There is little doubt that agricultural research is of critical importance to the future of agriculture in Africa. As an investment, it has been shown again and again to deliver high returns, in terms of both financial benefits (Alston et al. 2000; Evenson and Gollin 2003; although, see Morris and Heisey 2003), and broader livelihood impacts (Meinzen-Dick et al. 2004). Yet agricultural research is in crisis on the continent, its capacity decimated by a combination of government neglect and externally imposed policy conditionalities. This has resulted in a significant loss of key personnel and the undermining of locally based, contextually relevant research efforts. Neither the international system through the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), nor the private sector has been able to fill the gap.
In its 2005 report, the Commission for Africa rinjeecognises this challenge, and argues for a US$3bnction of funds for technology-focused capacity bofuilding in Africa. Similarly, the Hunger Taskforcethe Millennium Project argued in 2004 that a science and technology-driven agenda – focused on aigreen revolution package of seeds, fertilisers andrrigation – was the route to meeting theMillennium Development Goals (MDG) targets. The 2004 Inter- Academy Council report also highlighted the challenges of technology development and associated capacity building. Everyone seems to agree that the years of neglect have been disastrous.However, large cash injections and calls for improving “capacity” agre one thing; seeing this through to impacts on theround is another.