ICRISAT investments in agricultural research yield high payoffs for the dryland poor
A growing pipeline of science-based agricultural innovations and impacts by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) is impacting the lives of the dryland poor on a large scale, showing high returns on investment in agricultural research for development (AR4D)
In a 2014 impact assessment study of ICRISAT’s highly successful breakthrough innovations – the so-called ‘Jewels of ICRISAT’ – showed a return on investment of $43 for every dollar invested, with an internal rate of return of 41%.
By including innovations developed spanning four decades, the average return on investment is even higher at $70 per dollar invested, with an IRR of 35%.
“These outstanding economic rates of return to investment in AR4D illustrate ICRISAT’s core science and development impacts,” said Dr William D. Dar, Director General of ICRISAT. The figures, while not representing the institute’s total AR4D investment, are based on ten of its most successful initiatives.
“These ‘Jewels’ represent ICRISAT’s AR4D work in the drylands of Asia and sub-Saharan Africa, in collaboration with our development partners and stakeholders. As ‘international public goods,’ these science-based innovations are made freely available to national partners to help them meet development goals of overcoming poverty and attaining food and nutrition insecurity,” added Dr Dar.
“The (impact assessment) report offers a very well executed analysis of the economic return on investment from 10 crop research programs undertaken by ICRISAT in recent years, with some projections of future benefits in ex-ante analyses of three other programs,” noted Professor William A. Masters of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, and Department of Economics, Tufts University, USA.
“In my view, the report is clear and complete as it stands. ICRISAT is justifiably proud of these ‘Jewels,’ and is to be commended for continuing to document their impacts,” added Prof Masters.
The high returns on investment reported in the study indicate that even under a pessimistic scenario, ICRISAT’s best initiatives in the ‘Jewels’ have been significantly effective in raising farm productivity for smallholder farmers in fragile environments where the institute and its partners work.
The report assessed some of ICRISAT’s best AR4D successes making unparalleled impacts in the drylands, namely: Community-based watershed management in Lucheba, China; Fertilizer microdosing practices in Zimbabwe and Niger; Creation and management of the Hybrid Parents Research Consortium (HPRC) on pearl millet and sorghum in India; and the Breeding and release of many varieties of crops important to the drylands, specifically drought tolerant groundnuts in India (Anantapur district), Malawi, and Nigeria, extra-early pearl millet hybrid in northwestern India, pigeonpea in northern Tanzania, and fusarium wilt-resistant pigeonpea in India.
Returns on investment of the following three additional ‘Jewels of ICRISAT’ (in which past performance was not yet sufficient for analysis) have also been estimated: Guinea-race sorghum hybrids in Mali; Sweet sorghum in India; and Pigeonpea genome.
ICRISAT’s publicly available research, broad network of partnerships, long experience in AR4D, and scientific excellence have made it well positioned to generate science-based solutions like the ‘Jewels of ICRISAT’ – intended for the poor, and contributing to global efforts to reduce poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation, particularly in the world’s dryland tropics.
The report Economic Impact Evaluation of the ICRISAT Jewels is available for download here.