Changing Donor Priorities and Strategies for Agricultural R&D in Developing Countries: Evidence from Africa

ASTI/IFPRI-FARA Conference Working Paper 8

Evidence suggests that changing priorities and strategies among bilateral, multilateral, and philanthropic donors are channeling more resources into agricultural R&D. The trend is a welcome reversal of the downturns in funding for agricultural development experienced between the mid-1980s and late-1990s. With renewed funding, donors are taking a hard look at their priorities and the modalities through which they disburse funds. Several focal areas of investment, including a renewed emphasis on cultivar improvement for agricultural productivity growth, can be viewed as a positive change. Other focal areas, including nutrition–agriculture linkages, are also positive developments. However, challenges remain with respect to how these investments will yield returns. Growing donor reliance on regional and subregional organizations and networks may help countries capture knowledge spillovers from regional R&D, but the capacity limitations of these organizations and networks are not insignificant. Continued efforts to reform the CGIAR pose as many questions as they do answers. And investments targeting the private sector are still nominal with a limited sense of how and where to channel additional funds to firms working on pro-poor agricultural R&D.

Continued and coordinated efforts to address these issues are needed to strengthen agricultural R&D in Africa. And agricultural R&D in Africa is a necessary input to meeting the CAADP aims of increasing agricultural growth rates in Africa.

David J. Spielman, Fatima Zaidi, and Kathleen Flaherty
Published date: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)
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