The challenge in the articulation of agricultural research policy is to align and centre agricultural research at the heart of national development strategies. This is especially important, as the developing countries are preoccupied with conservation of natural resources, poverty alleviation, food security and biosafety. More recently, this has become increasingly taxing as international obligations and agreements arising from the United Nations Convention on Environment and Development (UNCED) and the ensuing conventions become manifest.
In the same context, issues such as the impact of foreign assistance on the institutional development of NARS and the integration of food security issues into NARS agendas have become an integral part of the debate on Agricultural research policy and planning across the NARS.
Planning for agricultural research, carried out as part of, and fully integrated with, national policy and development, results into a Master-Plan for agricultural research. The plan is drawn with full participation of all stakeholders of technology continuum in the country. The Plan sets out the steps needed in articulating a coherent national agricultural research agenda; identifying specific prioritized research objectives to support the advancement of agriculture and articulating the strategies, resources and time frames for their achievement.
This needs-driven research plan seeks to ensure the allocation of sufficient resources to maintain strong research capacity and outputs, with the underlying objective of providing the appropriate information and technologies necessary to support sustainable development and national food security.
In this respect, FAO assists NARS in the policy analysis and strategic planning by providing analytical tools, on-job training and technical guidance. The exercise is carried out by agricultural research, extension, policy makers personnel and technology end-users in the country in a coordinated and participatory manner.
In support of the research policy analysis and planning, FAO advises on and facilitates the ongoing acquisition of relevant research management skills through the provision of training workshops, seminars, conferences and in-service training, including training material. To date, FAO has directly assisted a number of developing countries in Africa and Asia (e.g., Mali, Ghana and Vietnam) in the strengthening of their research organization within the framework of the Master Planning of their NARS.