Large-scale oil production and ensuing economic growth led to widespread neglect of Sudan’s agricultural sector for much of the 1990s and early 2000s. This, in combination with a donor embargo on development assistance from 1997, caused agricultural R&D investments to drop precipitously during this period. It was not until very recently that the national government launched a number of reforms to revive the country’s agricultural sector. These reforms have had a positive effect on agricultural R&D investment levels, which more than doubled during 2001–08.
In 2008, the country as a whole invested 55 million Sudanese pounds or 52 million dollars on agricultural R&D (both amounts in 2005 PPP prices). But despite this remarkable growth, Sudan’s public agricultural R&D spending as a share of the country’s AgGDP remains among Africa’s lowest.
Public agricultural R&D capacity levels have also shown a steady increase since the turn of the millennium, reaching 1,020 researchers in 2008. The higher education sector in particular has intensified its agricultural R&D activities over the past two decades. Despite overall capacity increases, average degree levels of ARC staff have consistently deteriorated since the 1980s.
During 2004–09, the Corporation lost more than 60 PhD-qualified researchers, mainly due to retirement. These senior, foreign-trained scientists have typically been replaced with locally trained, junior staff holding BSc and, in some cases, MSc degrees. This has created knowledge gaps and doubts as to the quality of future R&D outputs. Postgraduate training opportunities abroad are limited, and although recent initiatives have been established to introduce postgraduate training for researchers employed at ARC and ARRC, the need for intensive recruitment and high-quality training of junior scientists will continue to be an important strategic objective for Sudan’s agricultural R&D sector if the country is to overcome its current capacity crisis.