Agricultural research and development (R&D) has been consistently underfunded by many developing countries and donors despite the known high marginal returns to R&D investments. One reason for this is that key policymakers are not completely informed about the sector’s needs or the nature of its impacts. Research-based data are an important resource for policymakers in formulating policies and allocating funds. The Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative is one of the few comprehensive sources of information on agricultural science and technology statistics for low- and middle-income countries. The ASTI initiative publishes country briefs and regional and global reports on trends in investments, human resource capacities, and institutional developments in agricultural research to raise awareness and inform policymakers as they make decisions on funding and allocation policies.
In an independent impact assessment study on the influence of ASTI, responses from national scientists and donor representatives indicate that ASTI did influence R&D budgets. For example,
- ASTI influenced the development of the Kenya Agricultural Productivity Project (KAPP), funded by the Government of Kenya and the World Bank, and influenced the restructuring of Kenyan Agricultural Research Institute.
- ASTI materials influenced the decision to award MSc and PhD scholarships to female scientists in Uganda, to lift the hiring freeze on scientists in Zambia, and to hire an increasing number of younger scientists in Mali and Niger.
- ASTI’s trends in agricultural R&D investments have also been used to support the organizations’ request for more agricultural R&D investments.
A survey conducted in 2011 revealed that most of ASTI’s 27 national partners in Africa have used the materials recently published: country datasets were used by their organizations 17 times, the country publication 16 times, and the ASTI website 13 times. More than half the country partners indicated that ASTI materials influenced the public debate or policy decisions on R&D in their countries.
International organizations have also been active users of ASTI’s research. In 2011, the United Nations released two reports that cited ASTI’s recent agricultural R&D trends and the need for increased support: The Report of the Secretary General on Agricultural Technology for Development and the World Economic and Social Survey 2011. The World Bank’s World Development Report 2008 used ASTI data to describe some of the particular challenges of agricultural research and development in Sub-Saharan Africa. ASTI’s analysis of gender-disaggregated data was cited in the 2010–11 State of Food and Agriculture on women in agriculture produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. An example is the use of ASTI data in the project appraisal documents of the East African and West African Agricultural Productivity Programs (EAAPP and WAAPP), which provides considerable amount of support in the form of World Bank loans.