By Steve Wiggins July 2009
Despite the achievements of smallholders in Asia during the green revolution, there is scepticism that Africa’s smallholders — who dominate the farm area in most countries — can imitate this model and deliver agricultural growth. This paper assesses whether such pessimism is justified.
Given the high transactions costs of hiring labour of farms, diseconomies of scale can be expected when labour is relatively cheap and abundant compared to other factors of production: which may explain the survey evidence that small farms often produce more per hectare than larger farms. In conditions of low development with relatively cheap labour, small units may have advantages over larger ones.
FAC Working Paper 43by Colin Poulton
Theories of policy neglect of, or discrimination against, agriculture in Africa include urban bias (Lipton 1977; Bates 1981) and the narrow self-interest of autonomous elites (van de Walle 2001). Whilst structural adjustment removed much of the previous tax burden on African agriculture (Anderson and Masters 2009), the sector also saw declining investment from international development partners and through national budgets (Fan et al. 2009). Whilst there has been some recovery in public investment in agriculture over the past decade, signalled by the 2003 Maputo Declaration (Assembly of the African Union 2003), investment in the infrastructural and institutional public goods needed to support smallholder-led agricultural growth remains disappointing. As a result, the contribution of the agricultural sector to growth and poverty reduction objectives in Africa is widely believed to have been below potential.
In theory, democratisation, which has proceeded unevenly across Africa during the past two decades, should encourage pro-poor agricultural policy, as the majority of voters in many countries remain rural and poor. This paper draws on case studies of recent policy change (attempted and actual) in eight African countries, plus an analysis of the political systems in these countries, to explore the evolving role of competitive electoral politics in agricultural policy making. An important observation is that politicians are as likely to rely on ethnic allegiances and forms of social or political control to secure votes as they are to engage in policy competition. Moreover, the political incentives facing senior policy makers in the agricultural and rural development sphere may be inimical to the development of strong institutions to promote smallholder agricultural growth. Instead the paper finds that it is exogenous factors - macroeconomic dependence on agriculture and, most strikingly, sustained threats to regime survival - that create positive incentives for agricultural investment, even where social or political control is relied on to secure votes. The implications for participants in agricultural policy processes are briefly explored.
FAC document de travail no. 41par Augustin Loada
Le présent article porte sur l’économie politique de la filière coton au Burkina Faso. Si l’histoire du succès économique de cette filière est bien connue, il n’en va pas de même pour le rôle de l’économie politique jusque là peu étudié.
Pays sahélien enclavé confronté à des conditions climatiques et écologiques peu propices au développement de l’agriculture, le Burkina Faso est pourtant cité comme un exemple de réussite dans la filière coton. Introduite en Afrique l’Ouest sous l’ère coloniale dans les années 20, la culture du coton connaît un succès qui n’est pas seulement dû aux innovations techniques apportées de l’extérieur mais aussi à la capacité d’innovation des producteurs (Thomas J. Basset, 2002). Mais la filière ne prendra son envol qu’au lendemain de l’indépendance en 1960, sous l’impulsion de la Compagnie française pour le développement des fibres textiles (CFDT), une société publique dont le champ d’intervention s’étendait dans la sous-région francophone.
John Baptist D. Jatoe, Damien G. Lankoandé and James SumbergMay 2013
This paper tests the ‘systems of innovation’ hypothesis for a selection of crops in Ghana and Burkina Faso that have shown significant growth in production over an approximately 20-year period. The question is whether such growth can only occur if supported by a system of innovation. Using two indicators (a common understanding on objectives and priorities, and a high level of interactivity) we find little evidence for the existence of anything that might be considered a high functioning system of innovation.
Working Paper 79 Gountiéni Damien Lankoandé and James Sumberg March 2014
The distribution of livestock to poor people, commonly known as heifer-in-trust (HIT) or ‘livestock-in-kind credit’, can be seen as a specific type of asset-based social protection. Because of their growth and reproductive potential, some suggest that livestock can play a particularly important role in asset accumulation and thus graduation. This study tests the assumption that livestock will remain a part of the asset portfolio of HIT recipients. Beneficiaries of five HIT-type projects in Burkina Faso were interviewed. The analysis suggests that either because of poor targeting or an appreciation of the demands of livestock keeping, the HIT projects are not reaching the poorest. It also provides only limited support to the assumption that poor people will use the HIT gift to increase their livestock assets. There would appear to be good reason to question the general proposition that livestock are a particularly appropriate asset for transfer to the poor. Because of the demands of livestock – in terms for example of feed, water and management – for the poorest, they may be more of a liability. Understanding the role of asset-transfer programmes in graduation demands a holistic understanding of asset dynamics, which presents important methodological challenges.
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