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Social Protection
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Agricultural labour productivity and food prices: Fundamental development impacts and indicators

Policy Brief 53by 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.

Agriculture and Social Protection in Africa
By Stephen DevereuxMarch 2009

 

The following propositions are generally accepted:1. Progress in reducing hunger and food insecurity in Africa is unacceptably slow. 2. Hunger and food insecurity are major impediments to poverty reduction in Africa.3. Poverty, hunger and food insecurity in Africa are still predominantly rural.4. Agriculture is a key sector in rural household strategies to exit poverty and food insecurity.5. There is an urgent need for a renewed commitment to agricultural extension and
Agriculture and Social Protection in Ethiopia: The Politics of Land and ‘Graduation’
By Stephen DevereuxMarch 2009

Agriculture and social protection are inextricably interconnected in Ethiopia. Smallholder farming is the dominant livelihood activity for most Ethiopians, but is also a major source of poverty and food insecurity. In terms of agricultural policy, the government’s belief in agriculture as the backbone and main source of economic growth is reflected in its view that land is the ultimate ‘safety net’ for rural households, who should therefore be prevented from selling it. In terms of social protection, the fact that farmers are the main recipients of food aid has fuelled the government’s fear of ‘dependency’ in rural communities, which explains the predominance of public works projects as their preferred delivery mechanism, as well as recent shifts in safety net thinking towards cash transfers rather than food aid, with predictable transfers expected to lead to ‘graduation’ within 3-5 years.

Agriculture and Social Protection in Ghana: A ‘LEAP’ in the Dark?
By Stephen DevereuxMarch 2009 

Despite impressive progress on poverty reduction at national level in Ghana, chronic poverty and livelihood vulnerability persist, especially among small farmers in northern regions. This Briefing Paper reviews social protection mechanisms for addressing vulnerability among Ghanaian farming families, from ‘PAMSCAD’ in the 1980s to the new National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) and the Livelihoods Empowerment Against Poverty (‘LEAP’) cash transfer programme.

Agriculture and Social Protection in Malawi: Fertiliser Policies and Politics
By Stephen DevereuxMarch 2009

Agricultural and social protection policies must be understood in the context of political agendas, market development and trends in rural livelihoods. This Briefing Paper reviews interactions between agricultural and social protection policies in Malawi – classified as social protection from, independent of, for, through and with agriculture – and their impacts on livelihoods and welfare. Specific attention is given to the evolution of input subsidy policies (i.e. ‘fertiliser politics’).

Factors Influencing Access to Agricultural Input Subsidy Coupons in Malawi

FAC Policy Brief 60by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Mirriam Matita and Andrew DorwardJuly 2013

One direct way in which agricultural input subsidies can provide social protection to the poor is by targeting the poor with very high subsidies to ensure that they are able to access inputs. Although the Malawi Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme (MAISP) generally targets resource-poor households, the targeting guidelines also accord special consideration to vulnerable groups such as child-headed, femaleheaded or orphan-headed households and households affected by HIV and AIDS. This Policy Brief considers how the Malawi Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme has contributed to providing social protection to these poor and vulnerable households.

Fertiliser Use on Women’s Plots: An Intra-Household View of the Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Programme

FAC Policy Brief 57by 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.

From Farmer Participation to Pro-poor Seed Markets

Policy Brief 47by 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.

Integrating Social Difference, Gender and Social Analysis into Agricultural Development?

Policy Brief 39

There is a widespread perception that ongoing social, economic, political, and environmental change processes in sub- Saharan Africa are leading to increasing levels of disadvantage based on social difference. This perception reflects the apparent inability of some groups to engage with new institutions for accessing and managing natural resources; new value chain governance models; and new regulatory measures affecting market access. In many rural locations it is women, along with young and poor men who are pinpointed as being increasingly disadvantaged.

Private Sector Participation in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi

FAC Policy Brief 58by Ephraim W. Chirwa and Andrew R. Dorward July 2013

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.

Promoting Agriculture for Social Protection or Social Protection for Agriculture? (i)Concepts/Frame
By Andrew Dorward, Rachel Sabates Wheeler, Ian MacAuslan, Chris Penrose Buckley, Jonathan Kydd, and Ephraim Chirwa

 

Agriculture’s major role in pro-poor economic growth in countries with large, poor rural sectors is increasingly recognised. There is also a major focus on social protection interventions to address risks and insecurity affecting poor people. However current policy debate and formulation makes limited attempts to integrate agricultural and social protection policies.
Promoting Agriculture for Social Protection or Social Protection for Agriculture? (ii) Policy

By Andrew Dorward, Rachel Sabates Wheeler, Ian MacAuslan, Chris Penrose Buckley, Jonathan Kydd, and Ephraim Chirwa

Risk and vulnerability play important roles in keeping poor rural people poor. Both agricultural and social protection policies can help growth benefit the poorest and most vulnerable people. In this second briefing paper on Agriculture and Social Protection we outline important interactions between social protection and agriculture development policies. Four strategic approaches addressing (with differing success) these interactions are described, together with the main policy instruments associated with them, and design and implementation issues for these instruments discussed.

Reclaiming Policy Space: Lessons from Malawi’s Fertiliser Subsidy Programme
By Blessings Chinsinga

This case study argues that political context matters in agricultural development issues. No matter what the technical or economic arguments for or against particular policy positions are, it is ultimately the configuration of political interests that influence agricultural policy outcomes on the ground.

Seeds and Subsidies: The Political Economy of Input Support Programmes in Malawi

Policy Brief 46by 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.

Targeting in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi, 2006/07 – 2011/12

FAC Policy Brief 61by Andrew Dorward and Ephraim ChirwaJuly 2013

Targeting, the process of directing subsidised inputs to particular areas and to households within those areas, plays a critical role in Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP). It involves the implementation of particular targeting systems which are intended to deliver particular targeting outcomes and patterns of subsidised input access across areas and households. These affect how inputs are used, and hence programme impacts. Targeting is controversial and political, as it determines whether or not, how and how much particular people and groups benefit from the programme. Targeting is also difficult – and the large scale of the programme across the country adds to the challenges and costs in implementing and supervising targeting.

This policy brief sets out targeting issues that emerge from FISP evaluations and suggests criteria and options for improving targeting processes, outcomes and impacts.

The Green Belt Initiative and Land Grabs in Malawi

FAC Policy Brief 55by 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.

The Political Economy of Ethiopian Cereal Seed Systems

Policy Brief 48by 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?

The short and medium term impacts of rises in staple food prices

Policy Brief 52by 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. 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.
The Social Protection Policy in Malawi: Processes, Politics and Challenges
By Blessings Chinsinga February 2008

 

The livelihoods of Malawians are much more precarious today than they were probably two decades ago. Repeated shocks over the years have forced most households to dispose of key productive assets to meet immediate consumption needs, leaving them incapable of maintaining sustainable livelihoods.
Thinking about ‘Graduation’ from the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi

FAC Policy Brief 59by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Andrew R. Dorward and Mirriam MatitaJuly 2013

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.