Improving Information, Increasing Agricultural Productivity

IFPRI Receives $2.5 Million Grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to Support the World’s Leading Database on Agricultural Science and Technology

Washington, DC—The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) today announced it received a $2.5 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand and update the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) database on investment and human capacity trends in agricultural research and development (R&D). The database will focus on Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where poverty and malnutrition are most acute.
The ASTI is a global research and data gathering program spearheaded by IFPRI on behalf of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

Agricultural science and technology indicators are scarce in developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where South Africa is the only country to track national indicators in this field. To fill this gap, the ASTI initiative compiles internationally comparable data on investments in agricultural research and development worldwide, analyzes the information, and reports on trends.

“Providing policymakers with better information can enhance decision-making and increase agricultural productivity, ultimately improving the lives of poor rural families and spurring national economic growth,” explained Nienke Beintema, head of the ASTI initiative. “Information is critical for understanding the important contribution of agricultural science and technology in promoting agricultural growth, and sound science and technology policies require access to current and reliable data.”

Investment in agricultural R&D has stagnated in many developing countries, despite the fact that studies show that improvements in agricultural productivity largely result from new technologies and innovations, which in turn are dependent on investment in research and development. With the ever-increasing scarcity of land and water, and the diversion of land from food to biofuels production, productivity gains have become the main source of growth in agriculture and the primary means to satisfy the burgeoning demand for food. Such improvements in productivity are all the more important in the context of high food prices.

“Well-funded, staffed, and managed agricultural research systems, and new and better-targeted technologies are important prerequisites for successful innovations in agriculture,” said Kwadwo Asenso-Okyere, director of the International Service for National Agricultural Research division at IFPRI. “The foundation’s support for the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators initiative is welcome recognition of the critical role of agricultural science and technology in solving important global problems.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s agricultural development initiative is working with a wide range of partners to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world—most of whom are women—with tools and opportunities to boost their productivity, increase their incomes and build better lives for themselves and their families. To date, the foundation has committed more than $800 million in efforts across the entire agricultural value chain—from seeds and soil to farm management and market access—as well as data collection, research and policy analysis.

“Robust data is a critical component in the effort to help small farmers boost their yields and overcome poverty,” said Prabhu Pingali, deputy director of policy and statistics for the foundation’s agricultural development initiative. “The Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators initiative is one tool that will provide the data necessary to inform decisions on how to target future investments in agricultural research and development so that smallholder farmers can build better lives for themselves and their families.”

The grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will be supplemented by a $750,000 commitment from IFPRI and will fund a new phase of ASTI for three years, beginning in mid-2008.

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The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) seeks sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. IFPRI is one of 15 centers supported by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, an alliance of 64 governments, private foundations, and international and regional organizations.

About the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: Guided by the belief that every life has equal value, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation works to help all people lead healthy, productive lives. In developing countries, it focuses on improving people’s health and giving them the chance to lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. In the United States, it seeks to ensure that all people—especially those with the fewest resources—have access to the opportunities they need to succeed in school and life. Based in Seattle, the foundation is led by CEO Jeff Raikes and co-chair William H. Gates Sr., under the direction of Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffett.

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