|Food and Nutrition Bulletin Volume 18, Number 2, 1997 (UNU Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 1997, 118 pages)|
|Experience of international food and nutrition initiatives for developing countries|
A recent field study carried out in Ghana, Kenya, and the Indian State of Kerala under the auspices of the Dutch Advisory Council for Scientific Research in Development Problems indicated that human resource factors are not given high priority relative to other factors in improving the research system . The study, which involved a total of 293 structured interviews of researchers, concluded that organizational factors, including the setting of workplans and priorities, are the single most important cluster of factors for improving the research system. Included in this are emoluments and other conditions of work. In general, the researchers regarded the administration, organization, and management of research to be a major problem. The respondents considered communication and networking of moderate importance.
The importance of governmental commitment to the fight against hunger and malnutrition and to the development of strong national or regional institutions to carry out research and training cannot be overemphasized. The examples of institutions - both regional and national - cited in this paper clearly demonstrate that external assistance will only be effective in institution-building where there is strong commitment from the concerned government(s). The UNU's experience in institutional capacity-building amply supports this conclusion.
Over the past 20 years, the UNU has devoted a significant portion of its resources to strengthening the capacities of developing-country institutions to carry out research and high-level training. The UNU's contribution in this area, which stands out prominently among international and bilateral agencies, achieved a multiplier effect by training the trainers, research leaders, and policy decision makers. Another purpose of the UNU's effort is to foster cooperation among institutions, particularly those in developing countries. A little over one-half of UNU fellowships were implemented in developing-country institutions. The UNU makes a special effort to identify fellowship candidates through site visits and interviews to determine the high-quality potential of the candidates and ensure that the knowledge and techniques acquired by the fellows will be effectively utilized when they return to their institutions.
Support for infrastructural development and capacity-building can best achieve the desired result if this is provided over a relatively long time of 10 or 15 years. This was the basis for the successful institution-building programme of the Rockefeller Foundation at the University of the Philippines, Mahidol University in Bangkok, and the Universidad del Valle in Cali, Colombia. It also was the basis for the effective support of INCAP in Guatemala by the Kellogg Foundation. The UNU's experience shows that investments in capacity-building of government research institutions with only marginal support from the concerned governments may not have the desired impact. In general, the UNU's effort in capacity-building has achieved a high degree of success in Latin America and Asia, where the UNU is associated with key regional or national institutions with strong commitment. In Africa south of the Sahara, the effort has not been as successful, because most of the fellowships have been awarded to staff members of government research institutes, which lacked the potential to become key institutions. The experience in Africa strongly suggests that a university setting is more appropriate for building capacity to carry out research and postgraduate training. In this regard, it is relevant to point out that the University of Zimbabwe has established the first faculty in food and nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa outside South Africa, and the UNU is endeavouring to provide fellowships for advanced training of its staff and hopes that it will soon begin to assume regional training responsibilities.