Experts stress on more investment in agricultural R&D

November 29, 2012

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) Chairman Dr Iftikhar Ahmad on Wednesday said Pakistan needs more investment in agricultural research and development (R&D), innovations and staffing to ensure food security in the country.

PARC Islamabad, Pakistan and International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) Washington DC, USA organised an international seminar on ‘Trends in Public Agricultural Research and Development Investment and Staffing in Pakistan’ at PARC to share findings on investment in agricultural R&D in Pakistan.

Federal Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFS&R) Additional Secretary Abdul Basit Khan told the gathering of policymakers, donors, researchers, scientists and other stakeholders as chief guest on the occasion that the agricultural sector in Pakistan plays a vital role in the nation’s food security; and it employs half the country’s labor force. Population in Pakistan is expected to nearly double by 2050.

In order to feed the growing population and address other pressing challenges, such as adaptation to climate change and rising and volatile food prices, it is crucial that agricultural productivity is increased. Agricultural R&D has been a major contributor to agricultural productivity and poverty reduction around the globe over the past five decades. However, despite the well-documented evidence that the payoffs to agricultural R&D are considerable, Pakistan continues to under invest in agricultural research. He further said that Pakistan achieving self-sufficiency in agriculture production by the hard work of Scientists, Policymakers and farming community. He said government designed a National Zero Hunger Programme and such policies, which provide equal opportunities to all major stakeholders of the country to ensure national food security.

PARC is the principal agricultural R&D agency of Pakistan and its broad mandate to coordinate research among federal, provincial and higher education agencies and to address areas of research not covered by other agencies. PARC has 12 satellite institutes and oversees a number of federal and provincial government research agencies located in various parts of the country engaged for country’s agricultural R&D activities. Besides, this there are also 19 other federal government agencies that conduct agriculture-related R&D under various government ministries. With the recent devolution of agricultural sector responsibilities to the provinces, provincial research systems have gained a clearer mandate in science, technology, and innovation.

IFPRI Consultant Prof Jock Anderson presented an independent evaluation of PARC and Anwar Naseem from McGill University, Canada an insight into the role of private-sector agricultural R&D in Pakistan. “Since there is a significant time lag between investing in research and reaping its rewards, agricultural R&D requires long-term commitments in sufficient and sustained funding and well-staffed research agencies,” said ASTI Programme Coordinator Gert-Jan Stads.

Recent data, however, reveal that public agricultural R&D spending in Pakistan has been far from stable and insufficient to keep pace with agricultural growth. The latest data from 2009 indicates that for every $100 of agricultural output, Pakistan invested just $0.21 in agricultural R&D. This is one of the lowest levels in the developing world, and a considerable decline from levels recorded in the 1990s.

In comparison, India’s agricultural R&D investments as a share of agricultural output were almost twice those of Pakistan, said PARC Member and NARC DG Dr Muhammad Sharif.

Pakistan is not only facing financial challenges when it comes to agricultural R&D. In terms of human capacity, it also fares significantly worse than other countries in the region. The country’s share of agricultural researchers with PhD degrees remains very low, at only 18 percent. More worryingly, most of these PhD-qualified scientists are in their fifties, making the training and mentoring of newly recruited scientists will therefore be a major priority in the coming years, said Dr Sharif.

“A key challenge facing Pakistan will be to ensure that resources and capacities are more evenly distributed, both from the central government to the provinces and among the provinces themselves,” said Dr Sharif.

“This period of change has offered opportunities to review existing institutional structures and reassess Pakistan’s research priorities.”

Courtesy: Daily Times

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