Full title: The Political Economy of Agricultural Policy Processes in Malawi: A Case Study of the Fertilizer Subsidy Programme
FAC Working Paper 39
by Blessings Chinsinga
This paper examines the political economy of the agricultural policy processes in Malawi through the lenses of the fertilizer subsidy programme that has raised the profile of the country on the international stage since 2006. Malawi is a regular feature in the international agricultural policy debates as a model for the rest of Africa to emulate in order to achieve a uniquely African Green Revolution (Dugger, 2007; Perkins, 2009; AGRA, 2009). Through its subsidy programme, and against fierce resistance by donors as well as some local fiscal conservatives, the argument is that Malawi has pioneered the implementation of smart subsidy that has transformed the country from a perpetual food beggar for close to two successive decades to a self reliant nation.
Full title: From Subsistence to Smallholder Commercial Farming in Malawi: A Case of NASFAM Commercialisation Initiatives
FAC Working Paper 37
Ephraim W. Chirwa and Mirriam Matita
This paper investigates the relationship between food security and commercialisation using data from a household survey in National Smallholder Farmer Association of Malawi (NASFAM) operated areas. NASFAM promotes commercialisation of agriculture by introducing the principle of farming as a business among its members who are largely smallholder subsistence farmers.
The study finds that households with plenty of family labour are therefore likely to participate in NASFAM commercialisation initiatives. We also find a positive relationship between participation and value of durable assets, suggesting that wealth is an important determinant in the decision to participate in commercialisation. Household food security also increases the probability of participation, suggesting that when food markets are unstable, farmers that are not food secure may be constrained in their attempt to commercialize their farming systems. Furthermore, we find that the degree of commercialisation is negatively associated with age and household size but positively associated with food security, access to fertilizers, NASFAM business orientation and market access benefits.
FAC Working Paper 38
by David Booth and Frederick Golooba-Mutebi
Agricultural development policies in sub-Saharan Africa continue to be weak, and the reasons are to be found in the incentives transmitted to policy makers by countries’ domestic political systems. The enfranchisement of rural voters within multi-party political systems does not seem to have altered the fundamental dynamics, raising the question whether – in Africa as in Asia – successful agricultural transformation will happen first in countries whose rulers are driven by concerns to avert rural-based political threats of a more fundamental sort.
This paper explores this question with reference to Rwanda. It argues that the political incentives are indeed different from those in comparable African countries, but that this did not immediately lead to the adoption of an appropriate agricultural strategy. Today, thanks to a major shock and some serious rethinking, policy has turned a corner and the results are promising. What this experience has revealed is that the political economy of agricultural policy in Rwanda is distinguished by a capacity for learning from errors as well as a seriousness about implementation that are not widely observed elsewhere in the region.
Working Paper 36
by Dawit Alemu
At the advent of Ethiopia’s new economic development plan, the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) 2010 – 2015, the Farmer-Based Seed Multiplication (FBSM) programme has increased hopes in the strengthening of the country’s national seed system. Although FBSM engages in various strategies and numerous actors across Ethiopia (Dawit and Spielman 2006), the primary function of FBSM involves the organisation of farmer groups at local levels throughout Ethiopia to produce seed that can either be conditioned (cleaned and bagged) or left in raw form, and provided both for sale to the formal sector or for local exchange. The overall goal of FBSM is contributing to the target of doubling agricultural production through improving access to and use of quality seeds of improved crop varieties along with sustaining the availability of germplasm of local varieties.
The principal advantages of FBSM are identified as follows: (i) improved seed production of locally demanded varieties; (ii) production of crop seeds for which there are less commercial interest; (iii) production and marketing of seed within communities for the purpose of reducing seed cost; and (iv) the possibility of serving as seed demonstration sites to encourage the adoption of alternative crop varieties. Although these advantages are appealing, the current implementation of FBSM demands considerable supervision from extension personnel, suffers from low quality seed recovery rates from participating farmers, places local seed supply under exactly the same climatic risks as local grain production, and its financial sustainability is unproven. This study examines FBSM efforts across Ethiopia and critically analyses the roles of its actors. The narratives, priorities, and agenda approaches of the actors promoting FBSM are documented through a series of case studies, all of which reflect a diversified demand for seed that is based on differing agro-ecological and socio-economic contexts and different sets of actor-networks. The study examines the operation of FBSM initiatives, exploring who is involved and who benefits from the programme. Links to the informal (illegal) private sector and the commercial sector are investigated, including FBSM associations with national and regional seed enterprises. The limits of FBSM initiatives are also documented.
Full title: Initial Conditions and Changes in Commercial Fertilizers under the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi: Implications for Graduation
Working Paper 30
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Andrew Dorward and Mirriam Matita
The government of Malawi has been implementing agricultural input subsidies since 2005/06 as an intervention aimed at improving food security among resource poor smallholder farmers. Although the issue of graduation is not articulated in the design of the programme, this study investigates the determinants of changes in the demand for commercial fertilizers in the presence of the subsidy programme. The increase in purchase of commercial fertilizers by subsidized households may indicate prospects of graduation from the subsidy programme in future. Using panel data between the 2004/05 and 2008/09 seasons, we find that 6 percent of households that did not purchase commercial fertilizer in 2004/05 could afford to purchase fertilizers commercially in subsidy years. Relative to those that never purchase fertilizers, these households tend to have higher per capita expenditure and higher values of durable assets. The econometric results show that initial conditions matter, with initial household size, per capita expenditure, agricultural output, and existence of business enterprise all playing a positive role in the changes in demand for commercial fertilizer. We also find that commercial fertilizers decreases with initial commercial fertilizers, land holdings and existence of ADMARC. The results suggest that the poor may have low prospects of graduation and less involvement of ADMARC and greater participation of the private sector can help in improving the ‘potential graduation conditions’.
Working Paper 29
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Andrew Dorward and Mirriam Matita
The government of Malawi has been implementing a large-scale Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) since 2005/06 as an intervention aimed at improving food security by addressing resource poor smallholder farmers’ affordability constraints in purchasing inorganic fertilizers. However, in the design of the programme, there is lack of articulation on the graduation of some farmers from the subsidy over time. This paper considers ways in which the concept of graduation may be usefully applied to the FISP and sets out a broad conceptualisation of graduation for potential application in programme design and implementation.
Working Paper 31
by Blessings Chinsinga
This paper examines the micro-politics of Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) and the roles of agro-dealers as potential anchors or drivers of a ‘uniquely African Green Revolution’. The drive toward the development of a viable network of agro-dealers is a direct consequence of the failure of the liberalization of the agricultural sector to trigger a vibrant private sector-led market. The agro-dealer initiative was introduced to address the question of missing markets for the rural farmer and deal once and for all with the question of pervasive food insecurity in Malawi.
While agro-dealership has tremendous potential to facilitate private sector led agricultural growth and development, the implementation of FISP has substantially altered the operative context for agrodealers. FISP has thrown up considerable challenges that require urgent redress if the agricultural sector is to serve as an engine of sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. The major finding of this study is that instead of functioning as a ‘smart’ subsidy, with huge potential for kick-starting the development of viable private sector-led agricultural growth, FISP has degenerated into an instrument of patronage at various levels. It has been captured by a network of elites who have appropriated it as a cash cow for rapid wealth accumulation rather than as a medium for broadening farmers’ access to productivity-enhancing inputs and technologies. The elite capture of FISP is primarily due to the institutional arrangements that mean that agro-dealers can only participate in FISP if and only if they have contracts with seed companies.
These challenges can be dealt with by the design and enforcement of a robust policy and institutional framework for agro-dealership. Most of the challenges revealed in this study are linked to the absence or weak enforcement of policy and regulatory frameworks for agro-dealers specifically, and the seed industry in general. There is therefore urgent need to develop and implement a policy and institutional framework for the agrodealership that outlines legitimate practices and expectations. Such efforts, however, are likely to face resistance as a consequence of the expansive rentseeking opportunities associated with FISP.
by Nana Akua Anyidoho, Happy Kayuni, John Ndungu, Jennifer Leavy, Mohamadou Sall, Getnet Tadele and James Sumberg
FAC Working Paper 32
This paper is about the portrayal of youth in policy documentation in sub-Saharan Africa. Historically, young people’s engagement with policy and the array of institutions that affect their lives can be characterised by two broad, interacting themes: marginalisation and mobilisation. Marginalisation is associated with deeply rooted tendencies to defer to age in ‘gerontocratic’ societies (see, for example, Harris 2004), leaving young people outside circles of power, or lacking in ‘voice’ (see also te Lintelo 2011). This can lead to youth disaffection, which may either catalyse young people to mobilise, or make them a fertile recruiting ground for the political projects of others (e.g. Peters et al 2003; Peters and Richards 1998; Richards 1995). Thus, mobilisation can be seen to be, at least in part, a consequence of isolation and disempowerment. These themes are evident, to varying degrees, in each of five study countries we focus on in this paper: Ethiopia; Ghana; Kenya; Malawi; and Senegal. It is based on a review of key national policy documents and other formal policy documentation in the five countries. The review sought to discover how rural youth and youth-related issues are portrayed. Major policy domains were considered including: agriculture and rural development; education; health; employment; economic development; crime and security; natural resource management; and climate change. The analysis focused on the visibility of young people within the policy domain; the content of policy frames and narratives on young people; and linkages between youth and agriculture.
Working Paper 33
Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Africa project
by Hannington Odame and Elijah Muange
Public and private actors and their networks are committing substantial resources to support agro-dealers to deliver novel technologies and information in line with the New Green Revolution for Africa. The main point of entry has been the cereal seed system, with a focus on maize seed in particular, which is seen as both a key staple and a politically important crop. In Kenya, the seed system landscape has been changing dramatically in recent years, with the entry of highly influential seed companies, biotechnology research and legislation of the biosafety regulations. Thus, the prospect of genetically modified (GM) crops being pushed through agribusiness networks is an emerging issue, raising the question of whether small-scale, independent stockists or ‘agro-dealers’ have the capacity to deliver these technologies and provide local regulatory control over the new seeds.
This study sought to investigate the policy and institutional environment within which agricultural biotechnology agro-dealers have evolved, as well as the agendas that are being pushed by particular interests in the new pro-GM policy and institutional environment in Kenya and their expected outcomes.
By Domingos M. do Rosário
FAC Working Paper 34
Produced as part of the FAC Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa (PEAPA) work stream
The paper analyses the changing configuration of the political system since the Rome Peace Agreement of 1992. It discusses how the “political settlement” underlying the Peace Agreement and the outcomes of multiparty elections thereafter have shaped governance, including policy-making concerning the agriculture sector and the rural economy.
The paper argues that private interests and electoral objectives have been important drivers of policy decisions taken by the governing elites concerning the agriculture sector and local governance, with precedence over donor influence. By contrasting the political choices and governance approaches adopted by the two different presidential administrations in office since the first multiparty elections were held in 1994, it is argued that one (led by Joaquim Chissano) is marked by features of “neopatrimonialism”, whereas the other (led by Armando Guebuza) is showing signs of electoral “populism”. The former is characterised by significant rent distribution by the governing elite to a narrow “selectorate”. The latter is manifested by a paternalistic and politically mobilising discourse emanating directly from the President and appealing to the broader electorate, particularly the rural population of the central and Northern region of the country, who has been traditionally opposed to the ruling party.