Doing Well by Doing Good - Australian Gains from Investment in International Agricultural R&D 2010 – 2020

John Mullen, Julien de Meyer, Caroline Lemerle, Garry Griffith and Bill Malcolm
Crawford Fund
Resource type:
Reports and discussion papers

In his book Doing Well by Doing Good, Derek Tribe made the case for investing in agricultural research in our developing country neighbours. Tribe argued that Australia not only ‘did good’ by alleviating poverty and protecting natural resources in these countries – the goals of Australia’s overseas development program – but also ‘did well’, as many benefits flowed back to Australian agriculture and the wider community. Public investment in agricultural R&D has been declining in developed countries, despite high rates of return, and so Tribe’s arguments, still valid, need to be presented to policy makers in a contemporary context. The Crawford Fund commissioned such a study in 2013 (Blight et al. 2013) and this report is a further update on Australia’s contributions to international agricultural research and its foreign policy goals.

Key Findings of the Study

Why productivity in agriculture is so important : 

  • An increase in agricultural productivity reduces poverty by twice as much as a comparable increase in productivity in other sectors of the economies of developing countries.
  • Adoption of new technologies enhances productivity, alleviates poverty and facilitates the achievement of ACIAR’s strategic objectives.
  • The challenge for research is to deliver technology that farmers will adopt, thus alleviating poverty and contributing to ACIAR’s other objectives.
  • Agricultural R&D generates high returns to public investment, and this is evidence of underinvestment.
  • Productivity growth in rich countries is slowing, partly because of falling public investment in agricultural R&D.

Read the Report Here 


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This resource presents evidence or data but has not been peer reviewed