Expanding the Management Challenge
The urgent need for research on international sustainable agriculture and natural resource management, and for integrated approaches to that research, led Congress to direct the Agency for International Development (AID) to establish a new collaborative research support program (CRSP) to help lay the foundation for developing sustainable agricultural systems. This decision parallels recent developments within the international agricultural research center system and other agricultural research institutions (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, 1989, 1990). Forestry, sustainable agriculture, and other areas of natural resource management are gaining greater recognition within these institutions and a more prominent place on their research agendas.
The new CRSP would become the centerpiece of a comprehensive research program on Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (SANREM) at AID that would involve U.S. and other developing country university researchers. It would also offer new opportunities for university researchers to work on these issues with colleagues from existing CRSPs, the international centers, national agricultural research systems, and private voluntary, nongovernmental, and commercial organizations.
HISTORY AND EVOLUTION OF THE COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH SUPPORT PROGRAMS
During the late 1960s and early 1970s, serious concern arose regarding population growth and the demands that growth would place on the food production capacity of all developing countries. Discussions about “impending food crises” gained media attention. Meanwhile, a grass-roots
effort in the U.S. land-grant universities grew, centering on the question of how they could most effectively assist developing countries in resolving food availability problems. The universities, with their rich experience in agricultural research, had proved their ability to improve the productivity, distribution, and utilization of land and water resources and were anxious to share their expertise.
Building on this groundswell of interest within the university community, AID identified a new, long-term mechanism for involving the landgrant universities in international agricultural research. In 1975, Congress passed the International Development and Food Assistance Act, Title XII of which authorized the president to “provide assistance on such terms and conditions as he shall determine to provide program support for long-term collaborative university research on food production and distribution, storage, marketing and consumption.” The act also provided that “programs under this title shall be carried out so as to take into account the value to United States agriculture of such programs, integrating to the extent practical the programs and financing authorized under this title with those supported by other Federal or State resources so as to maximize the contributions to the development of agriculture in the United States and in agriculturally developing nations.” This was the legislative foundation of the eventual CRSP structure (Yohe et al., 1990).
Between 1977 and 1982, the Joint Research Committee of the Board for International Food and Agriculture Development, which advises AID on university involvement in cooperative research, helped AID design and implement the eight existing CRSPs. The Joint Research Committee, which comprises AID and Title XII university representatives, was made responsible for oversight of Title XII research programs. The effort was unprecedented. Each time it approved a grant for another CRSP, the committee operated on the cutting edge of new experience. It allowed flexibility in the planning of each program, recognizing that initiatives addressing diverse concerns could not effectively be designed according to a standard pattern.
The CRSPs have since evolved into research enterprises involving U.S. universities, AID and its regional bureaus and overseas missions, other U.S. federal agencies, national agricultural research systems in developing countries, international agricultural research centers, private agencies and industries, and developing country institutions (Yohe et al., 1990). The eight CRSPs are conducting research on: (1) fisheries stock assessment, (2) human nutrition, (3) beans and cowpeas, (4) peanuts, (5) pond dynamics and aquaculture, (6) small ruminants, (7) sorghum and millet, and (8) tropical soil management. These programs involve more than 700 experienced international scientists from 32 U.S. universities and 80 international research institutions.
The design of the CRSPs reflected the understanding that international
collaboration was key to successful agricultural research. The structure and organization of the CRSP model exemplify this internationalization of agricultural research. The host country and U.S. researchers share in the identification of research needs, the design of experiments, and the analysis of results. Collaborative research is jointly planned, implemented, and evaluated. The concept of networking is used to involve people and organizations not formally tied to a CRSP. The CRSPs use these networks to provide training through degree and nondegree programs and to establish long-term researcher-to-researcher links. Shared resources, peer review, and institutional support are critical to the success of their efforts.
The CRSP scientists carry out agricultural research and training activities that focus on identified constraints to food production, storage, marketing, and consumption. Their research and training address agricultural policy and planning, natural resource management, plant and animal improvement (including basic genetics, applied genetics, and biotechnology), plant and animal physiology and improved production practices, plant and animal protection, socioeconomic and cultural factors influencing production and consumption patterns, cultural constraints to technology adoption and development, improved food processing and household food security, and human nutrition. These programs place particular emphasis on the needs of small-scale producers and the rural and urban poor.
The CRSP concept has evolved into the effective mechanism its designers intended it to be and is producing significant benefits for both U.S. and developing country agriculture. The CRSPs have established long-term professional relationships that promote human resource development. In a relatively short time, these research programs have transcended political change, economic upheaval, environmental disasters, and institutional weaknesses to become one of the primary vehicles for U.S. involvement in international agricultural research.
CRSP INVOLVEMENT IN SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
Sustainable agriculture is an evolving concept, and the furthering of the concept itself is a critical part of the overall mission of the proposed SANREM program. Since their inception, however, the CRSPs have implicitly addressed aspects of sustainability. Areas of research in which they contribute directly to sustainable agriculture include soil and water management, cropping systems, sustainable small ruminant production systems, aquatic production systems, coastal marine production and conservation, biodiversity protection and germplasm conservation, crop utilization systems, integrated pest management, and household food security. The experience of the CRSPs in these areas will undoubtedly continue to yield important fundamental lessons and knowledge.
Achieving sustainability in the developing world will always depend on the availability of a strong scientific and technical human resource base from which sustainability issues can be addressed. This is one of the chief contributions of the CRSP experience. The CRSP model, as noted, has promoted the long-term training and collaborative research relationships that help to build such a human resource base, to improve developing country research institutions, and to cultivate the integrated approach so necessary to work on sustainability issues. The components of this institutional development include human resource training and updating, operational research support, cohesive and continuous commitment, long-term networking with peer scientists, multi-institution research integration, interdisciplinary research integration, and inter-CRSP research integration and collaboration.
Sustainability and agroecological considerations are so important and central to attaining development goals that they should be fundamental to planning and carrying out all the agricultural and natural resource programs that AID supports. The new CRSP, then, should not be viewed as the only AID sustainable agriculture activity; all other AID-supported activities, including the existing CRSPs, address various aspects of sustainability, and they must continue to do so. The new CRSP should complement these existing efforts and add a critical dimension of integration as the core activity of a comprehensive SANREM program.