Fundamentally, there appear to be four strategic options available for the allocation of resources for root and tuber crops research in the CGIAR system:
· Status quo
Option One: Status quo - There is significant justification for maintaining the status quo of the current resource allocations in the CGIAR matrix for root and tuber crops research, as originally recommended by TAC. Adjusting any formula funding system through periodic evaluations may only provide marginal corrections, of little significance in terms of amounts. But, the anticipation of unspecified change may be of great consequence for the stability and integrity of a research system. Periodic calls in the U.S. for a recalculation of the Hatch Act formula funds for research inevitably leads to a decision by everyone affected to leave it alone, as the adjustments themselves, and the fear of future changes, would cause more difficulties than they would solve.
Option Two: Down-sizing - There is considerable apprehension within sectors of the IARCS' network that the current round of priority setting by TAC may lead to a decision to significantly adjust the "envelopes" to match a new set of research priorities, given projected level budgets or shortfalls in resources. This concern goes beyond any singular inter-Centre study, to a need for a balancing of considerations system wide.
Concern has been expressed for the research future of some of the commodities now mandated within the CGIAR. Care must be exercised in the process of decision-making to consider the alternative research suppliers for "orphaned" commodities that have heretofore been covered by the IARCs. This is also true for CGIAR mandated areas of science and technology, if down-sizing is implemented System-wide. Providing commentary on setting the priorities for root and tuber crops vs. grain crops vs. eco-regions, and similar considerations, exceeds the remit of this study to a considerable degree, and will not be attempted herein.
Option Three: Consolidation - Consolidation of root and tuber crops research within the CGIAR system could be accomplished in several ways:
· New partnerships
· Seeking alternative suppliers
Reorganization of root and tuber crops research within the System could be attempted through a reassignment of priorities (the mandate question), or through the elimination of some types of activities, based on some set of criteria. Some of these mandate alternatives were rejected by the standing panel, as the current IARCS' mandates for root and tuber crops research seem workable, and the commodities that have been selected for CGIAR research are deemed appropriate (see earlier discussion).
Another approach for reorganization could be to provide a new focus on similarity-based topic-problems worthy of greater inter-Centre research collaboration. In the standing panel's judgement there are significant opportunities for inter-Centre research collaborations. Moving in the direction of inter-Centre research collaborations should lead to a consolidation of research efforts, hopefully with greater efficiencies. There is, however, a need for an implementation and oversight mechanism (see recommendations).
New Partnerships and expanded partnerships could be formed in areas of research with traditional (e.g., universities) and non-traditional (e.g., private companies) institutions. Done more as a strategic approach, partnerships could offer new options for organizing global efforts in root and tuber research. Alliances with research strong NARS (as noted earlier) would be one such option. Other options include collaborations with AROs, building on already successful models of several Centres, and working in partnership with the private sector, as appropriate to the mission of the CGIAR System.
Seeking alternative suppliers is the third alternative that could be used for research consolidation. As indicated in the TAC Secretariat's aide memoirse, there is substantial root and tuber crops research being conducted in industrialized countries. How much of this is appropriate to the research agenda of the CGIAR system was not resolved by the Secretariat's analysis. Surprisingly, these activities are neither fully inventoried, nor are they constantly monitored for developments (see TAC Secretariat's aide memoire). There is at present a shortfall of information needed to evaluate the opportunities in this perspective.
Regarding the extent of industrialized-country root and tuber crops research that is appropriate to the CGIAR system, a best guess would indicate that this varies by commodity, as would the amount of research investments. For instance, it is very unlikely that industrialized countries would invest much in research for cassava or yams. And, the appropriateness of much of the industrialized countries' research to tropical root and tuber crops production is of course questionable. This then raises some questions on seeking alternative suppliers. Could this be done by the responsible IARCs through strategies designed to create research interests; or by strengthen institutional capacity through research initiation grants, strategic research partnerships, or other inducements?
These strategic options clearly extend beyond the current priority setting process of TAC. Nevertheless, they should be allowed to evolve into a continuous operation that scans the horizon for research collaboration opportunities that provide optimum solutions to a stream of continuously emerging needs.
Option Four: Expansion - A fourth strategic option for the CGIAR system would be an expansion of resources provided for root and tuber crops research. Justification for this option is found in the argument that post-harvest technology research will be critically important for a research breakthrough leading to an expanded utilization of these commodities. In the judgement of many, there is at present an under-investment in the CGIAR system in post-harvest technology research for the root and tuber crops. Reallocation of CGIAR resources from existing root and tuber crops research programs sufficient to meet this technology gap would critically diminish other needed research investments. A decision not to employ other strategies (e.g. strategic partnerships with the private sector, enhanced inter-Centre collaboration) may require additional research resources.