The agricultural sector is unique in that a global network of research, development and technology transfer has already been in place for a number of decades. Before World War II, little cooperation existed between countries in agricultural research or technology transfer. Most countries developed agricultural technologies in relative isolation. That is no longer the case. Today major elements of what can be described as a global agricultural research system are in place, where any country can link its research efforts to the international system to help solve important problems.
The global system is made up of three major players: NARSs (National Agricultural Research Systems) of developing countries, IARCs (International Agricultural Research Centers), and advanced laboratories and institutions in developed countries. These players interact in a variety of ways, including bilateral agreements, multilateral agreements, contracts, and research networks. The global system, being informal, depends largely on the meshing of perceived needs of numerous research organisations. With its growth and development, it has become the world's largest and most collaborative scientific enterprise. Almost every country is involved in some way and has invested some of its own funds, mostly at home, to participate. The community-driven technology transfers often proceed in the system.
Since the 1960s the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) has established 16 IARCs. The initial centres focused their research on the major food crops grown in developing countries - rice, wheat, maize, potatoes and cassava. These were joined in the 1970s by centres focussing on livestock production, animal disease and genetic resources, on arid and semiarid areas, food policy and the capacity of the national research system. During 1990 to 1992, five new centres were added to the CGIAR system, focussing on areas such as irrigation management, agro-forestry and aquatic research. This expansion was not accompanied by an expansion of the resources available to the system. In contrast with expanded missions and increasing worldwide demand for agricultural technology, support for the CGIAR system has actually declined in real terms.
Other reports in this collection