Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), together with its partner Asia-Pacific Islands Rural Advisory Services Network (APIRAS), recently conducted a Joint Rapid Appraisal (JRA) on Strengthening Agricultural Innovation Systems in Asia’. The work was guided by the Tropical Agriculture Platform hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which is implementing a project on ‘Developing capacities in agricultural innovation systems: scaling up the TAP Framework’ funded by the European Union as a component of the European Union initiative on “Development Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture” (DeSIRA).

FAO used the findings of the regional reports, including Asia, to develop a recently-launched global report “Joint rapid appraisal on strengthening agricultural innovation systems in Africa, Asia, and Latin America”.

In the context of the launch, FAO organized an international webinar on 12th August 2021 to present the JRA findings of the regional landscape for AIS in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Discussing precursors for supporting innovation in agriculture, the talk listed challenges and opportunities for scaling innovation through improved functional capacities (soft skills). The discussions also explore the ways in which Regional Agricultural Research and Extension Organizations (RREO) can support the development of these capacities using TAP approaches and tools.

APAARI highlighted three of the six major challenges identified in the study, and placed them in the context of South and Southeast Asia.

Inadequate funding is one of the primary causes of under-performance of national agricultural research and innovation systems. Asia-Pacific has been the region allocating the largest percentage of government spending to agriculture (above 3 per cent in 2017). The study points to a significant underfunding of agricultural innovation systems, as the proportion of funding allocated to research and extension activities is extremely low.

Acknowledging inertia in public agencies, the study pointed out that public institutions have been quite slow in responding to policy changes. National governments are increasingly supporting multi-actor approaches, but public institutions with their rigid mandates and their continuous linear way of thinking about innovation are slow in responding to the change. As a result, some countries, such as Indonesia, face lack of incentives for commercial application of research and innovation at scale, lack of match-making capability between research institutions and industry, and relatively few examples, models or mechanisms for effective public-private collaboration.

The third key challenge is related to gender, youth and diversity. Re-orienting institutional training and teaching can help connect gender and youth to AIS while encouraging diversity. Some of the common challenges related to higher education often demotivates younger generation from participating e.g., outdated agricultural curricula, limited teacher training on experiential learning, and education infrastructure, which have resulted in a significant gap between the skills with which students graduate and the skills that are being demanded by employers. Opportunities to connect with the private sector for skill training and job placement are there, but have not been fully optimized. The study observed that women lack capacities to adapt to emerging issues, in particular climate-smart strategies, in various agricultural areas. Participatory capacity-building efforts, such as social learning to deal with climate risks, are quite limited to help train women in developing business skills, accounting, and financial administration as well as organized leadership to fully contribute to agricultural development.

The report was collaboratively developed with APAARI, FAO, APIRAS, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), Latin American Network for Rural Extension Services (RELASER), and FORAGRO.

Find the Report here!