Over the years, the scope and level of activities carried out by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through U.S. universities that have been characterized as “Title XII activities” has declined dramatically. The early members of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development (BIFAD) had a broad and bold vision of their role and were supported in that view by the USAID administration of the time. They envisioned a huge potential in the application of university-led cutting-edge research and technical assistance in solving food and nutrition problems around the world.
Notably over the last fifteen years the Board’s vision and involvement in agricultural development has narrowed and USAID support has diminished in concert with shifts across the development assistance paradigm. Part of this decline is a function of the reduced funding available for agricultural development and greater investment in health, HIV/AIDS, and other sectors; another factor is a change in USAID procurement processes that favors open competition and contracting rather than grants, raising questions about procurement sensitivity and potential conflicts of interest; and a third factor is decreased attention by USAID to global research and sponsored training, two key elements characterizing earlier Title XII programs and two special skills associated with universities.