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The United Nations recently called for development aid policy to make better use of science. But, for this to happen, scientists need to improve their understanding of agricultural development issues to help fight hunger and poverty.

In this letter to Nature, Edward H. Allison of the UK University of East Anglia's School of Development Studies, says that some leading British scientists have shown themselves to be ill-informed about development issues. Allison gives the example of a UK-funded aid programme in Malawi, which was criticised as non-scientific at an inquiry into UK aid policy.

Allison contends the Malawi Starter Pack Programme was far from unscientific, but that the scientist making the claim had failed to appreciate that the context of the project, specifically Malawian agriculture and the hurdles that farmers face. Science can serve development needs, says Allison, but both scientists and policy makers need to improve their communication on key issues such as agriculture. 

Link to letter in Nature

Link to paper by Amy Gough et al on the Malawi Starter Pack Programme in African Studies Quarterly

Reference: Nature 430, 829 (2004)

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