Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research Policy

Ministry of Agriculture

Historical background of the Sri Lanka Council for Agricultural Research Policy

Agriculture plays an important role in the economy of the country. It contributes 12.7% (2009) to GDP, accounts for 25% (2010) of foreign exchange earnings and earns nearly 12% (2010) of government revenue at constant price in 2002. And about 32.7% (2010) of the work force is engaged in agriculture, livestock and fisheries. The Govern- ment undertook a comprehensive survey of the country's agriculture and food situation in 1983/84 in order to develop a framework of poli- cies, programmes and projects for the future. Agricultural research was indentified as an important area for strengthening. Agricultural Research Group (ARG) comprised of representatives of all agricultural research organizations and a few senior agricultural scien- tists was established as a result of a meeting convened by the National Planning Division of the Ministry of Finance and Planning in Septem- ber 1983. The ARG recognized the need for a comprehensive review, analysis, and evaluation of the then existing agricultural research system and the need to formulate such changes, additions and modifi- cations which were considered desirable to improve the capacity and capability of the research system.
This review was carried out in three stages. The first was a description of the current situation in all the institutions, including research structure, manpower, resources and conditions of service, administrative and financial procedures, and priority and policy guide-lines. The second was an analysis of the range of linkages between research mstitutions and national and international bodies, an assessment of how effectively national priorities are reflected in the research programmes of the various institutions, a comparison of alternative research structures and organizations, and finally, development of proposals for projects designed to strengthen the agricultural research System in order to enhance its role in national agricultural development. The assistance of the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR) was obtained in an advisory capacity during the latter stages of this exercise. This study was carried out during 1983-85.

Alternative - coordinating Bodies

The present institutional set up of NARS evolved historically as research services had grown in association with various Ministries and Boards. The distribution and range of Ministries were the result of the strategic allocation of responsibilities to the dominant development activities, rather than to their research components. The need to develop a coordinated or unified national outlook on research must not interfere with its strategic distribution of Ministries. It is in fact important that research should be closely linked to the development processes it serves. In this process increased research effectiveness, improved linkages between policy planning and research within Ministries were deemed Important. There remained, however, the urgent need for a national coordination body to guide research activities. It was considered that such an independent research authority would further weaken the linkages between development Ministries and research institutions. If extension services were to remain within the development Ministries, additional mechanisms would have to be built up to maintain close contacts between research and extension. In addition, extensive arrangement was necessary to the Acts governing the operations of all semi-autonomous agricultural research institutions.

Council for Agricultural Research Policy

Accordingly, it was proposed that the Council for Agricultural Research Policy should be set up to function mainly in an advisory capacity concerned with research activities and make recommendation for funding for certain inter-ministerial research programmes of national importance, execution of postgraduate training for agricultural research staff and for organising conferences, workshops and other activities on national, international or inter-institutional agricultural issues. The Council would also be responsible for formulating national agricultural research policy and priorities for defining the aims and scope of the overall national research programme and for advising the Ministry of Finance and Planning on the allocation of funds necessary to carry out these programmes effectively and efficiently. On this basis it was originally proposed that the Council should consist of 12 members constituted in the manner outlined . below: one Secretary concerned with agricultural development nominated by the Minister in-charge of Agriculture; one representative each from the Ministry of Finance and Planning, the then NARESA and the Universities; three producers representing producer interests (including one for smallholders); two Directors of research for perennial and annual crops respectively elected by their peer groups; one Director of research to represent livestock, fisheries and forestry (later expanded to one representative for each of these disciplines); one senior scientist of distinction co-opted by the Council and the Executive Secretary of the Council. It was agreed that the representatives of the various interests would be nominated by their respective Ministries. The Chairman was to be elected by the Council.
The ARG also examined two possible locations for CARP within Ministry in-charge of Agriculture or a neutral Ministry. Considering that membership in the Council was through election by peer groups, nomination by various Ministries and selection by the Council itself, it was agreed that the CARP would be best served if it were within a Ministry concerned with Agricultural Development and Research since the bulk of the research resources were allocated to that Ministry. Given this consensus, the National Planning Division of the Ministry of Finance and Planning undertook to prepare a project proposal for strengthening the national agricultural research system, including draft legislation for the establishment of a Council for Agricultural Research Policy.
The project was prepared with the assistance of local consultants and ISNAR and appraised by the World Bank in 1986. World Bank funding for the project included financial provision for setting up and operating CARP during the initial years, commencing from 1987. The Ministry of Agricultural Development and Research had gone through the formalities connected with processing of legislative enactment and the Minister tabled the draft Act for the establishment of CARP before Parliament in July 1987 (This is an extraction from originally written article by Mr. F.Mohideen and E H W Jayasekera in 1987).