FAC Policy Brief 59
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Andrew R. Dorward and Mirriam Matita
Considering the high incidence of poverty and food insecurity among Malawi’s rural population, agricultural input subsidies can be seen in part as a social protection instrument, improving accessibility and availability of food for vulnerable groups. However, questions about the sustainability of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) have been raised since its introduction in 2005/06. Some have argued that with limited public resources and other competing needs of development, subsidisation of farm inputs for a food staple may not be the best use of scarce resources, justifying calls for an exit strategy. Others, however, describe the subsidy as a good thing insofar as it addresses chronic food insecurity in Malawi and contributes to inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction.
FAC Policy Brief 58
by Ephraim W. Chirwa and Andrew R. Dorward
The Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) in Malawi has been implemented since the 2005/06 season with the objective of improving household and national food production and incomes. It targets more than 1.5 million farm families who receive subsidised fertilisers, improved maize seeds and/or legume seeds. The implementation of the FISP has involved the interaction of the Government of Malawi, the private sector, development partners, civil society organisations (CSOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), traditional leaders and smallholder farmers, all playing different roles in the implementation and success of the programme. The private sector has played a critical role, but its involvement in the programme has changed over time. This has included the procurement of fertilisers, the transportation of fertilisers to various markets, the retail sale of fertilisers, and the production and sale of improved seeds.
Benefits from the inclusion of the private sector in the implementation of a nation-wide agricultural input subsidy programme include efficiency, reduced bureaucracy, strategic development of the private market system, cost savings on the part of the Government, shared investment finance and costs, and reduction in displacement of commercial sales of inputs.
FAC Policy Brief 57
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Peter M. Mvula, Andrew Dorward and Mirriam Matita
The Government of Malawi has, since the 2005/06 agricultural season, been implementing a Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) targeting resource-poor smallholder farmers. The input subsidy is targeted at households and implicitly assumes that a household is a unitary decision-making unit and subsidised inputs will be used equitably on plots controlled by various members of the household.
This research demonstrates that in a socio-cultural environment in which men tend to dominate intra-household decision-making processes over allocation of income and resources, these issues are important in understanding the effectiveness of input subsidies and how they can create more equal opportunities for female and male members of the household. This research investigated gender differences in the application of fertilisers in general and subsidised fertilisers in particular, on plots controlled by male and female household members.
CAADP Policy Brief 10
by Kate Wellard-Dyer
Large-scale foreign land acquisitions – land grabs – are major and real concerns for African populations. The consequences of land deals are highly significant for local populations and the environment. Some see economic opportunities for local communities through employment and income generated from leasing or selling land. Others see land alienation as a major threat to local livelihoods, food security and the environment. The question is whether ‘win-win’ models exist – benefitting local people as well as providing an economic return to investors. This policy brief draws on latest research by Future Agricultures. It asks: What are the drivers behind large-scale land deals in Africa and who are the main players? What is the impact of land deals on livelihoods and food security of existing land users? What can governments do to protect smallholder livelihoods?
CAADP Policy Brief 09
by Kate Wellard-Dyer
African governments, international agencies and NGOs are calling for policies which pay more attention to young people and agriculture. This policy brief draws on research findings by Future Agricultures and asks: What are the expectations and aspirations of young rural men and women? What are the constraints and opportunities facing young people who wish to engage in productive agriculture? How can policies better support young people to engage successfully in the agri-food sector?
Future Agricultures / PLAAS Policy Brief 56
by Emmanuel Sulle and Ruth Hall
A dedicated investment in smallholder farmers to enable them to improve their land use and productivity is critical to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth in African countries. The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (‘New Alliance’) focuses on public-private partnership (PPPs) with local investors and multinational corporations (MNCs) to produce food. However, this is unlikely to solve chronic problems of hunger, malnutrition and poverty because of under-investment in smallholder agriculture, and the rolling back of state support following structural adjustment programmes from the 1980s onwards.
The initial signs of New Alliance implementation, instead of reversing this chronic under-investment in smallholder agriculture, suggest the adoption of corporate agriculture, either turning smallholder farmers into wage workers and hooking them into value chains in which they have to compete with MNCs, or expelling them to search for alternative livelihoods in the growing cities. Although tempered by promotion of ‘outgrower’ schemes, in practice this agenda promotes large-scale commercialisation. We argue that African countries engaging with the New Alliance should focus instead on securing citizens’ access to land, water and improved governance. African countries have a better chance of addressing the root causes behind rural poverty and low agricultural productivity by investing directly in smallholder farmers themselves.
FAC Policy Brief 55
by Blessings Chinsinga and Michael Chasukwa
There is often a mismatch between the apparent benevolent intents and the practical manifestations of the large scale land deals. The empirical realities of the large-scale land deals call for critical scrutiny and interrogation of the underlying interests of the stakeholders involved to assess the extent to which they genuinely prioritize win-win scenarios. As the experiences of the Green Belt Initiative (GBI) in Malawi demonstrated, the smallholder farmer is almost always the loser.
This raises doubt as to whether the international initiatives such the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of tenure of land and other natural resources; the World Bank’s principles for responsible agricultural investment; and the Africa Union’s (AU) framework and guidelines on land policy shall make any significant difference on the actual outcomes of the large-scale land deals across the continent.
FAC Policy Brief 54
by Laura Pereira
The world’s food system is undergoing an unprecedented transformation: not just from the significant impacts of global environmental change (GEC), but also from the rapid expansion of transnational agribusiness. The food system is now a globalised, interconnected socioecological system and the global South is increasingly being integrated into this new, interconnected, efficiency-driven model.
There are three key outcomes of a wellfunctioning food system: food security, social welfare and environmental welfare (see Figure 1) yet, our current system has so far failed to provide these for the planet’s poor. How, then, will the future food system respond to the challenge of providing food security whilst also adapting to issues of rapid environmental and sustainability issues – most notably climate change? Developing a system of adaptive governance to meet these challenges is clearly an important area for research, but it requires an understanding of the complexity and uncertainty inherent in such measures.
CAADP Policy Brief 08
by Kate Wellard-Dyer
Food prices are critical for African populations and economies and at the top of the agenda for African policy makers. The CAADP Framework for African Food Security promotes action to address food security challenges faced by stakeholders continent-wide – inadequate food supply, widespread and persistent hunger and malnutrition, and inadequate management of food crises. Addressing the problems of high and volatile food prices requires a multi-pronged approach, including actions both to prevent and mitigate crises. This policy brief draws on latest research by Future Agricultures and asks:
- What are the main causes of high and volatile food prices?
- What is the impact of food price spikes on rural households and economies?
- What can policy-makers do to prevent and mitigate the effects of food prices rises?
Policy Brief 53
by Andrew Dorward
This policy brief reviews historical changes in staple food prices (in terms of international grain prices) and highlights increasing agricultural labour productivity and falling food prices as critical drivers of development, food security and poverty reduction. These drivers are, however, challenged by growing threats facing global and local agricultural and food systems. Simple indicators for agricultural labour productivity and food price changes relative to the real incomes of poor people are proposed to focus international and national attention and policy on these issues.