Institution: World Bank
Byerlee is presently Principal Economist and Agricultural Research Specialist in the Rural Development Dept. of the World Bank. In his current position he monitors Bank support to NARSs, provides leadership in setting agricultural research policies in the Bank, and participates in Bank-supported projects in some ten countries in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. He was previously Director of Economics, CIMMYT, where he has written extensively on research priority setting and evaluation, and analyzed CIMMYT resource allocation in terms of potential to alleviate poverty.
Title: "Targeting poverty alleviation in priority setting in NARS: Theory and practice"
Theme: Key 2
This paper will discuss the potential to target poverty alleviation in priority setting for research at the national level. It will briefly review the mechanisms by which research may have impacts on the poor, including effects on producer incomes, through labor demand and wages, consumer prices, and growth linkages of rural income generation. The relative magnitude of these various effects are influenced by many factors, especially trade liberalization, the nature of the commodity, and transport infrastructure, which together determine the wedge between import- and export-parity prices. At a conceptual level, the sum of these various influences is often complex and the results may be counter-intuitive. For this reason, some authors have argued that agricultural research is a blunt instrument to target poverty alleviation and that the best approach is to focus on productivity growth. Yet other evidence would suggest that in many situations there are indeed tradeoffs between efficiency and equity in the short- to medium-term and that the "trickle-down" approach will lead to an unacceptably slow rate of poverty reduction.
The remainder of the paper will review priority setting methods commonly used in national research programs and how they might be adapted to target poverty alleviation. Many national research programs have spent considerable resources in recent years to define research priorities, often with the support of the World Bank. Different levels of priority setting will be noted from macro-allocation of research resources across commodities, regions and types of research, sub-sector priority setting within national programs, and priority setting at the local level in designing specific research projects. In addition priority setting methods vary from informal approaches which largely depend on previous allocations adjusted on the basis of informal assessment of evolving opportunities, to formal scoring and economic surplus methods, to participatory methods involving major clients and other stakeholders.
Formal priority setting methods will be reviewed to assess if and how poverty alleviation has been targeted and the limitations of approaches used. In selected countries in which the author(s) have considerable experience (e.g., Ghana, Kenya, Pakistan, Peru or Mexico), poverty assessment and household expenditure data (mostly from World Bank files) will be analyzed in relation to the priorities set, to determine if there are obvious research areas (commodities, regions, types of research) in which research resources might be targeted with high probability of having greater pro-poor impacts. This will allow the formulation of practical guidelines and methods that might be employed in setting research priorities across major research programs.
Finally, the paper will note the institutional context within which such decision making must take place, including the growing role of the private sector to target certain types of research, the greater use of competitive funding with explicit evaluation criteria, and the potential differences in the decision function for equity-income tradeoffs between international donors and lenders, IARCs, and NARS.
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