Strengthening African Agricultural Research Systems: A Path to Development

Strengthening African Agricultural Research Systems A Path to Development

Examining the Effectiveness of International Efforts and Proposing Actions for Improvement

Agriculture plays a vital role in the development of African nations, contributing to food security, poverty reduction, and economic growth. To achieve these objectives, it is crucial to strengthen the performance of national agricultural research and extension systems (NARES). However, the effectiveness of international efforts to build the capacities of African NARES has been called into question. This study delves into the challenges faced by African NARES, assesses the impact of international initiatives, and proposes actions to enhance their performance.

The Need for Regional Approaches and Government Commitment

Building strong NARES requires a regional approach, particularly for countries with limited resources. Sustained commitment and funding from African governments are essential for the success of NARES and regional agricultural research and development systems. However, the study reveals that while international organizations claim to strengthen NARES capacities, their overall contribution has been limited.

The Role of Donor Funding and Avoiding Duplication

The effectiveness of donor funding to the international agricultural research system (IARS) depends on strengthening NARES. Donors must confront the issue of creating organizations that duplicate the activities of NARES, which can lead to inefficiencies and resource wastage. By integrating nutritional objectives into NARES priorities, a more holistic approach to agricultural development can be achieved.

Differentiating Individual and Institutional Capacity Development

The study highlights the need to differentiate between individual and institutional capacity development. While international partners have increased the number of professional African agricultural scientists, they have contributed relatively little to the institutional capacities of NARES. This has resulted in many scientists joining international research centers and universities, rather than strengthening African NARES. Institutional capacity development is crucial to ensure that talent remains within the African research ecosystem.

A Vision for the Future: NARES in the 21st Century

The study proposes a vision in which research is defined, prioritized, and implemented by NARES, with the IARS providing support. This requires action from African governments, development agencies, leadership within NARES, international research organizations, donors, and the private sector. African governments must increase funding and commitment to their own NARES, demanding greater accountability and monitoring performance. The African Union and African Development Bank can play a catalytic role in coordinating efforts and allocating sustained funding.

Strengthening Collaboration and Bi-Directional Learning

International partners, including the CGIAR and international universities, must prioritize efforts to collaborate with and build the capacities of local partners. Their effectiveness is dependent on the performance of these partners on the ground. Public extension systems should enable bi-directional learning between research units and farmers, fostering adaptation based on research evidence.

Ensuring African Ownership and Priorities

Donors must ensure that grants related to African agricultural technical innovation include NARES organizations at the design stage. Supporting nationally-led priority-setting agendas and reflecting the priorities of national governments in proposal and budget development is crucial. Mandating co-directors from NARES organizations in grants would encourage greater ownership and commitment from African organizations.

The study highlights the urgent need to strengthen African NARES for sustainable agricultural development. African governments must take the lead in increasing funding and commitment to their own NARES, while international partners must prioritize collaboration and capacity-building efforts. By working together, African nations can build a 21st-century NARES that drives agricultural innovation, addresses food security challenges, and contributes to overall development goals.