Ibrahim Shaqir makes the case for public sector agricultural research at February 29 Ag Sector Council Seminar
Although production inputs such as seeds and fertilizer sometimes hog the spotlight, public sector agricultural research is also a vital input for sustained agricultural productivity. At the February Ag Sector Council Seminar, Ibrahim Shaqir - Director of the Office of International Research Programs at USDA's Agricultural Research Service - discussed the reasons that public research must remain a priority. The public sector fills the gap left by the private sector, which has little incentive to invest in research aimed solely at the public good.
Shaqir held up Brazil as a model for what a country needs to do in order to ensure the availability fo food for its people. In the 1970s, Brazil was a developing nation, struggling with poverty and food security. The government worked closely with USAID to develop a strategy for improving their agricultural system. They trained scientists, invested in infrastructure, and focused on productivity rather than expanded land use. In a short period of time, Brazil went from a net importer of food to a net exporter. Shaqir belives that other countries can learn from Brazil's commitment to scientific investment and allocation of resources to the crops that were of greatest importance to the Brazilian people.
Shaqir also discussed the Norman Borlaug Commemorative Research Initiative, a USDA/USAID partnership that aims to leverage to current, ongoing U.S. Government research to advance the Feed the Future Initiative. Four research priorities emerged after extensive consultation with USAID Missions: Ug99 wheat stem rust, livestock production & health, pulse production, and mycotoxins. The Agricultural Research Service has actively pursued these topics for many years, but Shaqir feels that they can now leverage Feed the Future resources to scale up benefits in developing countries.
In the interview below, Shaqir emphasizes some of the key takeaways from his presentation. IbrahimClick here to access the full screencast, audio files, and transcripts.