Ireland is a long-standing supporter of pro-poor agricultural research in developing countries through our overseas development programme, Irish Aid. I am gratified that the international donor community has now become more aware of the importance of agriculture and agricultural research in enhancing rural livelihoods and reducing poverty. Given the huge contribution that agricultural research makes in reducing poverty and hunger, we have committed to continuing this strong support in our new Policy for International Development, ‘One World, One Future’, which I launched in May.
Irish Aid supports agricultural research in developing countries in a number of ways. We provide funding for the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research – CGIAR, including support to research programmes on Agriculture and Nutrition, and on Agriculture and Climate Change. I have seen the difference this kind of operational research is making. In Malawi, Mozambique and Ethiopia, the introduction of the nutritious orange fleshed sweet potato is improving the diversity and nutritional value of crops produced by small holder farmers in a sustainable manner. Through our Programme of Strategic Co-operation, Irish Aid will continue to work with a variety of Irish research institutions such as Teagasc and our Universities, and with our civil society partners, to support innovative research which can support pro-poor development.
We will also continue to support the sharing of agricultural research with farmers, through national agricultural research and extension services, and through organisations that work directly with smallholder farmers to support their uptake of new agricultural inputs and technologies. Some examples include organisations that share research on plant diseases through village-level plant ‘clinics’, and on new farming practices through local radio programmes.
Supporting smallholder farmers to access markets is an important priority for Irish Aid. We support a number of important market-access programmes in our key partner countries, such as smallholder farmer-led enterprises in pigeon-pea and potatoes in Malawi, enhancing market opportunities for smallholder farmers in the cashew and pineapple sector in Mozambique, and supporting smallholder farmers to improve cocoa quality and market access in Tanzania. We also support smallholder farmer associations and groups in Malawi, Tanzania and Ethiopia, recognising that this is an important element of building farmers’ capacity to improve their productivity and access to markets.