Human Resource Allocations in African Agricultural Research: What Do The Data Tell Us?

ASTI/IFPRI-FARA Conference Working Paper 12

Growth in numbers of agricultural researchers has accelerated by roughly 20 percent since 2000. In some countries, this growth resulted from long-term recruitment bans being lifted, whereas in other countries it was due to increased involvement in agricultural research by the higher education sector. As always, however, large differences occur across countries. Nigeria, and to a lesser extend Ethiopia, Kenya, and Sudan, were the main drivers of regionwide human capacity growth between 2001 and 2008. On the other hand, many of Africa’s smaller countries, such as The Gambia, Gabon, or Sierra Leone, have only very small agricultural research systems. In a number of countries, agricultural research capacity has declined since the turn of the millennium, but in most African countries, female participation increased over the past decade. This was partly the result of various newly initiated institutional reforms and policies to promote gender equality in number of countries.

Agricultural research continues to be extremely fragmented, with most countries focusing on a large number of subsectors, such as crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries, and natural resources. Crops have remained the dominant subsector, but most countries focus their research efforts on a wide range of crops. No apparent specialization trends exist among the region’s countries. The EAAPP and WAAPP programs funded through World Bank loans and government contributions were established to address these issues and improve the effectiveness of agricultural research in SSA. Nevertheless, it is too early to determine whether this objective will indeed be met. The World Bank programs have a limited time horizon, so this new direction will need strong ongoing commitment from national governments if the specialized capacity currently being developed is to be sustained and further built on over time.

A fundamental problem has yet to be overcome: the need for sustainable, long-term funding to ensure that short-term gains in human resource capacity can be maintained and exponentially built on so they can pay off in tangible research results over time. One thing is clear: evidence indicates that maximizing resources by overcoming existing fragmentation within agricultural research systems in SSA is a step in the right direction.

Nienke Beintema and Michael Rahija
Published date: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)
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