Save CGIAR From Dying

Updated: Nov 10 2003, 05:30am hrs
The inter-governmental research body in agriculture, the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) along with its 16 Future Harvest centres are facing financial crisis. This is no good news.

The CGAIR system is supported by 46 countries (24 developing countries and 22 industrialised countries), four private foundations and 12 regional and international organisations which provides finance, technical suuport and strategic direction. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the World Bank are its co-sponsors. But despite this membership and co-sponsorship, the global research orgainsation in agriculture is facing problems in funding research which are meant for public good. It is now scouting funds from multinationals.

According to reports, CGIAR member contributed $337 million to the research budget in 2001 which is an increase of more than 40 per cent since the early 1990s. But this ammount is not enough for the huge research programme which the CGIAR hason its agenda. The CGIARs statement admits the fact. It says funding for high prority CGIAR research has expanded from the pre-renewal low of $220 to $240 million to an estimated $335 to $340 million. If the requirement for research in 1998 was $340 million, it is clear that the funds needed for research should increase in 2001 and 2003 when there is a more urgent need to depoly technology and research to save the growing number of hungry mouths of the world.

The state of affairs becomes clear from the 1997-98 report of an international panel of experts led by secretary-general of the United Nations Conference of Environment and Development and chairman of the Earth Council, Maurice Strong. The panel report concluded the investment in the CGIAR has been the single most effective use of official development assistance (ODA), bar none. There can be no long-term agenda for eradicating poverty, ending hunger and ensuring sustainable food security withou the CGIAR. Now with the ODA assistance on decline, the CGIAR is finding difficult to adequately fund its research centure.

The CGIAR has no other go. It has to modify its mission statement if it has to get funds from the multinationals. The CGIARs initial mission statement for the third decade (1991-99) clearly stated that it would work in close partnership with the national research systems. It said through international research and related activities, and in partnership with national research systems, to contribute to sustainable improvements in the productivity of agriculture, forestry and fisheries in developing countries in ways that enhance nutrition and well-being, especially of low-income people. This statement was further modified in February 1995 for good to include to contribute, through its research, to promoting sustainable agriculture for food security in the developing countries. But the latest version of the CGIARs mission statement formulated in October 1998 completely ignores the key role of the national agricultural reseach system in different developing countries which are responsible for ushering in Green Revolution and ensuring food security.

The latest version of the mission statement says to contribute to food security and poverty eradication in developing countries through research, partnership, capacity building, and policy support, promoting sustainable agricultural development based on environmentally sound management of natural resources. - There is no specific mention of national agricultural research systems. It is time for CGIAR to look which way it is going. CGIAR which had been instrumental in ushering in Green Revolution in 1970s in many developing countries in cooperation with the national agricultural research systems is now prepared to its old friends, just for the sake of help from multinationals.

Of course, CGIAR needs adequate funds for such a gigantic research work. ODA assistance is on decline. The member countries should therefore, come to the rescue of CGIAR. It is a sad state of affairs that the World Bank and IFAD which are its co-sponsors have failed to come to its rescue. Why is it so Does the World Bank finds difficulty in assisting CGIAR CGIAR has the ability to generate resources through its researches and pay back loans. In fact it has been generating resources through research.

It is time for CGIAR to be upgraded to the status of an UN system so that it can draw adequate help from the Untited Nations funds. This can help to some extent. This course is better than to slip into the laps of the multinationals. It would be able to maintain its noble mission for public good. CGIAR has now become heavily dependant on Syngenta Foundation, Pockfeller Foundation, Novartis Foundation, Bill Gates Foundation and many other corporate sources for funding. But corporate funds donot come without any tags. CGIAR should be careful if it has to maintain its character of an international public research body of repute.