Knowledge for Development

Relevant publications

South Africa's 'Bioeconomy Strategy'

The Department of Science and Technology of South Africa, in consultation with other relevant stakeholders, has identified three key economic sectors – agriculture, health and industry – as being the most in need of, and likely to benefit from key levers to drive the implementation of the South African Bioeconomy Strategy. This new strategy provides a high-level framework to guide biosciences research and innovation investments, as well as decision-making as South Africa adapts to the realities of global transition to a low-carbon economy. Designed to have a technology-push and market-pull approach, the strategy addresses the country’s developmental goals and needs, as well as its industrial and agricultural competitiveness.   An important development entrenched in the strategy, is the drive to expand the country’s shift in focus from developing biotechnology capabilities – and subsequently the biotechnology sector as a whole – to developing a bio-economy, where the biotechnology sector joins forces with the ICT sector, environmental agencies, the social sciences and other technologies, especially Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) community of practice, to create holistic solutions and industrial applications for agriculture as well as the health and industrial sectors, in order to create a world-class biotechnological system of innovation.   (DST, 2013)


Knowledge, networks and nations: global scientific collaboration in the 21st century

This report by the Royal Society, UK, is a review, based on available data, of the changing patterns of science, and scientific collaboration, in order to provide a basis for understanding such ongoing changes. It aims to identify the opportunities and benefits of international collaboration, to consider how they can best be realised, and to initiate a debate on how international scientific collaboration can be harnessed to tackle global problems more effectively. It explores this changing geography of science and innovation and investigates where and how science is being carried out around the world and the ways in which this picture is changing. The report makes 5 major recommendations: (i) Support for international science should be maintained and strengthened; (ii) Internationally collaborative science should be encouraged, supported and facilitated; (iii) National and international strategies for science are required to address global challenges; (iv) International capacity building is crucial to ensure that the impacts of scientific research are shared globally; (v) Better indicators are required in order to properly evaluate global science.   (The Royal Society, 2011)


2013 Global Food Policy Report

IFPRI’s 2013 Global Food Policy Report reviews major food policy developments and trends from the past year, documents emerging issues, examines key challenges and opportunities, describes the rising political commitment to food and nutrition security, and sets an agenda for action. It calls for ending hunger and under-nutrition by 2025. In order to achieve these goals, IFPRI's Director General Shenggen Fan stresses the need to: promote country-driven, context-specific, and evidence-based strategies; build on evidence and past experiences such as those from Brazil, China, Thailand, and Vietnam; share ideas and knowledge on lessons learned; enhance and expand partnerships.   Chapter 5 of the Report, written by Nienke Beintema and Gert-Jan Stads, provides a data-driven analysis of recent progress in investing in financial resources and human resource capacity related to agricultural R&D in Africa south of the Sahara. Of note is the rise in private investment in agricultural R&D.  (IFPRI, 11/03/2014)


First major study of science granting councils in Sub-Saharan Africa

In February 2014, the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST) at the University of Stellenbosch published the first comprehensive and in-depth analysis of the roles and functioning of science granting councils (or equivalent bodies) of 17 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The study found that dedicated funding councils were largely characteristic of the science systems of Anglophone countries. Francophone countries, such as Rwanda and Cameroon traditionally do not have ST&I funding councils. However, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Senegal do have efficient funding agencies particularly in agriculture. The study identified a number of models that capture the most commonly found organisational arrangements for public research funding: The paradigm principal-agent model (delegation of responsibility for research funding to a autonomous body); the sector-differentiated model (different research funding councils for different sectors in the science system – causing challenges around coordination in science funding); the multiple principal-agents model ('non-government' science funding channels, usually international donors – there is no coordination between these channels); and the embedded principal-agent model (an extension of government with no obvious independence). The study developed ‘milestones’ in the areas of science and technology governance and policy development to allow for comparison between countries’ S&T trajectories.    (University World News and Stellenbosch University, 17/01/2014)


Mapping of best practice regional and multi-country cooperative STI initiatives between Africa and Europe

The Africa-EU High-Level Policy Dialogue (HLPD) on STI commissioned this study to assess existing bi-regional STI cooperation initiatives and to identify successful, best practice models of Africa and Europe cooperation. This study also identified gaps and effective financial mechanisms that could have a positive impact cooperative initiatives. In terms of collaboration, financing, and private sector participation, the report notes that the current funding landscape is rather dependent on European and on international instruments, weakening the potential of genuine co-ownership. Promising co-financing models for common research priorities are being piloted (notably by the ERAfrica consortium,  The report argues that joint funding, strong leadership and effective governance; clarity and understanding of joint objectives; strong interpersonal relations, equitable resource and benefits sharing, full transparency and open communication all build create mutual trust and foster co-ownership as necessary conditions for optimal efficiency. Other topics addressed by the study include: impact, success criteria, gaps, barriers and challenges.    (via CAAST-Net Plus, 19/12/2013)


Training workshop on Open Access Publishing Using Open Journal Systems: Proceedings, 2013

From a series of sub-regional workshops on ICT/ICM/IKM that APAARI conducted together with FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, GFAR and other partners, it was identified that the capacity to make research journals open access was a main hindrance among most NARS in this region. This publication details eight hands-on training sessions on: (i) overview and feature of Open Journal Systems (OJS), (ii) hosting journal and journal set up, (iii) user roles and navigating OJS editorial process, (iv) user interface customization and notification, (v) user management and the role of an editor, (vi) statistics and reports, publishing, back-up and restore, (vii) database of reviewers, and (viii) increasing visibility of OJS and setting up a Community of Practice. This publication could be useful to professionals who are involved in editing and publishing agricultural research journals, planners, administrators and researchers in the Asia Pacific region.    (APAARI, 12/2013)   


Agricultural R&D, food prices, poverty and malnutrition redux

In this article Julian M. Alston (UC Davis, USA) and Philip G. Pardey (University of Minnesota, USA) revisit the links between agricultural research and development (R&D) and its consequences for nutrition and health outcomes of the poor in the context of two twenty-first century conundrums. First, while many of the world’s poor remain undernourished, paradoxically, growing numbers of people from a very broad range of income and social strata are overweight or obese. Second, rates of investment in agricultural research are slowing in many countries in spite of continuing high social rates of return to the investments, a trend toward higher food prices, and slowing rates of farm productivity growth in many countries.  In this article, the authors provide answers to the following questions: To what extent is the agricultural abundance (enabled by public R&D policy and investment) responsible for the rise of obesity?  What is the nature of the trade-offs between health and nutrition problems arising from increasing food abundance versus health and nutrition problems arising from food scarcity?  Should societies use agricultural R&D as an instrument of public health policy or other dimensions of social policy? The authors conclude that in the political reality of agricultural science funding, it will continue to be better to accept funding conditional on it being used for a particular – lower payoff – purpose if the alternative is to have an even worse problem of underinvestment in the total portfolio.     (AgEcon Search, 07/01/2014)


African agriculture, transformation and outlook

NEPAD has published its vision paper African agriculture, transformation and outlook. In this paper NEPAD  presents five priority intervention areas: Increasing agricultural production; improving the structure and functioning of markets; promoting investment; fostering access to food and good nutrition;  and  sustainable management of natural resources. The paper's sections are: African agricultural paths; policies, institutions and stakeholders; challenges and opportunities for African agriculture; guidelines and tools for action.     (NEPAD, 11/2013)   


Monitoring and analysing food and agricultural policies in Africa

This synthesis report is based on the 2013 findings of Monitoring African Food and Agricultural Policies (MAFAP) programme conducted by the FAO to provide policy-makers in governments and civil society in Africa with the best possible information on the effects of policies and public expenditure. The findings show that: the policy environment and performance of domestic markets depressed producer prices in the recent past; producer prices would improve significantly if inefficiencies in domestic value chains were eliminated; producers of imported commodities generally faced price disincentives due to market inefficiencies in domestic value chains (particularly the high cost of processing); and producers of commodities essential to food security faced the strongest price disincentives. The level of public expenditure in support of the food and agriculture sector has declined and the composition of expenditures has shifted; the agriculture sector remains penalized by poorly targeted policies and public spending, which are often inconsistent with national objectives.   (FAO, 19/12/2014) 


A vision for solutions-oriented research to support transformations towards global sustainability

The Future Earth Transition Team, representing a wide range of disciplines and countries, and the main partners of the Science and Technology Alliance for Global Sustainability, released the Future Earth Initial Design Report early December 2013, at the International Council for Science (ICSU). The report sets out the initial design of Future Earth, a 10-year international research programme launched in June 2012, at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), comprising a research framework and governance structure; preliminary reflections on communication and engagement, capacity-building and education strategies; and implementation guidelines. The research agenda is structured around three central themes: dynamic planet, global development, and transformations towards sustainability. The report details the key research questions that will be addressed in each area. In the agricultural sub-sector, regarding the issue of climate change for example, important gaps in geographic and temporal observations, understanding of system processes, and confidence in observations and projections must be tackled by better and more coordinated research., 04/11/2013)


Returns to Food and Agricultural R&D Investments Worldwide, 1958-2011

Researchers with InSTePP (International Science & Technology Practice & Policy) at the University of Minnesota have compiled a comprehensive database of rate of return (RR) estimates from the worldwide literature on food and agricultural R&D. They found that the wide dispersion in the reported RR makes it difficult to discern meaningful patterns in the evidence. Nonetheless, RR values based on the internal rate of return (IRR) were high regardless of the type of research, commodity focus, performer, or time period of the research. The authors question whether this IRR evidence should be taken at face value: they show that high IRR values and their implausible implications are the result flawed assumptions used in calculations. They suggest alternatives that utilise more appropriate assumptions and yield more sensible implications.   (HarvestChoice, 10/2013)


Alternative methodologies to objectively assess capacity gaps in the use of research evidence

This INASP paper exposes the need to ensure that policy makers are able to demand and use research evidence. They argue that while many capacity building programmes improved skills for communicating research information, there is no actual investigation into the actual capacity to access, evaluate and use research evidence. Promoting evidence-informed policy relies not only on supporting the ‘supply’ of research evidence but also the ‘demand’ from policy makers. The paper explores a number of methodologies for evaluating capacity to access and use research information. For example, in Uganda, experts were commissioned to review the use of evidence in policy documents produced for the Ugandan parliament. The findings (available here) show that a low level of STI literacy among MPs undermines the widespread willingness to improve the Ugandan government’s handling of STI.   (INASP, 07/2013)


An integrated agro-ecosystem and livelihood systems approach for the poor and vulnerable in dry areas

In this article, Maarten van Ginkel at ICARDA, and colleagues outline the characteristics of a new development paradigm to better manage risk and build  resilience in dryland agro-ecosystems. Looking away from the traditional, linear research-for-development impact pathway, the proposed integrated  systems approach involves working with rural people to establish what impacts are needed, then defines what outcomes will deliver these impacts, then  identifies what outputs (if adopted) will produce the desired outcomes, and finally determines what research will lead to these outputs, thus following the  impact pathway backwards. This article presents a range of empirical examples of its application in dryland contexts.    (Food Security, 8/11/2013)


The Integration of Nutrition into Extension and Advisory Services: A Synthesis of Experiences, Lessons, and Recommendations

This report commissioned by the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) and the World Bank’s Secure Nutrition Knowledge Platform examines the integration and linkages of nutrition within extension and advisory services and workers in Africa, South Asia, and the Americas. This report summarises the current state of knowledge on the role of nutrition in EAS and highlights good practices stemming from country or programme cases. The integration of nutrition (and home economics) into EAS often remains archaic, scattered, or side-streamed. Most of the programmes assessed lacked measures of ‘efficacy’ because of the scant collection of data, peer reviewed publications, or evaluations examining the impact of integrated programmes on dietary and nutritional outcomes.    (Food and Nutrition Security Blog, 8/9/2013)  


Enhancing markets for nutrient-dense foods in Ghana

This report from the Institute of Development Studies, Sussex, UK, analyses policy options for promoting nutrient-dense foods to reduce under-nutrition in Ghana. There are a number of nutrient-dense products on the market in Ghana, but they are generally not accessible to the poor. To overcome the problem, four challenges must be met: improve food safety by securing supplies that are free of aflatoxin contamination; raise consumer awareness about nutrition and food safety; create mechanisms to verify the nutritional quality of products and signal this quality to consumers and; and reduce costs so that nutrient-dense foods are available and affordable to the populations that need them.   (IDS, 18/09/2013)


Mechanisation for Rural Development: A review of patterns and progress from around the world

This book by the FAO gives a wide-ranging perspective on the present state of agricultural mechanisation in the developing world. Adoption patterns and progress of mechanisation from around the world are described using example from Africa, South India, Brazil, among other regions. Recurrent topics such as investment opportunities, local machinery manufacturing, environmental impacts, engineering challenges and future research avenues.    (FAO, 01/07/2013)    


Research priorities on climate change vulnerability, impacts and adaptation

PROVIA is a global initiative by UNEP, UNESCO and WMO which aims to provide direction and coherence at the international level for research on vulnerability,  impacts and adaptation (VIA). In consultation with both experts and policy-makers, PROVIA has developed a set of Research Priorities that reflect a balance  between research ‘supply’ from the expert community and research ‘demand’ from policy/decision-makers. Priorities include the production of better information on  integrated solutions and more inclusive cost estimates. Directly related to food systems, research should focus on understanding how food systems, including  production, processing, distribution and access will be impacted by and adapt to climate change and extreme events and how these impacts and adaptation  strategies interact with other stresses. Emerging topics such as transformative change, geoengineering, model intercomparisons, etc. are also discussed.   (PROVIA, 06/09/2013)  


Farmers’ responses to climate change in northern and central areas of Côte d'Ivoire

This thesis by Hermann Comoé submitted to ETH Zurich investigates Côte d'Ivoire’s farmers’ perception of climate change, their decision behaviour regarding  adaptation, the social institutional context surrounding farmers in relation to climate change adaptation. Findings show farmers have perceived the impacts of climate  change on their local environment through evidence such as the disappearance of certain farming practices, the occurrence of new insects, and the disruption of key  time reference periods. The main adaptation strategies reported were the adjustment of the agricultural calendar to profit from the favourable periods for the farming  season, the adoption of new short-cycle varieties, and the mixed cropping technique. Recommendations for appropriate knowledge transfer are based on a study of  the social networks of actors surrounding farmers: one network was highly dependent on one major actor - the national extension service; the other network relied on  a group of diverse actors including NGOs and inter-professional associations.   (via SFIAR, 10/09/2013)


Soil nutrient management in Haiti: lessons for future agricultural interventions

Remy Bargout and Manish Raizada at the Department of Plant Agriculture, University of Guelph, Canada review the intrinsic factors that contribute to soil infertility in  modern Haiti, along with indigenous pre-Columbian soil interventions and modern soil interventions, including farmer-derived interventions and interventions by the  Haitian government and Haitian non-governmental organisations (NGOs), bilateral and multilateral agencies, foreign NGOs, and the foreign private sector. This review  shows how agricultural soil degradation in modern Haiti is exacerbated by topology, soil type, and rainfall distribution, along with non-sustainable farming practices  and poverty. Recommendations aim to address the most important soil intervention gaps in Haiti that include inadequate farmer training (extension) in soil  management, and lack of technical support for legume and cover crops and for livestock pastures.    (Agriculture & Food Security 2013, 2:11)  


Innovation: new evidence in technology scaling dynamics and the role of the formative phase

This Interim Report by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) presents the latest update for historical scaling dynamics research including new  technologies such as general purpose technologies and small end-use technologies. Scaling refers to the rapid, extensive, and across scale adoption rate of a  technology. In particular, it studies the importance of the formative phase in the diffusion of energy technologies and answers the following questions: what are the  characteristics of the formative phase in the case of fast and intense adoptions? What is the influence of the formative phase in the overall diffusion? Findings confirm  that larger technological transitions require more time for experimentation and maturation in the formative period, especially in the case of complex innovations with  high infrastructure needs. In addition, small size technologies with high turnover rates present the fastest diffusion. More research is needed to refine the definition of  the moment when the technology completes the formative phase and acquires enough maturity to be massively adopted.    (IIASA, 01/06/2013)   


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