Science and Poverty: An Interdisciplinary Assessment of the Impact of Agricultural Research

Agricultural research has greatly increased the yields of important staple food crops, and for many people this has meant more food availability and trade opportunities. Yet many people in rural areas in developing countries still live in abject poverty. Therefore, policymakers, donors, and researchers are refocusing their priorities away from simply producing more food to making sure that agricultural research benefits the poor in particular. How can we ensure that new agricultural technologies are appropriate for the different groups of people who most need assistance? Furthermore, how can we assess whether these new technologies actually reduce poverty? This report provides valuable answers by synthesizing lessons learned from seven case studies from around the developing world. The studies show that measures of the direct impacts of new technologies on incomes and yields do not tell the whole story. Both economic and noneconomic factors (such as sources of vulnerability, gender roles, and the source of the disseminated technology) play an extremely important role in determining whether the poor adopt or benefit from a technology. In addition, social, cultural, and economic factors all influence whether the poor receive direct and indirect benefits from new technologies. Therefore, it is crucial that impact assessments include a mix of disciplines and methods, and that researchers do not only focus on poverty-reducing impacts that are easy to measure. For the future, scientists and other decision makers designing new research programs need to understand all the social factors that will affect the uptake and impacts of technologies. They also need to understand poor people’s strategies for managing risk and the importance and role of agriculture in their livelihood strategies. The full results of this study (including results of the seven case studies cited), Impacts of Agricultural Research on Poverty: Results of an IFPRI-Led Project of the CGIAR Science Council’s Standing Panel on Impact Assessment, edited by Michelle Adato and Ruth Meinzen-Dick, is available from IFPRI.

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Food Policy Report

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2020-10-28

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