No-brainer to grow the 10:1 returns on investment in agricultural research for development

December 1, 2022

Two former Ministers for Agriculture, The Hon John Anderson and The Hon Joel Fitzgibbon have affirmed the benefits of aid-funded international agricultural research for development – significant benefits for Australia and for developing countries. As Crawford Fund board members, they are voicing the Fund’s call for an increase in the proportion of the aid budget invested in agricultural research, based on two new Crawford Fund reports being launched today (1 Dec) at the National Press Club.

“It’s a no-brainer that more of Australia’s development assistance budget should be invested in international agricultural research. The Crawford Fund’s new reports, backed by international analyses, show a ballpark benefit-cost ratio of 10:1 on investment, and many less quantifiable social, environmental, and diplomatic benefits in-country and to Australia. With only 2.5% of the aid budget invested in international agricultural research for development, it is in Australia’s interests to increase the proportion invested to maximise impact and grow those benefits for all,” said John Anderson, who chairs the Fund’s board.

This is the key message to be presented by Crawford Fund board members The Hons John Anderson and Joel Fitzgibbon, CEO Dr. Colin Chartres, and NextGen alumni Dr. Jenny Hanks in briefings with decision-makers prior to the launch at the National Press Club of two reports commissioned by the Crawford Fund analysing the benefits to Australia and our partners from research focused on food and nutrition security.

The two commissioned reports Australian Gains from Investment in International Agricultural R&D 2010-2020: Doing Well by Doing Good Report and The Benefits to Australia and to the Global Community from Investing in International Agricultural Research and Development demonstrate that Australian aid-funded agricultural research for development (Ag4Dev) continues to be an outstanding success. A summary of the reports is here.

“Agriculture and food security are front and centre of world attention as we face the complex challenges of climate change, conflicts, and COVID-19,” explained John.

“These challenges exacerbate food insecurity and undernourishment and impact most heavily on the 900 million people already living in poverty. International agricultural research for development is well-targeted, contributes to the food and nutrition security of low-income countries, their environmental and economic sustainability, and resilience, and to gender equity and regional stability. It is also something that Australia is very good at, and it brings significant returns to Australia’s farmers, our biosecurity, scientific knowledge, and global diplomatic reputation,” said John.

“Based on these outstanding benefits and the benefit-cost ratio of 10:1 in our reports and other international analyses, it would seem a no-brainer that the current small proportion of around 2.5% of the aid budget invested in agricultural research should be increased,” he said.

Australian investment in R&D for agriculture is mostly through the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), which, through strategic partnerships with Australian and overseas institutions, aims to improve the productivity and sustainability of agricultural systems and the resilience of food systems in partner countries. The Crawford Fund works alongside ACIAR to build the capacity of scientists and farmers.

He noted just a few of the many examples of benefits to Australia including:

  • More than 90% of our wheat varieties can be traced back to varieties from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), in which Australia invests through ACIAR. A recent variety, Borlaug 100, promises to be a game changer for our farmers, offering a big increase in yield, even in drought.
  • Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, Australian agricultural aid was invested in research aimed at addressing diseases transmitted from animals to humans, including malaria in Indonesia; antimicrobial resistance in Fiji; and bird flu in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

The Fund has brought a spotlight on the benefits from international agricultural R&D since the launch of the book titled “Doing Well by Doing Good”, written by the Fund’s foundation director, Emeritus Prof Derek Tribe AO OBE, in 1991.  

  • We encourage you to check out the #WhyAg4Dev resources and watch the Testimonial Videos.
  • Join us in our efforts to bring attention to the benefits of international Ag4Dev by using our social media toolkit.
  • A series of State based #WhyAg4Dev forums and events will be held around the country in 2023 so stay tuned.