Botswana’s agricultural R&D capacity and investments rose rapidly during 1995–2007. However, inflationary pressures and a considerable exodus of R&D staff from DAR, the country’s principal public agricultural R&D agency, caused overall R&D investments and capacity levels to fall in 2008. That year, the country as a whole employed 97 FTE research staff and spent 46 million pula or 19 million dollars on agricultural R&D (both in 2005 PPP prices). Botswana has one of the highest agricultural R&D intensity ratios in Africa and the developing world, but this is not uncommon for a country with a small population and a relatively high per capita income.
Notwithstanding important government-funded training initiatives for DAR scientists leading to an overall increase in the number of PhD-qualified scientists since the turn of the millennium, the Department has serious difficulties attracting and retaining well-qualified staff because of its comparatively low government salaries. Many scientists have left DAR in favor of better-paying positions at parastatals, and DAR has been forced to fill most of these vacancies with recent university graduates.
Advanced training for this relatively inexperienced pool of scientists should be a high priority in the coming years, as a critical mass of highly qualified research staff is crucial to producing high-level research and to securing future R&D funding, whether through regional competitive funds or other channels.
Parastatals, including BCA and NFTRC, are able to offer much higher salaries compared with DAR and therefore more easily attract well-qualified staff.
The government will have to reconsider measures to increase DAR’s competitiveness and to clearly identify its long-term R&D priorities and translate them into relevant, focused, and coherent R&D programs.
Though talks of merging DAR with BCA or NFTRC have been ongoing, no firm plans have been made. For the time being, the Department will continue to face these fundamental challenges.