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Gabon: ASTI–IRAF Country Factsheet
Gert-Jan Stads, Léa Vicky Magne Domgho, and Paul Obiang Angwe
International Food Policy Research Institute and Agricultural and Forestry Research Institute.
Agricultural R&D spending has fallen drastically since 2000. Gabon’s agricultural R&D spending as a percentage of AgGDP (0.09 percent in 2011) is now one of Africa’s lowest.
Unlike many countries in West and Central Africa, Gabon’s upper middle-income status has precluded it from being considered as a recipient of donor funding, exacerbating its financial hardship.
The country’s agricultural research agencies lack staffing, equipment, and functional R&D programs. Important research areas, including forestry and livestock, are entirely overlooked.
Gabon: ASTI–CENAREST Country Brief
Stads, Gert-Jan; Angwe, Paul Obiang; Ngoye, Alfred
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and National Scientific and Technological Research Center (CENAREST)
Agriculture in Gabon has traditionally been overshadowed by more economically attractive sectors such as mining and oil, with the result that the country’s agricultural expenditures and researcher numbers have remained exceptionally low compared with many other African countries. With a declining natural resource base in mining and oil, however, agriculture has gained prominence in recent years.
Both donor funding, particularly in support of forestry research, and national government funding have grown, with the result that many of CENAREST’s facilities have recently been renovated or are undergoing renovations. Similarly, total agricultural researcher numbers at the CENAREST institutes have risen, and total agricultural research expenditures more than doubled between 1997 and 2002. Nevertheless, given capital expenditure for agricultural research was nonexistent
during 1991–97, the subsequent growth represents much-needed regaining of lost ground. Nevertheless, additional national government funding will still be needed if the agricultural sector is to effectively contribute to the economy and enable Gabon to become self sufficient in terms of food production. Further work needs to be done in establishing adequate agricultural policies and research structures, and in securing adequate funding to bring the national agricultural research system in line with other countries in the region, and then maintain it. Sufficient incentives need to be offered to attract and keep qualified agricultural research staff, thereby redressing the brain drain into other sectors that has occurred over the past decade.
Gabon: ASTI–IRAF Country Note
Stads, Gert-Jan; Obiang Angwe, Paul
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and Agricultural and Forestry Research Institute (IRAF)
Over the past few decades, Gabon’s agricultural research spending levels have exhibited a highly volatile trend. In 2008, the country invested 406 million CFA francs, or 1.6 million dollars (in PPP 2005 prices), which represents an extremely low level compared with most other African countries. Spending just 0.2 percent of its AgGDP on agricultural R&D, Gabon’s intensity ratio is one of Africa’s lowest. In contrast, the total number of agricultural researchers has been steadily increasing over the past few decades. In 2008, the country’s research capacity totaled 61 FTEs. These indicators bring to light a true paradox: on the one hand, Gabon employs an increasing number of agricultural researchers; on the other hand, the resources needed to carry out the research responsibilities are extremely low and erratic.
Another paradox appears when one considers that—despite its status as one of Africa’s most developed countries—Gabon is of the world’s least developed countries in terms of its agricultural R&D facilities. The agricultural research agencies lack staffing, equipment, programs, and funding. Government grants allocated to the CENAREST institutes are irregular and frequently adjusted downwards as the budgetary year progresses, which leaves the institutes in dire inancial straits. This has led to situations where CENAREST researchers ind themselves underemployed, which negatively impacts their motivation. In addition, Gabonese researchers feel discouraged or disinterested in the face of the rigidity marking the civil service and the obstacles standing in the way of obtaining tenure or permission to travel or study abroad.
Since Gabon is a middle-income country, it is not attributed a high level of priority by foreign donors, whose attention is captured instead by many of its neighbors. The responsibility to endow the country’s research agencies with the tools and funds they need to be fully operational is in the national government’s hands. In order for Gabon’s agriculture to become a prominent sector that will help lead the country towards food sovereignty, the national government will have to increase its level of funding to support agricultural R&D – considerably so, and without further delay.