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Food and Agricultural Research Council

PBB Strategic Plan


1. Historical
 
The need for a coordinating body for Agricultural Research expressed in White Paper on Agricultural Diversification (1983)
Established by FARC Act 49 of 1985 with the responsibility for coordinating, promoting and harmonising Agricultural and Food Research
Wide consultation with stakeholders to identify research priorities and projects for funding (1986/87)
Corbett Report: Organisational Structure and Research and Information Diffusion responsibilities
Physical Infrastructure Development (89-94)
Conditioning Unit for Technology Transfer: introduction of new plant species/varieties as tissue-cultured plantlets
Administrative block and recruitment of core staff
Definition of a National Biotechnology Programme (1992)
Major impact of tissue culture through introductions of disease free ginger and new Anthurium varieties (90/94)
Setting up of AREU (former DARE) within FARC, formalised by FARC Act 20 of 1997
Banana project started following cyclone Hollanda (1994)
First Meeting of Agricultural Scientists (1995)
FARC designated regional focal point of CTA
Participation in High Powered Committee on Agricultural Diversification & the National Long Term Perspective Study (NLTP)
Funding of research projects-mainly biotechnology
Use of micropropagation lab in conjunction with AREU for R&D projects.
Micropropagation of Anthurium varieties under contractual agreement with 2 major producers
FARC Strategic Plan (2000/03) with focus on Research Planning and Evaluation
FARC Act further amended:
2005 – To extend mission area to development projects as well
2010 – To enable take-over of the Young Farmer’s Federation/Club by AREU
Research and other technical advisory services: Setting up of MABI and Food Tech Lab; Legislations; Non Sugar Sector Strategic Plan & other Food-Security/Agriculture/Food Diversification plans; participation in various other Task Forces
Implementation/Steering of Agricultural Development Projects:
Hydroponics ( Cluny Project).
Land Use / Diversification: 500 Arpents Scheme.
Dairy Development: Village Laitier Project.
UNEP / GEF National Biosafety Framework Project.
2. Legislative Mandate
 
FARC mission is authorized by FARC Act No. 49 of 1985, as amended by Act No. 20 of 1997. FARC derives most of its goals, objectives and initiatives from a consideration of the goals – explicit and implicit of the now Ministry of Agro-Industry & Food Security and the Government; and from statutory provisions, specifically “The Objects and Functions of the Council” set forth in Sections 4 and 5 of the FARC (Amendment) Act 2010.
The objects of the Council are:
(a) to coordinate, promote and harmonise research activities in agriculture, fisheries and food production;
(b) to conduct, through such units as it may set up, research in agriculture and food production;
(c) to maximise the benefits of such research;
(ca) promote hydroponics, tissue culture and such other food and agricultural technologies as may be approved by the Minister; and
(d) to carry out such other activities relating to research in agriculture, forestry, fisheries and food production as may be approved by the Minister.
The functions and powers of the Council are:
(1) to co - ordinate, monitor and promote research projects and programmes -
(i) entrusted to the different units set up by it;
(ii) of the different institutions engaged in agriculture, fisheries and food production without any prejudice to existing legislation concerning those institutions;
(b) to set research priorities in line with the needs of the agricultural sector;
(c) to ensure, as far as possible the proper dissemination and practical application of the results of any such research;
(d) to establish units for the purpose of conducting research extension and other related activities and to ensure the proper functioning, staffing and allocation of resources to such units;
set up and manage greenhouses, hydroponics centres and other infrastructure for the purposes of promoting hydroponics and other agricultural technologies; and
(e) to advise the Minister generally on national policies and other matters related to food and agricultural research and app lications thereof.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the Council may–
(a) with the approval of the Minister, raise such loan as may be required to finance the setting up of greenhouses, hydroponics centres and other infrastructure;
(b) rent out greenhouses, hydroponics centres and other infrastructure on such terms and conditions as it may determine; and
(c) levy fees in respect of services in connection with greenhouses, hydroponics centres and other infrastructure and of transfer of any other food and agricultural technologies.
 
The Council shall establish a Unit to be known as the Agricultural Research and Extension Unit whose functions shall be to

(a) conduct research and extension activities in non-sugar crops, livestock and food production

(b) promote and encourage agricultural and agribusiness development through the setting up of agricultural youth clubs and agricultural entrepreneur clubs.
3.Vision
 
An institution that helps to steer research in:
The Agri-food and related sectors,
Addressing the national interest and needs, and sectoral challenges, while ensuring that resources are allocated to efforts that are scientifically relevant, excellent and innovative, directed towards priority problems and practical objectives.
4.Mission
To contribute to the mission of the State through agricultural research planning and evaluation,
To provide research-based policy advice and to develop national strategies for research & development in the Agri-food sector and its natural resource base, aiming towards enhancing the competitiveness, sustainability and consumer interest of the national Agri-food system and quality of life.
5.Current Trends & emerging Issues
 
The recent global food crisis shows how shaky the Mauritius food security situation is, as well as the vulnerability of the whole agri-food system.
Mauritius has a food supply system that is vulnerable because of the island’s smallness, its isolation; small internal market, exposure to natural and environmental calamities; and high dependency on imports. We are a net importer of food and thus especially sensitive to external shocks such as world price hikes for food, feeds and fuels, freight charges and exchange rate fluctuations; and globalization and climate change impacts in the longer-term.
Mauritius, historically, has been securing its food supply mostly by an indirect use of its agricultural system, that is, focusing on a monocrop (sugar cane) that offered many advantages: bioclimatic adaptability and economic/marketing/strategic benefits; generating enough foreign currency to more than cover the import of most of our food requirements.
Circumstances, however, are changing and dramatically so, as above-mentioned, and aggravating our vulnerability as a net food importing country. The sugar sector no longer provides full coverage of our agricultural and food imports, and this capacity is still to further erode in years to come.
The major challenge is to diversify and strengthen our agri-food production sector to make it modern, competitive and sustainable, with greater emphasis on securing food supply stability and safety and at R&D level, the development of a Research & Development Agenda in support of the above-mentioned overarching challenge, and the several initiatives that Government adopts in its agricultural & food development plans.
6.Strategies, Targets & Core Functions
 
Strategy: Three major domains of intervention:
(A) Agricultural Research & Development Planning & Evaluation
Research & Development policy analysis, support and administration , Development projects steering
(a) (i) Administration and Monitoring (and selective funding, depending on availability of dedicated ARTDD fund (See Annex A) of Research, Training, Development and Demonstration (RTDD) policies, programmes and projects and financial/budgetary implications/requirements.
(ii) Development Projects: Steering of selected projects (e.g. land use, hydroponics, biotechnology regulation (UNEP/GEF project), etc.)
(b) Technical (Emerging Technologies/Applications and dissemination):
Tissue culture Laboratory and Nursery Section: Production of tissue culture planting materials to assist growers/planters in terms of provision through tissue culture technologies of healthy planting materials of selected crops/plants of economic and strategic importance
(B) Agricultural Research & Development Information System:
(ICT) Information and Documentation Section:
for dissemination of RTDD results, and other technical data and information in support of (A) and (C)
(C) Advisory Service (Technical & Policy):
Producing policy documents on new technological developments (Biotechnology; tissue culture); agricultural policy and development plans; specific policy & development themes and schemes; specific legislation, etc.
Note:
Agricultural Research
includes research on crops, livestock, forestry, fisheries, natural resources, and the socio-economic aspects of primary agricultural production; pre and post-farm aspects such as input supply and post-harvest or food-processing (IFPRI/ISNAR).
Strategies, Targets & Core Functions
Strategic Objectives and Targets
Core Functions
1. To determine key R & D strategies in the Agri-food sector :-
  • Definition and scope of research;
  • Situational analysis;
  • Priority setting;
  • Design and definition of integrated programmes and projects
  • Undertake/promote strategic studies in agriculture, food, natural resources and fisheries
  • Carry out audit/inventory on physical resources, human resources and sk ills; research programmes & projects….and SWOT analysis
  • Technology enhancement through development, diffusion and adoption of technologies and good practices
  • Carry out research on:
    • Administration/Management of Agricultural Research to improve efficiency and effectiveness of research methods & proposals and to maximise researcher and facility productivity
    • Productivity Measurement & Methods (Research Organisations & Researchers)
2. To ensure an effective scientific foundation and infrastructure (techno-structure) in the Agri-food and related sectors for the generation and transfer of technologies and good practices
  • Consolidate and optimise the performance of existing Units/divisions/sections e.g.
    • AREU (Strategic Plan and current review) including optimisation of FARC facilities (Tissue culture & Agricultural Information Resources);
    • Set up new Units or advise on setting up of new structures
  • Strategic research initiatives and training in specific areas and higher education: need-driven
  • Promotion of Research creativity & productivity
  • Development of a ‘toolkit’ of guidelines, standards and information on Research:
    • Role of cooperation and competition among Scientists & Organisations
    • Relationships among Research, Teaching, Extension & Development
    • Communication among researchers and disseminators of research results
    • Research Ethics
3. Coordinate, support and harmonise R & D enterprises in existing research and related institutions without prejudice to their legislative mandates
  • Following establishment of Priority Setting & Monitoring & Evaluation methods (Strategic Objective 1)
    • Identify key activities and partnerships to support formation of research networks around priority research programmes
    • Design and administer (innovative) funding schemes for promotion of research
    • Monitoring and Evaluation of R & D activities including review processes and impact analysis
4. To ensure that general awareness and understanding of, and support to policy development by Research & Development efforts are improved through clear, open and transparent communication, partnerships and dialogue and sharing of information
(related to second domain of intervention)
Agricultural Research & Development Information System and Advisory Service
  • Agricultural Research Information System
    • Assess data needs to support R&D and industry policy, develop tools for collection and monitoring and set up database, and analyse relevant data (e.g. international trends and benchmarks etc.)
    • Establish database and directory of Agricultural Research
    • Develop appropriate mechanisms to disseminate research output and outcomes and provide opportunities for interaction and cooperation to researchers and other stakeholders (MAS, workshops, proceedings, discussion groups)
    • Develop appropriate communication and information delivery systems (for different constituencies/stakeholders) e.g. website etc, electronic networks.
  • Research & Development Advisory Service
    • Develop consultation documents, (issue/policy/discussion papers etc.) relating to the significance, contribution and implications of agricultural R & D and related activities
    • Provide clear research-based policy advice to the Government, other funding agencies and related Institutions, on strategic investments in R & D in the Agri-food and related sectors and themes, in support of innovation and the strategic /policy objectives of Government
 
7.Major Constraints & How Being Addressed
·  Budgetary and staffing at Technical level
·  Insufficient strategic & economic studies and food research
·  Insufficient use of Scientific & Technical Committees
·  Short term concerns of stakeholders v/s long-range characteristics of agricultural research
·  Discontinuities in Agricultural Plans and Policies
·  Credibility gap between high-level Policy/Decision makers and Executive Agencies (esp. research-related institutions)
·  Insufficient power for national strategic R & D operations
Major efforts to address these are at level of trying to recruit additional staff (see (9)) below) and the setup of a RTTD fund for empowering the FARC to undertake the other tasks (listed under 6 above) which it cannot deliver at the moment, mainly due to lack of fund.
8.PBB Outcomes
With respect to sub-programme 48301, the following outcomes are expected:
P01: Improved production of strategic staples (production of TC planting materials of food crops – potato, taro, cassava, breadfruit and others)
P02: Improved production of vegetable crops (ginger propagation)
P03: Improved production of fruit crops (banana plantlets & in-vitro citrus rootstock production & micrografting project)
P04: Improved production of ornamental crops (anthurium, orchids & other ornamentals)
P05: Agricultural Research, Training, Development and Demonstration (ARTDD) Fund (see Annex A) supporting (and contributing to) the package of sustainable agro-food production and Food Security measures, that would improve agro-food productivity and specific agro-development projects such as hydroponics, village laitier and other priority ones that may be determined.
For each priority objective/outcome detailed cost estimates have been prepared taking into consideration human resources and other related input needs i.e. capital expenditure, overheads and other operational costs, utilities cost, motor vehicles operating costs, goods and services, etc. Regular reports containing progress towards achieving annual targets will be prepared and submitted to the Programme Manager for review.
9.Human Resource Requirements (2011-2013)
Senior staff required at Programme Manager level (2 more); and at Assistant Programme Manager levels (at least 2); Liaison and Documentation Officer; Staff under ICT section namely IT Officer and Software Developer; Assistant Research Scientists (2) at laboratory level; plus 4 additional labourers for Nursery Section.
10.Financing The Strategic Plan
See Financing & Budget proposals (2011/13): PROGRAMME-BASED BUDGETING (Periods 01 Jan 2011 – 31 Dec 2011; 01 Jan 2012-Dec 2013) being submitted.
11.Conclusion
The task ahead, i.e. realising the vision and mission which reflect the legislative mandate of the FARC, depends heavily on the budgetary provisions to be made. Efforts are being made to raise own revenue through the activities of the Tissue Culture laboratory Section, but this is very limited.
Annex A: ARTDD Projects 2011-2013
Setting up of an Agricultural Research, Training, Development & Demonstration (ARTDD) Fund
Creation of an Agricultural RTDD Fund ( MUR 30 million) in support of the Food Security measures which would help to conserve natural resources, improve agricultural productivity and make diversified agriculture more sustainable.
Most projects that are being financed under the Food Security Fund are looking at productivity without the sustainability aspect. It is known that most of our natural resources, soil and water mainly, will have to be used rationally so as to avoid endangering future production and productivity.
This fund will be managed by the Food and Agricultural Research Council, according to its legislative mandate.
Research Institutions will be called upon to work in partnership with planters in a participatory approach to develop and implement research, training, and development and demonstration projects. Specific applied research and related projects will also be accepted on their merits.
As an example, the Food and Agricultural Research Council has already financed and monitored, inter alia, a project on the development of a maize variety tolerant to drought conditions in Rodrigues, which has helped to revive maize cultivation on the island. Planters in Rodrigues were at the same time initiated to the practice of Zero tillage which is important as a soil conservation measure and labour saving practice. The development of this maize variety has taken over six years.
Research institutions and planters groups will be asked to submit projects on the following priority themes/areas:

(1) Soil conservation, Cultural practices and rotational systems which help soil fertility.

(2) Improved and Rational fertiliser use, a combination of both inorganic and organic Development of an integrated and economic nutrient package, reduced cost and increase yield. Biological Nitrogen Fixation

(3) Rational water use for improved crop production.

(4) Development of an integrated pest management package leading to reduction in pesticide use. Researchers will be required to quantify reduction in pesticide use through the adoption of cultural practices and other pest control measures.
Justification
Land conservation, rational water use, reduced level of agro-chemicals (fertilisers and pesticides) without reduction of crops yield are objectives towards sustainable agriculture for safe food production.