Staff Aging and Turnover in Agricultural R&D: Lessons from Five National Agricultural Research Institutes in Africa

ASTI/IFPRI-FARA Conference Working Paper 17

The five case studies underlying this paper highlighted a large number of human resource challenges that NARIs need to address. The following general recommendations are put forward in hopes of facilitating this process.

• The retirement age should be increased to 65 years for all countries, although it is noted that this action only serves as a temporary solution to the succession problem; detailed training and succession plans are needed to guide the implementation of strategies to address this problem long term. Any remaining recruitment freezes would need to be lifted, even if only partially.

• Career paths for researchers need to be improved; this is particularly important for reducing attrition among those who have been in service for between 11 and 15 years so as to minimize the age gap between newly recruited young researchers and those nearing retirement.

• Governments need to be sensitized to the importance of competitive remuneration packages to curtail further losses of researchers; salary levels should at least be on par with the university sector and be adjusted based on national inflation rates.

• Working conditions need to be improved in terms of infrastructure enhancements, operating budgets, and organizational cultures.
• Performance appraisal processes that generate an effective award system need to be instituted; KARI’s system could serve as a model for other countries.

• The training of young researchers needs to be accelerated through the establishment of training plans, which includes a system of mentoring young staff by senior and, perhaps, even retired researchers. Once again, KARI’s training system could be used an example for other countries; ARC’s mentoring system—which involves the hiring of retired researchers—is also exemplary.

• The type of analysis conducted in the five case studies might be extended to other SSA countries and be fed into a position paper on strategies for rationalizing human resource capacity.

Louis Sène, Frikkie Liebenberg, Mick Mwala, Festus Murithi, Séraphine S. Kaboré, and Nienke Beintema
Published date: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI); and Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)
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