Extensive empirical evidence demonstrates that investments in agricultural R&D have greatly contributed to economic growth, agricultural development, and poverty reduction in developing regions over the past five decades. New agricultural technologies and crop varieties have enhanced the quantity and quality of agricultural produce, while also improving sustainability, reducing food prices, and providing rural producers with access to markets. Given important challenges, such as rapid population growth, climate change, water scarcity, and the volatility of food prices, policymakers are increasingly recognizing that investment in agricultural R&D is essential to increasing agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Recent evidence collected through the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative shows that, although public agricultural R&D investments in Sub-Saharan Africa have increased overall, investments have declined sharply in some countries, and several countries still have extremely fragile funding systems. Average agricultural researcher numbers have also increased the region, but staff qualifications have simultaneously deteriorated in some countries. Staff departures and an aging pool of well-qualified agricultural researchers remain major areas of concern. Further in-depth analysis of the data compiled by ASTI is needed in order to extract in-depth insights into these and other underlying trends and issues related to agricultural R&D investments and human resource capacity.
To that end, ASTI, together with the International Food Policy Report Institute (IFPRI), where ASTI is based, and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), is convening a conference on agricultural R&D in Africa focused on the following themes: 1. Levels and Stability of Agricultural R&D Investments; 2. Human Resource Development of Agricultural R&D; 3. Aligning and Rationalizing Institutional Structures; and 4. Measuring and Improving the Effectiveness of R&D Systems.
The conference, which will take place December 5-7, 2011 in Accra, Ghana, is invitation only. Papers will be posted on the ASTI website.