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An assessment of the gender gap in African agricultural research capacities

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Authors:
Nienke Beintem

Year:
2017

Publisher
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Washington DC

Publication category

Overview publications

Female researchers offer different insights from their male counterparts, and their input provides an important perspective in addressing the unique and pressing challenges of female farmers. Consequently, it is important that agricultural research agencies employ a balance of male and female researchers. Statistics on sex-disaggregated capacity trends are needed to enable decision-makers to set priorities and benchmarks and to monitor progress. New evidence collected through Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) shows that the gender gap in African agricultural research, although still substantial, continued to decline. In some countries, however, the participation of women in agricultural research continues to be extremely low. Furthermore, female researchers are often young and less qualified than their male colleagues. Although the ASTI evidence provides some useful insights, this article argues that more detailed information is needed to ensure that gender issues are better and more effectively taken into consideration in policy formulation for and implementation of agricultural research issues.

ASTI ARC-LNR Country Factsheet 2017

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Authors:
Nienke Beintema, Lang Gao, and Petronella Chaminuka

Year:
2017

Publisher
International Food Policy Research Institute

Publication category

Africa south of the Sahara

Related country page(s)
South Africa

In terms of agricultural research investment and capacity levels, as of 2014 South Africa ranked second from a regional perspective, after Nigeria. Investment in agricultural research rebounded between 2008 and 2013 in inflation adjusted terms, after a period of decline. In 2014, South Africa’s agricultural research spending as a share of AgGDP was unusually high by African standards (2.78 percent), but levels appear to have contracted since then.

Compared with agricultural research agencies elsewhere in Africa, human resource capacities within ARC’s institutes tend to be more balanced in terms of degree levels, gender balance, and age distribution. The number of PhD-qualified researchers increased over time, but an issue remains with replacing an aging pool of senior scientists. An effective succession plan is needed, including strategies for recruitment, training, and mentoring.

The 2009 governmental restructuring that led to the transfer of some functions from the Department of Agriculture to a newly formed Department of Rural Development and Land Reform benefited ARC through funding for a number of new projects. During this time, however, funding from the country’s commodity boards decreased significantly.

ARC’s Biotechnology Platform was established in 2010 as a research and service-driven mechanism targeting the development of agricultural biotechnology. Through the platform, resources are developed for the application of advanced genomics, molecular breeding, and bioinformatics for dissemination within ARC, to the Council’s collaborators, and to the private sector and other research agencies throughout Africa. The platform also provides an environment in which the next generation of highly skilled young researchers can be developed.

West African Agriculture for jobs, nutrition, growth, and climate resilience

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Authors:
Keith D. Wiebe, Gert-Jan Stads, Nienke M. Beintema, Karen Brooks, Nicola Cenacchi, Shahnila Dunston, Daniel Mason-D’Croz, Timothy B. Sulser, Timothy S. Thomas

Year:
2017

Publisher
International Food Policy Research Institute

Publication category

Overview publications

West African countries will need to build on and enhance the largely positive performance of agriculture in recent years to moderate or perhaps reverse projected higher prices and growth in imports. The effects of increased demand and climate change will be felt as early as 2030, and with greater force in 2050. Technologies are known at present and additional ones can be developed that will meet rising demand and perform well under projected changes in climate, but full preparation, release, and effective dissemination of the technologies will require investment and managerial engagement.

Complementary investment in research, water management, and infrastructure will be more effective than separate and uncoordinated investments. Different portfolios of investment carry different costs, payoffs, and trade-offs among objectives. In light of the resource constraints and multiple objectives, rigorous analysis to reveal costs and trade-offs will assist in decision making.

The composition of the agricultural research portfolio will affect the contribution of research to poverty reduction, nutrition, job creation, growth, and climate resilience. Research to raise productivity and yields of staples usually contributes most to poverty reduction. Research raising productivity of animal products, legumes, fruits and vegetables, and biofortified crops improves nutrition. Research raising the productivity and competitiveness of products requiring processing, whether for domestic, regional, or export markets, creates jobs. Research addressing the growing import gap contributes to growth and a manageable trade balance. Research on technologies for better management of natural resources addresses long-term sustainability. All of the research must take climate change into account. Important choices must be made in allocating resources among research programs. No single set of priorities is optimal, but analysis to clarify options and contributions to competing goals can be helpful in decision making.

Sierra Leone: ASTI–SLARI Country Factsheet

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Authors:
Lang Gao, Nienke Beintema, and John Momoh

Year:
2017

Publisher
International Food Policy Research Institute and Sierra Leone Agricultural Research Institute

Publication category

Africa south of the Sahara

Related country page(s)
Sierra Leone

Further information

Strong investment growth

Agricultural research spending grew by 70 percent during 2011–2014, sharply contrasting the modest growth during 2008–2011. This shift almost entirely resulted from a substantial increase in the number of researchers employed at SLARI, the country’s main agricultural research agency. Despite this overall upward trend, however, the country still invests a very low share of its AgGDP in agricultural research—0.24 percent in 2014, which is well below the recommended 1 percent target set by the African Union and the United Nations.

Diversification of funding

SLARI relies heavily on government funding as a share of its operating costs. Government contributions cover salaries, including benefits, but not the costs of operating research programs or maintaining infrastructure. Notably, only about 80 percent of the institute’s budgeted funding is actually disbursed, and the schedule of disbursement is often unpredictable, hindering planning and diminishing effectiveness. Donors such as CORAF/WECARD and several CGIAR centers, as well as WAAPP, fund research activities and any postgraduate training for researchers.

Researcher capacity constraints

SLARI has insufficient researchers across disciplines, including emerging areas such as irrigation, biotechnology, and climate change. Insufficient national agricultural programs exist, particularly at the MSc- and PhD-degree levels, largely because of a lack of qualified faculty to supervise students’ work. The majority of the institute’s researchers obtained their higher degrees abroad through donor-funded programs such as WAAPP, which in recent years has allowed 38 researchers to obtain MSc and PhD degrees in priority disciplines.

Stronger collaboration needed

SLARI collaborates with Njala University, which is the only national university currently offering agricultural degree programs. Some lecturers serve as research fellows at SLARI, but this form of collaboration is limited by a lack of capacity in certain disciplines. In addition, the university has inadequate capacity to meet the country’s need for agricultural scientists in advanced degrees. More extensive collaboration between SLARI and the higher education sector is needed in order to anticipate and meet future capacity needs.

Nigeria: ASTI–ARCN Country Factsheet

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Authors:
Nienke Beintema, Abdullahi Mohammed Nasir, and Lang Gao

Year:
2017

Publisher
International Food Policy Research Institute and Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria

Publication category

Africa south of the Sahara

Related country page(s)
Nigeria

Further information

Lack of funding diversity

By virtue of size, Nigeria continues to lead Africa south of the Sahara in terms of agricultural research capacity and investment; nevertheless, spending levels declined in recent years (in inflation-adjusted terms). The country’s investment in agricultural research as a share of AgGDP fell from an already low 0.39 percent in 2008 to 0.22 percent in 2014. The country’s agricultural research funding is mainly provided by the government, with donors and other sources constituting a very small share of the total amount (only 1.2 percent per year on average during 2009–2014).

Human capacity constraints

After a period of steady growth, agricultural researcher numbers in the government sector stagnated during 2011–2014. As of 2014, close to two-thirds of the sector’s senior researchers were approaching retirement age, making recruitment and training of young scientists to the PhD level an urgent priority. The first phase of WAAPP (2012–2016) funded PhD- and MSc-level training for 14 and 17 scientists, respectively. Nonetheless, much more training and recruitment is needed to tackle the imminent agricultural research capacity losses that Nigeria’s government sector is facing.

Outdated infrastructure

With low levels of capital investment, Nigeria’s agricultural research infrastructure remains underequipped, understandably having negative impacts on the quality and quantitity of research outputs. Investment in the rehabilitation of research centers—other than those being rehabilitated under WAAPP—is crucial to the performance of effective research, to retaining and motivating researchers, and to the development of high-quality outputs. Therefore, funding for investments in research infrastructure and equipment needs to be sought urgently from the government and other sources.

ARCN’s ongoing reform process

Although ARCN is formally mandated to coordinate agricultural research in Nigeria, it does not have the power to allocate financial resources to institutes under its umbrella. To address this, the government is in the process of reforming ARCN along the lines of India’s ICAR and Brazil’s Embrapa. This is an important step in overcoming the financial and human resource constraints ARCN currently faces. It is intended that the legislation creating the new entity will encompass improved goverance structures, more effective budgeting processes, and a broader funding base.

An assessment of the gender gap in African agricultural research capacities

ASTI publicaiton cover

Authors:
Nienke Beintema

Year:
2017

Publisher
Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security

Publication category

Africa south of the Sahara

Further information

Abstract

Female researchers offer different insights from their male counterparts, and their input provides an important perspective in addressing the unique and pressing challenges of female farmers. Consequently, it is important that agricultural research agencies employ a balance of male and female researchers. Statistics on sex-disaggregated capacity trends are needed to enable decision-makers to set priorities and benchmarks and to monitor progress. New evidence collected through Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) shows that the gender gap in African agricultural research, although still substantial, continued to decline. In some countries, however, the participation of women in agricultural research continues to be extremely low. Furthermore, female researchers are often young and less qualified than their male colleagues. Although the ASTI evidence provides some useful insights, this article argues that more detailed information is needed to ensure that gender issues are better and more effectively taken into consideration in policy formulation for and implementation of agricultural research issues.

A Comprehensive Overview of Investments and Human Resource Capacity in African Agricultural Research

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Other languages:
Version française

Authors:
Nienke Beintema and Gert-Jan Stads

Year:
2017

Publisher
International Food Policy Research Institute.

Publication category

Overview publications

Increased use of (relatively abundant) land, rather than improved technical efficiency, has been the main driver of agricultural production growth in Africa south of the Sahara (SSA) over the past five decades. However, rapid population growth and the adverse effects of climate change are increasingly putting pressure on land availability, land fertility, and water access. Given the well-documented positive impact of agricultural research investment on agricultural productivity growth, it is critical that African countries step up their investment in agricultural research and instate sound policies to promote technological and institutional innovations in the agricultural sector.

This report assesses trends in investments, human resource capacity, and outputs in agricultural research in SSA. It highlights the cross-cutting trends and challenges that emerged from ASTI’s country-level data, structuring it within four broad areas: funding capacity, human resource capacity, research outputs, and institutional conditions.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Agricultural research spending in SSA grew by nearly 50 percent between 2000 and 2014. However, underinvestment remains widespread, with 33 out of 40 countries for which data were available spending less than 1.0 percent of their AgGDP on agricultural research.
  • Across SSA, agricultural researcher numbers increased by 70 percent during 2000–2014. However, a very large share of senior PhD-qualified researchers are approaching retirement. Without adequate succession strategies and training, significant knowledge gaps will emerge.
  • Female scientists remain grossly underrepresented in agricultural research, despite the fact that they are in a unique position to effectively address the pressing challenges facing African farmers, the majority of whom are female.
  • Donor dependency and funding volatility remain critical in a large number of African countries.
  • Outdated research facilities and equipment are impeding the conduct of productive research, which compromises the number and quality of research outputs and ultimately translates into reduced impact.

The report concludes by outlining a number of policy measures that SSA governments can undertake to address the various challenges related to agricultural research funding, human capacity, outputs, infrastructure, and institutional structure.

Madagascar ASTI–FOFIFA Country Factsheet

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Other languages:
Version française

Authors:
Léa Vicky Magne Domgho, Rivonjaka Randriamanamisa, and Gert-Jan Stads

Year:
2017

Publisher
International Food Policy Research Institute and National Center for Applied Research and Rural Development

Publication category

Africa south of the Sahara

Related country page(s)
Madagascar

Further information

Severe underinvestment

Madagascar’s political and economic instability have had a severe adverse impact on the country’s agricultural research spending in recent years. Expenditure levels dropped by 40 percent between 2008 and 2010, and have only slowly increased since. Spending just 0.13 percent of AgGDP on agricultural research in 2014, Madagascar’s agricultural research intensity ratio is one of the lowest in Africa.

Aging research capacity

Madagascar’s number of agricultural researchers has remained relatively stable over time. However, maintaining high-quality research and avoiding capacity erosion will be crucial challenges in the coming years as large numbers of senior researchers are set to retire. FOFIFA’s recent recruitment of 10 MSc researchers is a positive first step, but more recruitment and training are urgently needed. Sustainable long-term funding must be made available to ensure that these short-term gains can be maintained, built upon, and translated in tangible research results over time.

High donor dependency

Compared to most national agricultural research institutes across Africa, FOFIFA is highly dependent on donor and development funding. By nature, this type of funding tends to be short-term and ad hoc, potentially skewing research agendas toward short-term goals that may not necessarily be aligned with national priorities. The government will need to clearly identify its long-term research priorities and allocate sustained funding, not just for salaries but also to sustain research programs. Creative mechanisms to stimulate private funding should also be explored.

Challenges to food security

Madagascar faces frequent food production shortages. Research has the potential to provide the necessary technological solutions to enable the country to reverse declining agricultural productivity and achieve food security. Increased investments in human resources, infrastructure, and research programs are needed, as is the creation of incentives and mechanisms to strengthen the provision of extension and advisory services and to incentivize the private sector to conduct agricultural research.

Guinea: ASTI–IRAG Country Factsheet

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Other languages:
Version française

Authors:
Léa Vicky Magne Domgho, Famoï Béavogui, Sékou Diawara, and Gert-Jan Stads

Year:
2017

Publisher
International Food Policy Research Institute and Guinean Agricultural Research Institute

Publication category

Africa south of the Sahara

Related country page(s)
Guinea

Further information

Rebound in spending

Agricultural research expenditures fell by 80 percent during 2000–2010, but a considerable boost in government funding in 2011 reversed this negative, long-term trend. The additional financial resources enabled staff training and much-needed rehabilitation of research infrastructure after years of neglect. Notwithstanding these recent increases, Guinea still underinvests in agricultural research. In 2014, the country spent just 0.30 percent of its AgGDP in agricultural research, well below the 1 percent target recommended by the African Union and the United Nations.

Greater government support

During 2000–2010, more than 70 percent of IRAG’s funding was derived from development banks and donors (mostly France). Guinea’s unstable political situation led to a widespread suspension of donor aid in 2009, at which time the government had no choice but to increase its funding to IRAG in order to keep it operating. Government funding remained the principal funding source during 2011–2014, giving the country increased autonomy over its research agenda. Since 2012, WAAPP has strengthened Guinea’s rice research capacity through a five-year, US$9 million grant from Japan.

Aging researcher pool

Guinea has the oldest pool of agricultural researchers of any African country: 94 percent of its PhD-qualified researchers are in their 50s or 60s, and large-scale capacity losses due to retirement are imminent. With substantial support from the governments of Guinea and France, IRAG was able to provide MSc-level training in a variety of fields to a large number of BSc-qualified researchers and technicians between 2011 and 2015. Many of these recent MSc graduates will be enrolled in PhD programs in the near future, as is stipulated in IRAG’s new strategic plan.

Limited innovative capacity

IRAG released no new crop varieties during 2011–2014, and its scientists rarely publish in international journals. The institute’s low innovative capacity is a cause for concern, raising questions as to the effectiveness of national agricultural research. Weak domestic intellectual property rights legislation is a further impediment to innovation. Guinea and many countries across West Africa struggle with how to reconcile intellectual property rights with farmers’ rights and other local interests.

Democratic Republic of Congo: ASTI–INERA Country Factsheet

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Other languages:
Version française

Authors:
Léa Vicky Magne Domgho, Lunze Lubanga, and Gert-Jan Stads

Year:
2017

Publisher
International Food Policy Research Institute and National Agricultural Study and Research Institute

Publication category

Africa south of the Sahara

Related country page(s)
Congo, Dem. Rep.

Rapid rise in spending

Between 2009 and 2014, DR Congo’s agricultural research spending doubled (in inflationadjusted terms) following government efforts to revitalize the agricultural sector and the launch of a number of donorfunded projects, including PDPC, PARRSA, and PAPAKIN. Spending as a share of AgGDP rose from 0.20 to 0.34 percent during this period. Despite this rapid growth, agricultural research investment still falls short of the minimum 1 percent target recommended by the African Union and the United Nations, and remains too low to sustain DR Congo’s needs.

Capacity constraints

Agricultural researcher numbers grew by nearly 40 percent during 2009–2014, although most of these newly recruited researchers held only BSc or MSc degrees. INERA and the other government agencies continue to lack a critical mass of scientists qualified to the PhD level (and many of those with PhD degrees are approaching retirement age). Low public-sector salaries act as a disincentive for younger PhD-qualified scientists to pursue careers in research; many choose careers in the private sector instead.

Outdated infrastructure

Numerous factors present acute challenges to the effective conduct of agricultural research in DR Congo, including derelict buildings, equipment that has fallen in disrepair, insufficient access to vehicles to conduct field research, frequent power outages that disrupt trials, unreliable Internet access, lack of up-to-date computer technology and software, and poor communication channels between headquarters and remote stations across this vast country. Large-scale capital investments are urgently needed to address these myriad issues.

Pooling scarce resources

Given the many constraints that agricultural research agencies in DR Congo are facing, the scarce resources of universities and government agencies need to be pooled more effectively. By collectively identifying research priorities and sharing staff and infrastructure, these agencies could create synergies in conducting research and ultimately in generating outputs that would enhance the quantity and quality of agricultural production. The government has an important role to play in this regard in terms of providing the necessary policy environment to stimulate cooperation.

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