GFAR blog

Investment on agricultural research fails to shine

female farmer collecting tea leave in_DongCao_ThuCuc_Vietnam[1]

The global divestment in agricultural research is quite startling when one considers how important agricultural production has been as a driver of growth in the developing world.

Many countries in Asia are underinvesting in agricultural research. Cambodia, Lao PDR and Pakistan invest less than 0.20 percent of their AgGDP in agricultural research, which is clearly insufficient considering the numerous emerging challenges these countries face, including widespread poverty, rapid population growth, climate change and environmental degradation.

Looking back over the last three decades, the value of ODA to agriculture – globally – halved between the mid 1980s and the mid 2000s. The share of ODA to agriculture declined even more sharply, from 17 percent in the late 1980s to six per cent in 2007. Agricultural research, not surprisingly, represents only a fraction of this amount.

After the food price crises of 2007-2008, donors significantly increased their contribution to CGIAR, the global agricultural research system, now good for about US $1 billion/year.

However, return on investment in agricultural research can not be shown in the short period of time. Research takes years. Some average it to 13 years from the moment research is initiated until e.g. a new crop variety is on the market.

In many cases, there are also questions raised on how agricultural research funds are spent. India, Malaysia and Pakistan, for instance, spend between 60 and 80 percent on salary-related costs, while the bulk of agricultural research funding in Cambodia and Vietnam goes towards operating and program costs.

Much of the impact of agricultural R&D is after the actual research: A measure of success is  based on the level of adoption. Or how the local industry and policy conditions accommodate new practices or crops. How supportive the extension agents are, and how successful they are in the capacity building of project champions ect…

Decisions on national budget allocations for agricultural research might rely on how the policy makers view the importance of the contribution of agricultural research to poverty reduction and economic growth. Evidence of such expectation are rarely found and witnessed widely.

Research from Peter Warr at Tuesday’s session illustrated that agricultural research raises productivity and reduces rural poverty in Indonesia and Thailand. However, it is not always the case that increased productivity will increase income and reduce poverty.

Nevertheless, agricultural research will pave the way to poverty reduction in sustainable ways, as many people in Asia continue to depend on farming and agriculture as their main source of livelihood.


Blogpost by Dalaphone Sihanath, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – D.Sihanath(at)

Photo courtesy Chu Thai Hoanh

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Regional Consultation for Asia and Pacific region. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

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