Reducing food and nutrition insecurity in South Asia requires—among many other things— greater long-term investment in agricultural research for development (AR4D). In an effort to strengthen the capacity of research systems in South Asia to invest effectively in this area, IFPRI and the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) collaborated with the national research systems of Bangladesh, India, and Nepal to closely example AR4D priorities in the region. The collaboration, carried out through a series of large-scale consultations and both country- and region-level analyses in 2012-13, highlights the urgent need for structural, institutional, and financial reforms throughout the region’s AR4D systems to accelerate inclusive growth and improve food security.
A recent policy brief resulting from this collaboration provides strategic insights that may help shape ongoing and future AR4D investments in the region—priorities that include more stable and longer-term spending on research by governments, reforms to the governance and management of research systems, stronger incentives for private sector participation, and increased cooperation between countries.
The brief also identifies major areas for reform, including a tripling AR4D spending from the present levels in all the countries, building partnerships and consortiums to intensify innovation in the agricultural sector, ensuring functional autonomy of national research systems through stronger policy support and de-bureaucratization, and strengthening human resources development with liberal funding and progressive training policies. The brief further points out the need for greater investment in research areas that are currently underrepresented in national and regional priorities, for example, natural resources management, value chain development, and the provision of farm inputs and services.
With greater, more stable, and longer-term commitments to AR4D, accompanied by significant systemic reforms and renewed priorities, governments, donors, entrepreneurs, and communities can do much to address the persistence food insecurity and poverty across South Asia. Stronger and more effective national research systems have a central role to play in this process.