiliser trial, during which she learned
about improved agronomic practices for her
The project was the result of previous
consultations in India to set a mutual
framework of research priorities addressed
through projects. For Dungi, the project
she became involved in was designed to
answer research questions relating to water
harvesting and the potential of cropping
systems and agronomy to effectively use
the harvested water.
ACIAR projects fit into a particular line
of research aligned to regional and country
priorities. These priorities are often evolving
and ACIAR has a role in both responding to and
informing the direction they take.
Local priorities deliver results
JUNE AUGUST 2011 PARTNERS
Since ACIAR began operations almost 30 years
ago, it has supported Australian researchers and
their counterparts in more than 40 developing
countries, and the Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research (CGIAR),
which oversees global agricultural development
research aimed at poverty alleviation.
Much has changed in that time. The CGIAR
is undergoing a series of reforms. Some original
partner countries are now taking up new roles
in ACIAR projects. Where agricultural capacity
has been lifted and secured, some traditional
recipients of agricultural aid and intervention
are now moving into a position to start helping
ACIAR is adapting to these changes by
progressively lifting the assistance it provides in
helping to develop not just farmer productivity,
but farmer and community agribusinesses.
Research now extends beyond the
smallholder farm to areas such as product
quality, market access and supply-chain
A CONSTANTLY EVOLVING PROCESS
Given changing global research directions
and the enhanced agricultural capability
of some partner countries, ACIAR works to
ensure aid continues to be directed to areas
of greatest need.
ACIAR commissions independent reviews to
determine the economic impacts arising from
projects and capacity-building activities.
An analysis of 46 impact assessments on 120
completed ACIAR projects, with a total project
investment of $372 million, calculated total
benefits from ACIAR research at $31.6 billion.
Of this, $15.9 billion is directly attributable to
ACIAR funding. This is more than three times
the total ACIAR expenditure since its inception
In 2011--12, the Australian Government
ACIAR partnerships support Australian researchers to work with their overseas counterparts on
issues of common concern. How our processes link Australian and developing-country scientists
to smallholder farmers is the result of partnerships that adapt to changing circumstances.
The World Bank's International Development Association
suggests that of all the countries it finances, economic growth
overall was fastest in those where agriculture projects were a
component of their financing.
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