After a period of growth, total spending on agricultural research in Malawi was cut by half between the mid-1980s and 2001 despite two consecutive World Bank–supported projects. Substantial investments were made under NARP to improve infrastructure, management, and capacity at DARS, then a second, less successful project—ASP— attempted to continue to strengthen the system. In 2000/01 overall agricultural research investments increased as a result of a substantial increase in government contributions to DARS, but the 2001 level was still far from total investment levels during the 1970s and 1980s.
Unfortunately the modest gains made under NARP have since been eroded, in part because of the short-fall in funding to ASP (only a third of the original research budget was disbursed) and inability to redress management and staff morale problems at DARS. Total fte researcher numbers have declined since the mid-1990s, mainly because of departures from DARS and FRIM, and as of early 2003, about half of the research positions at DARS were vacant.