Food and agricultural innovation pathways for prosperity
This paper (PDF) by the Agricultural Systems journal characterizes concisely the vast inter-related literature on agriculture research for development (AR4D) context, mechanisms, and impacts as a framework and foundation for the expert assessments of specific mechanisms. The paper starts with identifying where agricultural research investments are most likely to be an engine of poverty reduction. Changes in the context of the efforts in the developing world over the past three decades have fundamental implications for AR4D priorities. Structural transformation has significantly reduced the number of countries in which agriculture plays the dominant role in the economy. At the same time, a combination of structural change, better methods, and more nuanced understanding of chronic poverty has revealed the need for a more multifaceted approach to AR4D. These changes and urbanization necessitate to embrace a food systems perspective beyond farms and fields, to longer and increasingly complex food chains. Finally, uncertainty, vulnerability, and potential disruption in these food systems suggest that flexibility, adaptability, and resilience are important considerations in AR4D strategy. Thereafter, the paper focuses on identifies plausible impact pathways and the evidence that tests their plausibility. Poor farmers in the developing world are often the focus of public sector AR4D, while they are not the only potential beneficiaries. This paper identified 18 plausible interacting impact pathways through which agriculture research can contribute to reductions in poverty and associated livelihood vulnerabilities. A key lessons concerning measuring the impact of agriculture research is that poverty impacts are almost impossible to measure reliably unless the initial research design is structured around this goal. Without thoughtful research design at the early stages, there is no statistical technique that can provide convincing evidence after the fact.