Itst Board for International Food and Agricultural Development
A Forum on Agricultural Research Strategy for Africa
Board for International Food and Agricultural Development
and the Joint Committee on Agricultural Research and Development
in Cooperation with the Agency for International Development
Agency for International Development
Washington, D.C. 20523
AN AGRICULTURAL RESEARCH STRATEGY FOR AFRICA
convened by the
BOARD FOR INTERNATIONAL FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT
Joint committee on agricultural research and development
in cooperation with the
AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
December 5, 1984
BOARD FOR INTERNATIONAL FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT
INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT COOPERATION AGENCY
Agency for International Development
Washington, D.C. 20523
January 25, 1985
To The Reader:
One of the functions of the Board for International Food and Agricultural
Development (BIFAD) is to focus special attention on areas of mutual concern
to the Agency for International Development (A.I.D.) regarding the role that
science and technology can play in improving the production and use of food
in developing countries.
A Forum on "An Agricultural Research Strategy for Africa" was held in
conjunction with a meeting of BIFAD and its Joint Committee on Agricultural
Research and Development (JCARD) on December 5, 1984. The proceedings of
that meeting are presented here, edited only for clarity and conciseness.
ST. York ir.
Introductory Remarks ....... .. . . . . 2
E. T. York, Chairman, BIFAD
Agricultural Research in Africa in a Global .. ..... 3
Vernon Ruttan, University of Minnesota
Discussion ... . . .. . ..... . . . 10
The Role of Science and Policy in Alleviating . . . 15
Long-Run Food Production Problems in Africa
Christopher L. Delgado, International
Food Policy Research Institute
Discussion ............... . ..... 25
AID's Agricultural Research Strategy for Africa . . .31
Alexander R. Love, Bureau for Africa
Overview of Bureau's Strategy ........ .. .35
Calvin Martin, Bureau for Africa
Cooperation for Development in Africa ........ .40
Ray Morton, Bureau for Africa
John Eriksson . ............. . 44
Bureau for Science & Technology
John Robins ........ . . . . . .. 45
Bureau for Science & Technology
John Axtell, Purdue University . . . . ... 46
John Mellor, International Food Policy Research . . 51
Vernon Ruttan, University of Minnesota . . . . 54
Discussion: ................ . ..... 55
An Agricultural Research Strategy for Africa; A Forum
E. T. York, Chairman, BIFAD
This is a special, one might say extraordinary, session for
It is a combined meeting of BIFAD and JCARD;
The setting is a "Forum" in which we will discuss
issues and exchange ideas;
The focus is on a long-term solution to the problem
of hunger in Africa -- a problem at the forefront of
our Nation's conscience; and
Assembled here in this room in addition to BIFAD and
JCARD members and our AID colleagues is a panel of
very distinguished scholars to help us sort out these
The topic for the "Forum" today is "An Agricultural Research
Strategy for Africa." One of its immediate purposes is to assist
the Bureau for Africa as it reexamines and further defines a
strategy for agricultural research, within the framework of a
broad program in development assistance.
Today's topic is most timely. With so much attention
justifiably focused on the immediate hunger crisis, we should not
neglect actions now to minimize future recurrences of such severe
food shortages. Surely the long-term solution lies in developing
the capability for sustained improvements in food production in
Africa. Agricultural research will be an important key to
Some months ago we explored with AID's Africa Bureau the
possibility of a Forum dealing with the agricultural research
emphasis in Africa. Today, representatives of the Africa Bureau
are with us to bring us such a presentation from their
perspective. In addition, several people who have had a great
deal of experience in Africa and who have written extensively on
the subject will share with us some of their views and
perspectives. In addition, BIFAD's Joint Committee on
Agricultural Research and Development, which is made up of
representatives from AID as well as the university community,
has joined the Board for this Forum.
We welcome all of you here to the Forum on "An Agricultural
Research Strategy for Africa." It is a topic of vital interest
and concern, and we look forward to a free-ranging discussion.
Agricultural Research in Africa in a Global System Context
My emphasis will be in a global context, with implications
for the development of agricultural research systems in Africa.
As background to this discussion, I began to ask myself what
kind of a global research system we must have in place at the
beginning of the next century to maintain the kind of growth and
production we are going to need?
I come to this because we are undergoing in this century one
of the most remarkable transitions in agriculture that the world
has ever seen.
Prior to the beginning of this century, almost all increases
in agricultural production came from adding more land to
cultivation. There were a few exceptions -- in the wet rice
areas of East Asia and parts of Western Europe -- but the
exceptions were very small in the total scheme of things.
By the end of this century, almost all increases in
agricultural production will have to come from intensification of
agricultural production. Again, a few niches will be
left; niches not amenable to traditional pioneer settings. They
will have resource utilization problems that will require
substantial research and substantial investments.
To me, that implies that by the first decade or so of the
next century we will need to have in place in each agroclimatic
region in the world, an agricultural research capacity for each
crop or animal or resource problem of economic significance.
If that capacity is not in place, the people living in those
areas will not have access to the possibility of growth in
If we look back we can see that in the last 20 to 30 years
we have moved a long way toward establishing that capacity.
I will talk a bit first about the international agricultural
research system; then about national agricultural research
systems; and then, what I see as an unresolved problem, the
*Professor, Department of Agriculture & Applied Economics,
University of Minnesota
The International Agricultural Research System
As for the international agricultural research system, we
perhaps need first to remind ourselves of what has occurred in
the last 20 years. We have a system in place that in some sense
is beginning to do for the world what a national system does in a
large country; that is, link the regional and the smaller
This international system has made a difference. One can
use many kinds of criteria. Bob Evenson calculated that by the
mid-1970's, the world had 12 percent more rice than it would have
had using the same resources without the system. Joe Nagy
recently calculated that the gains to Pakistan alone from the
wheat research conducted by CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Center) would have paid for CIMMYT's entire wheat
program from its inception. Clearly, then, one can say that the
international agricultural research system has made a difference.
The system is almost the only thing we have in place now
that is effective with small countries. In a board of review six
or seven years ago, visiting a small station in Mali, we found
four young men -- an agronomist, a plant breeder, an entomologist
and a pathologist -- who had recently returned from training
abroad. Without the linkage to WARDA (West African Rice
Development Association) and the international system, those men
would have been almost completely isolated. With the system they
were able to tie into the germ plasm at IRRI (International Rice
Research Institute). They were able to participate in regional
scientific meetings. There was a morale there that one would not
have expected to find.
At our Minnesota research policy conference last spring, a
research director from one of the smaller countries in the
Caribbean region commented, "It's okay for you guys from Mexico
and Brazil to talk about how you don't need the international
system and how strong your systems are, but we don't get anything
from you. It's only through our linkage with the international
system that we gain access to research in other countries."
At one time there was talk that as the international system
matured the host countries or regions would take it over. The
Philippines would take over the International Rice Research
Institute and so on.
But we have to think of this system as a permanent system,
one that will be permanently supported by international
resources. Certainly we don't think that the national system in
a major country like Brazil or India or the United States will be
taken over by its states eventually. Similarly, we need the
decentralized national systems, and we need a permanent
international system that links them.
It is however an incomplete system, and there are a couple
of things that are disturbing.
First, I see a whole set of a dozen or so institutions
emerging with support by the same group of donors outside of the
system. Potentially, that has some real problems, because one of
the things that the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International
Agricultural Research) combines is decentralized scientific
decision-making with centralized oversight. We need to think
carefully about the new ones that are coming up. What sort of
oversight mechanism is needed? These organizations do get into
trouble, and an oversight institution is needed that can go in
and diagnose and move them off onto a useful track again.
Secondly, it is also time for us to begin to think seriously
about basic research needs in the tropics. I know there is a
great deal of skepticism about the funding of basic research at
what are now relatively weak institutions. But as we move toward
the end of this century, at least all of the major national
systems in the developing countries are going to have to ask
themselves where they belong in the whole set of new biology and
new biological technology that is coming along. The new
institutes are not going to be able to make those decisions
unless they have some capacity in those areas themselves.
There are also a number of serious problems in tropical
agriculture, such as the soil problems in Africa, the man-disease
interaction problems -- that are not going to be solved if left
to the institutions in developed countries. Or they will be
solved only slowly. There is something about a scientist that is
not too different than a rice plant; the environment where a
problem is serious concentrates attention. The international
community needs to begin thinking seriously about what kind of
basic research capacity it should be building in the tropics.
We have some of that capacity within the international
system. There is the International Laboratory for Research on
Animal Diseases. A large share of its program has been
relatively basic. We have ICIPE (International Center for Insect
Physiology and Ecology). We have a few other internationally
supported institutions. There is talk about others. My guess is
that when they emerge, they will have to do so with a separate
We also need to think about how one goes from where we are
to a truly global system. As I see it, there are not yet the
linkages among the developed-country systems, among say the
United States, Japan and the member countries of the European
Economic Community that are needed for an adequate international
research system. There is not the linkage with the socialist
countries or the developing countries that there will need to be
over time. We have to face up to the problem that even the
strongest countries cannot be autonomous in science and
National Agricultural Research Systems
Now, let me turn to some comments about the national
research systems. We have gone through three cycles in the
postwar period. We had a period of intensive effort devoted to
developing national research systems, particularly in Latin
America and Asia. Then, for a while we felt that we were
handling things by putting the international system
(international research centers) in place. As soon as we got the
international system in place, however, it became apparent to us
that the real constraint on the effectiveness of the
international centers was the lack of strong national systems to
work with as well as the lack of a strong international system
among developed country donors.
The international centers can produce prototype technology.
They can produce generic knowledge. But to be effective, they
have to be able to work with national systems that have some
research capacity. Most of the national systems in Africa do not
have adequate capacity. And now, with the establishment of
ISNAR (International Service for National Agricultural Research),
and many other efforts, we are beginning to ask ourselves what
organization is going to oversee and coordinate all these efforts?
We can learn a few things from past experience in building
national systems. It has been very mixed.
Let me indicate some of the concerns I have when I look at a
number of the national systems. Some have to do with internal
administration; some are about donor policy.
First, there appears to be excessive investment in research
facility development relative to the development of scientific
staff. I can point to research facilities that have been built
to support a sophisticated research program that will not have
the staff capacity to operate these programs for a decade. By
the time they have it, the facility investment will have depreciated.
Second, I have been concerned about excessive administrative
burdens that stifle both routine investigation and research
entrepreneurship. Many countries have not yet made the
transition from how you manage routine programs -- in a sense,
post office administration -- to research administration. (And
we all know that some of those problems continue to exist in the
developed countries as well!)
Third, I have become concerned that location decisions for
major research facilities, often made with the advice of
assistance-agency consultants, have frequently failed to give
adequate weight to factors that contribute to an effective
research location. For example, we all know that in most
developing countries a professional cannot exist unless both he
and his wife are working. If you are not in a location in which
your wife can work -- most of the wives are also professionals --
you are not going to stay there. You also have to work in a
place where your kids can be educated. One has to think about
the context of research and educational facilities that it takes
to make a research system effective as well as the physical
The fourth concern has to do with the lack of congruence
between research budgets and the economic importance of major
commodities. Again, we know that for a country with a very
limited research capacity, this is an extremely difficult problem
to solve. If somebody comes back and he's a soybean breeder and
soybeans aren't very important, he will still breed soybeans.
As systems develop, one has to be increasingly concerned
about this problem of congruence. We have not solved it very
effectively in the United States. The research dollars per $1000
of value added on wool and sheep is about $34, and on wheat it is
about $2, and the others range in between. I do not believe
congruence necessarily implies an efficient allocation of
resources, but when there is a substantial departure from
congruence, one ought to know why.
Fifth, I have become concerned about the apparent
presumption in some national systems that it is possible to do
agricultural research without scientists. That presumption
exists not only within the national systems; many donor agencies
have the same perception. I also see too many research program
leaders who would be extremely good extension specialists
anywhere, but who do not have the capacity to imagine the
solutions to highly technical problems.
Sixth is a concern over the cycles of development and
erosion of capacity that have characterized a number of national
agricultural research systems. When we look at some of the older
systems we have worked with, particularly when we look at Latin
America, we see a period of 8, 10, 12, 15 years of capacity
development. We see the donors beginning to feel that the system
has matured; we see the donors beginning to withdraw their
support. As the support is withdrawn, we see the system
beginning to collapse. We see that the system has not become
politically viable in its own environment.
All this adds up to a seventh concern about the lack of
information and analysis that goes into the establishment of
research priorities and thrusts. No matter whether this is done
very formally, informally, or entirely implicitly, two questions
are being answered when one makes decisions on where to put the
One question is: What are the possibilities of advancing
knowledge or technology if resources are allocated to a
particular commodity problem, a particular resource problem, or a
The interesting thing about this question is that economists
and planners and even senior research administrators cannot
answer it. It can only be answered by the scientists who are
operating at the edge of the work in their field of technology or
The second question is: What will be the value to society
of the new knowledge or the new technology generated by the
research that is developed?
The scientist is not very good at answering that question.
Neither is the scientist who sits in the office of the research
administrator. The answer to that question requires social
science knowledge. And bringing those two sets of knowledge
together -- the knowledge about what can be done and the
knowledge about what is worth doing -- is essential, no matter
how informal the process is.
The Small Country Problem
Now, let me turn just briefly to the small-country
agricultural research issue. We simply don't know how to deal
with this problem. We can all talk about it. We have some
knowledge, but we have not been very successful at actually
working with it.
Even for the smaller countries (until you get down to the
Grenadas and really small ones), a minimum national
research/education system plus the related functions of the
ministry of agriculture in the area of regulations and so on,
requires a national scientific staff of somewhere in the
neighborhood of 250 people trained at the Master's and Ph.D.
level. That number does not put a country in position to do
great things in the world; it is a minimum! Something in that
range is needed to train people for extension; for agribusiness;
for secondary education; to be able to link to international
networks and access those networks; to handle some of the
regulatory problems that a ministry has to handle.
It is not hard to support that number if you consider a
country that has 8 or 10 commodities of some significance, and
you think of what it takes to have a research team that can work
on those commodities, say somewhere in the neighborhood of four
people with some training -- Master's, Ph.D.'s, some specialists.
(You will have to work on some resource problems as well as
Countries with less than 1-1/2 or 2 million people are not
going to be able to afford systems even that large in the next 20
Bill Gamble and Eduardo Trigo took this model and tried to
apply it to the Caribbean Basin countries. They asked how many
of them and what commodities could afford it? There were only
about 8 or 10 commodities among all the commodities in all of the
countries that, if 1 percent of the value of the commodity was
spent on research, could have what even looks like a minimum program.
Regarding networking, we talk a lot about it, about
interdependent systems. But I think we still have to say that
the brochures put out by the network headquarters look better
than the network activities.
There are exceptions. Some of the networks developed with
international centers and national systems seem to be working
fairly well. Not all of them. A network presumes there is some
national capacity out there, and it also presumes that at least
somewhere in the network there is a viable research program going
on. That is one of the reasons some of the center networks seem
to work and some do not.
A viable network system is also going to require long-term
international funding. The regional research networks in the
United States would disappear if it were left to the state
agricultural experiment stations to support them. It is only
because we require a certain percentage of funds to go into them
that we make them viable.
We have the same problem with the national systems of
developing countries in relation to the international centers
that we have with state or provincial systems relative to the
Reforming Donor Support
Finally, the donor community needs to give some thought to
how it provides support to national systems of developing
countries so that we break out of this pattern of the development
and erosion of capacity. One of the things that happens during
the period of donor support is that the national system becomes
quite effective at foraging for resources in the international
community. You become quite skillful at doing that, and actually
it is much easier than foraging for resources within your own
political system. But what happens is the research system does
not achieve the political viability that it takes to maintain
itself when the donor resources disappear.
A research director in the U.S. tells me he is having a
meeting this winter in each legislative district in his state.
That isn't the kind of thing that young directors of national
systems learn while they are graduate students in the United
States. There are some exceptions. I have not been in the
Indian Punjab recently, but when one watched Dr. Randawa and
talked to him about how he worked with the Punjab legislature,
one saw a very sophisticated operation.
We need to find a way to turn the incentives back inward.
One approach would be a donors club that somehow provides
external resources based on the increments in internal funding.
Another is some kind of donor support group, chaired by a
national research director, that involves itself in joint
planning. And when you come to a roadblock (such as the Swiss or
Dutch feeling that they have to do artificial insemination), you
can find other donors whose resources are not so tightly
restricted. In this way, you can fill in the gaps by looking at
the total system and what it needs.
I don't know the answer. It is a challenge to us. There
are probably other institutional devices than the two I
suggested, but I hope in the year 2000 we won't be looking back
and saying to ourselves again, "Why do we see these systems
evolving some capacity and then that capacity eroding as the
donor support declines?"
Duane Acker, BIFAD Board Member: Dr. Ruttan, you mentioned
the political activity in the Punjab. How many places around the
world have developed these political approaches, where political
support has been built. I know it would be hard to quantify, but
is it exceedingly rare? Are there a dozen? Forty?
Dr. Ruttan: I don't have as much of a sense in some
countries as in others. There are about 8 to 10 national systems
that account for a very high percentage of all of the research
capacity in developing countries. Those would include, of
course, countries like India, which have some of the problems I
talked about, but are doing very well. It would also include
countries like Nigeria, which have a substantial research system
but not much comes out of it. It would include the Philippines.
It seems to me the way you do this depends a lot upon the
structure of the governments in the countries. Let me just
illustrate. I remember traveling in Colombia with the director
of the national research system and the former minister of
agriculture, and in a provincial town the director waved to
somebody and said, "That's a senator."
I said, "My God, if I were in Minnesota and were traveling
with our director, he wouldn't be sitting here with me. He'd be
over talking to that guy."
And the foreign minister said, "But he doesn't count."
I said, "You mean a senator doesn't count?"
He said, "No. In our structure, if you're going to do any
lobbying, you have to lobby with the planning commissioner or the
minister of finance. It doesn't pay to lobby your congressman."
Well, if you have that kind of structure, it implies you
operate differently to achieve political viability.
E. T. York, BIFAD Chairman: Dr. Ruttan, you made several
comments concerning the international research system, the CGIAR
system. As some of you know, the system is now, through its
Technical Advisory Committee, going through a major priority-
setting exercise. We recognize that a number of new centers are
outside the system. Looking specifically at the type of research
emphasis these centers should be giving, there is the question of
more basic research versus more adaptive or applied research that
they now do.
You mentioned the need for more basic research dealing with
the problems of the tropics. To what extent do you feel that
existing centers might need to reorient their research efforts to
address some of these needs? What is your feeling with regard to
the balance in research priorities within the system?
Dr. Ruttan: I think it would be extremely difficult to
transform the existing centers into centers of basic research.
I also think that there is still a very important job of
doing generic-applied research, and then linking that generic-
applied research to national systems. There will continue to be
a very large need for the centers to do that.
They should have the capacity to screen and to take
advantage of advances in basic knowledge. That may mean a
limited basic research capacity. IRRI (International Rice
Research Institute) did some relatively basic research in soil
chemistry because it was potentially important to the nutrition
of rice plants.
On some problems, where the basic knowledge is going to be
relevant to a range of commodity and resource problems, we
probably would get more for our buck with less risk of confusing
the objectives of the present system by beginning cautiously to
build basic research institutions in the tropics. They should be
somewhat different than the existing ones; they should be much
more closely linked to universities (perhaps not completely
administered by universities but linked closely to them); and
they should play a much larger role in the training of scientists
within the tropics. I can think of 3 to 5 possibilities.
Chairman York: You feel that it would be advantageous to
try to develop an appropriate mix between a national university
and research station as we have in the United States between
state universities and state experiment stations?
Dr. Ruttan: Yes.
Fred Hutchinson: BIFAD Executive Director: Given the high
rates of return that Evenson and others have shown that
agricultural research delivers, what is the potential for
private support for agricultural research.
Dr. Ruttan: We need to explore much more than we have the
potential for private funding, not only private funding but
private performance in agricultural research.
Regarding my comment that there are not very many
commodities in any one country in the Caribbean large enough to
support public research at say 1 percent, one does find some
individual commodity institutes funded by checkoffs or
assessments that are spending more than that because they tend to
be things like coffee.
In Venezuela a private research institute does research on a
contract basis for the government and for the growers
A contract research relationship with an institute elsewhere
frequently makes sense, particularly for export crops in some of
the smaller countries. I think we ought to be more imaginative.
I don't see within development assistance agencies, or at
least within the agricultural units in development assistance
agencies, very many people who are capable of looking at the
legal structure of a country and asking whether that legal
structure discourages or encourages private research investment.
Peter Oram, International Food Policy Research Institute:
Regarding the question of resources going to large countries,
about 75 percent of all the resources and the staff are expended
in roughly 20 countries. I don't think that means, though, that
a number of other countries are not committed to research. Quite
a few much smaller countries have governments fairly strongly
committed to research.
Another aspect is that the cost of research varies very much
among countries. Practically all of the Asian countries come out
very badly on the criterion of the relationship between
agricultural research spending and GDP. However, if you look at
the number of scientists in relation to the dollars of
agriculture, Asia comes out quite well. Africa comes out rather
badly because the costs per scientist seem to be much higher in
Africa, not necessarily to support more efficient research
Sri Lanka and Kenya, for example, are almost exactly the
same size and the same composition of Ph.D.'s and others on their
staff. One country spends three times as much on research as the
other, and they both have reasonably efficient systems.
The question of small countries, I agree, is very difficult.
I have been looking at the South Pacific, which is probably even
more difficult than the Caribbean. I would like to ask Dr.
Ruttan to respond in relation to this. A rather high proportion
of commodities which are important in the countries are not
covered by the CGIAR system. So you have a problem of small
countries which literally can't support a system of their own.
They are often geographically isolated and cannot draw on other
countries. They are just left very much in isolation.
One answer may be regional research, as in the Caribbean, or
perhaps in trying to.draw on resources and knowledge from other
countries. But in some cases they don't even have the staff to
do that. It is a very difficult problem. I do not think the
private sector in some of these countries is going to be much
help because there isn't an incentive commercially to get
involved in research.
Dr. Ruttan: I like the Venezuelan case because it means
that in a sense if you have a private sector research
institution, it doesn't have to support itself the way a Pioneer
Seed Company does, say, out of the sale of seed. Instead part of
its support comes from doing contract research for the
government. For example, in Venezuela research on coconuts is
done by contract for the government. This is a minor commodity
in Venezuela, which is probably why the research is handled as it
is. Particularly with an export crop like coconut, a smaller
country could contract in a similar way with a research
institution outside its own borders.
Alexander Love, AID, Bureau for Africa: One issue of
particular concern to us is the ability to generate African
budgetary support for the research and education institutions.
That clearly is an issue with respect to the national research
systems. But the reference to WARDA (West Africa Rice
Development Association) brings to mind the real problem in
Africa of how to support the growing need and the growing number
of regional institutions.
A meeting is taking place on WARDA this week, I think,
trying to decide whether in fact WARDA will continue to exist.
While it certainly has had many problems, one of the major ones
has been the inability and unwillingness of the member countries
to provide budgetary support. WARDA is part of a system in which
a large percentage of the budgetary support comes from the member
countries. While these countries are in financial difficulties
today because of other factors, there seem to be other reasons
involving how WARDA is run that is dictating whether or not these
governments will provide support. It is a lack of conceptual
support as much as it is the economic condition.
I am not sure how you go about winning support. It is
difficult enough on a national scale. I would certainly like to
add that to the list of problems.
Dr. Ruttan: My feeling is that it is a losing battle. If
you are going to do something regional, you might just as well
decide from the beginning that funds to support the regional
activities are going to have to come from the outside. But I do
think that you need some kind of oversight that can correct the
kinds of problems that emerged in WARDA and do it quicker than it
has been done.
Calvin Martin, AID, Bureau for Africa: A comment you hear
in Africa from the smaller nations concerns the problem of being
able to communicate with the international centers. I know you
indicated that they felt more help would come from the centers.
Yet these smaller nations have problems in getting what they feel
are their problems up to the international centers to take a look
at. Is this true in other parts of the world where smaller
nations are involved? Or is this a particular African problem?
Dr. Ruttan: No. I think it was a problem with CIAT
(International Center for Tropical Agriculture) during its early
years, for example. There was lots of struggle to get the
regional bean network finally going. But we do have a number of
successful examples, too. The project on potatoes seems to be
working fairly well. Again, to do them, the center has to be
The Role of Science and Policy in Alleviating
Long-Run Food Production Problems in Africa
Christopher L. Delgado*
My remarks today are based heavily on the research of my
colleagues both within and outside IFPRI (International Food
Policy Research Institute), especially a set of papers prepared
for a conference held in August 1983, at Victoria Falls in
Zimbabwe. They include a heavy measure of personal input so I
insert the usual caveat about being the one to blame for errors.
I will begin with the end and tell you what I will conclude.
You can then judge whether the argument succeeded. The case I am
going to argue is:
1. A big bang is needed in Africa on the food production
side, and agricultural research and technology are key.
2. Certain useful scientific research directions are
implied, and I will give suggestions in this regard.
3. The research processes for sustained technological
innovation are not in place.
4. Once the technology is available, or in places where it
is already available, there is a crucial need for better
infrastructure -- institutions and manpower -- to use that
5. The role of government in Africa and in most countries is
necessarily large, and conversely small open lobbies are
essential to keep the government on track.
6. Donors might consider concentrating on their long-term
role of improving decision-making and knowledge bases, where they
particularly do the best job.
7. Institution-building is the way to go in agricultural
8. Policy research, like agricultural research, is a
continuing process, and outsiders and donors can have the best
input through strengthening national systems to do it.
Now we will see if I can support this case.
*Coordinator for African Research, International Food Policy
Research Institute, Washington, D.C.
I will begin with a few comparative trends in African food
production. I will be brief because the facts are familiar to
most of you.
As far as we can tell, output per capital of major staples in
Africa over the '60s and '70s fell at slightly more than 1 percent
per annum. The worst problem long-term has been in West Africa.
Net food imports to Sub-Saharan Africa have been growing at an
annualized compound growth rate of about 7 percent, meaning that
a continent that was a net food exporter in the '60s became a net
food importer in the '70s.
In comparing growth rates in the '60s and '70s between Asia
and Africa, I would like to emphasize that I am not talking about
the growth rates themselves but what has been happening to the
growth rates; the change in growth rates.
In Asia, production and yield growth rates grew by about
one-fifth. Area growth rates grew by about a quarter, mostly
because of double-cropping under increased irrigation.
However, in Africa, area growth rates fell by about a half
in the 1970s compared to the 1960s. Production growth rates fell
by three-quarters. In fact, during the 1970s, the absolute rate
of yield growth was negligible.
This led to the surprising situation that Asia and Africa
had about the same rate of growth of cropped area in the 1970s
despite the much greater availability of unused arable land in
Recent developments (I am relying on the most recent FAO
figures for 1982 and 1983 for 24 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa
facing food emergencies) show a decline of roughly 10 percent in
total cereals consumption. Commercial food imports as a
percentage of total food consumption are about 9 percent; food
aid is about another 7.5 percent. So in the last two years, one
could say that total food imports are 16 to 17 percent of total
food production -- which for a continent where the vast majority
of the population are farmers certainly gives cause to think.
Moving to the framework for assessing the potential for food
productivity and growth, some people estimate that about 30
percent of the land in Africa is arable. Nevertheless, there has
been undisputed widespread degradation of the resource base.
Something on the order of 6 million hectares of good cropland is
lost annually to erosion. Whether in the semiarid or the humid
areas, the fairly ubiquitous results are gaps of from 40 to 60
percent between on-station and farm yields using otherwise
Rapid population growth rates, especially in East Africa, (I
believe Africa is the only continent in the world where the rate
of growth of population is still increasing), suggest that the
day when agricultural intensification is required is not far off.
Unlike the situation in Asia in the 1960s, both policy
makers and biological scientists faced with African problems are
also faced with a number of major uncertainties as to the correct
way to proceed.
I am told that there was no doubt about the efficacy of a
push on food in Asia in the 1960s. I would guess that in Africa
that same consensus does not exist. There is quite a bit of
policy debate about concentrating resources on nonfood export
crops and so forth.
In Asia, hard choices were made to concentrate on the higher
potential areas such as the Punjab but maybe leaving Rajasthan
aside somewhat. This process has not been as evident in Sub-
Saharan Africa. It is quite possible that the political problem
is more complex in Africa, with the overlay of ethnic and
national unity considerations in fragile nation states. In any
event, the political processes generally have not made these
Also in Asia in the 1960s, there seems to have been a
greater consensus on the types of support institutions and
manpower development required to get agriculture moving -- the
kinds of roads, the kinds of universities, the kinds of research
I am certain that in Africa that consensus does not exist at
the present time. In fact, one of the major debates, as you
know, is over research versus infrastructure, one might say, and
which comes first.
Turning to the scientific side, there are currently major
uncertainties in Africa as to appropriate technological
In Asia, there was a consensus that yields must be raised
through seed/fertilizer innovations and irrigation, or at least
that was the direction to head in to raise yields per acre. It
was understood that this would often involve greater labor input,
but this was seen as a good rather than a bad thing.
Unemployment was a great concern. So seeds, irrigation,
fertilizer strategies were more or less agreed upon, and it
remained to research to figure out what to do.
In Africa there is a much more difficult labor problem.
Africa is generally labor-short in rural areas. It may only be
for one or two months of the year, but seasonal labor bottlenecks
are very significant. This complicates considerably the
scientific job of sustainably increasing agricultural output. At
the present time, there is quite a bit of discussion over the
viability of seed/fertilizer solutions, particularly in the
Turning to the structural constraints to agricultural growth
in Sub-Saharan Africa, I will draw up three sets of constraints
to support my conclusions:
1. Physical constraints, which we will take as givens;
2. Economic constraints, which might be called semi-givens
(not easily changeable by anybody in the short run and possibly
not changeable at all);
3. Policy constraints which may be changeable with a fair
amount of arm-twisting, or given sufficient conviction by
First, on the physical givens, soils in Africa are typically
old, fragile, shallow, with low organic content. Some studies
show, for example, that soils in the semiarid tropics of Africa
typically have half the water-holding capacity of the semiarid
soils in India. They are subject to acidification and
compacting, making them particularly problematic for fertilizer
use. In the humid areas, soils are frequently leached; high
surface heat and hard and frequent rains lead to rapid breakdown
of organic material, erosion and compacting.
Generally, I am arguing that it is a difficult soil problem
for agricultural research to deal with.
Diseases and pests are ubiquitous and tend to get more
difficult as you move into the otherwise higher potential areas,
that is, the higher rainfall areas. The disease and pest problem
is particularly intractable. Over a 7-year period, WARDA (West
African Rice Development Association) screened over 2,000
varieties of Asian high-yielding rices. Only two outperformed
local rices, essentially due to disease and pest problems. In
the drier zones, ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute
for the Semi-Arid Tropics), which was very optimistic about the
potential of moving high-yielding sorghum varieties from India to
West Africa, has now retrenched somewhat in that position,
recognizing the very difficult disease and pest problems.
Africa is especially variable in its microenvironment for
agriculture. This shows up at the country level. Zimbabwe, a
country of 7 million people, has five major agroecological
regions. They grow everything from drought-resistant millet to
humid-zone coffee. Running an agricultural system under these
conditions becomes very difficult. And the microenvironment is
truly at the micro level. Africa is famous for its cultivation
systems that grow a range of crops within the same farm.
Rainfall may be extremely variable in the semiarid areas.
Irrigation is more problematic in Africa than in Asia. In the
Sahel, irrigable soils may be 8 percent of the total area, 20
percent of the arable area. However, costs of irrigation
development range from $5,000 to $20,000 per hectare, depending
on the degree of water control, which is clearly uneconomic.
Finally, seasonal labor bottlenecks themselves, one of the
most difficult technical problems, stem from the sharply peaked
nature of rainfall. Most of the arable Sahel receives more
rainfall than the south of France, but it is concentrated in 2 to
4 months. Under these conditions, weed growth, pests and disease
blossom in a concentrated period. But hired labor generally does
not exist, which for an economist would be simply a way of
stating that land is not a constraint. People can farm their own
land or migrate to the city, but why work on someone else's farm?
The point I am trying to make is that, unlike the case of
Asia, or possibly Latin America, where one is faced with an
elastic labor supply and the labor question is simply a cost
input to designing technology, the labor question is considerably
more complicated for the design of technology in Africa.
Now, moving to the second set of constraints, the economic
constraints, what we have called the semi-givens. Perhaps the
most intractable and serious contraint on agricultural production
in Sub-Saharan Africa is the competing demand for labor from non-
agriculture. Wage differentials between urban and rural areas
for unskilled labor typically vary from 1 to 5, to 1 to 9, as
compared to 1 to 2, or 1 to 2-1/2 in India, and 1 to 3, or 1 to 4
at most, in Latin America.
This comes about partly through history (recently
decolonialized areas); partly because of structural aspects, such
as large capital inflows. By way of example, in at least six
countries of West Africa, between '78 and '82, 25 percent of GDP
came from foreign assistance or mineral rents, such as oil
The cities generally are growing rapidly in most African
countries, and in a sense the nongrowth problem in agriculture
has something to do with the growth problem in nonagriculture.
Urban bias in policy is very hard to change in new nations,
and I prefer to consider this a semi-given rather than a policy
issue in looking at how to go about organizing agricultural
There are special problems of small, sparsely populated
countries that need to be recognized. It is a simple point but a
telling one for agricultural research. If you go to most parts
of Africa and you want to introduce an innovation, you need 50
percent of the village to adopt simultaneously in order to have
an economically viable center to service that innovation. In
many parts of Asia, only 5 percent of the population would have
to adopt the innovation for the same scale of service operations
because there are a whole bunch of villages right next door where
you get lots of other 5 percent.
There are also a host of problems associated with small
open economies in a hostile environment where it is very
difficult to maintain autonomous pricing or fiscal policies.
Often the way you do that is to have a parastatal which isolates
your agricultural producer from the world market. We know all
the problems with that. There are bureaucratic problems, too.
If you are selling cocoa, and the cocoa price is changing by a
function of 33 percent from year to year, it is very hard to get
away from that given problem.
Turning now to the third set of constraints, the policy-
relevant constraints, I would like to list a few, probably well-
known but I will give some figures: inadequate support systems,
input, supply, research and so on.
Generally the picture is of inadequate delivery systems and
support systems, and particularly in the lower-potential areas.
It is true that the private sector has stepped in much more in
the higher-potential cash-cropping area, or if it hasn't, it has
been prevented from doing so. But in the low-potential areas,
the private sector has not come forward, even where encouraged to
Fertilizer is generally not widely used in Africa where 95
percent of food production is on smallholder farms. In the area
I am familiar with, the Sahel, during the '60s and '70s, I think
it is accurate to say that less than 1 kilogram per hectare of
cropped area was used, with the exception of Senegal. Generally,
continent-wide, the average use rate did not exceed 6 kilograms
per hectare in the late '70s. About one-third of the countries
use less than one kilogram per hectare.
There are all kinds of horror stories about fertilizer
provision by parastatals. In Nigeria, one researcher pointed out
that it took 46 weeks to distribute fertilizer from the central
federal stores to farms.
Then there is the matter of inadequate infrastructure. The
meters of rural roads per square kilometer are lower in Africa
than anywhere else. IFPRI research shows that marketing margins
of the food grains in Africa are generally about twice that of
Asia in comparable kinds of agricultural areas, and that about
half of that extra margin comes simply from higher transport
costs. That has a lot to do with poor road situations.
Among other policy constraints are inadequate decision
processes and a short supply of skilled decision-makers. There is
a famous example in Tanzania of one accountant in the parastatal
sector for every $13 million of turnover.
Finally, there is the question of inadequate incentives. It
is no coincidence that I put this last on my list of policy
constraints. It is undoubtedly a constraint in some areas, but
it is only one among many.
One reason for caution in pricing policy is that, in fact,
the real consumer price of food in 18 out of 23 Sub-Saharan
countries has increased in the 1970s, as would be expected as
demand outstripped supply. In many countries the food price is
above the world price, whatever methodology one uses to examine
the matter, although export crops are generally still taxed.
Fundamental changes in incentives go way beyond short-run
pricing policy. There are several research projects at IFPRI
that suggest that nonagricultural policies often have a greater
impact on agricultural incentives than agricultural pricing
policy per se.
It is probably -true that most Sub-Saharan governments have
gone in for import substitution in industrialization, protected
by tariff barriers. So even if agricultural prices are too high
and protected, then manufacturing prices are "too higher;" so,
relatively speaking, agriculture is too low. In jargon, the
effective rates of protection in Nigeria in 1979 for rice and
maize were 218 and 109 percent, respectively. Yet the same
indicators for batteries and blankets were 600 and 419 percent,
These are presumably policy-changeable, although I would not
want to estimate the difficulties of dealing with vested
interests on these questions.
Now I come to my implications for science and policy; the
conclusions that I stated for you at the beginning of my talk:
First, the need for a big bang. Marginal changes are
undoubtedly important, but the sheer differential between
agriculture and nonagriculture in returns to labor (that is, the
growth in labor incentives required), show that a big bang is
needed. It suggests, perhaps, the need to consider concentrating
on higher-potential areas and crops. These decisions are clearly
political. They need to be made through, and by, national
We also need to avoid simplistic conclusions from that.
Very often, the high-potential and low environments are all
within the same microenvironment. It is a question of favoring
one village over another; using a small-scale irrigation scheme
in one place rather than a rain system in another. In any case,
it requires a lot of politically difficult and very decentralized
decision-making that really only the people of the countries can
do, but where possibly they could use some donor support for
increasing their capacity in this kind of decision-making.
There is a need for innovations that significantly boost
returns to farm labor overall on a year-round basis. Even though
labor may be fairly abundant in all but one month, one has to
increase the returns to labor in that month sufficiently to make
it a viable alternative to year-round migration. And it has to
be applicable to smallholder conditions where 95 percent of food
Second, some research directions:
Generally, because of labor bottlenecks and the absence of
an elastic supply of hired labor one can count on at a given
price, particular attention has to be paid to the impact of
technology on labor use, especially during bottleneck periods.
This makes seed/fertilizer innovations especially complex. That
is the essential rationale for farming systems research, which is
more of a requirement in Africa than elsewhere. There are
obviously abuses, particularly if farming systems researchers
lose sight of the fact that labor is really the key variable, and
that farming systems research is not an end in itself but simply
an adjunct of other forms of agricultural research.
Because of a difficult environment, it is clear that Africa
can less afford a non-input-intensive development strategy than
other places in the world. Increased use of purchased inputs --
fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides -- will be a sine qua non of
progress, absolutely indispensable. Because of the extreme
variability of the environment and fragility of soils, this
strategy must be coupled to greater specificity of
recommendations in order to cater to local conditions.
In Upper Volta, now called Burkina Faso, where I worked for
a while -- and I believe it is still the case -- there was only
one kind of fertilizer, a cotton-complex fertilizer, that is
being extended by the research and extension institutions. There
is some research in Burkina Faso that shows this practice has
been responsible for acidification of soils and also low response
to fertilizer over a period of time.
Because of the need to look at seasonal labor bottlenecks
and the high climatic risk in many areas, breeding programs need
to consider factors other than high-management dependent, high-
yielding varieties. That is not to say one doesn't need
research. It says you have to pay much more attention to
spreading out the peaks in seasonal labor use for example, and
that you have to really pay attention to stability of yield as
opposed to just size of yield.
Because of a fragile resource base and rapidly increasing
population densities, soil conservation improvement will rapidly
become a new priority in Africa. It has not been a priority in
the past and raises very complicated land tenure questions. Land
tenure, I would say, is a very viable policy issue at the present
time in at least seven countries, all in East Africa.
The third general conclusion: the indigenous processes to
look at these research questions in Africa are not in place. I
am basing this on the consensus of 50 wise people at our Zimbabwe
conference. True, there is an unused shelf of technology,
probably more so in the high-altitude areas of East Africa, where
good policy or better policy might give a one-shot increase.
This would not lead to a sustained process. There would not be
anything to replace it.
Currently, one sees considerable aging of expatriate input,
an important input in agricultural research in Africa in the
'60s. Generally, local input in terms of money and people has
not been replacing previous efforts. Generally, the national
institutional bases needed to coordinate, to prioritize, to
provide political constituency are not there. (These are largely
statements of senior Africans.)
If Dr. Ruttan is correct that the minimum needs of a
national research program, agricultural university and
agriculture ministry is for 250 Masters and Ph.D. agricultural
scientists, then most African countries are far short. Budgets
for research expenditures other than salary are also lacking.
If it is correct that the necessary institutions and
processes for sustained technological innovation are not in
place, then the first priority should be to build them.
My fourth conclusion: Where technology is available,
infrastructure and support systems are key. Centrally provided
grid infrastructure, such as roads, are essential to lowering
transportation costs. Infrastructure which permits steady growth
in the aggregate supply of fertilizer, national or imported, is
also essential to pushing growth in their use. Centrally
provided infrastructure to handle the import, storage and
distribution of fertilizer is then necessary.
The key points regarding infrastructure are the need for
decentralized input in the allocation of resources to
infrastructure, and the need to prioritize by regions where
available technology is such that infrastructure is a major
constraint. All my remarks before about the micro variability of
the climate point out the great lack of physical supports, such
as soil maps, as well as of various kinds of facilitating
institutions for service provision, either directly, or to
facilitate the role of the private sector, and generally to
improve decentralized government decisionmaking.
My fifth point deals with the fact that government's role
is necessarily large, thus smallholder lobbies are essential.
All I have said points to the importance of public goods in
getting agriculture moving -- research, extension, education,
infrastructure. Particularly in the beginning, the benefits from
these goods are difficult to capture, hence the role of the state
Complex allocation choices must be made. If one really
addressed the trade-off between putting support into infrastructure
or into research frontally, there is no doubt, particularly given
the relative costs of the two, that one would go heavily towards
research. Nonetheless, one has got to go to infrastructure.
These are all long-term processes and in a sense have all got to
be done together. It is clear there has to be more
prioritization of which infrastructure to go into, and this has
to occur on the basis of existing agricultural technology potential.
These are complex and disaggregated processes. Again,
institutions have to do it, and people are not sufficiently
supporting, either at the national level or the international
level, the national institutions that have to make these
We do know quite a bit about how to get agriculture moving.
It is not as if there are not success stories. Tea in Kenya,
cocoa in Ivory Coast, cotton in Mali -- these are all smallholder
systems that have been highly productive. I will add maize on
large farms in Zimbabwe as another example.
In those four cases, the common elements were heavy
provisions of research; extension of infrastructure by the state;
and more importantly organization of the producers who had some
way to get back to the ministry when the parastatals were getting
out of line, and to secure the allocations to get the things they
needed, to get the fertilizer on time.
The sixth point: Donors should concentrate on long-term
programs. Generally donors do influence short-run political
variables such as food prices, but this may be limited to times
of great misfortune, as at present. Furthermore, the decision on
the right direction to go may be very complex. We assume we know
what the relative price of sorghum or cotton may be, and maybe we
do at a given time, but that is likely to change five months from
now. There is a need for continuity and constituency in
decision-making, but I would submit that donors should try to
improve that decision-making rather than supply improved
My seventh conclusion stated that institution-building
rather than disintegration is the way to go. I have been told
that in the '50's and '60s one donor called the shots in Asia.
In the 1970's and '80s in Africa, the U.S. role has been far more
limited. U.S. bilateral assistance to Sub-Saharan Africa in the
early 1980s is of the order of 7 percent of official development
assistance to Africa.
While it is true that only recipients can truly provide
coordination, the plethora of agenda from different donors makes
it especially difficult. I cite the case of Zimbabwe, a country
with 15 major donors in agriculture, each flying its own flag,
and they are all supporting agricultural research through
geographically separate production projects. This means the
Zimbabwe research service has to put up 15 breeders and 15 soil
scientists, all in different locations. Generally the result has
been to fragment the national capacity rather than to build it.
Most researchers would agree, I think, that the key to research
is to build a critical mass, and such situations are exactly
USAID's support for African agricultural research has been
increasing in real terms for some time now; I am told at this
meeting that it is up to $75 million annually and that the length
of commitment is also extended. I also believe that a lot of
this growth in funding for agricultural research by USAID has
been in the context of specific production projects rather than
support for the research processes.
That leads to my eighth point, the need for policy research,
and all of what I said above is true for policy research but
compounded by the touchy political problems involved in any kind
of policy-related activity. There is a need for local knowledge,
continuity, constituency; but there are also the complex
political and social issues.
Generally I would submit as a personal note, though many of
my colleagues may join me, that the role of U.S. technical
assistance should be institution building, not implementation of
service tasks. That is, we need to build the capacity to
prioritize and to make hard choices rather than do those jobs
Benjamin Payton, BIFAD Member: Dr. Delgado, you
suggested that donors should take a long-term approach rather
than short-term services or other kinds of gains. Given the
immediacy and the urgency of the problems of famine and drought
in many parts of Africa, what kinds of long-term gain would you
suggest ought to be focused on? Does what is going on right now
affect what maybe you wrote earlier?
Dr. Delgado: No, it doesn't. I lived through the great
drought in Sahel, first as a Peace Corps volunteer, and then
later as a resident teacher, doing my Ph.D. dissertation in what
was then called Upper Volta. I recall very strongly that in 1974
we were saying, "The same thing is going to happen all over again
10 years from now (those are the exact words) unless certain
things are done."
The great lesson learned from the drought in the Sahel
was that for the first time, governments and donors really did
focus on the need to strengthen agricultural growth, and despite
setbacks a lot was done.
Nothing I have said or want to say should take away from
the need for urgent humanitarian assistance, for food aid. I
certainly would not argue that one should reduce humanitarian
assistance in order to provide long-term assistance, given the
Having said that, I think we are going to end up with the
same thing every 10 years unless governments get serious about
agriculture, and particularly about making agriculture a viable,
long-term occupation. I think governments are beginning to
John Mellor, Director, IFPRI: A comment: The tremendous
need for infrastructure in Africa, along with a pretty poor year-
in, year-out food consumption situation in much of rural Africa,
certainly in the drought-prone areas, suggests that one could put
these two needs together and come up with effective long-term
food aid programs that build infrastructure. Two and two add up
to four, and the four is an effective food aid program for
building rural infrastructure.
One should know when one comes out in favor of that --
and I do -- that you are going to look awfully foolish many times
over the next 5 or 10 years. You don't look foolish if something
doesn't get done, but if it does get done, you are going to look
foolish because in the process there will be all sorts of
mismanagement and inefficiency and building roads in the wrong
places and so on. One should probably go in knowing there are
going to be horror stories and try to minimize them and do the
If one built good infrastructure, institutional
structures, local groups, and so on, for moving food aid year in
and year out, the tooling up of these to use four times as much
in some years when you have a real crisis would be a lot easier
than the present situation of trying to move in a lot of food aid
with even poorer infrastructural circumstances.
I would guess in Ethiopia, and probably even in rural Kenya,
at the present time you can't really talk about using the food
aid for the productive purpose of infrastructure. You just have
to get out there and get the food kitchens operating. However,
if over some time you have been building that structure to use
food aid for developmental purposes, I think you could have
quadrupled the size of it very quickly and shown somewhat more
One can put the next crisis together with institutional
structures, for getting some long-term development done. I don't
know too much about the emergency aid. There is probably not too
much you can do this time in the short run because you haven't
laid the groundwork for it.
Norman Uphoff, Cornell University: To underscore the point
about local capacity, one big thing we have recently is in
Zimbabwe, where a smallholder production of maize has gone from
100,000 tons to 400,000 this season. This is a four-fold
increase in market production of maize from smallholders who are
in rain-fed areas, often with very poor soil and other
conditions, but who for the last four years have been getting
support from the government, from private fertilizer companies,
from church groups, from the adult literacy organizations in
Zimbabwe. They set up these small farmer groups, which have been
the links to the extension service for fertilizers, seeds,
marketing and so forth. They have had the capacity, which could
be picked up as Dr. Mellor says, and used very quickly in this
crisis in spite of the other ecological adversities.
Douglas Pickett, Bureau for Asia: Regarding this push
for investment in longterm infrastructure development and the
capacity to do it, I come back to the many cases where capacity
is built up, and then when support is withdrawn it drops down
simply because the countries do not have the capacity to keep up
with that pace. I would like to hear some discussion on that
rather serious dilemma.
Dr. Delgado: I think that is largely a reflection of the
fact that projects have been initiated in what donors wanted. The
projects have gone in whether they were a priority for the
country or not.
I believe in increased provision of infrastructures; it has
to be coupled with hard decision-making by the nationals who will
have to maintain it. The more you leave that decision-making to
the nationals, I think the better they maintain it.
As for Dr. Ruttan's point about buildings versus people, I
support that. In all the call for infrastructure one should not
lose sight of the fact that institutions are built with people.
Donors are doing relatively little to increase the supply of that
resource they are calling most heavily upon.
Mr. Pickett: Certainly. But there are recurrent costs in
human capital development just as there are in infrastructure
development. You have to maintain them.
Dr. Delgado: That is true. You have to fill the pipeline,
and it is going to be a leaky pipeline.
Peter Oram, IFPRI: You have a problem with the tax base to
generate recurrent costs, particularly with small countries. It
is easier to put in an AID project than to find the money to
support it over the long term. We do have a real problem here.
In the case of providing the people for particular research
projects, I think there is some danger that we are now in some
countries developing people faster than we are funds to keep them
going. So you have an increasing component of expenditure on
salaries and a decreasing component on operations and costs. I
think Dr. Ruttan was implying a lot of people sitting around
without the capacity to do productive work, which is a very bad
Dr. Ruttan: We seem to have a problem of matching the
appropriate kind of support; of matching program to the
generation of local support capacity.
As I see the problem in infrastructure development --
whether it is physical infrastructure, roads and irrigation
systems, or local institutional structure -- if we depend on the
concepts of research transfer we are never going to be
successful, whether it is from central governments or AID agencies.
The problem really has to be thought of as one of resource
mobilization. If the central government is so fragile that it is
afraid to see the evolution of viable local government and to
give it the capacity to generate revenue and retain revenue and
make decisions, then we are inevitably caught in this system of
development and erosion. The roads are going to slide off into
The issue of land tenure also came up. AID or the AID
community may have to think about how it works on the problems of
developing local capacity. Some things have to be done at the
central level. Probably you can only fund your research system
at the central level. But central governments are not going to
put money in packages and send them out there regularly to local
communities and local units of government until they develop
capacity. Otherwise, the resources you transfer are going to
disappear shortly after they have been transferred.
Chairman York: The problem of lack of coordination of donor
input referred to by Dr. Delgado seems to be a critical issue in
John Coulter, World Bank: We have tried a donor consortium
of one kind or another on a number of occasions. One of the
major weaknesses, of course, is the countries themselves. I
think it is the country which should be doing the coordination.
One of the reasons you get such disparate packages of donors is
because the country itself doesn't define very well what it
needs. The donors come along, and I think the country in its
desperation accepts the package. We have to be very careful not
to usurp the role of the country which should be responsible for
Dr. Mellor: When you talk about Africa these days, you
cannot help but lay out how incredibly difficult the problems
are, as Dr. Delgado did very well. We are only fooling ourselves
if we do not do that.
People working in foreign assistance in Asia in the '50s
found it very difficult.
It was the conventional wisdom in 1956 that Taiwan was never
going to make it because they would never get their exports to
grow more than 3 percent a year, which was what was happening
then. By 1961, they were growing 30 percent a year.
Some prominent Americans referred to Bangladesh as a basket
case. I don't think anyone now would.
I'm not sure that the situation in Africa is so much less
likely to get managed. I think it is important to keep that
perspective when we focus on what are very difficult issues.
The point I want to make, though, is the large size of
foreign assistance in much of Africa now relative to the
situation in Asia in the '50s and '60s. We are talking about
massive levels of foreign assistance now, far more than I think
was ever moved into Asian countries.
I think this is partly because the problem has become a
little concentrated in Africa. We have got most of Asia moving
at this point, and for that reason, and perhaps others, we do
want to move very quickly.
We have to realize that by trying to move quickly, by moving
in very large sums of money (I do not want my comments
interpreted in any way that we should not move so much money in),
that is creating an additional problem. How do you move that in
without destroying all national capacities to raise resources,
and most importantly without destroying the lower level, local
governmental capacities to raise resources?
One of the many questions we should be addressing is how
such large sums of money being moved in from abroad can be used
to enhance the national capacity to raise resources and make
decisions at the local level.
We probably have not been turning our attention to how you
put those two together. It is easy to say that foreign assistance
is destroying local capacity, but that is not where we want to
be. The question is how you use large amounts of foreign funds
to enhance a local capacity. That is very, very difficult, and
we probably do not know very much about it, but we should be
turning our minds very heavily to that issue.
Priscilla Boughton, BIFAD, Deputy Executive Director: Dr.
Delgado, you had quite a formidable list of constraints. Do you
see many countries where you could get a critical mass going to
overcome some of these constraints
Dr. Delgado: Yes, I think so. As I say, Africa is not
without its success stories. There may not be so many success
stories at a national level, but one can certainly find instances
within sectors. One should study those and look carefully at
them. I cited some.
Looking at Niger, an area that agriculturally is about as
desolate as you can find, I think you can find a success story
there where there has been political will and supportive
institutions and some pretty enlightened U.S. aid.
Chairman York: Very little has been said about relative
emphasis on food crops versus cash crops, the comparative
advantage, et cetera.
Dr. Delgado: My response has to do with Dr. Payton's
comments also. It is fairly clear that most cash crops, nonfood
cash crops, are still heavily taxed because of the revenue
imperative of governments and the ability to tax a crop that has
only one outlet. That is generally not true for most food crops.
Because these crops for the most part are produced on the
same farms -- food and nonfood -- and because the marketed
surplus of food is so small relative to total production (I would
say 25 percent as a ballpark) if the free market were to prevail,
there is great reason to believe that there would be immediate
shortfall in the marketed surplus of food, and the consequent
need for heavy food imports.
Now it may be possible to finance food imports by export
crops production itself, or it might not be. There are a host
of issues, but in any event it is not inconceivable there would
be an emergency need for food aid if those policies were
AID's Agricultural Research Strategy for Africa
Alexander R. Love*
I would like to thank Dr. York and BIFAD for putting the
agricultural research strategy for Africa on its agenda. If this
Forum turns out to be as useful to you as it has already turned
out to be useful to us, I suggest we continue the process at
intervals over the next year or two.
I am sure we will not resolve the subject of where we might
go in research this afternoon. We could also expand on some of
the related issues on long-term agricultural development. I know
you have discussed human resources development previously, but it
is another part of the research equation we are quite concerned
with. Our new manpower strategy paper, copies of which will be
distributed at this Forum, provides a picture of how we approach
the human resources gap in Africa.
Another related aspect is the broad question of
institutional development in Africa, in the context of
universities, the independent research institutions themselves,
and the government ministries.
We are trying to look at each of these general areas, even
though we recognize the complexity of the overlap among them.
As you are all aware, one of the issues in the Bureau today
is the whole question of how we focus on the long-term problems
in agricultural development in Africa while we are turning so
much of our time and attention to the current drought.
In the first 7 weeks of this fiscal year we moved into
Ethiopia alone close to $120 million worth of food and other
assistance, a fairly substantial commitment. We moved into
Africa this year in two months more food aid than we moved in the
continent all of last year; and last year we moved more food aid
into Africa than we moved during the height of the Sahel drought.
So the flow of humanitarian assistance, in terms of both food and
related assistance, such as health assistance and other costs,
has been skyrocketing.
We have gotten a lot of public attention. When we
introduced the concept of a kind of economic policy initiative
last year, we tried to see if we could draw the linkage between
the short-term problems of the drought, which were of course
quite serious in Southern Africa last year, and the long-term
problems involved in agricultural development.
*Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Africa, U.S. Agency
for International Development, Washington, D.C.
For the United States, the question of how we fit into this
fabric is one of our real issues -- both in terms of what we
should do with our own relatively limited sources vis-a-vis the
rather long, long list of problems that was fairly well laid out
on the table in Dr. Delgado's discussion.
We have been following a growth program in agricultural
research to some degree based on faith that research was
essential to the solution of Africa's long-term problem. As we
have put more programs on the books, and as other people have
become more interested in research in Africa, we have found
ourselves, at least internally, facing more issues about the
priority of research versus other investments.
Should we be putting more money into infrastructure? How
much money should we be putting into policy dialogue and policy
reform? What kinds of returns will we get from modifications in
the price structure, more privatization and reduction of parastatals?
There is a fairly active debate going on in our Bureau
asking: "What are the returns to agricultural research, and
particularly, given the complexity of our program and the limited
amount of funds, where should we be putting our money in
Calvin Martin has been working for the last 6 months pulling
together an improved profile of where we think we might be going
on research. We concluded some two years ago that we could not
do anything without a better dialogue with other donors. Through
the Cooperation for Development in Africa, a mechanism for a
loose exchange among the European donors, Canada and the U.S., we
have attempted to work on a more comprehensive analysis of
agricultural research (particularly in the Sahelian zone and the
Southern Africa zone) in an effort to see if we could come up
with a better profile of what we might do.
We are obviously concerned about the role of the
international centers in Africa -- whether they are putting
sufficient attention on Africa, and how we might bring them more
into the scene, and how we can assist that effort. We have made
some progress in this area in the last couple of years.
We have long felt we have to support agricultural research
at the national level and build the national institutions. That
must be the base on which any long-term strategy is developed.
At the same time, with 33 countries, we really don't know what to
do about some of the small countries. In terms of our general
program strategy, we set aside a number of the small countries
and concentrate on extremely selective interventions.
In some of these countries we could select manpower
development and work on that. Our feeling, however, is that our
staff capability and budgetary resources are such that we are
going to have to be extremely selective in choosing among
countries as well as choosing among sectors.
In between the national level and the international centers
comes the particularly complicated African problem of what you do
with the regional institutions, the regional network, the
regional exchanges. The WARDA (West Africa Rice Development
Association) is an example of a regional institution that has not
gone as well as had been expected and at the moment is in danger
One of our questions in looking at regional institutions is:
Could we, through some regional cooperation, whatever the
mechanism be, get around the number of countries in Africa and
get some economies ot scale? How to get some kind of economies
in terms of regional focus and to what degree this would provide
a linkage between the role of the national centers and the
national assistance itself. The countries share some of the same
research problems, some of the same agricultural problems.
To the extent we have had experience with African
institutions, we have found them extremely complicated to set up.
They tend to become fairly high-cost bureaucracies. They tend
not to get support from the member countries to the extent
promised. I am talking about a variety of institutions, many of
them outside of agricultural research.
I am not an expert on the international centers, but I think
there is some question of what the expected roles of the
international centers would be in Africa. There is a certain
amount of potential overlap and competition with respect to who
works on maize research, for example. So I think we have some
sorting out to do on that.
We are a long way from having a totally clear understanding
of where we are going to go in research, and we are particularly
concerned about the problem of how we coordinate with other major
donors and with the Africans. I do want to emphasize the
importance of determining where we plan to go in research (long-
term) and how we will coordinate with donors.
There is going to be a lot more discussion of Africa in the
media; and more discussion in front of Congress this spring. It
would be a mistake if we do not take that opportunity to go
beyond a discussion of the immediate needs that we have in terms
of humanitarian assistance and get to some of the questions of
what is required to support a better long-term effort in
agricultural development in Africa.
Overviewof Africa Bureau'sAgricultural Research Strategy
Africa is approximately four times the size of the
continental U.S., with wide variation of ecological zones,
ranging from tropical to semitropical and humid tropical to the
arid regions in the Sahel area. A wide variety of crops is
grown; and large numbers of various kinds of livestock are
raised. There are over 2,000 ethnic groups with whom we work in
the various countries in Africa.
These countries have, in general, only recently become
independent. This has meant that the governments have been
consolidating political power as well as formulating institutions
for economic development and for research-extension that are
very different from those under colonial powers.
Small farms in Africa range from 1 to 5 hectares and grow a
very large number of crops. One farm I visited in Burundi had 18
different crops -- both food crops and cash crops -- on a hectare
and a half, as well as a number of small ruminants and poultry.
On these smaller farms, the soil is normally cultivated by
the hand hoe.
The lack of trained manpower at the M.S. and Ph.D. levels
is a serious constraint. A recent FAO report says, "As late as
1969 there were in 14 French-speaking nations of West Africa only
4 universities offering agriculture courses to 350 students. In
the English-speaking countries, a similar situation existed with
only 154 students graduating in agriculture during the period of
1953 to 1962." This figures out to about 3 students per country.
Another constraint is rapid population growth, which ranges
somewhere from 2.8 to 4 percent per year, with some countries now
having at least 50 percent of the population 15 years of age and
Dietary preferences and nutritional requirements are also
somewhat of a constraint. For Sub-Sahara Africa as a whole, for
example, about 60 percent of the caloric intake is in cereals and
the remainder in equal amounts of roots, tubers, pulses and
other vegetable crops and animal products. But regional
variations exist and we need to take them into account in
designing agricultural projects. AID's assistance is closely
related to dietary needs. Most of our assistance goes
into cereal, root, and tuber crops; that is where most AID
funding is currently being spent.
*Assistant Director For Research, Office of Technical Resources,
Bureau for Africa, U.S. Agency for International Development,
Washington D.C. Talk accompanied by slides.
Per capital food production has generally been declining for
the last two decades. Yields have stagnated on food crops.
Relevant technologies to increase production per unit of land are
not being generated or used by the farmers where they exist.
Agriculture research systems are generally inadequately staffed
and poorly equipped and financed.
We have to remember that research efforts at the time of
independence were export-crop-oriented and focused on animal
health. Only recently has research attention been directed to
food crops, animal husbandry, and social-economic aspects.
AID's long-term goal is to improve the capability of African
nations to sustain food production, increase incomes and improve
the quality of life.
AID's goal contains two important elements. The first
element is that, recognizing the need to strengthen the national
research systems, efforts must be tailored to particular
countries. The ability to generate and use research developments
is important in designing a research program.
The second element is the development of a collaborative
research program focused on a regional level. The types of
efforts we see needing support include efforts such as the
Semi-Arid Food Grain Research and Development (SAFGRAD) project
in West Africa; the Collaborative Research Support Programs that
are tied in on a global basis; and such centrally-funded projects
as the International Soil Benchmark Sites Networks and the Water-
Management Synthesis Project.
The Africa Bureau has three priorities:
1. Strengthening and developing national research systems;
2. Developing long-term plans; and
3. Supporting technology development and transfer.
The strengthening and development of the national research
systems puts particular emphasis on the training of professional
staff. These efforts are in long- and short-term training in the
United States with some training in third countries. Currently,
AID is funding 180 to 200 participants per year for agricultural
research and agriculture in general. Also, on-the-job training
is being provided in the countries by a large number of
contractors who we have working on a collaborative basis in
The long-term funding is about 120 participants a year at the
M.S. and Ph.D. levels. Estimates on minimum training requirements
for agriculture and livestock have recently appeared in FAO
reports. Using Zambia as an example of about 7 million
population, the professional level requirement for the year 2000
is about 800 scientists. Today, there are probably around 100
scientists. In order to reach the goal by the year 2000, an
annual output of 55 B.S., M.S., or Ph.D. level graduates are
needed each year. They are now graduating about 10 to 12 per
The need at the technical level was estimated at about
4,000. There are probably about 1,000 in place today. An annual
output of 270 is needed.
By contrast, the FAO report on training needs estimates that
training institutions in Gambia, with a population of about
650,000, are in balance -- that is, the training institutions
with the trained professional and technical staff to meet the
estimated requirements of 50 professionals and 250 technical
people by the year 2000.
These examples serve to illustrate the critical mass of
scientists that need to be trained during the next 15 to 20
years. We need to further define the regional and national level
needs for trained people and scientific disciplines.
Two other points from the FAO report: About 3.4 percent of
the trained agriculture and livestock staff in the 46 countries
of Africa are women. There are two exceptions, Swaziland and
Lesotho, with about 24 and 25 percent, respectively. Further,
about 25 percent of the teaching staffs in African training
institutions have lower than a B.S. level in education, indicating
the need for more training.
Our second priority deals with long-term plans. One of our
major efforts is to work through the Cooperation for Development
in Africa (CDA), comprised of seven donors (United States,
Canada, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Belgium and Italy).
CDA donors have outlined six ecological zones to facilitate
the cooperation and development of research institutions on a
regional basis as well as to coordinate some of our efforts.
These zones are: The Sahel; Coastal West Africa; the Congo River
Basin; Southern Africa; East Africa; and Sudan.
Why long-term plans, the second priority?
In agricultural research it may take 10 years to develop a
sound technology that can be disseminated to the farming
community. Our investment in many of these countries has been
for only 4 or 5 or 8 years; sometimes less. In some countries,
we have been working for 15 years or so, and those countries are
generating some technology. By the time of the full adoption of
the benefits by farmers, we are talking of a period of another 15
to 20 years.
The third priority is supporting technology development and
transfer. We do this through the bilateral projects that support
the development of national research and extension institutions
and also in some cases regional institutions.
As for the international research centers, four are located
in Africa. Another 4 or 5 have outreach scientists stationed in
various countries. So we do have a fair coverage from the
As for the Collaborative Research Support Programs, all
seven CRSPs are active and have projects in Africa. The Sorghum-
Millet CRSP in Sudan, Botswana, Mali, and Zimbabwe; the Bean and
Cowpea CRSP in Malawi, Kenya and Uganda; Management of Tropical
Soils, located in the Sahel area. Other CRSPs are Small Ruminants,
located in Kenya and Morocco; Peanuts, located in Upper Volta,
Senegal, Sudan, Mali and Niger; Nutrition -- Functional
Implications of Marginal Deficiencies in Human Diets, located in
Kenya; and Pond Dynamics -- Aquaculture, located in Rwanda.
We also work very closely with the centrally funded Farming
Systems Support Project that helps us in West Africa, and
the Benchmark Soils project.
On the regional level we are supporting projects, for
example, with the International Center for Insect Physiology and
Ecology, which is focused primarily in Africa. The Bean and
Cowpea CRSP in East and Central Africa is another effort we are
using on a regional basis.
As for networking, one of our best examples is with the
project in West Africa, which is an organization of 25 African
states in the sorghum and millet belt -- from the Sahel region
arcing down to Botswana. Certain countries in this particular
project are getting more proficient in breeding; some in
screening; some working on nutrition. As time goes on, I think
this will evolve into probably one of our better networks in
Africa. The other network we have is the Farming Systems
Research Project in East Africa, which is on its third year.
Where will our research efforts lead us for the year 2000?
We hope that Target No. 1, the national agricultural research
system, is capable of generating technology and utilizing it in a
cost-effective manner. We feel that strengthening national
systems is the first thing that needs to be done. We have about
25 or so projects in that area, working in strengthening those
We feel there are probably 7 or 8 countries -- such as
Senegal, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Zambia -- that will need a much shorter
time frame to develop some technologies, probably within a 10-
There are a large number of other countries that will need a
10 to 20-year time-frame, countries such as Burundi, Somalia,
Rwanda, Uganda. There needs to be developed at the national
level a critical mass of scientists who can work on production
constraints. In some countries most of the technology will
probably have to be drawn from neighboring countries, from the
international centers, or through the CRSPs.
The second target -- the national research and extension
institutions should be fully capable of meeting recurrent funding
needs. We hope that by the year 2000 many of these countries
will not have the recurrent food shortage problems of today.
Target three is in developing an effective mechanism to link
the national research-extension-education efforts to farmers.
Several things are going on in this area. One is the Farming
Systems Research Projects being supported in a number of African
countries, which help tie together research and extension in
collaborative projects and through the development of priorities
based on identified production constraints.
Another effort is the CRSP program; again, the CRSP works
with the universities and the national research systems, to
create a bridge between the two.
The fourth target is development of the national capacity to
coordinate donor assistance. As has been said several times in
this Forum, this has to be done at the national level. We hope
that as the critical mass of scientists is trained and put
together, the countries will be able to take on this role and do
a better job than what is being done today.
I would like now to report briefly on some of the progress
-- the success -- that we see being made toward these targets:
In the Sudan, recent developments in hybrid sorghum research
have resulted in a variety that yields about 50 percent more
under both irrigated and rain-fed conditions. The research on
hybrid sorghum was started by the national research system of
Sudan in about 1966. In the mid-70's, the CRSPs and the
universities were involved, and by the first part of 1980, a new
hybrid was released to farmers.
In West Africa, other advance lines of sorghum are being
tested in Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso under SAFGRAD. There are
indications that things are moving in this area.
The training of scientists is another success. Scientific
manpower in Africa has been increasing by about 5 to 10 percent a
year, a fact we may lose sight of once in a while.
A success, or progress made, on the U.S. side is in the
improvement of our knowledge-base of the development problems
faced in Africa. We have a much better understanding today of
many of these problems -- from the fragility of the soil to a
better understanding of the cropping systems, planting practices,
and intercropping systems. We know of some of the unique insects
in Africa that are not found in other places. We also have an
understanding of the adaptations of the indigenous breeds of
livestock which at first were dismissed.
This better knowledge-base enables us to define the problems
and work more effectively on solutions. We know that to reach
our targets requires a large amount of money and manpower.
Currently AID is funding approximately $90 to $95 million a year
on agricultural research.
In FY '84, commitments on bilateral projects were to 25
countries. The Bureau also has four regional-type activities.
The funding for these projects amounts to about $300 million over
the life of the projects. FY '85 plans call for some six new
projects, amounting to $90 million. There are also plans for two
additional regional projects amounting to approximately $20
For FY '86, an estimated $80 to $90 million will be budgeted
for agricultural research activities.
Finally, I would like to say that the Bureau for Africa
appreciates BIFAD's assistance in identifying and guiding U.S.
university expertise in agriculture research that is helping us
solve the food production crises in Africa.
Cooperation for Development in Africa -- A Progress Report
CDA -- Cooperation for Development in Africa -- is an
informal association of seven donor nations that support major
development activities in Sub-Sahara Africa. These donors
contribute 65 percent or more of all overseas development
assistance to Sub-Sahara Africa. There is no other mechanism at
this time that covers such a wide range of technical subjects in
an integrated fashion.
Informality is important. It has fostered frank and useful
discussions between and among African and donor agricultural
research scientists and managers.
The seven original country members, named earlier, still
participate actively in technical and high-level meetings. In
addition, Australia, Switzerland and Japan are regular observers
at the technical consultative meetings.
Efforts in CDA are focused through its initiatives. The
U.S. serves as technical coordinator in 3 of the 8 development
initiatives: agricultural research; childhood diseases; and
forestry and fuelwood. Leadership in the other five areas is
being handled by the other six donors.
*Farming Systems Research/Extension Advisor, Agricultural and
Rural Development Division, Office of Technical Resources, Bureau
for Africa, USAID, Washington, D.C. Talk accompanied by slides.
Attention to priorities in agricultural development involves
a systematic process, particularly in the agricultural research
area. CDA members work with African governments and regional
organizations like the Organization for African Unity, the
Southern Africa Development Coordinating Committee, and ISNAR
(International Services for National Agricultural Research).
Activities typically include consultative meetings;
assessment of needs; research; and training. The key is that CDA
at this time facilitates coordination of donor support.
The agricultural research initiative is the most expansive
of the eight initiatives, but it also has more variables to
The goal of CDA's agricultural research initiative is to
improve the ability of African nations to produce and sustain
food crops and livestock production, and to improve the quality
of life -- pretty much the same goals of AID and most other
donors. The focus is on sustained systems that increase food
availability for consumption and do not contribute to further
degradation of the fragile eco system.
As can be imagined, any effort of this magnitude takes time,
and measurable results occur slowly. Therefore, a fair amount of
caution is necessary in assessing CDA's success or failure.
However there are two important and positive results for the
agricultural research initiatives to date.
To begin with, CDA organized itself into agroclimatic zones
that were based on certain agroclimatic variables and
geopolitical considerations. There are six zones. The U.S.
serves as technical coordinator for two of the zones, the Sahel-
West Africa zone and the Southern Africa Plateau. In addition,
the United States serves as overall coordinator for agricultural
research. Substantial progress has been made in the development
of zonal plans in 3 of the 6 zones.
These agroclimatic zones facilitate more accurate
comparisons of production constraints and research capabilities
when the variables under study are similar.
A second advantage is that efficient sharing and
dissemination of research findings can occur on problems in a
format that is easily understood by countries within the zone.
This is networking. It begins with communication, and it should
evolve into coordination, given more time.
I would like to share with you the results of a 2-year
effort in the Sahel zone that recently culminated in the Sahel
Eight country reports were involved, and a follow-up
consultative meeting between representatives from CDA, the
Permanent Inter-State Committee Against the Drought in the Sahel
(which is a regional organization); ISNAR; and the Sahel
First, all parties agreed that continued collaboration among
donors, CDA, other international organizations, and all Sahel
countries was important. To facilitate communication and
collaboration, it was agreed that ISNAR could continue to serve
as convener and should move towards an expanded role as regional
coordinator for agricultural research.
The importance of progress in long-range planning was
acknowledged. No one wants to see this capacity lost.
Therefore, it was recommended that each Sahel country continue
its efforts to prepare long-term plans for agricultural research
in a 20-year time-frame, with contraints to agricultural
production carefully monitored and documented, and with the human
and financial resources needed to remove these constraints
carefully considered, all with an eye to designing the most cost-
effective research program.
Training needs were determined to be important. Most
countries are nowhere near the level of the critical mass that
has been discussed. The supporting policies, particularly the
research to generate the information to make policy for
implementing and institutionalizing successful research programs,
were likewise determined to be important.
There were expectations from donors also: to coordinate
financing; to focus attention on the most needed priorities
identified in the planning documents; and to assist with
recurrent costs. Most Sahel countries acknowledge their
inability to generate currency to meet recurrent costs, but they
did state they were able and willing to contribute facilities and
manpower if the donors would accept that.
The donors were asked to include socioeconomic aspects in
their agricultural research projects to assure that the research
they initiate addresses the needs of the small-holder farmer. In
addition, specific near-term activities were identified.
Two major near-term activities particularly needed are:
network development and an expanded and more efficient
information management system for communicating and exchanging
ISNAR was instructed to initiate, with CDA help, regional
networks for scientists working in three areas: 1) soil-plant-
water relationships; 2) millet, maize, sorghum, edible legumes
and other crops; and 3) agriforestry and range management support
to reverse the degradation of the environment.
Using the data already created during this most recent
planning activity, ISNAR was also asked to expand its information
management system to include such things as research libraries
and bibliographic searches, professional journals, mass media
programs, and instructional and extension programs.
It is certainly too soon to do much more than speculate on
expected results of CDA, but based on discussions in the
technical meetings that occurred in the Sahel (as one example of
a regional planning process), five accomplishments could occur in
Africa with CDA's catalytic role in agricultural research:
1. The inventory and assessment of agricultural research
facilities, resources and programs;
2. Long-term agricultural research plans for Sub-Sahara
Africa based on a 20-to-25 year time frame;
3. More Africans trained in agricultural research and
extension, and particularly in long-range planning of
4. New farmer-accepted technologies;
5. Most important of all, an ongoing forum for CDA members
and Africans to exchange information and support activities.
Some personal observations concerning the quality of
technical collaboration by the African scientists made during the
last year and a half in the Sahel and Southern Africa:
First, agricultural research in Africa requires long-term
planning on a continuing basis, and planning that is coordinated
and conducted by Africans. That's how you get the commitment. I
have sat for hour upon hour and watched them work out very
difficult problems, or at least attempt to, and they will work it
out entirely differently than most of us in this room.
In this regard, the zonal planning activities completed to
date represent a radical departure from the usual process of
calling in exogenous project design teams.
As a process to emphasize training, I think it is fair to
say that our regional approach under the CDA concept has been a
There are now approximately 75 senior African scientists
with the ability to conduct long-term planning in agricultural
research. For the past two years, Africans assumed the lead
themselves for long-term planning. They did not serve as team
members or counterparts. They ran the show. They learned how to
design a regional research planning study, how to implement it,
how to collect the planning data, analyze it and develop a list
of conclusions and recommendations that addressed the vagaries of
the difficult agroclimatic ecosystem and the realities of their
own political system.
There is a computerized data base for 17 countries with
timely information on the current status of agricultural
research, extension and education programs that USAID missions,
U.S. universities and other donor agencies and the African
governments should be able to draw upon.
In view of all this, I think CDA is worth keeping.
Mr. Love: The CDA mechanism which we have been working on
for five years is not without considerable controversy within the
It has taken a fairly extensive amount of manpower. It has
tended to have fairly extensive exchange at the capital level
between AID in Washington and some of the European donors. We
have had continuing problems in extending that coordination to
the country level, in terms of working on a continuous basis with
our own missions, but particularly with the other donors. Many
of the other donors do not have the same size of field
representation that we do, and the flow of information from their
capitals to their field posts tends not to be so good.
So there is an open debate about what the benefits are vis-
a-vis the expenditure of time and energy.
At the same time, when you look at the whole issue of
coordination, the World Bank tends to coordinate basically around
country priorities, consultative food mechanisms, of which there
are only about 8 or 9 active in Africa at the present time. The
United Nations Round Tables for the most part have not been too
successful. There is no really good mechanism to begin to cut
across some of these problems, and CDA is an experiment in that
process -- one not without criticism, and not without controversy
within our own organization. I hope that it is a mechanism we
can continue to work with.
The agricultural research sector has probably gone farther
in terms of a case experience than most of the other sectors.
Some of the others, such as transportation in Southern Africa,
are in fact dormant at the present time.
Comments from AID's Bureau for Science and Technology
John Eriksson, Deputy Assistant Administrator for Research,
Bureau for Science and Technology, USAID:
We have worked closely with the Africa, Bureau. From our
central portfolio in the Science and Technology Bureau in FY '84
we contributed something on the order of $15.5 million towards
agricultural research efforts focused in Africa. About $8
million of that was through our overall contribution to the
International Agricultural Research Centers; another $5.5 million
through the CRSPs focused on Africa; and finally a little over $2
million from some 18 to 19 other projects in the Agriculture
Office of the Science and Technology Bureau.
A substantive point I would like to make is that we have
been in dialogue with the Africa Bureau, encouraging moving to a
more active approach in supporting zonal research networks, as
described by Dr. Morton. We see the research network approach
actively involving national research institutions and researchers
in the joint planning and review of problem-focused research, and
then providing the relevant training and technical backstopping
to these research networks, as a cost-effective way to pursue
problem-focused research when faced with scarce resources.
We have been talking with our Africa Bureau colleagues about
identifying a limited number of critical problems, generally
moderately-focused topics, to concentrate on a zonal basis for
promoting zonal research networks.
Some are underway in various parts of the continent, such as
sorghum, millet and maize, but one might add beans and cowpeas
and other edible legumes, roots and tubers, especially cassava,
and small-scale irrigation.
John Robins, Agency Director, Directorate for Food and
Agriculture, Bureau for Science and Technology, USAID:
One of the striking points brought out in the discussions is
the labor relationship in contrast to that in Asia. The problems
in Africa are tough problems.
We are also working by and large with very fragile, old
soils in Africa as contrasted to those we find in several other
parts of the world, including major parts of Asia.
The difficulty of inter-donor coordination has been
stressed. We may have some problems in inter-bureau coordination
but we work pretty hard as we look at our programs and how they
relate to what the Africa Bureau, and other bureaus as well, are
attempting to assure that our resources are supportive and
complementary and not duplicative.
That, of course, gets to networking, which has been
discussed in this Forum in two or three contexts. Much of our
effort is now looking at networking as a major mode through which
we can make resources more additive and less competitive through
networking on problems of common interest among countries.
This is particularly important in the smaller countries
where you cannot clearly develop, in our lifetime at least, the
critical mass that has been mentioned so many times and a concept
that I certainly subscribe to.
I also want to mention animal research in Africa. The labor
problem and the need for increasing the efficiency of that labor
pool, particularly during critical times of the year, is one
A second dimension has been illustrated by the Director
General of ILCA (International Livestock Center for Africa) in 2
or 3 presentations that I have seen. In the African context, at
least in ILCA's analyses, the animal is the principal income-
generator for small producers in many areas. Crops are not, in
general. The Director contrasted the cash income from several
countries with few animals and several countries with quite a
number of animals. It is clear that the income stream is
generated largely by animals rather than sale of excess food
crops. (I don't think that plantation crops were included in the
Another interesting relationship is that as crop production
is increased -- (several case studies were used) -- the animal-
carrying capacity increases dramatically and thus generation of
income through the animal. It is a really quite convincing
analysis that there is a correlation between crop production
increases and animal production increases in that context.
That leads me to some confidence in investments in animal
research that we are making through ILCA, through ILRAD
(International Laboratory for Research on Animal Diseases), and
through ICIPE (International Center for Insect Physiology and
Ecology) in a special project that we have there on the tick-
borne disease problem.
I wanted to just mention those relationships to highlight
the fact that even though animals are not a large part of the
diet of Africans, they are damn important to their pocketbooks.
And that's an important part of the developmental equation.
John Axtell, Lynn Distinguished Professor, Department of
Agronomy, Purdue University
A couple of general comments first. From the kinds of
things I am hearing here in this Forum, I think we are finally
getting to the point where we are going to do something about the
most pressing problem as I see it from my experience with
students and research programs. That is, to really get at
infrastructure development, university development, research
program development. It is a question that I have been wondering
about for 10 years, after working for 12 years in Africa.
I should introduce myself as a plant breeder, working on
sorghum and millet with INTSORMIL (Sorghum/Millet International
Research; the Sorghum/Millet Collaborative Research Support
Program). When I was a graduate student, all of the focus in
Asia and Latin America was on university development,
institutional development. Suddenly, when we got to Africa it
seems to have stopped; not precipitously, but it seems to have
stopped. I really think if it had not stopped, we would not have
the situations in Africa today that we are seeing in the Sahel,
Ethiopia and other places.
I am really happy on behalf of my African students, because
this is such a pressing need that has been known for a long time.
I am absolutely delighted to hear what seems to be a general
consensus or a general recognition from people in policy-making
positions that this has got to happen.
And I think it will happen. If there is a will, I am sure
we will find a way, in spite of all the problems that have been
talked about. Nothing that you could have said would have
pleased me more than to hear that these kinds of things are
really being seriously considered.
A couple of experiences. First, the university development
program at Alemaya, College of Agriculture, Ethiopia, that went
on with AID support for many, many years, was a tremendous
program. The College of Agriculture at Alemaya, in spite of the
political problems, is still a viable institution. We work all
over Africa with the students who were trained at Alemaya. We
work with them at ICRISAT (International Crops Research Institute
for the Semi-Arid Tropics). Some of them work for CIMMYT
(International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center).
A whole host of new students who were trained at the college
level at Alemaya have played tremendous roles -- not in Ethiopia,
much to their own consternation, because of the political
problems. But those people were trained there, and some of them
are still in Ethiopia, by the way. In any event, that was a
tremendously successful program, and we need to repeat that kind
of experience in many, many places all over Africa.
If I had one comment on the paper by the Africa Bureau, I
would just caution that developing the national agricultural
research programs is a very high priority, but the universities
and institutions that will staff and will man those extension
programs and research programs in the ministry must also be
I think I detected a bit less emphasis on university
development, and I guess I'm asking the question for someone to
address. I picked up a little less emphasis on university
development than on institutional development vis-a-vis national
agricultural research programs. The national agriculture research
programs are badly needed in sorghum and millet. In all the
countries in Africa, there are probably only one or two good
viable national sorghum and millet improvement programs that have
adequately trained people and adequate institutional support. So
it is no wonder we are in the situation we are. It is just no
I remember a comment by Dr. Mellor at the Asia Food and
Agriculture Officers program in Hyderabad when someone asked him
a question about what is needed in Africa. He said, "This is the
kind of thing that's needed: You might just as well buckle down
and settle back for a 20- or 25- or 30-year effort and get
prepared for a lot of criticism in the process by people who say,
'It isn't working; it isn't working."'
So I think the focus on institutional development and human
resource development is absolutely essential. In spite of the
problems, we have got to do it.
The emphasis on the long-term is absolutely necessary. It
takes a long time to train graduate students. It takes even
longer for them to find a spot where they can really become
effective leaders in their program.
I would like to make a plug for the kind of program that
INTSORMIL represents in terms of additional training components.
It is important not only to train people until they get back to
their own institutions, but it is also important to develop
working relationships with them for a few years after they get
back home. Many of them get back and work under pretty harsh
conditions and circumstances compared to what we have.
The tie with a collaborating scientist in a U.S. university
is a very important life-support system for them. It keeps them
tied in with the germ plasm development programs in the
international agricultural research network. We are tied in as
well with ICRISAT, and this makes them a part of the network. It
doesn't put them out there in a country where they are off by
themselves. This is a very valuable role that the INTSORMIL CRSP
and the other CRSPs (Cooperative Research Support Program) can
I would like to close by commenting on the point that Mr.
Martin made regarding the development of a sorghum variety in the
Sudan. We have been involved in that for a long time. I hope
you do not interpret this as a self-serving comment, but I have
been involved with it for 12 or 15 years, and I think it is a
useful case history in understanding how something like this,
which is a potential success story, really came about.
I should emphasize that this is a hybrid sorghum for Sudan;
it is not a pure-line variety. Some of you may already be asking
the question: "Should you really be interested in a hybrid for a
third world country?" We think the answer is yes, but you will
have to make your own decision on that.
If one looks at sorghum production in Latin America, there
has been a real revolution. The story of sorghum hasn't been
told very often. There is an article coming out in Science
called, "The Second Green Revolution in Mexico." That revolution
is in the production of sorghum, and it has been done with
There are a lot of hybrids in harsh environments doing well
in many developing countries. Although it is not true across-the-
board that hybrids do better in all situations, hybrids in
general have more stress tolerance than pure-line varieties. We
work with sorghum under stress environments in many countries.
The program of introducing hybrids in Sudan started in the
1960s and sort of mulled along for 10 to 12 years with the
Sudanese not really knowing what they should do with it. The
program actually started with an American plant breeder who was
working on a research program in Beirut with the Rockefeller
Foundation. He became interested in Sudan and introduced some
hybrid varieties from Texas. Sudan, of course, over the years
has had a lot of well-trained people, excellent scientists,
working on the Program under very difficult conditions with no
support from their governments. This stage of 10 years of
research was probably important to get them used to the idea that
maybe hybrid sorghum could work in the Sudan.
The ICRISAT hired a sorghum person with the United Nations
Development Program six years ago. He immediately began testing
experimental hybrids, several hundred of them, and selected three
that had good adaptability under both irrigated and rain-fed
conditions. He identified one of those three as an easy-to-
produce hybrid -- what people in the trade call a grandmother
hybrid, which just about anybody can produce.
That is the one the Sudanese have released; it is called
"Hageen Dura Number i."
Throughout this development process, the scientist had very
important support from the AID Mission in Sudan. Eric Witt and
Joyce Turk, who were on the staff of the Mission at that time,
were very important in supporting INTSORMIL, CRSP, which
sponsored a key production workshop in Sudan on hybrid sorghum
seed production and multiplication.
The new Hageen Dura hybrid was successfully produced on
4,000 acres last year for seed multiplication purposes. Next
year the hybrid will be produced on 100,000 acres. The average
yield this year under irrigated conditions for a local variety
(non-hybrid) was half-a-ton per acre. The average for the new
hybrid was 1.7 tons per acre. This yield resulted not only from
the quality of the hybrid but also from increased cultural
practices such as weed control and fertilizers. The maximum
yield so far is up to 2.8 tons-per-acre, a 5-fold increase. The
average increase was 3-fold.
I mention this because I read over and over again that we
don't have the technology to know how to do these things in
Africa. It is true that we don't know how to cope with some of the
really tough situations in Niger and Upper Volta, in those sand
dunes where we're trying to grow crops. The problems are
extremely complicated. But there are situations -- and I think
we need to search these situations out -- where we have the
technology, where we know what to do, and we can do it if we just
have the right kind of trained people. If you look at the
history of the development of this hybrid, it traces back to one
individual who persevered and got the job done.
So these programs can work. There are success stories in
Africa. There are not going to be a whole lot of them until we
finish the institutional development job. On behalf of my
African students, they really need these kinds of institutional
development programs if they are going to get back and work
successfully and develop the kinds of crop research teams that
are needed, the kinds of teams that were available in Asia on
The last point I would like to make is to second what Dr.
Ruttan said. If we could get some well-trained people with
viable institutions into some good situations in Africa, a lot
The other critical thing is if we can do it without a whole
lot of bureaucracies, that would be so much better. (Don't feel
that I am talking to you particularly!) One of the reasons the
Rockefeller Foundation people were successful with the wheat and
rice work was that they had a tremendous amount of flexibility.
They knew what had to be done, and they had the flexibility to do
We know what needs to be done in many, many situations in
Africa. If you can give us an opportunity for flexibility to get
it done, we'll get it done. I think it is as simple as that. It
is a matter of will -- a matter of commitment and a long-term
One comment here to reinforce Dr. Axtell's very strong
suggestion of the need for a long-term, institution-building
AID decided to make such a long-term commitment in India
back in the late 50's and 60's. Three of us here today were in
India the past two weeks as representatives from the six land-
grant universities that had been involved in university
development in India in the 1960s. I wish everyone could have
the experience of seeing not only those institutions that had the
direct linkages in those days but also those that have been
developed along the same lines since. India now has 23
agricultural universities developed along the lines of the
I cannot begin to tell you the impact that those
institutions are having, have had, and will have, upon Indian
agriculture. It occurred only because there was this long-term
commitment by AID. It is that type of commitment that must be
given to Africa at this time.
I would like to say several things in a different way from
what I thought I was going to say earlier. I would like to come
in on the university topic. This is terribly important. Some
day some Marxist is going to look at what was done by USAID and
their institutions in Asia and say, "See. Those guys figured out
how to get development. Then, they went to Africa, and they
decided they wouldn't make that mistake again."
Brace yourself for that.
I would like to elaborate a bit on the India experience. We
probably withdrew too early. Those institutions are still
awfully fragile. I think they could have come faster and farther
if we had kept up a little bit longer out there. A couple of
them are down a bit now, but fortunately I think the system is
strong enough so it is going to keep going. I think we could
point to a whole lot of cases in Latin America where we went away
too soon, and the systems have just gone downhill. They are
very, very fragile, and it takes a long, strong effort.
I would like to add another related point. There is a
tremendous pressure and burden on the CGIAR (Consultative Group
on International Agricultural Research) in the training area.
The donors are asking that we work collaboratively and help build
up this raw material being talked about and give them something
to lean on when their national systems weaken a little. Give
them some continuity.
But we cannot provide that underlying foundation of people
to work with. We are all out there competing to work with the
same small set of people, particularly in Africa. There isn't
enough effort being made to expand that supply of people. The
CGIAR system cannot give those Ph.D.'s. We can upgrade the
Master's people, and the Ph.D. people somewhat, if the underlying
supply is there.
It is interesting that the whole thrust in AID, particularly
in the last several years -- this long-term look -- is very
consistent with what we have been saying here. AID has a much
longer-term view than it had in the interim period of '65 to '75
or the late '70's, and I am tremendously encouraged.
Along those lines, I want to say two specific things. I
always worry about the use of manpower studies in looking at the
training function. We have got to take for granted the
tremendous leakages of personnel that we are training for one
purpose and who go into something else. I am not sure it is
particularly bad that people trained to do research are leaking
out and getting into all sorts of organizations. I think we give
them pretty good training. While they are getting their Ph.D. in
plant breeding, they look at institutions and they learn
something about institutions. There are going to be a lot of
leakages, and we have just got to train five times as many people
as the manpower studies suggest need to be trained.
Apropos of that, one of our people in IFPRI (International
Food Policy Research Institute), who is looking at research
development systems fairly closely in Africa, now puts a lot of
emphasis on how you keep the people in the middle ranks. There
are a lot of good young people out there, some pretty good senior
people, and practically nothing in the middle. They are going
out of the systems almost entirely. That is part of what I
indicated a moment ago -- that there are other very important
things that have to be done. Partly we do not have very good
incentive structures in the middle of these systems to keep them
I would argue that agricultural research is of such an
incredibly high priority that we need to give financial and
economic incentives to keep scientists doing research into their
late 30s and 40s, which is what happens in this country. You
keep doing research until you are quite old in many cases!
This is not happening very much in Africa. They are getting
out of it when they are still pretty young.
Another thing I hadn't intended to say when I came here is a
self-serving remark for IFPRI about policy research. We are
beginning to realize that we are dealing with some very difficult
new problems on the biological science side in Africa, and we
need research to get at them. The same thing is true in the
policy area. I would like to make a distinction between
socioeconomic research in the biological science context, which
is very important, and research on policy.
We are putting too heavy a burden on the biological
scientist to deal with a whole lot of problems that are more
easily dealt with on the policy side. We are told we have got
some serious problems; we carry the word back to the biologists
that they have got to breed a variety that women can grow; or a
variety that grows on rocks, or a variety that does not require
rainfall, and so on, or breed a variety to produce at a very low
price, et cetera.
There is not enough effort on the socioeconomic research
that leads to change in some of that environment. We do need new
knowledge to do that, just as we do in the biological sciences.
We need new knowledge on the socioeconomic side in order to get
at those policy issues.
I would not have made such a self-serving remark except I
think there really is a problem in grasping this. Probably the
best way to put it is as I put it -- in terms of the biological
scientists. We are putting a superhuman burden on the biological
scientist because we are not doing our job on the policy side of
understanding policy problems. I think that is very inefficient.
They have enough problems in breeding varieties that will produce
more somewhere without having to solve all the social science
problems along the way.
In that context, I want to respond to the point about
hybrids. I do not want to join that battle. I know there are
some very technical points. The point I want to make, however,
is that you should not turn away from hybrids because you think
you are dealing with countries and people that cannot reproduce
hybirds and cannot absorb them on their farms.
This is just not the case. We do have some difficult policy
problems to solve if you are going to go the hybrid route. But
if you think you can get higher yields from the hybrids than you
can from other groups, turn to your policy research people to try
and figure out how that is going to be absorbed in the societies
we are dealing with.
And don't say the small farmers can't grow hybrids. Again,
that is a policy problem we need to deal with -- how you get
hybrid seed down to the small farmer with the credit programs and
all the other things that have to be dealt with there. That is a
very important point.
I want to emphasize a point Dr. Delgado made. I think he is
very right in saying that we need some breakthroughs, and we need
something more than a small marginal change. The Sudan story is
very important from that point of view.
What really turned things around in Asia was the drama of
the green revolution. And it was a drama there. A survey done
back in the late 1950s in India as to who was the most important
scientist in the country showed it was Homi Baba, a nuclear
physicist. He was the guy who caught the fancy of the country.
If that question were asked in the late 1960s or early 1970s,
Swami Atham, the geneticist and plant breeder, would have been
the guy. There really was a swing. If it is seen that
agricultural scientists can do very exciting things, the public
and politicians get a sense of the drama that can come out of the
I want to close on one rather complex note. We have done a
study at IFPRI, comparing the effect on non-agricultural sectors
of growth in agriculture in Asia and in Africa. We find those
multipliers, the effect on other sectors, much stronger in the
Asian context than the African context. In a sense that is one
more bit of bad news about Africa.
There are two very important points to make on this. One,
the leadership in African countries is interested in a broad
development process. They want to sit down at the table as
important people in important countries. And they know what we
all know also -- you don't do that by remaining entirely an
agricultural country. You want broad economic development.
The message we can sell very clearly in Asia is that the way
to get to that table and have broad development is to get moving
in agriculture. When you get agriculture moving, that has
linkages and multiplier effects on the rest of the economy. It
moves you up to being substantially a nonagricultural economy
much faster than if you ignore agriculture. This is a very
We have to sell that message in Africa -- in circumstances
where the linkages are a little bit weaker at the moment. That
means you have got to understand why these linkages are weaker.
My guess is largely because of the physical infrastructure.
The transport systems and communications systems and such are so
much poorer. It is something we are working on. It is a very
important issue, and I emphasize it because you have got to get
that point across if you are going to get the finance ministers,
the planning ministers, and a large part of the population behind
you in pouring resources into the agriculture sector.
This is an uncertain sort of note, but perhaps that is where
a research person should end -- on an uncertain note.
I would like to reinforce the point that we often have
stopped projects too soon. I have often wondered if we couldn't
use the strengthening grants to engage in a sort of project
completion collaboration. I wonder if that would not be a very
productive thing to do.
I wish I could be quite as optimistic as John Axtell. I am
optimistic in the sense that I agree that we understand a lot
better. I like the view that AID is now beginning to take a long
view. But I have a feeling, at least as far as Africa is
concerned, that the Agency is taking the long view but has short
I also have a feeling one of the reasons we are not doing it
like we did in Asia is that the United States is just one of the
Seven Dwarfs over there now. The World Bank is Snow White.
A question we haven't talked at all about has to do with the
things that inhibit human productivity in Africa. I have a sense
that the man-disease interaction is extremely important. It is
not only the soils that are old; man is old in Africa. There has
been a co-evolution of things that feed on his blood and live in
his guts and he eats the blood of the animals and lives in their
guts. In some cases, intensification, such as with the tsetse
fly, may help control the problem, but in other cases
intensification worsens the problem.
I do feel that at some stage those of us in agriculture are
going to have to interact more effectively with the people in the
health areas, particularly the parasitic disease area, and ask
ourselves what we are going to have to do to enable the human
agent to be more productive.
If I am wrong, I would appreciate somebody telling me why I
John Coulter, World Bank: From the perspective of the World
Bank, we are both contributors to research in that we support
various programs, but we are also consumers of research. This is
an interesting dichotomy. As supporters of research we take a
long-term view, but as consumers of research we take a very
short-term view. Our colleagues in projects are always looking
for technologies that can be built into their projects tomorrow.
This is one of the problems we face. It comes back to the
definition of what is available, what can we use now?
Returning to the topic of the international centers, their
success in Asia has been predicated to a great extent by the strong
national program. By and large these don't exist in Africa. I
think the international centers must ask themselves the question:
What can we do in the absence of a strong national program?
They have two routes, really. One, of course, is
institution-building. The other is to get themselves involved,
either directly, or indirectly through networks, in generating
new technologies, in collaboration with the national program, of
The question of institution building is an area in which we
are extremely interested. It is an area where collaboration
could be extremely useful.
Another aspect is commodity development or program
development. I think that is shorter term. The international
centers themselves are involved in it. There are the bilateral
programs of course. There is a good deal that can be done here
in developing technology over the next 5 or 10 years which can be
used in agricultural development.
Another area is the question of inputs. By and large there
is not a major effort by international centers on the use of
herbicides. I wonder if there isn't scope for more collaboration
in that field.
Dr. Ruttan mentioned the question of health. A lot of
mileage could be gained by improving water supplies, rural water
supplies, fuel supplies.
Another extremely interesting question is cash crops. In
the past, of course, there has been quite strong research on cash
crops; in colonial days. But this has folded up.
I think in Africa we are looking to the role of
international centers, the regional networks, the regional
programs, the other international efforts being supported by a
number of different governments, institution-building in the
national programs, and program development, to provide shorter-
The problems are complex but can be broken into areas of
collaboration and cooperation. If you look into these I think
you can come up with some useful answers in the next year or two.
Fred Hutchinson: In Brazil last week we saw a very strong
central agricultural research organization built by AID funding
years ago. Most of the people were trained in this country and
some in Europe.
Now there is the realization that the universities are not
as strong. Several of them, in fact, have grown weaker because
they did not have the same access to funding. The strong
research organization now recognizes that it does not have the
pipeline supply in its own country, and it does not have the
resources to keep sending people to other countries for training.
There is a real message for us in these other countries --
that these things have to be done together. If we get too far
out of sync, in the long term it will show up.
Dr. Mellor: I have a very short comment on university
training. It seems to me AID has a very strong focus and a clear
plan of action here moving down the road.
We really are concerned on this issue of the pipeline of
people to work in the programs. But one of the things that has
been lacking, as seen on the part of the donors, is a sense of
focus. The fact we did not come down on that I think should not
distract from it.
Mr. Love: On the question of university-building, we were
not trying to play that down. We think it is very important.
The paper on distribution of manpower was the completion of a
first step -- taking a look at the issue of addressing manpower
shortages in Africa.
We also sponsored a conference in Cameroon about two months
ago, the primary focus of which was agricultural education, from
the primary level up through the university level. That conference
was attended by the Bank, the European donors and the Africans.
Following that, a small external advisory group was set up
to work with us on the whole question of agriculture/university-
building in Africa. Our Administrator, Peter McPherson talked
about what happened in India, and the question of whether we
could duplicate what happened there in Africa. There, you were
working from inside the country, and now we are working in a
different continent with multiple countries and the problem of
We are looking at that issue and are considering a
conference sometime in the spring to focus on it.
Clearly, we think university-building is an important
component. I don't think we have a good feel yet of how we go
about it. We don't think it is necessarily parallel to what was
faced in India. We keep coming back to the question that we are
not the same major domo in Africa that we were in Asia.
We do have the problem of how we, as one donor, influence
the input of a variety of donors in tackling this problem as well
as a lot of other problems. We think there has to be a mechanism
for bringing the European donors, who are major sources of
manpower training certainly (the British in particular) into this
whole equation, and to try to get some sort of agreement among
the donors as well as the bank itself as to where we should go on
It is on our agenda. And anytime we forget, Mr. McPherson,
reminds us it should go back on our agenda.
We are getting as I am sure you all know, a very strong push
from Mr. McPherson. He makes sure that as we get caught up in
shorter-term priorities that we try to maintain a balance and
keep a longer-term perspective. He had a background in this
particular focus before he joined the Agency.
We do run into difficulties when we go up to Congress.
There is still a very strong group that goes back to new
directions, new mandate, basic human needs; that has some real
questions about the alternatives for investment in Africa;
whether we should go to hands-on types of programs.
I think Africa got short shrift partly because the Agency's
development policy changed during the 70s, a time when the
investments were made to a considerable degree in Asia, South
Asia, Latin America. They were able to weather that change
through a new sort of framework and without near the disruption
it caused in Africa, where the institutions were not on the
ground. It caused problems in terms of infrastructure.
From my personal observations in the Agency, and I was in
the Asia Bureau at the time, the lack of institution-building
programs in the latter part of the 60s and 70s was not a
deliberate Agency policy. Those of you who had anything to do
with the Agency at that time know we came up against the Senate
Appropriations Committee in project after project after project.
We had problems in support of that function (institution building
in Africa). So the environment was not too good in the Congress.
Today it is better, but I don't think it is uniform.
To some degree, we have faced the same kind of dialogue with
the Private Voluntary Organizations Committee. There again,
their emphasis has tended to be very much on humanitarian aspects
-- the shorter-term action programs where they can directly show
benefits. They are obviously a major claim on budgetary sources.
There we have the problem. I don't think we have come as
far as we should, although we have made some progress, of trying
to build a better understanding that we are going to have to
focus on some of these investments over the long term if we are
going to reach some of the objectives we all tend to agree on.
I think there is considerable risk that we might get off
this railroad and give the burden to some of the other
priorities, some internal and some external.
One of the reasons we wanted to have this kind of a session
and one of the reasons we are going to be talking to the Research
Advisory Committee later this month on university building and
some of the other issues, is to try to
get a more concrete program of where we really want to go;
get a little bit beyond this level of generalities that
people tend to agree on;
get down to the point where we can really lay out a more
concrete and long-term program with some estimate of what the
budgetary resources would be to support that kind of proposition;
determine how we would interface with the international
institutions and how we can support that without getting into
arguments about whether our money should go here or into policy
reform, or investments in infrastructure or whatever.
So we still have an awfully long way to go. I think we have
a very good environment for doing it now. The interest in Africa
that has been heightened by the drought provides an opportunity
to drive home some of these messages. We still have a lot of
work to do. And if we don't do it properly now, two years from
now we may not have the opportunity.
Dr. Axtell: May I make a quick comment before I get a lot
of letters saying, "You can't produce hybrid seed in Sudan." I
want to point ou that the seed this year was produced by 188
farmers on farms ranging in size from 2-1/2 to 5 acres.
Chairman York: I wish to reflect the sentiments of everyone
here, certainly of BIFAD, that this has been a very, very
This Board will be reflecting on this session as we have a
chance to study the minutes and the key points that have been
made. It will be developing its observations and
recommendations, perhaps, to the Agency.
A very strong consensus has been reflected in this Forum
today concerning the vital role that research and educational
institutions, and institution-building, must play in Africa.
Mr. Love: You may wish to think about whether you would
like to do this again in a couple of months.
A topic we would be very interested in covering would be
that of policy research. As most of you know, a large percentage
of our budget currently is going into balance-of-payments
assistance. We are looking at sector assistance, particularly in
the agriculture sector. We are getting ourselves in positions
where we are talking about trading an awful lot of budgetary
resources, balance-of-payments assistance, in exchange for policy
One of the things that concerns us is the tendency to
negotiate this on an annual basis against some preconceived ideas
about what should be done in terms of price reforms and such, and
it becomes very much a question of competition of wills in some
We would like to look to the issue of how we could build a
dialogue over a longer period of time, and most particularly what
we could do to build the analytical capacity within the African
institutions themselves to start identifying what the real policy
issues are and particularly what the solutions are -- this was
referred to earlier this afternoon.
We would like to talk about how we would build that
capacity, and how we would leave within the institutions, the
capacity for the Africans to begin to work on their politicians
and try to support some of the people within the governments who
do want to make these changes, and see if we can start more of an
evolutionary process in a better analytic capacity.
It is something we have not done a very good job of in the
Agency. It is something I think we re going to have to do if we
are going to follow on beyond the general discussion that we have
had about policy dialogues.
I would be more than happy to have another session two
months from now or three months from now on that general topic,
following up on Dr. Mellor's comments today.
Dr. Hutchinson: This is one of the roles we hope to play
with the Agency to be more helpful. This is the kind of response
we like to hear.
Chairman York: If we proceed in that direction, Dr. Mellor
I hope we could call on you and your organization for assistance.
Dr. Mellor: Yes.
Chairman York: Let me thank our colleagues from the Africa
Bureau for their willingness to bring before us their strategies
and subject them to this sort of scrutiny. It has been very
helpful and very educational, and we appreciate your efforts. We
stand ready to continue to be of any assistance we can.