As resources available for agricultural research and development become increasingly scarce, the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) has taken steps to define a clear research agenda. This effort has taken the form of formal priority setting in various research programmes. Priority setting is a key step in the formulation of a research agenda because priority setting, almost by definition, increases the efficiency and relevance of our research programmes by adding valuable structure to our wide information base on agro-ecological and socio-economic conditions in the country, by focusing attention on client constraints and by specifying the potential impact of research on these constraints.
The process of establishing clear and systematic priorities in our research programmes allows us to take a proactive rôle in soliciting government and donor support for areas identified as vital to agricultural development efforts. Perhaps most important, the priority setting processes developed at KARI have helped to broaden participation in formulating our research agenda by including a wide range of stakeholders and clientsfrom outside the Institute and in the process widened and deepened our constituency base.
Within specific programmes, the priority setting process has comprised five interrelated and cumulative steps: (1) compiling the information base on relevant commodities and regions; (2) identifying programme research target zones and research themes; (3) eliciting the potential for technology generation and adoption; (4) estimating research-induced social benefits; and (5) establishing research priorities and medium-term resource allocation guidelines with programme stakeholders.
All but a handful of our commodity research programmes, which include a number of livestock research programmes, have completed this five-step procedure. A similar process has been developed for regional and factor-based research programmes, which should have clear research priorities and resource allocation guidelines in 1998. Once all programmes have completed their respective priority setting activities, we will embark on an Institute-wide priority setting exercise that will pit programme against programme with a view to establishing a coherent set of priorities for the entire organization.