98 | Central and West Asia and North Africa (CWANA) Report

Key Messages

1. Natural resources will continue to become limited.  As globalized trade expands and markets liberalize, CWANA’s competitiveness in agriculture will rely more and more on increased productivity and higher product quality. Degraded land, depleted water resources and expanded deserts imply that agriculture will take place in less favorable environments. Further trade liberalization, implementation of which is expected to come into effect after the Doha development round closes, will make trade barriers, production support and export subsidization obsolete when trying to compete in international and domestic markets. All these future prospects are calling for AKST as a means to sustain CWANA agricultural competitiveness.

2. Applying AKST advances is crucial if we are to meet the challenges for sustainability and development in the CWANA region.   CWANA agricultural research systems must adjust to the context of new challenges such as land degradation, water scarcity, migration, loss of biodiversity, increase in population growth rates and climate change. At the same time, with support from the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), they have to orient themselves toward new directions of research such as biotechnology, agrobiodiversity, GIS technology, IPM, water and soil conservation, rangeland and drought management, value chains and market research. Applying advanced AKST may bring new varieties of crops, breeds of livestock, and advanced technologies that are suitable to tackle the problems of biotic and abiotic stresses and to meet the challenges for sustainable development.

3. Agricultural productivity improvements will depend on substantial public and private investments in agricultural research and extension.   The national agricultural research systems (NARS) are generally weak, and investments in agricultural research and extension are low. This situation is not likely to improve, considering current dismissal of agriculture as an engine of economic development and the lack of constituency for stronger NARS. Increasing public investments and providing incentives to the private sector to engage in research and extension to complement public efforts will likely help acquire adequate capacity to contribute to poverty alleviation, food security and economic progress. Moreover, a sustained public sector role in agricultural research will be essential, particularly for production areas in less favorable environments, unlikely to be served by the private sector.

4. Private ownership of intellectual property rights (IPR) is increasing, making it likely that developing countries will find more barriers preventing their access to international research spillovers.   A self-reliant research policy is required to build domestic AKST capacity, with research directed toward identifying biodiversity and variety of species. Ways to achieve such an objective include identifying CWANA agricultural resources and biodiversity and establishing CWANA-based IPR (e.g., Arab IPR League) and forums for equitable exchange of IPR-based research results.


5. Food safety and quality standards are important for trade, access to industrial-country markets and domestic consumers’ health, as outbreaks of food illness are expected to increase.   The cost of assuring quality in food will increase due to intensive use of chemicals, transformation of traditional systems, and large-scale production structures and trade. Compliance with food safety regulations and quality assurance in CWANA has been relatively slow and is mostly driven by government laws made to secure traditional export markets, responding to provisions of importing countries. In local markets as well, it is important to safeguard the right to food safety for all consumers. Good agricultural practices at the farm level with stringent veterinary controls along the supply chain are required to ensure the safety of both fresh and processed foods. Institutions in charge of protecting public health and of promoting the adoption and implementation of standards have to be strengthened. Legislation needs to be enacted and strictly enforced. Prioritizing local consumer awareness, private enterprise commitment, and risk assessment and laboratory infrastructure will ensure good traceability of food.

6. AKST in the CWANA region has too often used a nonholistic approach with little involvement of stakeholders. As a consequence, it is lagging behind international trends in innovativeness and effectiveness.   Adopting a participatory and integrated approach can support AKST in CWANA to face the fast pace of its population growth and find a relevant role vis-à-vis agricultural needs and trends at national, regional and international levels.

7. Developing and applying AKST in CWANA is not truly geared toward the goals of alleviating poverty and promoting sustainability. These goals, however, are expected to be major paradigms of agricultural development in the next decades. Transparent, participatory and accountable mechanisms for setting AKST priorities at the institutional level can enhance the implementation of policies that are able to tackle poverty in CWANA while also addressing the sustainability dimension.

8. Proper and well-established links among agricultural education, research and extension are important if AKST is to work efficiently.   The source of knowledge for education and extension is directly connected to the results of scientific research, and the research is driven by collaborating with extension workers who are well aware of local problems and are in close touch with farmers. The curricula of agricultural education and the content of the courses must be up to date and applicable to the needs of the market. These needs can mainly and correctly be determined by extension activities, which are the best way to tap into local knowledge. In CWANA countries these links are not well established because legitimate interaction among agricultural education, research and extension sectors is lacking. To enhance AKST effectiveness, links among agricultural education, research and extension are to be strengthened so that all links, including farmers, can be included in the system. Policy options for forging wellestablished links are to put these institutions under one authority such as the land-grant universities in the U.S. or to ensure legitimate horizontal and vertical interaction among them.