Reshaping Pakistan’s Agricultural Innovation Systems and Research: Learning from the Experience of EMBRAPA Brazil
The Government of Pakistan initiated a reform process for the country’s agriculture research system. To support the government reform process, a South-South knowledge exchange program was carried out between the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) and Pakistan’s Ministry of National Food Security and Research and the Brazil Enterprise for Agricultural Research (Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuaria - EMBRAPA), an example of successful adoption of new agricultural technologies with a focus on demand-oriented research.
Agriculture remains a critical part of Pakistan’s economy contributing over 21 percent to the GDP with an estimated 60 percent of the population’s livelihoods depending directly or indirectly on agriculture and associated subsectors. The Government of Pakistan’s Agriculture Vision 2030 aims to double production while becoming more sustainable. However, the national agriculture research system is obsolete, and national production yields fall short of potential. The key challenges in the agricultural sector include lack of agro-processing of high-value crops, poor and wasteful post-harvest management practices, and lack of high-efficiency irrigation practices. An internal review and third-party evaluation in 2011 and 2012 indicated an urgent need for reform within the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) in order to better support farmers, especially smallholder and female farmers, with appropriate, cutting-edge research technologies. As well, PARC needed greater capacity to govern a competitive funding scheme that can link research with improved productivity and extension services.
Recommendations from PARC’s evaluation and review called for improving its grant funding program, designing a demand-driven research system, and implementing policies to increase sustainable crop yields and livestock production. To address these issues, the Government of Pakistan was interested in an exchange to learn about the Brazil Enterprise for Agricultural Research (EMBRAPA), which had success developing capacity and adopting new agricultural technologies with a focus on demand-oriented research. Having had a well-established collaboration with EMBRAPA, the World Bank facilitated the exchange.
The exchange program included visits by the Pakistan delegation to EMBRAPA (August 2014), a reciprocal visit of EMBRAPA experts to PARC, and virtual exchange and follow-up discussions. The Pakistani delegation visited EMBRAPA’s National Center for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (CENARGEN), the National Center for Horticulture and Vegetables, the organic farmer and grower association, and the Agricultural Research Center for Semiarid Tropics (CPATSA) in Petrolina. The visits included presentations on national policy, strategy, and programs for agricultural research in both countries as well as presentations on the demand management and private sector involvement in agricultural research.
From the detailed presentations and discussions with the EMBRAPA staff and interactions among researchers, extension services providers, and smallholder and female farmers, the Pakistan delegation learned many useful details about the Brazilian agriculture system and EMBRAPA’s role as the main agricultural research organization contributing to the country’s economic growth. Following discussions on operations of EMBRAPA and PARC, the countries came to an agreement on mutual areas for collaboration and exchange. The key areas for knowledge exchange included EMBRAPA’s role in Brazilian agriculture development and its management system and mechanism of technology transfer, the identification of areas of common interest in agriculture that could lead to the design of joint initiatives, and the design of key elements of technical assistance for reforming PARC.
The success of the knowledge exchange was in part due to the fact that EMBRAPA bears many similarities with PARC in terms of its functions.
- After visiting the Agricultural Research Center for Semiarid Tropics, the Pakistani delegation observed that technologies on water harvesting, desalination, and practices being followed for arid agriculture could be replicated in Pakistan.
- The delegation highlighted areas where direct, short-term cooperation could be initiated, including exchange of genetic materials and sharing Pakistan’s experience in genetic research disease control in chickpea crop.
- Technical assistance of EMBRAPA on livestock conservation and establishment of a technology transfer unit and bio-technological tools are other potential areas where both the countries can work together.
- The exchange resulted in a formal request from the Government of Pakistan to the World Bank for IDA financing of a more elaborate technical assistance and investment financing operation. The Government request included support for supply chain management, technology transfer modeled after EMBRAPA experience, and development of the foundations for regulatory and food safety infrastructure in Pakistan.
- EMBRAPA has consistently restructured itself to adapt to changing needs of the agriculture sector for Brazil. With PARC still going through internal reorganization, now is an opportune time to learn and adapt the Brazilian model to Pakistan’s strategic thinking and decision-making.
- High-level, government-to-government exchange, as happened in this case, requires extended preparation time and adherence to diplomatic protocols for communication between the interested parties.
- Commitment at the highest level needs to be ensured at the outset. Without such commitment, scheduled activities for this exchange would have suffered from delays due to turnover of key people.
- Cooperative agreements should be designed for a specified timeline, for instance between 1 to 2 years, to have fruitful interactions and monitor the impact of cooperation.
- It is important to ensure resource availability for a full-cycle exchange. The limited funds from South-South Exchange Facility were used for the first interaction and formal visit of delegates from Pakistan to Brazil. To sustain the knowledge exchange, a reciprocal visit from EMBRAPA to Pakistan was planned but could not be carried out due to non-availability of funds. The follow-up operation under preparation would support additional exchanges between PARC and EMBRAPA.
The World Bank brokered the exchange with a grant of US$47,304, financed by the South-South Knowledge Exchange Program. The World Bank country offices in Islamabad and Brasilia made program and logistical arrangements. The World Bank Agriculture team in Brasilia, headed by Maria de Fatima Amazonas, Senior Rural Development Specialist, coordinated the visit on behalf of World Bank Brazil country office. The World Bank South Asia Agriculture team from Washington, D.C., also participated in the exchange visit.
- Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC)
- Brazil Enterprise for Agricultural Research (EMBRAPA)
- Economic Affairs Division and Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Government of Pakistan
EMBRAPA and PARC identified multiple goals for future cooperation. PARC is requesting technical and financial assistance of the World Bank Group to move closer to completing these immediate and short-term goals. The two organizations identified an opportunity for the exchange of germplasm and its maintenance and management for crop improvement. A memorandum of understanding between PARC and EMBRAPA will initiate cooperation on livestock improvement. And there could be further opportunities for collaboration in biotechnology, expert training by EMBRAPA of PARC scientists, establishment of technology transfer institute within PARC based on EMBRAPA’s model, the transfer of mechanization technologies for field and horticultural crops, and the establishment and management of competitive grants for funding by PARC.
The Secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of National Food Security and Research played a critical role in making sure the scope and objectives of the exchange were well understood at a high level and ensuring political commitment to the successful launch of the competitive funding scheme program. The Secretary is the operational head of the Ministry at Federal level.
The hospitality and presentations for the exchange were arranged by EMBRAPA. The field visit program was organized in consultation with the Technical Cooperation Coordinator (CCT), Dr. André Nepomuceno Dusi, of the Secretariat for International Affairs (SRI) at EMBRAPA.
The Pakistan delegation:
- Mr. Seerat Asghar, Secretary, Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR)
- Dr. Mohammad Azeem, Director General, National Agriculture Research Center (NARC)
- Dr. Ahmad Buksh Mahar, Director Planning, Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC)
- Ms. Yasmeen Masood, Additional Secretary, Economic Affairs Division, Ministry of Finance
The Brazil (EMBRAPA) participants:
- André Nepomuceno Dusi, Secretariat of International Affairs (SRI)
- Hercules Antonio do Prado, Department of Management and Institutional Development (SGI) (INTEGRO)
- Flavio Aviala, Department of Management and Institutional Development (SGI) (INTEGRO)
- Alba Chiesse, Research and Development Department (DPD)
- Otávio Valentin Balsadi, Technology Transfer Department (DTT)
- Marvo Carneiro, Technology Transfer Department (DTT)
- Ronaldo Pereira de Andrade, Secretariat of Business (SNE)
- Rose Monnerat, National Center for Genetic Resources and Biotechnology (CENARGEN)
- Jadir Borges Pinheiro, National Center for Horticultural Research (CNPH)
- Maria Auxiliadora, Agricultural Research Center for Semi-Arid Tropics (CPATSA)
- Elísio Contini, Secretariat of Intelligence and Macro Strategy (SIN) (AGROPENSA)
The MNFSR Secretary, Mr. Seerat Asghar, pointed out that there are several similarities between Brazil and Pakistan, namely the large numbers of smallholders, farm structures, climatic variations, and desired objectives from agricultural research. However, while Brazil has achieved tremendous results on taking research to the farmers and translating it into actual practice and technologies, Pakistan is still faced with multiple challenges. The primary challenge relates to institutional structures and shifting focus of agriculture research to farmers’ demands rather than only academic purposes. The second tier of challenges relate to transferring research into actual technology, which directly impacts the quality and quantity of yields per hectare. The Secretary specifically mentioned the success story of tomato crops where a large gap exists between production by the two countries mainly due to varieties and production practices; thus Pakistan could improve its productivity of tomato and other commodities based on the similar model adopted by EMBRAPA. Asghar also stated that collaboration is possible in public-private partnership; exchange of germplasm; Pakistan-developed inoculum on soya beans; and Brazil’s experience on water harvesting, conservation agriculture, and livelihood for marginal areas.
The World Bank Operations Advisor in Brazil, Mr. Boris Enrique Utria, encouraged PARC to implement the identified actions in follow-up to the exchange visit to demonstrate the usefulness of the program. He also emphasized areas directly constraining Pakistan’s agriculture productivity and diversification have been key targets for the Brazilian model, and the integrated approach adopted by Brazil has contributed to its agriculture growth.