Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Transforming agricultural research for development
Report for the Global Conference on Agricultural Research (GCARD) 2010
28 March 2010 - 31 March 2010
The GCARD Global Author Team: Uma Lele, Jules Pretty, Eugene Terry and Eduardo Trigo, with assistance from Maggie Klousia.

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges The Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) as the source of this document

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This paper by the Global Authors’ Team (GAT) has been commissioned by the Global Forum on International Agricultural Research (GFAR) as an input into the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) being held in, Montpellier, France between March 28th and 31st 2010. It builds on the consultations conducted over nearly a year as part of the GCARD process, in Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, the North Africa and West Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia and the Caucuses, Western Europe, with additional contributions from China and other Emerging Economies. Some 2000 stakeholders of agricultural research from different sectors participated in these consultations. The paper also draws on the team’s analysis of the state of the world agricultural research undertaken by or for the benefit of developing countries and the rapidly changing international context in which the research is conducted. The Team reviewed nearly 300 recent and historical documents, drew on their own collective experience of nearly 35 years each in different parts of the world as well as benefiting from perspectives and comments on the earlier draft from the authors of Regional Papers, leaders of international, regional and national research systems, colleagues in IFAD, FAO, GFAR, the CGIAR, the World Bank, IDS and many others. The team will reflect the discussions at GCARD and the paper will be finalized by the end of April 2010.The views expressed in the paper are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the GFAR Steering Committee, its constituents or the donors who have financed GFAR and the GCARD process Comments are welcome from all readers.

What change is needed, why and how?

Many of the world’s poor people make a living from the land. Pressure on land, water, fuelwood and genetic resources has increased in the regions which contain the greatest poverty. It is likely to get worse if urgent action is not forthcoming. Compounding these problems, the poorest of the poor tend to live in remote inaccessible rural areas. Agriculture (to mean crops, livestock, fisheries, forestry, fruits, vegetables among others) tends to be only one of several strategies the poor deploy to diversify their livelihood to reduce risks. But this means that effective propoor, pro-women and pro-environmental systems for agricultural knowledge, technology generation, systems of delivery and knowledge sharing take place in multiple directions. Such systems are needed on a large scale for the development of whole societies and indeed for more inclusive and sustainable global development, but the ability to replicate or scale up is constrained by the heterogeneity of conditions.

These changes must occur starting at the local, national and regional levels with external actors playing a facilitative role. External efforts can neither substitute for nor replace the complex and routine strategizing, planning, implementing, problem-solving and learning needed on multiple fronts which only national institutions and actors can and must do. They also benefit from institutional memory which intermittent external actors lack. Thus local, national and regional entities can and must take the lead with the first and successive planning of Global Conferences on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) meant to facilitate their processes.

Important insights for this paper of the Global Authors’ Team (GAT) came from a major global consultation process undertaken over nearly a year in all major developing regions of the world led by regional associations for GCARD. Regional Research Fora APAARI (Asia-Pacific), FORAGRO (Latin America and Caribbean), FARA (Sub-Saharan Africa), AARINENA (W. Asia and N. Africa), CACAARI (Central Asia and Caucasus), EFARD (Europe), and China have each established networks and developed priorities that emerge from and focus on concerns within regions. In addition, there is also a great diversity of associations related to agricultural research as well as strong discipline or subject-based networks.

More inclusive than ever before, but understandably by no means perfect, the regional consultations involved some 2000 stakeholders. Products from these consultations and comments on an earlier GAT draft paper from some of the regional agricultural research associations note a number of successes in regional cooperation in research among themselves and in partnership with the CGIAR and others but stress that the developing world’s agricultural research systems are currently insufficiently developmental-oriented. Research organizations have generally not been good at integrating the needs and priorities of the poor in the work of researchers. Farmers have difficulty accessing new technologies and innovations and many lack organized networks. There is a disconnect between research and extension systems as well as between researchers and policy makers. Many research systems are under-resourced, and even those that are well-endowed tend not to be sufficiently connected with the broader processes of development. These communications also stress that a change is needed in the incentive structures in the national and international research community to deliver impacts for the poor.

They emphasize that systems need to be more accountable to their beneficiaries rather than focus on the outcomes of scientific achievements alone. They also note that there are few incentives for national and international research systems to work more closely with policy makers or with farmers’ organizations, or to invest in coordination, knowledge management and communication. Their constituent institutions often have insufficient connection with, and accountability to, their desired beneficiaries. The results of these consultations, if they are widely subscribed to by all regions, have served as an important partial diagnostic needed to transform the currently fragmented agricultural research system for development into a more cohesive one.

Agricultural Research Systems must also become more agile and adaptable in responding to the fast changing external environment. In an age of globalization, the poorest are hit the hardest by external shocks as the food and the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008 have well-established. Integration of the global markets across sectors has occurred at a speed unanticipated by most. Climate change is projected to most affect the regions with the most poverty. Energy, climate change and market integration are likely to be important drivers of the future agendas for the poor, though others may add to this list. At the same time, cell phones and other technologies are making a revolution in the ability of the poor to access information transforming the ways in which they are or can be reached.

Going forward there are additional obstacles as well as opportunities that countries and regions will need to take into account. These are addressed in the main body of this report, and include:
  • The poorest people tend to be women and children, who have even less voice than poor men but again through decentralization rapid changes are taking place in representing their interests.
  • Our understanding of the microeconomics of households living in poverty is however weak at best and fragmented by sectors (e.g. agriculture, health, forestry) at most. It needs to be strengthened.
  • National and regional organizations are coming into their own and yet have several weaknesses of their own including inadequate representation of women, civil society, the private sector and the environmental groups. They focus mainly on crops. They will need substantial strengthening to improve priorities and resolve differences on behalf of all stakeholders.
  • Gender concerns are not always on the forefront of agricultural research systems in all developing regions but are strong in some developing countries and in the donor community at large.
  • Civil society organizations are highly-developed in some parts of the developing world, and already have shown they can have substantial impacts on agricultural and rural policies and development in important ways. But these voices are still nascent in many part of the developing world.
  • The lack of effective extension systems hinders the effectiveness of agricultural development that helps the poor and benefits the environment.
  • Neither developing countries nor donors have kept their promises to meet targets on allocations of national budgets or of aid amounts to food and agriculture. On the other hand there are many examples of misallocation of funds to areas of activity with limited if any benefits to the poor. Overall official aid as well as it share to agriculture and infrastructure has been declining. In some regions of the world, net aid flows are already negative and even in those regions with the largest number of poor overall aid and shares to agriculture and infrastructure have declined.
  • More aid goes to emergencies than for long-term agricultural or rural development.
  • Political obstacles to cooperation in all parts of the world are vital because they entail vested interests and competition for scarce resources, whether for energy, water, finances or institutional reforms.
  • Resistance to policy and institutional reforms tends to be great even in the face of a fast changing reality which calls for change.
  • And yet if TAR4D focused only on poverty reduction it will cover only subsectors of two parts of the developing world where poverty is concentrated. The focus on poverty is necessary and urgent but not sufficient either for a GCARD or for achieving impacts on reducing poverty. It will systematically overlook the opportunities to borrow ideas, technologies and approaches from other sectors and other parts of the world.
  • Emerging countries are becoming powerhouses.
  • Science and technology are advancing at remarkable speed.
  • Emerging economies and some developed countries and their regional groupings, e.g. EU, have expressed enthusiasm to mobilize their expertise for global cooperation under a new GCARD umbrella.
  • The global and regional institutional capacities, including that of GFAR, to harness these tremendous new opportunities remains low at present. They can, though, be built.
  • All regions are demanding and must have an opportunity to benefit from these possibilities.
These are no minor threats or obstacles but also huge opportunities. They offer all the reasons why significant steps need to be taken now if a true Transformed Global Agricultural Research for Development System is to evolve. Even at best it will take more time to achieve than the changes in the environment require. It means mobilizing, reorienting, strengthening and bringing coherence to a currently fragmented system to help the poor escape poverty until they can effectively participate in the overall agricultural and economic growth processes underway elsewhere in their countries and in the world.

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