|Mobilizing science for global food security. Third External Review of IFPRI (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research ) (1998)|
|Chapter 1 - Introduction and Evolution of IFPRI|
The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) was established in 1975 in recognition of the need for an independent research institute that would deal with socioeconomic policies for agricultural development. IFPRI joined the CGIAR in 1980. The Institutes mission, as it was re-stated in 1996, is (a) to identify and analyse alternative national and international policies for meeting food needs on a sustainable basis, with particular regard for low-income countries and poor people, and for the sound management of the natural resource base that supports agriculture; (b) to make the results of its research available to all those in a position to apply them or use them; and (c) to help strengthen institutions conducting research on food policies and institutions in a position to apply such research results in developing countries. The interpretation of IFPRIs mandate and its research activities evolved over time, in response to changing needs within developing countries and perceptions of their major policy issues.
IFPRIs first External Programme and Management Review took place during 1985; the second was during 1990. Programme and management reviews were then conducted separately. The second external review coincided with an extremely difficult period for IFPRI, during which the Board Chair and the Institutes Director General were abruptly replaced. Although the high regard in which the quality and the relevance of IFPRIs programme were held was not affected, the reviews called for many changes in the Institutes management to help put it on a more professional footing. To monitor the implementation of change, TAC and the CGIAR Secretariat commissioned an Interim External Review (IER), which took place during 1992. The IER found that IFPRI had overcome its major hurdles, achieved many positive changes, and was well on track. The IER provided an overview of IFPRIs response to the second EPMR, but also showed that a number of the 1990 recommendations had not yet been implemented. An overview of these unimplemented recommendations and their current status are provided in Appendix I. The present report reflects the outcome of IFPRIs Third EPMR and covers the period since 1992, during which IFPRI has been led by its current Director General, Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen.
A favourable policy environment is crucial to achieving alleviation of poverty, food security, and sustainable management of natural resources, and hence is essential for the attainment of the mission and goals of the CGIAR. Policy research is, therefore, a fundamental activity for the System.
During 1995 TAC commissioned an inter-centre Stripe study on the future of policy and management, as well as institution-strengthening research and service in the CGIAR. As part of this study, a panel, chaired by Alain de Janvry, conducted a review to provide a strategic analysis of policy and management research in the CGIAR1 and its major future strategic directions. This study, and one on institutional strengthening were the basis on which TAC formulated its views on priorities and strategies in policy and management2 During 1995 policy research accounted for approximately 8 percent of the budget and 9 percent of the scientific staff of the CGIAR. Both the Stripe Study Panel and TAC noted that the CGIARs contribution to a world-wide effort on policy research was less than 2 percent, but that this investment is of critical importance for the operation of the System itself and for servicing the needs of its immediate national clients and partners; for maximizing the benefits of technological innovations in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries to the welfare of humanity, and for providing solutions to some of the broader problems the System addresses, such as reducing rural poverty, improving human nutrition, and achieving sustainable development.
1 TAC/CGIAR. 1996. Perspectives on Policy and Management Research in the CGIAR. SDR/TAC: IAR/95/26.1. TAC Secretariat, FAO, Rome.
2 TAC/CGIAR. 1996. Priorities and Strategies for Policy, Public Management and Institution Strengthening Research and Service in the CGIAR. SDR/TAC: IAR/96/4.1. TAC Secretariat, FAO, Rome.
Most of the CGIAR Centres undertake policy research, but it is the main activity only at IFPRI. Policy research, as defined by TAC and the Stripe Study3 is being undertaken in a majority of the CGIAR Centres, in varying degrees of importance. At CIFOR, ISNAR, IIMI and ILRI, it is an important and central component (6 to 15 percent of number of scientists in 1995); and at IRRI. CIMMYT. ICRISAT and IITA is a minor component (1.3 to 1.9 percent of number of scientists). This was a response to several specific questions voiced by CGIAR members and others concerning policy and public management research in the System. The most basic one was whether or not the System is doing the right kinds of policy, management and institution strengthening research and service work, and whether it is doing the right amount of such work. The overall conclusions of the Stripe Review Panel with regard to policy research in the CGIAR were that it:
· is running quite smoothly;
· is in most cases focused on the right issues;
· is of adequate quality;
· presently is funded at about the right level relative to the funding of the other activities in the System.
3 TAC states that: Policy research is distinguished here from the predominantly production economics research or socioeconomic analysis to evaluate technical options developed by centre researchers. It also is distinguished from the socioeconomic research carried out by centres in relation to assessments of farm organization, structure, and operation. While public policy research may use the same. microeconomics tools, and the results form socioeconomic work of centres, it is distinguished from the latter by being defined as research on the policy processes and the policy environments within which the results of technical research and socioeconomic and production economics research from the centres and national research systems are applied. Included under this heading is research that helps to define an appropriate agricultural and natural resources science policy for a country. Also included is research focused on public management as one of the tools or mechanisms for implementation of policies. (See SDR/TAC:IAR/96/4.1).
TAC generally agreed with these conclusions, although it saw the potential for benefit from certain internal shifts.
A second concern is more directly related to this EPMR, namely, the reliance on IFPRI for participation in their policy research in proposals made by the other centres in the System. Thus, policy research appears in almost all the Medium-Term Plans of CGIAR Centres, with IFPRI linked to the various proposals. This widespread inclusion of IFPRI was associated with at least two potential issues. First, some of the research proposed by centres is in the form of socio-economic research IFPRI has little reason to be involved with, since it is not part of IFPRIs strategic plan and MTP. Second, even in the case of legitimate policy research that also fits within IFPRIs mandate and strategic plan, IFPRI does not have the capacity nor budget to be involved in every project that is proposed.
The Stripe Study discussed these issues and provided a number of recommendations, including several that were addressed directly to the present IFPRI EPMR Panel.
The subjects of these recommendations have been integrated further on into the Panels assessments dealing with (a) IFPRIs program and present and future areas of emphasis, (b) IFPRIs linkages with ISNAR and other CGIAR Centres; (c) IFPRIs involvement in Systemwide Programmes (SWPs), including ecoregional initiatives; (d) IFPRIs allocation of resources to training and information programs; and (e) IFPRIs outreach and impacts.
In addition, the Stripe Study Panel had 13 recommendations directed specifically to IFPRI. The EPMR Panel is satisfied that IFPRI is addressing, or has addressed the recommendations related to: (a) making IFPRIs data more widely available for thesis research; (b) placing greater emphasis on outposting staff when appropriate (up from 7 to 14 senior staff since the Stripe Study); (c) making use of the internet for interactive activities on specific themes; (d) reviewing and assessing allocation of project funding in relation to programme effectiveness; (e) getting regional input in assessment of priorities for research; and (f) assessing the use of IFPRIs publications (see discussion Relevance and Impacts, Section 3.3).
The Panel addresses IFPRIs response to the other Stripe Study recommendations in its discussion under (a) outreach (information dissemination and courses and their evaluation) (Chapter 2.5); (b) international public goods nature of IFPRIs research (linking country specific to generic research themes) (Chapter 3.1); (c) linkages with other CGIAR Centres (Chapter 3.5). An overview of IFPRIs response to the recommendations of the Stripe Study is included as Appendix II.
In developing its 1998-2000 Medium-Term Plan, IFPRI reassessed its mandate formulated in 1991 and included in IFPRIs Strategy for the 1990s. Although IFPRI still considers the 1991 strategy as relevant in providing an overall framework for the Institutes activities, in 1996 the Institute also developed a global vision, a mission, a business vision, and a research strategy. Accordingly, IFPRI aims to organize and undertake research and outreach in a manner that will generate international public goods - knowledge relevant/or decision makers both inside and outside the countries where the research is undertaken and expected to result in large benefits to society, but unlikely to be undertaken by the private sector - while simultaneously seeking to contribute to a cohesive body of knowledge needed by decision makers in collaborating countries.
As discussed in the Stripe Review, IFPRI is one of many organizations involved in food policy research for developing countries. Many universities, government agencies, non-government organizations, and national and international research organizations are also involved in this type of work. Several multilateral organizations, such as FAO, IFAD, WFP, and the World Bank, play important roles in conducting policy studies on agriculture and poverty reduction and undertake some research.
IFPRI, therefore, attempts to ensure that its research activities are complementary to and do not replicate the efforts of others. To this end the Institute maintains collaborative relationships with over 125 other organizations, more than half of which are located in developing countries. The Institute intends to expand this number greatly during the MTP period. According to IFPRI, however, there are fewer organizations conducting food policy research today than there were five years ago.
Priority setting at IFPRI is not guided by a formal or quantitative priority-setting model. The Institute uses a conceptual, qualitative approach based on staff judgements. Broad thematic priorities are first set at the Institute level. Programme priorities are subsequently set at the divisional level.
To identify priority research areas, two major criteria are used:
1: Expected poverty reductions for current and future generations for each dollar spent by IFPRI, determined using the following variables:
· the number of poor, food-insecure, and malnourished people likely to be affected by policy changes;
· the extent to which new knowledge is required to guide decision making on policies that aim to alleviate poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition while conserving natural resources;
· the likelihood that knowledge from policy research will influence future policy debates and decisions;
· the opportunities for capitalizing on past policy research; and
· the comparative advantage of belonging to the CGIAR, including opportunities for enhancing the overall impact of the work of the CGIAR and associated international research centres.
2: Expected impact on the food policy research capacity of developing countries.
Once the research areas are selected, IFPRI uses a further set of criteria to determine its geographic priorities and the choice of study countries. Examples are the need for broad country representation so that results can be generalized; availability and interest of national collaborators; potential benefits to the poor of the country; logistical and security conditions; opportunities for collaboration; and availability of resources.
The priorities set after evaluation using these criteria are subsequently discussed internally and in a series of research-planning meetings with outside experts and stakeholders.
During 1997 IFPRI had a budget of approximately US$ 18 million, and its staff totalled 138, including 57 internationally recruited staff and 81 locally hired supervisory and support staff. All of the Institutes work was incorporated into the agreed CGIAR research agenda.
In its proposed 1998-2000 Medium-Term Plan (MTP), IFPRI indicates that the focus of its research and outreach activities is to promote policies to improve food security and nutrition, reduce poverty, reduce the pressure on fragile natural resources, and thus advance sustainable development. Activities are divided among three programmes: multicountry, regional and synthesis studies. Programmes are to be implemented through IFPRIs four research divisions: the Environment and Production Technology Division, Food Consumption and Nutrition Division, Markets and Structural Studies Division, and Trade and Macroeconomic Division. The work of these research divisions is to be complemented by that of an Outreach Division. The Institutes work is implemented through a total of 21 projects. During the current MTP period, IFPRI expects to allocate 56 percent of its resources to policy analysis, 11 percent to economic and social analysis, 10 percent to sustainable production systems, 2 percent to saving biodiversity, 9 percent to training, 10 percent to documentation and information, and 2 percent to institution building networks. IFPRIs geographic allocation of resources is estimated to be 40 percent to sub-Saharan Africa, 35 percent to Asia, 15 percent to Latin America, and 10 percent to West Asia-North Africa (WANA). The Institute is also very active in Systemwide programmes. It is the convenor of the Property Rights and Collective Action Programme and is involved in six other Systemwide programmes and initiatives.
The Review started when the Chair and the members of the Panel attended the initial phase from 6 to 10 October 1997 at IFPRIs Headquarters in Washington, D.C., during which the Institute provided briefings on its programmes and management. The Panels consultant on Board matters, who had attended IFPRIs March 1997 Board meeting, also participated in these discussions. Information on panel composition is provided in Appendix III. Panel members conducted a number of interviews with IFPRI staff and were provided with comprehensive documentation. Members of the Panel subsequently attended the Internal Programme Review from 8 to 11 December 1997 as well the meeting of the Boards Executive Committee on 12 December. The Panel Chair conducted a series of interviews with IFPRIs stakeholders in the Washington area during the week of 15 December. Panel members visited the Institutes outreach operations in Southern Africa (Mozambique and Malawi), interacting with IFPRIs outreach staff and with national institutes of the region. A number of IFPRI donors, policymakers in developing countries, collaborators, and other stakeholders were also interviewed. In addition to his visits to collaborators in the Washington area, the Panel Chair also visited FAO, IFAD, and IPGRI, all located in Rome, on 10 February 1998.
The main phase of the Review took place from 12 to 27 February 1998, during which the Panel interacted with staff and management, as well as with many of their collaborators, and prepared the following report. Prior to presenting the Panels report on 27 February to the Board Chair, the Director General and Senior Management and staff, earlier drafts of the report were shared with the Institute for comments, in particular on factual matters.