Dr Kwaw Andam, Research Fellow, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), says high-quality data is essential for the acceleration of the socio-economic development of developing countries.
He said the importance of timely, high-quality data on agricultural research and development could be not overstated.
“This is the case for all developing countries in general, but it is especially vital for lower middle-income countries such as Ghana. That is because a lower middle-income status implies that policymakers are faced with everyday decisions that, cumulatively, can lead to regression or progress in agricultural development and economic growth,” Dr Andam said at a stakeholders’ dissemination workshop in Accra.
He said the difference between the two paths – regression or backward steps on the one hand in agricultural development or rapid progress and transformation on the other hand – was often determined by the relevance, timeliness, and effectiveness of policies adopted by decision-makers at all levels.
“That, in turn, hinges on the quality and timeliness of the data upon which those decisions are based,” he said.
“We all know this intuitively, but in practice, we know that major decisions, that can have far-reaching consequences, are often made without recourse to important data and information.
Sometimes it is because the data are unavailable, other times because it is inaccessible, often it is because the data and information may point in unwanted directions,” he said.
The workshop dubbed “Enhancing the use of Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) Data for Analysis and Policy Influencing Stakeholders’ Workshop” was organised by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research – Science and Technology Policy Research Institute (CSIR-STEPRI) in collaboration with the IFPRI.
Dr Andam expressed the hope that initiatives such as ASTI could tackle all of these reasons for which policy might not be backed or supported by credible data.
He said the agricultural research in Ghana was facing many obstacles; and that these data could point researchers and policy makers in the right directions as they start to tackle these obstacles.
“This is why, under IFPRI’s general mandate to conduct research and support evidence-based policy-making, the institute has engaged in country strategy support programmes,” Dr Andam said.
He said the Ghana Strategy Support Programme had developed statistical capacity in the Ministry of Food and Agriculture’s Statistics, Research, and Information Directorate (SRID).
He urged the participants to support the efforts to disseminate the ASTI findings and ensure that these data were used to support policymaking at all the right levels, to promote agricultural research and development for the economic development of Ghana.
Dr Victor Agyeman, the Director General of CSIR, in a speech read on his behalf, said the decline in the fortunes of the agricultural sector in the country was a wakeup call to all stakeholders to take the necessary steps to ensure that the sector played its backbone roles for rural livelihood and poverty alleviation.
Dr George Owusu Essebey, the Director STEPRI-CSIR, called for the re-engineering of the agricultural systems to let it make its rightful contributions to economic growth and social transformation.
ASTI is led by IFPRI through collaboration with national, regional and international partners to collect time series data on the funding, human resource capacity and outputs in agricultural research in low and middle-income countries.
Based on this information, ASTI produces datasets, analysis, capacity-building tools and outreach products to facilitate policies for effective and efficient agricultural research.
ASTI is widely recognized as the authoritative source of information on the status and direction of agricultural research systems in developing countries.
Some of the key objectives of ASTI are to provide high quality up-to-date data and information on agricultural Research and Development (R&D) to enable policy makers make informed decisions at national and regional levels in addition to building national and regional capacity for both data collection and analysis.
The main objective of the stakeholders’ workshop was to present the achievements and outcomes of the ASTI surveys in Ghana over the past few years to all the relevant stakeholders in the agriculture sector.
More importantly it would increase awareness of the need to use ASTI data for analysis and influencing decision making by policymakers.