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Priority setting for public sector agricultural research in Mozambique
Institute of Agricultural Research of Mozambique
August 2006
T Walker, R Pitoro, A Tomo, I Sitoe, C Salência, R Mahanzule, C Donovan and F Mazuze

Acknowledgements: FANRPAN acknowledges the DEC website as the source of this report:

Executive summary

Fourteen years after the return of peace in 1992, the Mozambique economy can no longer rely on borrowed technologies to fuel agricultural development in the smallholder sector that accounts for the bulk of the value of agricultural production. National agricultural research needs to step up and generate adaptive research solutions to more localized, but still economically relevant, production problems. Priority setting for Mozambique’s recently consolidated and increasingly decentralized public-sector agricultural research institute (IIAM) is timely, not only because of these organizational changes, but also because of the increasing opportunity cost of under-performing agricultural research. In this priority-setting exercise, we assess research resource allocation across commodities and agroecologies from the perspectives of economic importance and poverty reduction. We use the rich national rural household survey data to inform priority setting.

The productivity of IIAM in the next 15 to 20 years is tied to the success of the cassava and maize programs. These two staple food crops represent about 50% of the value of production and 55% of the potential to alleviate income poverty in the smallholder sector. A 20% increase in productivity of either maize or cassava translates into a reduction in the severity of income poverty by as much as 19%, and leads to a poverty reduction that exceeds 5% in 34 of the 80 survey districts. The mean national reduction is 6% to 7% for each of these two staples. The estimated size of poverty reduction for maize and cassava is four to five times greater than groundnuts, the third most important commodity ranked for poverty reduction. Given their importance, the cassava and maize programs each warrant a minimum investment of seven to ten scientists.

The amount of research attention to give to the other 30 commodities with value of production exceeding $0.5 million per year is a more difficult decision. A simple cost-benefit analysis of a stylized example of technological change suggests that commodities with a value of production less than $3 million are risky candidates for research because of their small production base. This calculation reduces the list for research attention to about 20 commodities that are the focus of the rest of the analysis.

Information on prospects for borrowing technologies from countries in the region and on market demand is presented to contribute to decision-making on research resource allocation. Cassava, sweetpotato, groundnut, rice, sorghum, cashew, coconut, and cowpea are substantially more important in Mozambique than in the rest of southern Africa. Most of these commodities are produced in the coastal lowlands, which defines to a large extent Mozambique’s uniqueness. Comparisons of price ratios over time suggest that demand for fruit, sorghum, pearl millet, cassava, sweetpotato, and coconut is weak, and that demand for vegetables and animal products is strong.

Targeting agricultural research to marginal regions of low production potential to tackle chronic poverty is one temptation that the management of agricultural research in Mozambique does not have to face. In analyzing the national rural survey data over two years, we documented geographic traps of chronic poverty: districts in the lowest mean income quintile in one year are also in the lowest mean household income quintile in the next year. But many of these same districts are characterized by reasonable agricultural production potential in terms of soils, rainfall, and higher population densities. Hence, the trade-off between localized chronic poverty and production potential is not steep. In contrast, geographic relief traps, areas that have a higher incidence of food insecurity than other regions largely because of a greater likelihood of drought, can be a source of distraction for agricultural research. Their low production potential does not necessarily translate into lower household income relative to the rest of the country.

The bulk of this research report addresses the question of where commodity research should be cited across IIAM’s ten agro-ecologies and four zonal research centers. As IIAM decentralizes its scientific human resources to its four zonal center locations, it should not lose sight of the primacy of the Northeast Zonal Research Center in both economic importance and the potential for poverty reduction. Our analysis suggests that the Northeast Zonal Research Center contributes about 40% to value of commodity production and to absolute poverty alleviation. The temptation is that too many resources are allocated to the South Zonal Research Center because the research infrastructure in the south is wider and deeper than in the center and north of the country. If the three other zonal research centers are to fulfill their promise, a few key facilities need to be rehabilitated and strengthened in the center and north. The scarcity of research infrastructure is most constraining in the coastal agroecologies, especially for rice.

We assembled a human-resources database that shows about 55 of IIAM’s 120 scientists can be attributed to crop and livestock commodity research. The present research resource allocation at IIAM broadly reflects economic importance and poverty-reduction potential as the actual allocation of 55 scientists does not depart that much from our illustrative best-bet allocation based on the analysis of the national survey data. More emphasis could be given to the staple food crops maize and cassava and to potato, sesame, and goats. IIAM seems to be over-invested in rice and most of the other livestock species. Any over-investment in livestock is not that much of a problem because the livestock populations are still recovering in a country decimated by the civil war.

Because it was based on the national survey data with a rigorous sample design, this prioritysetting exercise was less subjective than most. But it also suffers from several of the same limitations as the other conventional exercises. A review of priorities within commodities with organized stakeholder involvement at the zonal research centers is most likely the next priority for priority setting at IIAM. Moving to a project-based research and accounting system would facilitate priority setting.

This priority-setting exercise was the basis for a workshop attended by IIAM research administrators and scientists. That event generated a "consensus" allocation of scientists by zonal research center that is described in Table A1. Subsequent presentations were made to scientists at the Central and Northeast Zonal Research Centers. The results of this research report also assisted in laying the building blocks of an investment plan for IIAM that was recently submitted to the Government of Mozambique.

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