Assessing impact of improved varieties in Africa: A new inter-center effort
Assessing impact has been a crucial challenge for research institutions for many years now. However, proving to the world that their investments are meaningful is not an easy task. There are many debates around the fact that assessment practices do not show the qualitative side of impact. Concerned by these kinds of limitations the CGIAR is always trying to develop new tools and novel methods to assess impact in more comprehensive ways. One exciting example is a new initiative by several centers with focus on genetic improved varieties that have been generated in Africa during the last 20 years.
These types of initiatives are not new. The work of Robert Evenson and Douglas Gollin (2003) for example aimed at gathering information at a global scale on all varietal releases of the different international research centers and assessing their impact worldwide since the green revolution. This effort is presented in a compiling book and shows the importance of crop variety improvement to sustain and improve yields, reduce production costs and consumer prices, and fight against poverty and food insecurity at household and consumption level. Several key issues rise from this study like the fact that producers without adopting these varieties suffer adverse effects and most of the non adopters are primarily resource poor producers and are located in marginal environments. Therefore the book has been an important tool for decision makers and researchers to adapt their strategies in order to satisfy the wants of the most needed.
Twenty years have passed and it seemed relevant to repeat Evenson’s and Gollin’s effort. Therefore and during the next three years the CGIAR (Africa Rice, Bioversity CIAT, CIMMYT, CIP, ICARDA, IFPRI, IITA and ICRISAT among others) will compile crop improvement information in Africa with the aim to assist decision makers and donors. CIAT is playing a leading role in assessing the impact of improved bean varieties in Sub-Saharan Africa where thousands of farmers have been benefitting and millions of dollars are speculated to be generated in consequence of improved varieties adoption.
In Africa, CIAT has been developing innovative methods to keep up with the strong demand of information. With regards to bean, the PABRA network has been set up to strengthen the links between national bean research centers, producers and their organizations. PABRA has been monitoring the development of bean production and varietal release among 18 countries for several years now.
This new effort should provide quality information and ensure a clear definition of impact, demonstrate the importance of research, and build up a routine system for monitoring varietal adoption in Africa. The ultimate goal is to strength producers, researchers and decision makers aiming to fight poverty, reduce malnutrition and ensure food security.