Types of Research
Our initial agriculture capacity building search revealed best practices including institutional partnership building, cross-border opportunities such as ‘twinning,’ and views that these practices are most effective when accompanied by appropriate policies and regulatory frameworks to incentivize return on education to home countries. In addition, the literature explained the historical and political context in which some countries successfully built higher educational capacity, suggesting a set of socio-political conditions necessary for a ‘surge’ in capacity building to occur. Our results raised questions about challenges shaping these best practices (e.g. “brain drain” leading to the need for cross-border opportunities) as well as possible approaches to address these underlying issues. To further examine identified challenges from our initial findings, we re-oriented our search to investigate retention strategies, regional or intra-national network capacity building approaches, and whether there is in fact a need for higher education capacity in all countries through comparative advantage or otherwise. This report presents a review of the literature on the best and worst practices for national agricultural capacity building when investing in a country's higher education system or when investing directly in national or relevant global research capacity. We find that several countries have successfully employed a variety of retention, return, and diaspora strategies to build capacity by capitalizing on the feedback loops of international mobility. In addition, several countries in Africa have employed strategies to address the rural-to-urban “brain drain” by prioritizing education of students with post-secondary rural agricultural work experience and strong ties to rural communities in order to return the benefit of this education to local communities. The report discusses these and other strategies as well as analysis related to the ‘whole system effect’ of higher education and subsequent ‘need’ for Higher Agricultural Education (HAE) capacity in all countries.
This literature review examines the returns to tertiary agricultural sciences education, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We include information from organizations’ program documents and gray literature, including the World Bank, UNESCO, ILO, IFPRI, ASTI, various Ministries of Education, country-specific NARS, and ADBG. We find no calculated rate of return (RoR) to tertiary agricultural science, including in SSA. We do find estimates for the return on tertiary education in general, ranging from 12-30% in SSA, along with qualitative support for the value of agricultural science education. The private value of this education can be somewhat inferred from the unmet demand of African students for agricultural science training in North America, Europe, and Australia, and the private and social value from the demand for educated researchers in NARS and SSAQ labor markets. Educated agricultural scientists are hypothesized to affect agricultural productivity via research and development and their influence on policy. Despite the dearth of quantitative ROR evidence, we do find several articles describing the need for increased higher agricultural education and proposing recommendations toward this aim. In this report, we summarize these qualitative results as evidence of the value of tertiary education.
This report investigates the potential environmental and socio-economic benefits and costs of glyphosate resistant cassava. Glyphosate resistant crops (also referred to as glyphosate tolerant) have been rapidly adopted by a number of crop producers because they simplify and/or reduce the cost of weed management. Glyphosate resistant crops also provide external environmental benefits by promoting reduced tillage agriculture, decreasing erosion and increasing soil health. However, glyphosate resistant crops also have some environmental costs, potentially leading to increased use of herbicides and environmental contamination. Because transgenic glyphosate resistant cassava is not currently in use, literature on its potential environmental and socioeconomic costs and benefits is limited. Therefore, this report draws on the literature for glyphosate resistant crops that are in current use, including maize, soybeans, sugar beets and canola (rapeseed). We find that socioeconomic and environmental impacts of glyphosate resistant crops differ by crop-type, agroecological conditions, production systems and local regulatory structure. Therefore, some benefits and costs associated with other glyphosate resistant crops may not be applicable to glyphosate resistant cassava.
Water is a critical input for significantly enhancing smallholder farmer productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where less than 5% of farm land is irrigated, and in India where 42% of farm land is irrigated. For many years, donors have invested in human-powered treadle pump technologies as a point of entry for smallholder farmers unable to afford motorized pumps. In spite of some successes in treadle pump promotion, however, there is a widespread perception that as soon as smallholder farmers can afford to they quickly transition to motorized diesel- powered pumps. While diesel pumps substantially ease farmers’ workload, they pollute excessively (both in terms of local air quality and greenhouse gas emissions), pump excessive amounts of water, and put farmers at the mercy of cyclical spikes in fuel prices. This brief provides an overview of state-of-the-art alternative energy pumps, including technologies available and implementation lessons learned from China, India, Africa, South America and other regions. Through a literature review, written surveys and phone interviews with water pump producers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) we evaluate the availability, affordability, and adoption rates of alternative energy technologies in developing countries. Our findings suggest that no single alternative energy water pumping system is a “silver bullet” for rural smallholder irrigation needs. Biofuels may prove a successful short- to intermediate-term solution for farmers who already have access to diesel pumps, but other problems associated with diesel engines, including high maintenance costs and excessive water use remain even when biofuels are used. Solar systems eliminate pollution almost entirely, reduce water consumption, and eliminate the need to purchase fuels. However solar systems are typically prohibitively expensive for smallholder farmers. Wind powered pumping solutions have not proven successful to date, with high costs and irregular wind patterns (either too little or too much wind) proving substantial barriers to widespread adoption.
The purpose of this literature review is to examine research and decision-making tools that model the impacts of agricultural interventions. We begin with a short explanation of what model features are being described. We then review decision-support tools and user-end modeling tools (menu-driven tools with an interface designed for easy use), as well as academic and professional research models for assessing the potential impacts of agricultural interventions. This review also includes decision tools and models for analyzing agricultural and environmental policies outside of technology impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The other tools mentioned here, for example a tool that considers nutritional intervention impacts, are included to help provide a broader understanding of the structure and availability of user-end, decision-making tools. In the final section of this brief, we review the most complex models used more in academic research than for in-field decision-making.
Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems, such as provisioning of fresh water, food, feed, fiber, biodiversity, energy, and nutrient cycling. Agricultural production can substantially affect the functioning of ecosystems, both positively and negatively. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of the impacts of agricultural technologies and practices on ecosystem services such as soil fertility, water, biodiversity, air, and climate. The report describes the environmental impacts of different aspects of intensive cropping practices and of inputs associated with intensification. We further explore these impacts by examining intensive rice systems and industrial crop processing. Although this report focuses on the impacts of agricultural practices on the environment, many of the practices also have implications for plant, animal, and human health. Farmers and others who come in contact with air, water, and soils polluted by chemical fertilizers and pesticides may face negative health consequences, for instance. By impacting components of the ecosystem, these practices affect the health of plants and animals living within the ecosystem. We find that the unintended environmental consequences of intensive agricultural practices and inputs are varied and potentially severe. In some cases, sustaining or increasing agricultural productivity depends upon reducing impacts to the environment, such as maintaining productive soils by avoiding salinization from irrigation water. However, in other cases, eliminating negative environmental impacts may involve unacceptable trade-offs with food provision or other development goals. Determining the appropriate balance of costs and benefits from intensive agricultural practices is a location-specific exercise requiring knowledge of natural, economic, and social conditions.
Over the past several decades, donors, multilateral organizations and governments have invested substantial resources in developing and disseminating improved varieties of sorghum and millet in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Researchers believe that sorghum and millet have the ability to improve food security and mitigate the influence of climate change on food production for some of the most vulnerable populations. As a result, agricultural scientists have focused on developing improved cultivars to increase the relative benefits of these two crops and disseminate this technology to a larger number of farmers. This report provides an overview of the development and dissemination of improved sorghum and millet cultivars, factors that influence the adoption of improved cultivars among farmers in SSA, and examples of interventions designed to encourage adoption in SSA. We find that while national governments and international research institutes have successfully developed a number of improved sorghum and millet cultivars, adoption rates in SSA (particularly in West and Central Africa) are low. The literature suggests that overall efforts have increased adoption rates, but at varying costs.