African states need more agriculture research investment, female researchers: report

ROME, Italy (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Sub-Saharan Africa needs to double its investment in agricultural research to meet the challenges of high population growth, climate change and deteriorating soils, says a new report.

It said more women researchers must be trained, and the large number of countries that spend less on research than recommended should note the clear link between new research spending and increased food production.

“It is critical that African countries invest more in agricultural research to ensure that they can feed their populations,” said Nienke Beintema, one of the authors of the report.

The report, which was written by researchers from the International Food Policy Research Institute, said the quality of research in sub-Saharan Africa, and thus the region’s food security, still suffer from under-investment, inadequate human re-sources, poor research infrastructure and a lack of coherent policies.

There have been some notable improvements, but new capacity is not always enough to keep pace with increasing challenges.

The region’s public agricultural research capacity increased by 50 percent from 2000-11 to the equivalent of 14,500 full-time researchers.

However, many of the most experienced researchers are approaching retirement, which causes concern for policy makers.

The report urged more training for female researchers, which analysts believe is particularly important in a region where most farmers are women.

While gender inclusion is generally improving, 10 of the 27 countries with applicable data recorded a decline in the proportion of fe-male agricultural researchers for 2008-11.

Public research spending across the region grew by more than 30 percent in real terms, from US$1.2 billion in 2000 to $1.7 billion in 2011.


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