November 27, 2012, Islamabad, Pakistan—The agricultural sector in Pakistan plays a vital role in the nation’s food security and it employs half the country's labor force. Population in Pakistan is expected to nearly double by 2050. In order to feed the growing population and address other pressing challenges, such as adaptation to climate change and rising and volatile food prices, it is crucial that agricultural productivity is increased.
Agricultural research and development (R&D) has been a major contributor to agricultural productivity and poverty reduction around the globe over the past five decades. However, despite the well-documented evidence that the payoffs to agricultural R&D are considerable, Pakistan continues to underinvest in agricultural research.
Policymakers, donors, researchers, and other stakeholders gathered today at the event “Recent Developments in Agricultural Research in Pakistan,” organized by the International Food Policy Research Institute's (IFPRI)’s Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative and the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), to share findings on agricultural R&D in Pakistan. In addition, Jock Anderson presented an independent evaluation of PARC, and Anwar Naseem, assistant professor of agricultural economics from McGill University, provided an insight into the role of private-sector agricultural R&D in Pakistan.
"Since there is a significant time lag between investing in research and reaping its rewards, agricultural R&D requires long-term commitments in sufficient and sustained funding and well-staffed research agencies," said Gert-Jan Stads, ASTI program coordinator.
Recent data, however, reveal that public agricultural R&D spending in Pakistan has been far from stable and insufficient to keep pace with agricultural growth. The latest data from 2009 indicates that for every $100 of agricultural output, Pakistan invested just $0.21 in agricultural R&D. This is one of the lowest levels in the developing world, and a considerable decline from levels recorded in the 1990s. In comparison, India's agricultural R&D investments as a share of agricultural output were almost twice those of Pakistan.
Pakistan is not only facing financial challenges when it comes to agricultural R&D. In terms of human capacity, it also fares significantly worse than other countries in the region. The country’s share of agricultural researchers with PhD degrees remains very low, at only 18 percent. More worryingly, most of these PhD-qualified scientists are in their fifties, making the training and mentoring of newly recruited scientists will therefore be a major priority in the coming years.
PARC is Pakistan's main agricultural R&D agency and its broad mandate is the coordination of research among federal, provincial, and higher education agencies, but there are also 19 other federal government agencies that conduct agriculture-related R&D under various government ministries. With the recent devolution of agricultural sector responsibilities to the provinces, provincial research systems have gained a clearer mandate in science, technology, and innovation.
"A key challenge facing Pakistan will be to ensure that resources and capacities are more evenly distributed, both from the central government to the provinces and among the provinces themselves," said Muhammad Sharif, director of PARC. "This period of change has offered opportunities to review existing institutional structures and reassess Pakistan’s research priorities."
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI was established in 1975 to identify and analyze alternative national and international strategies and policies for meeting the food needs of the developing world, with particular emphasis on low-income countries and on the poorer groups in those countries. It is a member of the CGIAR Consortium. www.ifpri.org.
PARC is the apex agricultural research organization at the national level in Pakistan. It was established in 1981 and works in close collaboration with other federal and provincial institutions to provide science-based solutions for agricultural development. To learn more about PARC visit www.parc.gov.pk.
Sarah Immenschuh, email@example.com, +1 202-862-5679