An interesting paper has appeared this week, published in the science journal Food Policy. It reviews evidence of the impacts of research conducted since 2000 by 15 centres belonging to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), one of which is the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), based in Africa.
Below is a glossary to guide readers through the CGIAR jargon in the following excerpts:
CGIAR: Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
CGI: crop genetic improvement
NRM: natural resource management
POR: policy oriented research
SSA: sub-Saharan Africa
‘A large literature documents substantial pro-poor impacts of international agricultural R&D generally, and research conducted under the aegis of the CGIAR specifically . . . . But there is growing concern that slow growth in core funding since the early 1990s, in conjunction with an expanding portfolio of research initiatives, has eroded the System’s effectiveness in fulfilling its various objectives. . . . Indeed, the CGIAR itself has recognized these weaknesses and embarked on a far reaching reform process scheduled for implementation in 2010. . . .
‘Crop genetic improvement (CGI) has historically been the bread and butter of the CGIAR. . . . As expected, impacts have been greatest in rice, wheat, and maize in terms of both area influenced and adoption. . . . An important question for this review is whether or not these large benefits from CGI have been maintained in the past decade. . . .
‘Natural resource management (NRM) research within the CGIAR has evolved substantially over time. The decision in 1990 to expand the CGIAR to include four new Centers with mandates in forestry (CIFOR), agroforestry (World Agroforestry Center), water management (IWMI), and fisheries (WorldFish Center) marked a turning point in the position of NRM research within the System. Investments in those four Centers grew steadily throughout the 1990s and into the 21st Century – in part at the expense of commodity and eco-regional Centers with a stronger productivity-enhancement orientation.
‘Policy analysis is the primary mandate of four Centers (IFPRI, IWMI, CIFOR, and Bioversity) and is a major focus, to varying degrees, of all of the others. CGIAR expenditures on policy-oriented research (POR) have grown substantially over time, both in absolute terms and as a fraction of the System-wide research portfolio . . . .
‘Since its founding in 1971, the CGIAR has invested approximately $4.3 billion in sub-Saharan Africa . . . . This represents 41% of total CGIAR expenditures, the largest share allocated to any geographical region. Coupled with the continent’s relative lack of success in achieving agricultural development and poverty reduction goals, the scale of resources devoted to sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) has inevitably raised questions regarding the returns on those investments. . . .
‘Overall, our review suggests CGIAR research contributions in genetic improvement, pest management, natural resources management, and policy have, in the aggregate, yielded strongly positive impacts relative to investment. And on the basis of limited information on outcomes and impacts since 2001, they are likely to continue doing so.
‘A number of implications may be drawn as to how successful the CGIAR Centers have been in recent years in pursuing the core missions of the System – agricultural productivity, poverty reduction, food security, and environmental sustainability.
‘Crop genetic improvement research, historically the bread and butter of the CGIAR, stands out as having had the most profound documented positive impacts.
‘NRM and policy research are quintessential public goods justifying public funding . . . ; indeed, a case can be made that the non-private share of total benefits in these research lines exceeds that of CGI. Yet identifying the international public good dimension of NRM and policy research has proven elusive in the impact evidence available. This suggests that relative to CGI, a higher share of the research in these areas should be funded at the national or regional level.
‘There has been much debate within the CGIAR about the relative balance of investment in CGI versus other research areas, particularly in an era of stagnating core contributions to international agricultural research. . . .
‘From the evidence presented here, though, we believe it is reasonable to conclude that while NRM and policy research in the CGIAR remains under-evaluated, CGI research has nonetheless produced substantially larger net benefits. Given these uncertainties and the very strong record of positive impact attributable to CGI, it would appear that the CGIAR’s portfolio of research allocations has become overly skewed toward NRM and policy research over time. Thus, a move toward restoring somewhat the share of resources allocated to CGI would seem warranted. In fact, this seems to be happening as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have sharply stepped up their funding of CGIAR research, mostly in the area of CGI, albeit still largely as restricted funding. . . .’
Read more … (Food Policy)