Public Agricultural R&D in South Asia: Greater Government Commitment, Yet Underinvestment Persists
Stads, Gert-Jan; Rahija, Michael
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
New quantitative evidence presented in this report demonstrates that total public agricultural R&D spending in South Asia more than doubled between 1996 and 2009, while the number of agricultural researchers decreased by 6 percent. These trends were largely driven by India, which has the highest investment levels and strongest human resource capacity in agricultural research South Asia by far (both in terms of size and qualification levels), as well as the highest agricultural research spending intensity at 0.4 percent of AgGDP. Despite rapid increases in recent years, South Asia’s agricultural R&D spending is still very low compared with other developing regions around the world.
Compared with India, agricultural R&D in the four other South Asian countries (Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka) faces greater challenges. Relative investment levels are lower in these countries than in India and have shown greater year-to-year fluctuations, in many instances due to the instability of donor funding. Agricultural research staff in these countries is also significantly less-qualified than in India, the combined result of prolonged recruitment freezes, losses of highly qualified senior staff, limited training opportunities, and an aging population of researchers. In addition, political instability in some countries has either delayed or complicated much needed institutional and policy reforms.
The scientific competence of South Asia’s agricultural R&D agencies is high, particularly in India, but as in many developing regions of the world, stronger linkages are needed to connect agricultural research agencies and their staff with the end users of their research to improve the relevance, effectiveness, and efficiency of research outputs. Further efforts to strengthen subregional linkages are also needed in order to better utilize limited resources and reduce wasteful duplication. In addition, good governance is key to promoting the effectiveness and efficiency of research, and ongoing policy and institutional reform will be needed to further strengthen agricultural R&D and innovation in South Asia.