Why is transformation needed in this program area?
Agricultural research is vital to achieving sustainable increases in production and productivity by generating and promoting appropriate technologies. Improved, demand-driven agricultural technologies that address existing challenges in productivity, food security and climate change can only be developed through a well-established and functional agricultural research system.
Research innovations also lead to improved value addition and commercialization of agricultural products, enhancing development of a competitive and responsive agriculture sector that is less vulnerable to market and climate changes. Apart from technology generation for increased productivity, research remains fundamental to the Transformation Agenda by empowering famers to focus on technologies that improve quality and value addition and providing information for policy makers to ensure informed decisions and priority setting. Hence, the research system in a developing agriculture sector needs to play a major role in achieving sustainable food and income security, natural resource management, and overall agricultural transformation.
However, Ethiopia’s agricultural research system has been confronted with various bottlenecks, including inadequate coordination, insufficient institutional capacity, and limited funding to generate and make use of improved technologies. Even by the African standard, Ethiopia has one of the youngest and least-tenured pools of agricultural researchers with about 51% at BSc/BA level and 48% under 31 years of age. By comparison, South Africa and Brazil’s BSc researchers comprise only 15% and 1% of their national research systems, respectively.3
Ethiopia also needs to improve its total investment and spending per researcher to maximize the quantity and quality of research outputs. In 2014, the share of agricultural R&D spending as a percentage of agricultural GDP was 0.19%, placing Ethiopia in the 25th percentile in Africa and far below the world average of 2.4%. India, for example, outspends Ethiopia 28-to-1 and Brazil 16-to-1 in spending per agricultural researcher.4
What are the objectives of this program area during GTP II?
The main objective of the program area is to support the development of a commercially-oriented and demand-driven national agricultural research system by strengthening overall institutional capacities and enhancing partnerships and linkages among partners in the sector. During the GTP II period, the program will mainly focus on implementing two main deliverables identified and prioritized through broad stakeholder consultations. The first deliverable focuses on enhancing the utilization of agricultural biotechnology tools and products that are consistent with Ethiopia’s development goal, societal values and international standards to achieve increased production and productivity in major nationally important commodities. The second deliverable will focus on strengthening financial, physical, organizational and human capacities of NARS to generate client-oriented technologies that minimize farmers’ vulnerability to extreme climate variability and that are responsive to gender needs.
What are the focus areas of this program?
Under the first deliverable, the main area of focus will be on creating an enabling policy and regulatory environment for the successful utilization of biotechnology tools and products in agriculture in an efficient and environmentally safe manner. To realize this, the development and implementation of relevant national policies, strategies and guidelines, as well as strengthening the capacities of research and regulatory institutions are vital. The program also fosters the application of modern biotechnology tools, such as tissue culture, marker-assisted selection, semen selection and embryo transfer to enable the development of superior crop varieties and animal breeds that can increase agricultural production and productivity and product quality in a relatively short period of time. In addition, the program will focus on enhancing the role of biotechnology tools and products in reducing the direct and significant effects of climate change on agriculture by making crop and animal production possible under unfavorable environmental conditions such as drought, high pest infestation and soil nutrient deficiency without significantly compromising yield.
The focus areas in the second deliverable will be to support the development of resilient institutional mechanisms capable of generating technologies to meet ever changing demands by capacitating the national agricultural research system comprehensively with regard to infrastructure, human resources, organizational structure and financial resources. Concerted efforts will be made to bridge capacity development gaps for major staple commodities (such as tef, wheat and coffee) to generate and promote climate smart technologies that ensure food and nutrition security in Ethiopia, and that increase exports. Strengthening public-private partnerships for enhanced research output generation and marketing among national and international stakeholders with different capacities, skills and knowledge will continue to be the area of emphasis for the program.
The development and implementation of an agricultural information and knowledge management system that improves efficient information and knowledge sharing among all actors in the national research system and the general public for enhanced demand driven research outputs will also be addressed. Building capacity for quality research and technology multiplication, maintenance and dissemination, especially of early generation technologies in the research system will be an important focus area. Also enhanced will be the role of the private sector to sufficiently provide affordable inputs to users in a timely manner to increase production and productivity as well as marketing.
3International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Agriculture Science and Technology Indicators, 2014 (and calculations based on this data)
4International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Agriculture Science and Technology Indicators, 2014 (and calculations based on this data)