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Niger: ASTI–INRAN Country Factsheet
Gert-Jan Stads, Biba Yacouba, and Léa Vicky Magne Domgho
International Food Policy Research Institute and Niger National Institute of Agricultural Research
Slow funding recovery
The completion of the World Bank–funded PNRA in 1998 plunged Niger’s agricultural research into severe financial crisis lasting more than a decade. Since 2009, agricultural research capacity and investment levels have gradually begun to recover, in large part due to another World Bank loan–funded project, WAAPP, which is intended to support the country’s livestock research; various capacity building initiatives; and the generation, dissemination, and adoption of new technologies.
Despite positive growth trends, as of 2014 Niger only invested 0.23 percent of its AgGDP in agricultural research—a fraction of the 1 percent minimum level recommended by the African Union and the United Nations. If agricultural research in Niger is to become more effective, higher levels of funding must be secured. Overreliance on volatile donor and development bank funding needs to be counterbalanced with alternative financing mechanisms, such as innovative alliances with the private sector.
Key staffing challenges
The majority of the country’s PhD-qualified agricultural researchers are employed at one of the country’s universities. This is primarily due to differences in the official status of government- versus university-based scientists, which prevents INRAN from offering competitive salary packages. Moreover, the official retirement age is much higher at the universities than at INRAN. These key incentive differences make it challenging for INRAN to attract and retain well-qualified research staff.
Capacity strengthening needed
The provision of postgraduate training programs at Niger’s universities is limited. Most graduates from national universities only hold BSc degrees. Continuing education to the MSc or PhD level generally depends on donor funding, which has become increasingly scarce over time. WAAPP’s regional capacity strengthening component addresses this challenge to some degree, but it will be important for the government to maintain a commitment to higher agricultural education to facilitate growth in the number and size of the country’s MSc and PhD programs.
Niger: ASTI–INRAN Country Brief
Stads, Gert-Jan; Kabaley, Mahaman Hamissou; Gandah, Mahamadou
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and National Agricultural Research Institute of Niger (INRAN)
Total agricultural researcher numbers in Niger rose steadily until the mid-1990s, after which they contracted slightly. The country’s agricultural R&D expenditures showed an erratic upward trend until 1998, but fell drastically with the completion of the major World Bank–led initiative, PNRA. PNRA was funded by a World Bank loan, the national government, and the governments of France and the United States. The project provided substantial financial support to INRAN for capital and operating infrastructure (such as renovation and construction of several of the institute’s research centers and stations and the purchase of research and related equipment and vehicles). PNRA also funded extensive training, leading to important increases in the qualification levels of the institute’s researchers.
The completion of PNRA in 1998 left INRAN in a bleak financial situation, with its total budget cut by 85 percent between 1998 and 1999. As a result, some of its most senior staff sought employment elsewhere and the institute has been forced to terminate a number of research programs. The only remaining programs are those that support INRAN in generating sufficient internal funds to continue operations. The national government’s inability to provide funding to the institute, along with the lack of important donor projects on the horizon, have all but halted INRAN’s ability to function. Further, many of the gains made under PNRA have been or remain under threat of being totally eroded.
Niger: ASTI–INRAN Country Note
Stads, Gert-Jan; Issoufou, Mourima; Massou, Aboubacar Malam
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and Niger National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRAN)
Niger is one of the African countries with the lowest rate of investment in agricultural research: only 0.25 percent of its AgGDP in 2008. The country’s agricultural R&D expenditure in 2008 showed an 80 percent drop compared with the level recorded in 1998, the year in which the World Bank loan-financed PNRA reached completion. Niger’s agricultural research (particularly INRAN) has had to face a most difficult financial situation ever since. INRAN’s research program is entirely donor funded and the government’s annual allocation does not even cover all of the salary costs. As a result, the institute has to generate resources in-house in order to make ends meet. Niger’s agricultural R&D investment levels are, however, expected to start increasing again in the near future, with the national launching of WAAPP, funded through a World Bank loan, as well as with the implementation of several large AGRA-funded research projects. An upgrade of INRAN’s official status to that of a “public institution of a cultural, scientific, and technical nature” is also expected to have a positive effect on the institute’s future investment levels.
The crisis has left a negative mark on Niger’s agricultural research capacity levels. During 2005–08, INRAN’s contingent of researchers holding PhD degrees decreased from 26 to 17 FTEs, partly due to the departure of several highly qualified researchers, who left the institute for better-paid jobs with nongovernmental or international research organizations. In addition, a public-sector recruitment freeze is causing the average researcher age to soar. As dozens of the government-agency researchers will be retiring in the next fifteen years, attracting and training young researchers is a matter of crucial importance if Niger is to maintain a critical mass of agricultural scientists. With the recent establishment of a national advisory board, CNRA, there is hope that sustainable funding and recruitment and training of agricultural R&D staff will be given a more prominent place on Niger’s political agenda in the years to come.