Policy Brief 52
by Andrew Dorward
Recent years have seen increasing average food prices, severe food price shocks (in 2007/8 and 2010/11), and increasing concerns about the impacts of food prices shocks, high food prices and food price volatility on poor and food insecure people. However, while there is general agreement that food price volatility leads to inefficient resource allocations and adjustment costs, and that high prices are bad for the urban poor (with large staple food expenditures), there has been more debate on the impacts of high food prices on the rural poor.
This policy brief
- draws on basic microeconomic theory on the different meanings and effects of changes in staple food prices to different consumers and producers.
- reviews empirical evidence of the effects of the 2008 food price spike on different people.
Full title: Factors Influencing Smallholder Commercial Farming in Malawi: A Case of NASFAM Commercialisation Initiatives
Policy Brief 51
by Ephraim Chirwa and Miriam Matita
Most of smallholder farming in Malawi focuses on producing food staples such as maize and rice for own consumption. The dominance of subsistence farming with traditional farming systems in the smallholder sector is one of the concerns in achieving agricultural productivity. The smallholder agriculture sector in Malawi remains unprofitable and is characterised by low uptake of improved farm inputs, weak links to markets, high transport costs, few farmer organizations, poor quality control and lack of information on markets and prices.
There are several initiatives by state and non-state actors that aim at promoting intensification and commercialisation of smallholder farming. One of the organisations spearheading the commercialisation of smallholder farming is the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), a farmer –based organisation.
Policy Brief 50
by Steve Wiggins
Small farmers in Africa have long been engaged with markets — for produce, inputs such as fertiliser, credit, labour, land and information. Opportunities to do so are increasing with urbanisation and better roads linking villages to cities, making questions that arise about smallholder commercialisation all the more important. Expectations about process and outcomes differ considerably.
What does the evidence show? How do small farms commercialise? What are the outcomes? Are the fears of undesirable outcomes justified? And what should policy-makers be doing to encourage better outcomes? This briefing reports the highlights of an extensive review of the literature on commercialisation of small farms in Africa.
CAADP Policy Brief 07
by Kate Wellard-Dyer
Smallholder agriculture is the core contributor to agricultural production in most African countries and the main driver for food security, poverty reduction and growth. But productivity remains desperately low with limited use of improved inputs (except where boosted by subsidies) – compounded by volatility in climate and markets.
Science and technology is widely seen as essential in turning African agriculture round. The Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Pillar IV is leading moves to revitalise, expand and reform Africa’s agricultural research and development effort. Investments are being made by national governments, donors and private funders in (mainly international) research institutions to develop improved seeds and soil fertility technologies for a Green Revolution in Africa. Public and, increasingly, private sector delivery systems are gearing up to deliver these technologies to farmers. Within integrated agricultural research for development (IAR4D), focus is moving beyond the farm-gate to credit, markets and value-addition. Farmers are being involved earlier in the development process – the effectiveness of agricultural technology generation and dissemination institutions seen as depending crucially on relevance and responsiveness to farmer needs.
Yet ‘market-led technology’ approaches – aimed mainly at high potential agricultural areas – face serious challenges in delivering a broaderbased inclusive agricultural revolution.
This policy brief draws on research findings by Future Agricultures and asks:
- Are there options outside conventional institutional routes that bring alternative expertise – particularly farmers’ own innovation experience – into revitalised innovation systems that cut across public, private and farmer-led processes?
- How can agricultural innovation systems be made to work for poor people in expanding market access and enabling rural innovation?
- Are there alternative pathways for more sustainable and socially-just development, and what obstacles – political-economic as well as technocratic – need to be overcome to pursue these?
CAADP Policy Brief 06
by Kate Wellard-Dyer
Pastoralists in the Horn of Africa have struggled for centuries with drought, conflict and famine. They are resourceful, innovative and entrepreneurial peoples, by necessity. While there are profound difficulties in creating secure livelihoods for all, there are also significant successes.
The African Union’s Policy Framework for Pastoralism in Africa recognises pastoralists’ contributions to national and regional economies – supplying huge numbers of livestock and livestock products. Pastoralists’ production systems are highly adaptive and constantly respond to market and climatic change. At the same time human development and food security indicators are amongst the lowest on the continent. The Framework is designed to secure and protect the lives, livelihoods and rights of pastoral peoples, and is a platform for mobilising and coordinating political commitment to pastoral development in Africa.
This policy brief, based on latest research by Future Agricultures Consortium, reviews understandings and misunderstandings about pastoral livelihoods – innovation and entrepreneurship, not just coping and adapting; and cooperation and networking across borders, not just conflict and violence. It highlights the multiple pathways for future development of pastoral areas and offers an alternative view of pastoralism and practical ways forward.
Policy Brief 49
By Charity Mutonodzo-Davies and Douglas Magunda
Over much of the past decade, the Zimbabwean government and donor organisations have implemented agricultural input support programmes, comprised of private suppliers (seed houses and fertiliser manufacturers), wholesalers and rural agro-dealers, bypassing the previously vibrant market chain. This article argues that these ‘seed relief’ programmes contributed to the collapse of the input supply chain, and therefore hastening the decline of agricultural productivity in Zimbabwe today.
Policy Brief 48
by Dawit Alemu
Full title: The Political Economy of Ethiopian Cereal Seed Systems: State Control, Market Liberalisation and Decentralisation
This FAC Policy Brief examines the political and economic processes governing Ethiopian cereal seed systems by analysing the overall policy context, including the main interests driving seed policy formulation and implementation, and the roles and interaction of the different public and private actors. It also investigates how these interests and interactions are related to the actual performance of the system on the ground.
By focusing on three key political economic drivers of change within the seed system – state control, market liberalisation and decentralisation – the article asks: How are seed-related policies and implementation guidelines created? How do ideas about what makes ‘good’ policy and implementation guidelines evolve and change over time? Whose voices and views are taken into account in the policy process? What are the key arguments for the choice of actions? What spaces exist for new ideas, actors and networks, and how can these be opened up? And finally, what urgent national/regional seed policy issues and processes need to be considered for creation of a vibrant seed system within the country?
Policy Brief 47
by Kojo Amanor
Full title: From Farmer Participation to Pro-poor Seed Markets: The Political Economy of Commercial Cereal Seed Networks in Ghana
Since the 1980s public research systems in seed production in sub-Saharan Africa have increasingly come under pressure to privatise. In Ghana, however, privatisation has been complex and fragmented since farmers are largely dependent upon their own seeds and are reluctant to purchase improved seed. With few large investors willing to approach an industry that has not yet established itself, the development of seed investment is predicated on creating a social infrastructure for improved seeds; this will gradually build demand among farmers and integrate them into improved seed, input and food processing markets. This FAC Policy Brief employs a political economy analysis to examine dominant political interests in the seed industry.
Policy Brief 46
by Blessings Chinsinga
This FAC Policy Brief examines the political economy of input programmes and identifies maize and input subsidies as central to agricultural political debates. Subsidy programmes that are centred on the supply of seed and fertiliser to support maize production to boost national food security have created a strong actor network including key government players, major donor aid agencies and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). In recent years, this has created a unique and highly contested political economy of seeds in Malawi. Notwithstanding the strong narratives about national food security or public food aid, the benefits of both national and donor-led subsidy interventions are unevenly distributed, most to the benefit of elites. Moreover, international commercial seed sector players, pushing their patented genetic material, have won out in agricultural policy over local producers and varieties, again to the profit of local elites.
Policy Brief 45
by Hannington Odame and Elijah Muange
In a bid to return the country to food self-sufficiency, the Government of Kenya has been spearheading strategies for a new ‘Green Revolution’ in the food producing sector, as spelt out in its Strategy for Revitalizing Agriculture (SRA), a ten-year action plan launched in 2004. The SRA is entrenched in Kenya’s Vision 2030, the country’s framework for long-term investment and development (Republic of Kenya 2007; 2004). Crucial to the SRA is the increased generation, promotion and use of modern farming inputs and technologies, particularly improved seed and fertiliser. Small-scale independent stockists or input distributors, commonly known as ‘agro-dealers’, are seen to have a crucial role to play in distributing these inputs in a liberalised economy. As key actors in the Green Revolution agenda, agro-dealers are thus at the centre of current policy debates about the future of Kenya’s seed system.
This FAC Policy Brief sheds light on the rise of agro-dealers in recent national policy debates as central figures in the delivery of agricultural innovation, improved food security and the potential spark in igniting a smallholder-led revolution. It asks: can agro-dealers really deliver the Green Revolution in Kenya? Drawing on key informant interviews and surveys of agrodealers in two districts, Machakos in Eastern Province and Uasin Gishu in Rift Valley Province, it assesses the different politics and interests at play and the implications these raise for future investments in both formal and informal seed systems and the promotion of agro-dealers as catalysts of change in the agricultural sector.