The Policy Brief series was launched by Future Agricultures in 2005 to provide a forum for the analysis of important agriculture policy issues by leading researchers. The series aims to identify key issues, apply the best and most up-to-date research to help understand these issues, and explore the implications of this research for the design and conduct of policy. We typically publish between 8 to 10 Policy Briefs each year.
A significant number of our policy briefs are also translated into French.
As Africa attempts to boost agricultural productivity, many countries are turning to Brazil and China for the possibility of alternative approaches and technologies. Both countries have boasted numerous agricultural achievements, and both are increasing their engagements with African partners. The G8/African Union’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition bears some similarities with China and Brazil’s efforts, particularly with its aims to “increase responsible domestic and foreign private investments in African agriculture, take innovations that can enhance agricultural productivity to scale, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities”. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) describes this initiative as targeting the creation of “new jobs and market opportunities for small and large farms in African agriculture,” albeit, with a greater discussion of the importance of smallholders. Brazil and China’s ‘cooperation’ efforts in trade, aid and investments provide some key lessons for the New Alliance.
The questions of how Africa can feed itself, and how the agricultural sector can be a more effective engine for growth and development, have long been targets of national governments. Western donors have increased assistance following the 2007/8 food price crisis. But the emergence of China and Brazil as major players has raised hopes that innovative agricultural models from the ‘rising powers’ can be transferred or adapted to African countries.
This policy brief draws on latest research findings by Future Agricultures, focusing on engagement in four African countries, and asks:
- What are the realities of the different routes and models in China and Brazil’s agricultural development?
- How are China and Brazil engaging with Africa in agricultural development?
- How should Africa approach these new engagements - with open arms or cautiously, looking at likely winners and losers?
CAADP Policy Brief 11
by Kate Wellard-Dyer
Accelerating growth in the agricultural sector by raising the capacities of private entrepreneurs – smallholder and commercial farmers – to meet the increasingly complex requirements of domestic, regional and international markets, is the central aim of CAADP Pillar II.
Commercialisation is about increasing engagement with markets. Smallholder farmers have long been engaged with markets for produce, inputs and information. Urbanisation, better communications and globalisation make understanding smallholder commercialisation all the more important. This policy brief draws on recent research by Future Agricultures and asks:
- How do small farmers commercialise?
- What have been the outcomes of small farmer commercialisation?
- How can policies support smallholder commercialisation and encourage good outcomes?
Full title:The Struggle over the Commons: Annual Savanna Fires and Transnational Mango Outgrower Schemes in Northern Ghana
FAC Policy Brief 62
by Joseph A. Yaro and Dzodzi Tsikata
Northern Ghana is characterised by rain fed agriculture, poor infrastructure, food crop production and poor export-oriented agriculture. Large-scale agriculture producing export crops has been one of the many suggestions made to reduce poverty in the region. However, annual savanna fires destroy investments in commercial and food crop agriculture due to a misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of these fires. The underlying causes of fires and their control cannot merely be attributed to overt reasons; they result from socio-political causes such as dissatisfaction with processes of disenfranchisement and social exclusion. This raises many questions regarding the plausibility and efficacy of introducing a modern export-oriented organic mango farming project in improving the local economy of northern Ghana.
This brief examines the Integrated Tamale Fruit Company (ITFC) outgrower farm model, which fits well into the government’s value chain approach to agricultural commercialisation with an export focus. Savanna fires are not necessarily destructive as the current policy formulations prescribe, but an understanding of the varied uses of these fires, the timings and a negotiated management of natural resources including land, is important in regulating the use of fires in ways beneficial to all land users.
FAC Policy Brief 61
by Andrew Dorward and Ephraim Chirwa
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.
FAC Policy Brief 60
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Mirriam Matita and Andrew Dorward
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.
FAC Policy Brief 59
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Andrew R. Dorward and Mirriam Matita
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.
FAC Policy Brief 58
by Ephraim W. Chirwa and Andrew R. Dorward
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.
FAC Policy Brief 57
by 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.
CAADP Policy Brief 10
by Kate Wellard-Dyer
Large-scale foreign land acquisitions - land grabs - are major and real concerns for African populations. The consequences of land deals are highly significant for local populations and the environment. Some see economic opportunities for local communities through employment and income generated from leasing or selling land. Others see land alienation as a major threat to local livelihoods, food security and the environment. The question is whether ‘win-win’ models exist - benefitting local people as well as providing an economic return to investors. This policy brief draws on latest research by Future Agricultures. It asks: What are the drivers behind large-scale land deals in Africa and who are the main players? What is the impact of land deals on livelihoods and food security of existing land users? What can governments do to protect smallholder livelihoods?