The Independent Science and Partnership Council’s (ISPC) Science Forum 2016 from 12 – 14 April in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will focus on the contribution of agriculture to reducing poverty under the topic: “Agricultural research for rural prosperity: rethinking the pathways”.

Co-hosted by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the forum will rethink the pathways for agricultural research to support inclusive development of rural economies in an era of climate change, collecting evidence and building on lessons learned to suggest an updated list of priority research areas and approaches.

A breakout session during the forum will concentrate on the linkages between research on the staple crops of roots, tubers, bananas, maize, rice and wheat, and poverty outcomes.

A young woman sells produce including root and tuber crops at a roadside market in Kampala, Uganda. Photo S.Quinn/RTB

A collaborative endeavor jointly organized by the CGIAR Research Programs on Roots, Tubers and Bananas (RTB), Wheat, Maize, and Rice (GRISP), the session will begin with a presentation by Jeff Alwang of Virgina Tech, jointly delivered with Elisabetta Gotor (Bioversity International), Guy Hareau (International Potato Center), Jordan Chamberlin (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center) and Graham Thiele, Program Director, RTB. Following the presentation, the session will review theories of change and build on evidence that demonstrates the impact that international agricultural research working on these staple crops has had on reducing poverty.

“Innovations in root, tuber and banana crops have tremendous impact on poverty reduction by increasing farmers’ income through raised productivity, providing and strengthening linkages to markets, adding value and enhancing rural employment with better incomes through processing – which is often predominantly a woman’s activity,” explains Graham Thiele.

Growth in agricultural productivity, generating employment, and increasing farmers’ incomes are major pathways that link research to poverty reductions.

“Increasing productivity can also lower the cost of these nutritious staple foods for poor consumers and is essential for more viable value chains which generate employment especially for youth and women,” Graham adds.

A woman and man harvesting banana in Uganda. Photo S.Quinn/RTB

To date, impact analysis has largely focused on the ‘economic surplus approach’ to estimate standard rates of return to the research. However, donors want to be better informed about impact more closely related to development goals of food security, poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. Assessing the impact of agricultural research is also critical for reasons of accountability, attribution, strategic planning and allocation of resources.

Despite the increasing interest and several ex ante assessments, including poverty dimensions, examples of ex post poverty assessments are scarce in the literature.

After reviewing the impact pathways for staple crop research and their supporting evidence, the session will draw on small group discussion among attending experts and develop a short paper synthesizing the key findings and conclusions of the session.

RTB’s ‘Foresight and Impact’ cluster of activity, led by Elisabetta Gotor, aims to enhance the program’s impact by guiding current and future investments of donors, policymakers, researchers and other practitioners on major opportunities and threats for RTB innovations at crop and systems levels.

Elisabetta Gotor comments that “the cluster’s research in this area will improve the targeting and tailoring of RTB innovations for next and end users, by providing insights on existing and future drivers of technology adoption.”

Read and download RTB’s current impact assessment reports for root, tuber and banana crops on our Impact Assessments page.