Spending on agricultural research and development (R&D) in Ghana doubled from 151 billion cedis to 352 billion cedis between 2000 and 2008, a study by the Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) initiative and the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (STEPRI) has indicated.
The amount spent, as a percentage of Ghana’s agricultural GDP, was one of the highest in West Africa.
The statement quoted the study as saying the spike in spending was, however, due largely due to an increase in salary costs.
It said salaries accounted for 83 per cent of the agricultural research budget of Ghana’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 2008.
In just one year, the budget for Ghana’s major science and technology agencies soared from US$5 million in 2007 to US$39 million in 2008, the study indicated.
As spending on agricultural R&D increased from 2002-2008, growth in research staff was slow but steady.
It said by 2008, Ghana had the equivalence of 537 fulltime researchers working in agriculture, 17 per cent of whom were women.
One-fifth of the country’s agricultural researchers are employed by higher education institutions, which are playing an increasingly important role in Ghana’s agricultural research and development, the ASTI-STEPRI study said.
It said despite growth in research staff, many agencies are faced with an aging pool of scientists, recruitment bans, limited support for training, and a government proposal to significantly cut salary costs.
ASTI, CSIR, and STEPRI, one of the agencies under the CSIR umbrella, are to host a seminar on August 17 this year, to share the study’s findings, and to discuss the successes and challenges of agricultural research in Ghana.
ASTI is a global research and data gathering programme spearheaded by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on behalf of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
ASTI and STEPRI surveyed 21 agricultural research organizations in Ghana as part of the study.
The statement quoted Professor Shashidhara Kolavalli, IFPRI Senior Research Fellow and Leader of the Institute’s Ghana Strategy Support Programme, as saying “The significant increase in spending in agricultural R&D reflects the high priority the Ghanaian government places on agriculture, and research and development in particular, in achieving the country’s national development goals and improving rural livelihoods.
“Having access to detailed data, such as those compiled and analyzed by ASTI, enables policymakers to better target future investments so that smallholder farmers could boost their yields, raise income, and overcome poverty,” he noted.
He said Ghana’s new push to fund agricultural R&D is matched by a more general commitment to science and technology.
“These challenges need to be urgently addressed if Ghana is to maintain its current capacity to conduct agricultural R&D”, said Dr Owusu Essegbey, Director of STEPRI.
He said Ghana had made important strides in reducing poverty and hunger in recent years, but added that these achievements could be threatened if the country’s agricultural research expertise was allowed to erode.
Dr Essegney acknowledged that dependence on government and donor funding also posed a major challenge.
He said Non-profit organizations and for-profit companies alike play a limited role in Ghana’s agricultural research efforts.
“Although government’s policy required CSIR agencies to generate 30 per cent of their budget from private sources more than a decade ago, only one institute has come close to reaching this target,” he said.
“Well-funded, staffed and managed agricultural research organizations are critical to advancing agricultural science and technology,” said Nienke Beintema, Head of the ASTI program.
He said, “Innovations in agriculture are important to promoting agricultural productivity, spurring national economic growth and ultimately improving the lives of poor Ghanaian families.”