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e-Debates

Picture 137Future Agricultures Consortium recognises the importance of debates in shaping the future of livelihoods in Africa. In order to raise the profile of important topics surrounding agriculture, the Consortium and its' partners are increasingly promoting these electronic discussions.

Read FAC's recent e-debates on:

 

 

Subcategories

  • Pastoralism in crisis?
    Man_goat

    Drought in the Horn of Africa – again. With the region's worst drought in over a decade, pastoral households around the Ethiopian, Kenyan and Somali borders have been hard hit. Alongside the humanitarian response, a re-emerging debate on the future of pastoral systems is taking shape. Is the proverbial grass greener on one side than the other?


    The revival of interest in pastoralism and livestock production takes two forms – one a celebration of the ‘pastoral way of life' and the importance of indigenous systems of production and management and another focusing on the market potentials of a ‘livestock revolution'.


    The Future Agricultures Consortium recognises the importance of these debates in shaping the future of pastoral production systems and livelihoods in East Africa. In order to raise the profile of this important discussion, we present one side of the debate –a pessimistic thesis by Stephen Sandford, and challenge this with a more upbeat response from Stephen Devereux and Ian Scoones of Future Agricultures.

  • Soil Fertility
    IMG_2499 Everyone is agreed that one of the central components of achieving an ‘African Green Revolution’ is to tackle the widespread soil fertility constraints in African agriculture. To this end, AGRA – the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa – has launched a major new ‘Soil Health’ programme aimed at 4.1 million farmers across Africa, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committing $198 million to the effort. The Abuja declaration, following on from the African Fertilizer Summit of 2006 set the scene for major investments in boosting fertilizer supplies. CAADP – the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme – has been active in supporting the follow up to the summit, particularly through its work on improving markets and trade. Other initiatives abound – the Millennium Villages programme, Sasakawa-Global 2000 But what are the policy frameworks that really will increase soil fertility in ways that will boost production in a sustainable fashion; where the benefits of the interventions are widely distributed, meeting broader aims of equitable, broad-based development? Here there is much less precision and an urgent need for a concrete debate. For this reason, the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) has decided to invite a wide range of participants to debate some key issues around the way forward for policy, and associated institutional arrangements. Details of the debating questions are outlined below and the document can also be downloaded as a ‘pdf’ document in the right-hand column.

    Please continue to contribute whatever you feel moved to write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Comments should be short, provocative and challenging.

    We want a thorough debate so feel free to forward to anyone you think would be interested. Links to:

  • Small Farm / Big Farm
    maize_smallholderDebates on the scale of farming are back on the agenda. In a number of recent articles, Professor Paul Collier, author of ‘The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can be Done About It’, made the case (see Position 1 below) for encouraging large-scale commercial farming as way to get African farming moving. Favouring small farmers, he argues, is romantic but unhelpful.

    During 2008 there have been many reports of private companies in the North and state corporations in the South reacting to the opportunity and threat of higher food prices by planning to acquire land in Africa, South-east Asia, Brazil and Central Asia to produce food.

    The most startling of these announcements is that of the Daewoo Corporation of the Republic of Korea that revealed that it was acquiring the rights to farm no less than 1.3 million hectares of Madagascar, a position from which the company and the government have now backed away from following a storm of local and international protest. In many cases the reports suggest that the aim is to farm the land on a large scale, rather than to contract production through existing family smallholdings.

    It is now more than three years since IFPRI, Imperial College, and ODI organised a workshop at Wye for specialists to debate the issues surrounding small farms. It looks to be time to revisit those arguments in the light of higher food prices, the arguments being made for large-scale farming and apparent intent of capital-rich investors.

    To start the debate, a reply to Professor Collier was drafted by Steve Wiggins (Position 2) who argued that that large farms in Africa are unnecessary, have had their failures in the past, and carry significant risks; and that if additional food is needed, then small farmers — given the right conditions — can do the job. They have in the past and there is no reason to imagine that they cannot do so again.

    FAC invited contributions to the debate that responded to the points made in the two position papers or the suggested themes listed below:

    1) Small and large farms: definitions, trends and patterns
    2) Small and large farms: environmental, livelihood and food security costs and benefits
    3) Farm scale, economic efficiency and competitiveness
    4) Agriculture policies: agri-business, rural areas, food quality and safety

     

  • African Green Revolution
    P6291489How can Africa's farmers, scientists, development practitioners, private entrepreneurs and public officials spark a "uniquely" Green Revolution in Africa, one that responds to the region's unique social, political and ecological conditions

    The aim of this moderated e-Discussion was to focus the discussions on action-oriented approaches to address the “how” part of the African Green Revolution discussions.


    The Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS), in partnership with the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), undertook a series of events on the theme of an “African Green Revolution”. The main purpose of these initiatives was to assess the most critical issues and to review, refine and articulate an agenda for a new sustainable “Green Revolution” for Sub-Saharan Africa. The Salzburg report represented a summary of the week-long deliberations, highlights key points of agreement and divergence, and set out a number of recommendations for follow-up and future action.


    In light of the considerable interest generated by the conference and seminar, SGS, FAC, and IDS created a space for people to contribute to and extend this important discussion.


    FAC held a moderated discussion on substantive action-oriented issues over a seven-week period during the months of October and November, 2008. The debate focussed on three central themes raised by the conference/seminar delegates and outlined in the report.


    Discussion Themes

    The three broad discussion themes were considered. Participants were asked to address this question under the following three themes and to highlight the best actions that can be taken to address these issues:

    1. Making Farmers' Voices Heard:
    2. Inclusion is seen as crucial to the new agenda for African agriculture. Governments, donors, farmer organisations and NGOs, must consider the particular issues surrounding small-scale farmer and issues of equity. An equitable Green Revolution requires an increased ability to facilitate inclusive approaches in which farmers, especially the small-holder, women and the poor, can access training develop new knowledge and skills in organisational leadership, business management, innovation processes, policy engagement and advocacy, and performance monitoring and learning. Contributions on this theme should revolve around concrete actions – indicating who the key actors are - to address the following questions: Which of the recommendations set forth best achieve the goal of amplifying farmers’ voices in policy debates and decision-making processes? How can we ensure that measurable targets are set for gender and equity? How can we build capacity of grassroots organisations for basic skills (e.g., organisations and business skills) and leadership (to influence policy and negotiations)? How do we strengthen horizontal and vertical linkages and partnerships/networks with other organisations? And how can we increase access to resources and services for small-scale farmers and marginalized groups?
    3. Making Science and Technology Work for Small-scale Farmers:
    4. The role of appropriate science and technology that meets the need of the small-scale farmers was identified as a crucial component for an equitable and sustainable Green Revolution for Africa. Making science and technology work for the poor calls for a multiplicity of approaches to establish links to diversity and complexity, across a range of different environments and systems throughout the continent. This requires an urgent push for major investments and key inputs now – such as improved seeds, organic and inorganic fertilisers, and soil and water management – to address nutrient deficiencies and boost productivity. Contributions to this theme should revolve around concrete actions to address the following questions: Which of the recommendations and what specific actions should be pursued to ensure that appropriate technologies are developed to assist small-scale farmers and establish inclusive processes that engage farmers throughout? What policy measures and incentives are needed to influence the governance of both public and private sector R&D systems to make them more responsive to the needs and priorities of small-scale farmers?
    5. Partnerships and Coherence:
    6. There has been much debate about the importance of coordination and alignment of initiatives and institutions. It is recognized that there are many actors involved in the “Green Revolution” and that the challenge lays in linking up various agendas to make sure we are moving in the right direction and not working at cross purposes. Contributions on this theme should focus on concrete actions to address the following questions: Which of the recommendations and proposed actions will enable coherence and encourage strategic partnerships and alignment? What are the best methods to coordinate actions among the key process and initiatives, such as CAADP, AGRA, and other public and private efforts? How can we ensure that the policy processes enhance the compact and roundtable processes of these initiatives and ensure that policy stability, transparency and coherence are created at national and international levels? What are the best methods to ensure bottom-up (i.e. locally driven) initiatives are incorporated into these alliances?

     

  • African Green Revolution - Theme 1
    Inclusion is seen as crucial to the new agenda for African agriculture. Governments, donors, farmer organisations, and NGOs, must consider the particular issues surrounding small-scale farmer and issues of equity. An equitable Green Revolution requires an increased ability to facilitate inclusive approaches in which farmers, especially the small-holder, women and the poor, can access skills training in organisational, business management, policy, advocacy and impact monitoring.

    Contributions on this theme should revolve around concrete actions – indicating who the key actors are - to address the following questions:

    • Which of the recommendations and actions set forth in the Conference Report best achieve the goal of amplifying farmers’ voices in policy debates and decision-making processes?
    • How can we ensure that measurable targets are set for gender and equity?
    • How can we build capacity of grassroots organisations for basic skills (e.g., organisations and business skills) and leadership (to influence policy and negotiations)?
    • How do we strengthen horizontal and vertical linkages and partnerships/networks with other organisations?
    • And how can we increase access to resources and services for small-scale farmers and marginalized groups?
    • What investments are needed in governance systems and accountability mechanisms to help farmers' organisations become more effective in informing and influencing public and private policy processes?
  • African Green Revolution - Theme 2

    The role of appropriate science and technology that meets the need of the small-scale farmers was identified as a crucial component for an equitable and sustainable Green Revolution for Africa. Making science and technology work for the poor calls for a multiplicity of approaches to establish links to diversity and complexity, across a range of different environments and systems throughout the continent. This requires an urgent push for major investments and key inputs now – such as improved seeds, organic and inorganic fertilisers, and soil and water management – to address nutrient deficiencies and boost productivity.

    Contributions to this theme should revolve around concrete actions to address the following questions:

    • Which of the recommendations and specific actions from the Conference Report should be pursued to ensure that appropriate technologies are developed to assist small-scale farmers and establish inclusive processes that engage farmers throughout?
    • What policy measures and incentives are needed to influence the governance of both public and private sector R&D systems to make them more responsive to the needs and priorities of small-scale farmers?
  • African Green Revolution - Theme 3
    There has been much debate about the importance of coordination and alignment of initiatives and institutions. It is recognized that there are many actors involved in the “Green Revolution” and that the challenge lays in linking up various agendas to make sure we are moving in the right direction and not working at cross purposes.

    Contributions on this theme should focus on concrete actions to address the following questions:

    • Which of the recommendations and proposed actions from the Conference Report will enable coherence and encourage strategic partnerships and alignment?
    • What are the best methods to coordinate actions among the key process and initiatives, such as CAADP, AGRA, and other public and private efforts?
    • How can we ensure that the policy processes enhance the compact and roundtable processes of these initiatives and ensure that policy stability, transparency and coherence are created at national and international levels?
    • What are the best methods to ensure bottom-up (i.e. locally driven) initiatives are incorporated into these alliances?
  • Social Relations Analysis E-Debate

    motherbaby

    While there has been emphasis on women and gender in African agriculture and policy, there has there been little integration of social relations analysis. Why?


    FAC’s gender e-debate (2 – 20 May 2011) drew on insights about household gender relations, including conjugal relations, arising from feminist and other research relevant to ongoing debates about the potential of small (family?) farms to contribute to increasing food supplies in sub-Saharan Africa


    In much gender and agriculture literature, these small farm households are framed as bounded institutions within which individual interests dominate, husbands and wives hold separate purses, and marriage is a contract legitimising the exploitation of women.

    The two FAC papers that accompanied the call for contributions to this e-debate argue for an alternative framing based on a social relations analysis. The main question being debated was why, in spite of general agreement about the value of integrating social relations analysis into policy thinking, this has not yet happened.


    Contributions were invited to address four questions that raised possible policy issues around the acceptance of a more complex framing of rural women, and of rural households and decision-making within these. In the run-up to the debate the moderator made contact with numerous individuals from Africa and elsewhere who are actively involved in relevant research. The debate was also advertised through a number of development and gender-related networks and websites.


    While the debate itself raised few comments, the site was visited by over a hundred viewers and each of the two attached gender FAC documents were downloaded over 150 times. We also received numerous e-mails and are now engaged in discussions about future research. The questions and comments are detailed on the pages below.

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