Strengthening capacity of National Agricultural Research Institutes

The budgets of national agricultural research institutes (NARIs) in developing countries are subject to constant scrutiny, requiring these institutions to continually justify their spending. This uncertainty threatens long term research necessary for increasing agricultural production. In their efforts to show value for funding, NARIs are recognizing the importance of impact assessment studies.

When the National Institute of Agricultural Economics and Policy Research (NIAP) of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), India's premier agricultural research institution, sought training on new techniques for impact assessment -- it reached out to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) program of the CGIAR was pleased to support the effort.

Well-designed impact assessments provide valuable feedback on how innovations boost economic growth and food security through increased agricultural productivity

Workshop held on impact assessment of agricultural technologies

Organized as part of the NIAP's Social Science Network project, and coordinated by IFPRI's ICAR logoSuresh Babu and PK Joshi, the week-long workshop on "Impact Assessment of Agricultural Research in India" took place from May 25-29 in New Delhi. NIAP hosted and collaborated in implementing the workshop. The requested tools and methods covered in the training workshop were designed to help researchers devise impact assessment studies, collect high quality data, and then use rigorous methods of analysis to draw conclusions about the effects of agricultural technologies on agricultural productivity and food production.

ICAR Director General Dr. S. Ayyappan warmly welcomed the more than two dozen researchers from several ICAR institutes and collaborating researchers from Nepal. He stressed the importance of  increasing ICAR’s own investment in impact assessment studies and the capacity of local institutions to carry them out.

Participants attended sessions on methods for micro-level studies of adoption and impact, economic surplus methods, and the DREAM (Dynamic Research EvaluAtion for Management) ex ante impact assessment tool. Frank Place, IFPRI’s Liangzhi You and Devesh Roy, and John Mullen led the training. All left the workshop excited to use the new knowledge in their own empirical work.

Bill Gates notes that more well-resourced and funded agricultural research centers are needed to develop improved tools and crop varieties.

Continued support imperative

Indian farmer w cabbage

Harvesting cauliflower crop near Kullu town, Himachal Pradesh, India. Photo Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)

Strengthening capacity cannot be achieved with one-off training courses. NARIs and partnering organizations require on-going technical support to refine existing skill sets and develop new methodologies to meet changing demands. As Bill Gates recently noted, more well-resourced and funded agricultural research centers are needed to develop improved tools and crop varieties. Well-designed impact assessments, in turn, provide valuable feedback on how such innovations boost economic growth and food security through increased agricultural productivity.

Given the relatively small number of impact assessment specialists within the CGIAR, supporting the capacity needs of each individual NARI would be challenging. Regional collaboration may be the key. For this workshop, the inclusion of Nepalese scientists enriched the experience of all the participants.

PIM has initiated a partnership to develop tools for tracking the diffusion of agricultural technology and to provide evidence of its adoption with the sub-regional organizations Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA) and Conseil Ouest et Centre Africain Pour La Recherche et Le Developpement Agricoles (CORAF). While continuing to support these activities now, PIM plans to significantly expand impact assessment in our program's second phase.

Featured image: Agricultural scientist in field with chickpea farmers. Photo Credit: ICRISAT