The number of fte researchers employed in agriculture in Myanmar increased gradually during 1996–2003, but real spending on agricultural R&D declined. In 2003, Myanmar invested just 8 million dollars in 2000 international prices on agricultural R&D, which is extremely low given the country’s size and the importance of the agricultural sector to the national economy. Both the country’s average spending per agricultural scientist and its research intensity ratio are among the lowest in the world. Agricultural research investments in Myanmar would need to increase sevenfold for the country to be on par with the average for the Asia-Pacific region. Substantial government support would also need to be forthcoming for Myanmar to attain this goal, given the current donor boycott, which is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.
Myanmar is also challenged by comparatively under-qualified agricultural research staff. Very low civil service salaries and benefits make attracting, motivating, and retaining highly qualified scientists extremely difficult, particularly as new job opportunities with nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and private-sector agencies arise. Interestingly, this situation has opened the door to a large number of female researchers with BSc and, to some extent, MSc degrees.
Nonetheless, the limited number of senior staff seriously constrains DAR’s and LBVD’s ability to achieve their organizational objectives, and despite the high numbers of female researchers at these agencies, very few women are qualified to the PhD level.
Considerable empirical evidence suggests that agricultural R&D can make a critical contribution to improving incomes and livelihoods of people in developing countries. The combination of severe public underinvestment in agricultural R&D, lack of important donor-financed projects, and shortage of PhD qualified personnel make the effectiveness of agricultural R&D in Myanmar questionable at best. Additional funding is needed if agricultural R&D is to make a difference in Myanmar.