Agricultural research reduces poverty in sub-Saharan Africa


Johannesburg – Agricultural research is currently reducing the number of poor people in the region by 2.3 million annually, a study on the impact of agricultural research on productivity and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) shows. 

The study, authored by Drs Arega Alene and Ousmane Coulibaly of the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), has found that payoffs from agricultural research are impressive with an estimated aggregate rate of return of 55 percent, Afrol News reported.

However, the researchers say that the actual impacts are not large enough to offset the poverty-increasing effects of population growth and environmental degradation in the region.

The study, which has been published in the Food Policy journal further, demonstrates that doubling investments in agricultural research and development in SSA from the current US$650 million will reduce poverty by two percentage points annually.

“However, this would not be realised without a more efficient extension, credit, and input supply systems,” says Dr Alene.

The researchers also established that agricultural research had contributed significantly to productivity growth in SSA. Highest returns to agricultural research were found in Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and Ethiopia, and were attributable to sustained national research investments with modest research capacity, long-term Consultative Group of International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) operations, and regional technology spillovers.

The international agricultural research conducted by the CGIAR contributed about 56 percent of the total poverty reduction impact in the region.

According to the study, in view of the significant long-term research investments and demonstrated successes in the region, the poverty reduction that is due to IITA research within the CGIAR ranges from half to one million poor people annually.

Despite the contribution of agricultural research and development, the study notes that SSA also faces several constraints outside the research system that hinder realisation of potential research benefits.

These include weak extension systems, lack of efficient credit and input supply systems, and poor infrastructural development.  

Thus, the study concludes that efforts aimed at improving the functioning of extension, credit, and input supply systems will contribute to achieving greater poverty reduction through agricultural research.

December 2009
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