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of step with election cycles and short- term political considerations.”

Another reason is that for many Sub-Sa- haran African countries, a large proportion of research funding comes from outside donors. “Donor money is mostly ad hoc and short term,” says Stads. A donor may support a three-year research program, he explains. Money arrives, staff is hired, and equipment is purchased. When the project ends, though, researchers leave and

SPENDING as a % of agricultural GDP in 2008


0 1 2 3 4 5

Source: ASTI. © 2012 G. Napolitano/IFPRI

of funding and the program relocated to a new home in Rome.

“We moved the project from ad hoc data collection to a much broader scale,” says Beintema. Te Gates Foundation grant allowed ASTI to start building a system to regularly monitor and analyze agricul- tural R&D data. For the moment, work remains focused on Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, but Beintema and Stads hope to secure funding to make ASTI a truly global program.

What do the latest findings show? A 2011 ASTI report on agricultural R&D spend- ing and human resource capacity in Sub- Saharan Africa reveals that although some countries have substantially increased their investments, most countries have slowed the pace of growth in R&D spending or even made cuts. In October 2012 ASTI will issue a new global report that may show a widening gap between countries

that spend big on agricultural innovation and those that don’t.

Te numbers that Beintema and Stads are seeing are worrisome. “Many devel- oping countries are seeing rapid popula- tion growth. More mouths need to be fed, and every hectare needs to be more productive,” says Stads. “Te evidence says that countries should be investing heavily in agricultural research.”

One percent of agricultural GDP is a commonly accepted target for public spending on agricultural R&D. So far, only a handful of Sub-Saharan African countries have met this target.

Why aren’t countries spending more? Part of the reason is the amount of time it takes for meaningful agricultural research. Stads gives an example: “If you invest in rice research, you may get results in about 15 years. Tis time frame is out

equipment falls into disrepair. Te work comes to a halt.

Spending levels for research are not the only concern. ASTI’s 2011 report notes that agricultural scientists, especially in West and Central Africa, are aging, and there aren’t enough young scientists being hired to replace them. In Senegal, for example, about 60 percent of researchers at major government and higher educa- tion agencies are older than 50. And new young scientists often lack postgraduate degrees—a clear signal, says Beintema, that “there’s not enough investment in education and training.”

Like any scorekeepers, however, Beintema and Stads are not in a position to win the game. Tey can only report to the players— governments, donors, and R&D manag- ers—who make decisions and allocate funds. “We provide the data,” says Stads. “It’s up to the policymakers to use the data to their advantage.”


1% target


Guinea Gabon Sudan


Madagascar Zambia

Sierra Leone

Mozambique Nigeria

Burkina Faso

Eritrea Togo

Tanzania The Gambia Rwanda

Côte d'Ivoire Benin Mali


Rep. of Congo Senegal Ghana

Mauritania Uganda

Kenya Burundi

South Africa Namibia Mauritius Botswana

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