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[ABIDJAN] A cash injection to help recruit Senegalese scientists may breathe new life into the country's ageing agricultural research community.

From next month, the Senegalese Institute of Agricultural Research (ISRA), will have access to 800 million francs (US$1.6 million) of government funds to hire new scientists.

With 60 per cent of researchers over 50 and close to the retirement age of 60, the money has "got the institute out of a tight spot", according to Macoumba Diouf, general manager of ISRA.

The funds will allow an extra ten researchers to be added to the hundred-strong staff and also go towards increasing salaries, which are currently much lower than those of other scientists in the country.

"We have highly qualified and competent [agricultural] researchers who are obliged to leave our country for universities and other international organisations because there, they earn twice as much," said Diouf.

The new measures give incentives for researchers to stay in their current positions, said Mouhamadou Daff, president of SIAR's board of directors.

The cash injection has long been called for by staff at the institute ― which was established in 1974 ― to improve conditions at its 13 research centres, laboratories and production units.

Khaldim Gueye, Senegal's minister of agriculture, acknowledged the need for a happy workforce to create a productive research environment. "Good research policy requires an attractive and motivating environment, but local financial conditions have been unfavourable," he said.

But the government has a long history of pursuing the wrong research policy, according to the former minister of agriculture, Robert Sagna.

"Those people carrying out Senegalese research policy at present are not up to the job. They have been unable to maintain their assets — that is the researchers," he said.