Report urges poor countries to spend more on agricultural R&D

A report urges developing countries to invest more in agricultural research Copyright: FLickrCIAT (by Neil Palmer)

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[MONTPELLIER, FRANCE] Developing countries will have to double or even triple their own investments in agricultural research to meet food needs, says a major new report.

Poor countries should be spending at least 1.5 per cent of their Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on agricultural research rather than waiting for donors to fulfil promises, according to Transforming Agricultural Research for Development, a report that has taken two years to produce.

Just five developing countries (Brazil, China, India, South Africa and Thailand) are responsible for more than half (53 per cent) of the developing world’s entire public agricultural research and development (R&D), says the document, which was presented today (29 March) at the first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) in Montpellier, France. The conference seeks to improve agricultural research so that it directly benefits the poor (see Global summit seeks to transform agricultural research).

The report states that a funding jump to 1.5 per cent of GDP is required "to meet the backlog of underinvestment alone".

"Capacity of most developing countries in agricultural R&D has been winding down. We must make a quantum leap in building back up their capacity and translate government and donor pledges into concrete action," said Uma Lele, lead author of the report and a former senior advisor at the World Bank.

"If the developing countries do not assume the responsibility, do not realise that capacity building is needed at the national level, and all countries need to participate in that effort — no matter what you do at the global level — it’s not going to make a difference at the local level," said the report’s co-author Eduardo Trigo, scientific advisor to the International Relations Directorate of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Productive Innovation of Argentina (see SciDev.Net’s blog post Doing it for themselves).

 "The responsibility and accountability lies with them [developing countries]" Lele told SciDev.Net.

"If you invest in research, you may get returns up to 20 years from now," she said. "But if [developing countries] don’t invest in research today, they will be in a big mess 20 years from now, even ten years from now."

The report states that neither developing countries nor foreign donors have met targets they have set themselves for agricultural research though it adds that misallocation of available funds has also contributed to this problem

To make sure that the new 1.5 per cent target is being met, Lele suggested that countries should be monitored on their research expenditure in the future.

Link to Transforming Agricultural Research for Development