Miscellaneous


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Put Farmers First To Transform Agriculture
February 12, 2009 / Miscellaneous

Agriculture and food are urgent global priorities with farmers on the front line of some ofthe world’s most pressing issues. Putting farmers at the vanguard of responses to the food crisis and climate change in Africa and beyond is vital. Putting farmers at the centre of agricultural innovation and development is the subject of a new Practical Action Publishing book, Farmer First Revisited:

Innovation for Agricultural Research and Development, edited by Ian Scoones and John Thompson, foreword by Robert Chambers and launched today in Nairobi, Kenya, by Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Carlos Sere, Director General, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI). The books 150 contributors review cases of farmer-led innovation in 30 countries around the world over the past twenty years.

It aims to re-energise the debate about farmer involvement in agricultural research and development, refine the „farmer first approach. methodologies and set new challenges and goals for the immediate and long-term future. Farmer First Revisited discusses: . The methods, institutions and support systems required to transform agriculture research and development systems . How farmer first approaches can help boost production and get the right seeds and other inputs into the hands of farmers .

How farmers can lead climate adaptation responses, using local knowledge and systems to improve resilience and the capacity to change. The book is published twenty years after the original „Farmer First. book, when the idea of promoting farmer-led agricultural innovation was considered a marginal, almost subversive, issue. This was followed in 1994 with „Beyond Farmer First.. But today mainstream opportunities exist for transforming agriculture and putting farmers firmly in the driving seat of change.

In the intervening two decades, the Farmer First movement – a loose, informal network stretching across the world – has experimented with a range of participatory approaches to agricultural research and extension with farmers at the heart of the innovation process.Participatory plant breeding, for example, has involved farmers in the process of choosing and testing new crop varieties. Extension systems have equally been transformed, moving from topdown instruction towards farmer-to-farmer exchange and joint learning.

The use of new information technologies has expanded too, allowing information sharing between farmers. As a result, farmers are increasingly seen as partners in the innovation process, rather than merely recipients of national and international research and extension systems. Yet failures of conventional agriculture and associated institutional arrangements are apparent everywhere. The generation of an African Green Revolution, for example, requires a new agriculture based on partnerships, not top-down impositions and rooted in diverse knowledges rather than singular technical solution.

Wider perspectives on innovation, linking with research and markets, technology development and users are needed. Judi Wakhungu, Executive Director, African Centre for Technology Studies, Nairobi, Kenya and co-chair International Assessment of Agricultural Science, Knowledge and Technology for Development (IAASTD) argues the book shows “why we need to continue questioning conventional assumptions about agriculture, and why multiple knowledges and sources of innovation are more important than ever.”

That opportunities exist for farmers to drive this innovation are especially evident in Africa. Government commitments through the CAADP/NEPAD framework are in place; funding support is being channelled through organisations like AGRA; and policy wider commitments are being affirmed by the IAASTD, the World Banks. World Development Report on agriculture and the discussions around the Global Partnership for Agriculture. And as this new book shows, there are two decades of „farmer first. experiences to build on. Gordon Conway, Chief Scientific Adviser at the UK Department for International Development (DFID) notes: “Twenty years on and the concepts and practices of Farmer First remain powerful and compelling, and even more relevant in today’s world”.

Joachim Voss, former Director General of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia comments: “Farmer First has won broad acceptance by rigorously proving its superior efficiency in making science work for the poorest and most marginal farmers. It is indeed a pleasure to see how the established and dedicated practitioners, together with a new generation of committed young scientists, have built upon the original concepts and methods to create this dynamic, exciting and effective corpus of work. “

Future Agricultures Consortium
February 12, 2009 / Miscellaneous

By Ian Scoones and John Thompson
12 February 2009

Our mission:

“to encourage dialogue and the sharing of good practice by policy makers and opinion formers in Africa on the role of agriculture in broad based growth”. But aren’t others doing this? CAADP (with the legitimacy of an international governmental process) and AGRA, IFPRI and others (with lots of money)…..likely to be others, So where do we fit?, What do we do that is different?

FAC niche
A diverse partnership

  • Dialogue and deliberation – opening up the debate.
  • Embedded in local settings – but linking to the wider debates
  • Independent, flexible, agile, responsive.
  • Able to challenge, critique and confront
  • Communications – linking findings to wide audiences
  • Relationship with DFID – bridging research and policy.

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Agriculture and Food Security: Pre-Evaluation Review of DFID Policy
February 3, 2009 / Miscellaneous

John Wyeth, Steve Ashley{jathumbnail off}{jcomments off}

This report considers whether the DFID agriculture policy remains relevant in the light of the recent food crisis and where and why consideration might be given for changes to be made. It is not an evaluation2 and it does not suggest a new policy but aims to provide direction and identify issues and some alternative ways in which the policy might evolve, especially in its relationship with food security.

The policy focussed on the role that agricultural productivity and growth plays in poverty reduction. It did not repeat the analysis of livelihoods and food security that had been covered in earlier papers3 but complemented them by emphasising the benefits of concentrating on areas that had most growth potential.

The mechanisms through which growth reduces poverty were identified as being by increasing income directly in a sector where most poor people live; by increasing the supply, and thereby decreasing the price, of food; by providing labour intensive employment in rural areas; and through the linkages agriculture generates with other economic sectors. The policy provided support for farmers through macro level policies, more effective public spending and focussing on market opportunities, agricultural finance, new technologies, land and property rights as well as reductions of national and international market distortions.

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Social Protection Series Poverty, Livelihoods and Vulnerability in Northern Ghana
January 1, 2009 / Miscellaneous

By Ramatu Al-Hassan and Colin Poulton
January 2009

Ghana was one of the first countries in Africa to embark on structural adjustment reforms. 25 years on, its continuing commitment to reform for national economic development has yielded impressive gains in growth and poverty reduction. Poverty in the country is measured through periodic.

Ghana Living Standards Surveys (GLSS). In 1991/92 GLSS3 found that 51.7% of the population were living below the national poverty line. By 1998/99 (GLSS4) this had fallen to 39.5% and by 2005/06 (GLSS5) it had fallen to 28.5% (Ghana Statistical Service2007). In absolute terms the number of poor people in Ghana has fallen from 7.9 million in 1991/92 to 6.2 million in 2005/06. At current growth rates, Ghana should achieve MDG1before 2010. However, the fall in poverty has not been experienced equally around the country.

GLSS5 figures show poverty headcount rates in the five southern regions of the country of between12% (Greater Accra) and 20% (Ashanti, Central, Eastern, Western). These regions have all seen dramatic falls in poverty since 1991/92 due to urban growth, minerals extraction and,in the recent survey period, a boom in the cocoa sector in response to higher world prices and domestic market reforms and production support. The “transitional” regions, Brong Ahafo and Volta, have also witnessed impressive falls in poverty to around 30% in 2005/06. However, poverty in the three northern regions – Northern, Upper East and Upper West –remains stubbornly high at 52-88%.

In 2005/06 the three northern regions accounted for just under 22% of the population, but 45% of the headcount poor, 57% of the headcount extreme poor and 80% of extreme poverty severity1 in the country (Ghana Statistical Service 2007). The livelihood classification used by GLSS shows poverty to be concentrated amongst “foodcorp farmers”, who are encountered disproportionately (but not exclusively) within the three northern regions. This group accounted for 43% of the population in 2005/06, but 69% of the headcount poor. Whilst the poverty rate amongst “food crop farmers” (68%) and “export The P2 poverty measure using the lower (extreme poverty) line.
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Agriculture and Social Protection in Ethiopia
January 1, 2009 / Miscellaneous

By Stephen Devereux and Bruce Guenther
January 2009

Agriculture and social protection in Ethiopia are inextricably interconnected. Smallholder farming is the dominant livelihood activity for the majority of Ethiopians, but it is also the major source of vulnerability to poverty, food insecurity and their often fatal consequences– chronic malnutrition, premature mortality, recurrent famines. Ethiopian farmers have been the recipients of enormous volumes of food aid and other humanitarian assistance over recent decades, to such an extent that emergency relief has become institutionalised within government structures and donor agency country programmes.

The discourse surrounding the complex relationship between agriculture and social protection in Ethiopia can be approached from either perspective. From the agricultural policy perspective, the government’s unshakeable belief in the centrality of farming as the backbone and potential source of growth for the Ethiopian economy is mirrored by its almost ideological view that land is the ultimate ‘safety net’ for rural households, who should therefore be protected against losing their access to land – by being prevented from selling it.

From the social protection perspective, awareness that able-bodied farmers are the main‘beneficiaries’ of safety nets and humanitarian food aid has fuelled the government’s visceral fear of creating ‘dependency’ in rural communities, which in turn explains the predominance of public works projects as their preferred delivery mechanism for food aid, as well as recent shifts in safety net thinking towards cash transfers rather than food aid, with predictable multi-annual transfers expected to lead to ‘graduation’ within a defined time period.
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Building synergies between social protection
January 1, 2009 / Miscellaneous

By Rachel Sabates Wheeler, Stephen Devereux and Bruce Guenther
January 2009

The paper explores how social protection and agricultural policies interact, creating either synergies or conflicts between them. To the extent that social protection measures help poor rural people expand their assets, use them more efficiently and adopt higher return activities,there should be strong synergies with agricultural development. Reverse synergies can also arise,if agricultural policies help farmers improve their livelihoods and reduce their vulnerability.

But conflicts can occur if policy objectives are inconsistent with each other, and these are alsoexamined in this paper. We draw on numerous examples from the across the globe, but withspecific emphasis from the African continent to highlight issues including, liquidity constraints,scale and threshold effects, timing, seasonality and policy complementarities. In conclusionwe consider lessons for how the agricultural policies and social protection instruments can bedesigned and implemented to exploit welfare and growth synergies.

After a lengthy period of relative neglect, agriculture is back on the policy agenda of many African governments and international agencies. Smallholder farming is recognised by the Commission for Africa, NEPAD and others as central to rural livelihoods and therefore indispensable to food security and poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa. At the same time, however, the multiple risks and vulnerabilities that smallholders face are increasingly well understood, and new policy frameworks are emerging that distinguish between different types and sources of risk (for example, idiosyncratic and covariant risk affecting agricultural production, markets and health) and between different response options (investment in crop or livestock protection, irrigation, market stabilisation and access, cash transfers, and so on).

Reducing risk in smallholder farming requires agricultural development policies, and policies that create a conducive enabling environment for agriculture, while managing risk in smallholder farming requires social protection policies that can also contribute to reducing risk. The paper analyses how social protection and agricultural policies interact, creating either synergies or conflicts between them.

We explore both current and potential synergies and conflicts between ‘welfare-promoting’ and ‘growth-promoting’ forms of social protection and agricultural development. To the extent that social protection measures help poor rural people expand their assets, use them more efficiently and adopt higher return activities, there should be strong synergies with agricultural development. Reverse synergies can also arise, if agricultural policies help farmers improve their livelihoods and reduce their vulnerability. But conflicts can occur if policy objectives are inconsistent with each other, and these are also examined in this paper.
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Sequencing of Investments for Agricultural Growth, Poverty Reduction
October 31, 2008 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}food-securityAs investment in agricultural development gains increasing prominence in Africa, amonggovernments and donors, there is renewed interest in developing strategic understanding of theinvestments that are needed to effectively and efficiently promote agricultural growth to benefit thepoor and improve food security.

This is a matter of particular concern in the design andimplementation of NEPAD’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program. NEPADand its partners are therefore planning to establish Regional Strategy and Knowledge SupportSystems (to be called ReSAKSS) to develop information and analytical capabilities to support theprioritization, design, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation of investment programs andactivities.

A meeting was held in Washington in June 2006 to discuss the establishment of theseReSAKSS. Attended by representatives from research institutions, regional economic communities,and donors, the two day meeting discussed first critical analytical issues that these systems andneed to address and process for the successful establishment of these systems. A critical issue for design of investment programmes is to ensure that investments are correctlysequenced.

To understand this, it is a necessary first to understand the major processes and stagesof agricultural development, of economic growth, and of poverty reduction.Agricultural growth, poverty reduction, and food security require complementary changes inpeople’s livelihoods and in the local and national economic environment. Livelihoods can behelpfully considered in terms of their contribution to three broad strategies which we term “hangingin” (maintenance and survival), “stepping up” (improvement and expansion of current activities),and “stepping out” (branching out to new activities).

These strategies are not mutually exclusive:most of us have some concerns to “hang in”, but development involves increasing opportunities for“stepping up” and “stepping out”. These transitions are particularly important to poor rural people,for whom agriculture is a major vehicle for “hanging in”, and, with agricultural growth, for“stepping up”. In the long run, however, agriculture is something from which most people “stepout” to employment in non-farm activities.

The growth of non farm employment opportunities,however, depends upon growth and structural change in the wider economy, including, of course,“stepping up” growth in agriculture.The processes of livelihoods and economic change and growth are highly inter-related anddependent upon each other. They depend upon, and are driven by, technical and institutionalchange which again interact and depend upon each other to raise the productivity of resources andfacilitate capital accumulation. Unfortunately, though, these processes can be impeded by a set ofmicro-, meso-, and macro- poverty traps.

Micro traps are well known, a vicious circle where peoplehave limited resources, which lead to low productivity, which leads to low incomes, which thenprevent the accumulation of resources. The trap is exacerbated by vulnerability to health, climate,and economic stresses and shocks, vulnerability which is increased by the low incomes and limitedresources of poor people.

The Global Fertiliser Crisis and Africa
June 1, 2008 / Miscellaneous

By Blessings Chinsinga
June 2008

Political and media attention has rightly been focused on recent increases in food and energy prices and their impacts on consumers and national economies, particularly poor consumers and poor economies but much greater increases in fertiliser prices have received much less attention in industrialised economies.

The impacts of these fertiliser price increases on many countries in Africa, however, are potentially very damaging in their effects on food security, poverty, and long term economic growth. In the many African countries that are heavily dependent on agriculture the impacts of high fertiliser prices and scarcity will extend beyond farmers to affect consumers, export earnings from cash crops, exchange rates, and the whole economy.

Fertiliser price increases

Fertiliser prices have risen dramatically in the last two years, more than oil and staple and cash crop prices (see figure 1). The scale and significance of these price increases is even more dramatic when fertiliser price changes are compared with changes in the prices of the crops they are used to produce. Table 1 shows that the real price of DAP, a major phosphate fertiliser, has increased by 320% over the last two years, and the real price of urea, a major nitrogenous fertiliser, has increased by 160%. Increases in real prices of major food crops were much smaller, though still substantial (increases in rice prices were roughly the same as increases in urea prices). Prices of oil and of export crops, for example cotton, were much more static. Much of the fertiliser price increases have occurred in the last 12 months, and while DAP and crop prices appear to have flattened in the last month or so, urea prices have continued to rise.

Causes

There are a number of reasons for these dramatic increases in fertiliser prices. Demand has increased as a result of higher food prices and increased use in biofuel production. Supply has been affected by increasing energy costs (which are particularly important in producing nitrogenous fertilisers), the introduction of export tariffs on some fertilisers (for example by China in April 2008), and capacity limits in expanding production to meet rising demand – particularly for phosphate rock. These influences have to be seen in the context of large shifts of funds into commodities, particularly into commodity index funds. These shifts have been encouraged by the fall in the value of the US dollar and low US interest rates, with the development of new commodity index investment instruments and funds (Masters, 2008).{jathumbnail off}{jcomments off}

Points of View
April 11, 2008 / Miscellaneous

PUT FARMERS FIRST TO TRANSFORM AGRICULTUREAchim Steiner

Agriculture and food are urgent global priorities with farmers on the front line of some of the world’s most pressing issues. Putting farmers at the vanguard of responses to the food crisis and climate change in Africa and beyond is vital.

Putting farmers at the centre of agricultural innovation and development is the subject of a new Practical Action Publishing book, Farmer First Revisited: Innovation for Agricultural Research and Development, edited by Ian Scoones and John Thompson, foreword by Robert Chambers and launched today in Nairobi, Kenya, by Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Carlos Sere, Director General, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

The book’s 150 contributors review cases of farmer-led innovation in 30 countries around the world over the past twenty years. It aims to re-energise the debate about farmer involvement in agricultural research and development, refine the „farmer first approach? methodologies and set new challenges and goals for the immediate and long-term future.

Farmer First Revisited discusses:

  • The methods, institutions and support systems required to transform agriculture research and development systems
  • How farmer first approaches can help boost production and get the right seeds and other inputs into the hands of farmers
  • How farmers can lead climate adaptation responses, using local knowledge and systems to improve resilience and the capacity to change

The book is published twenty years after the original „Farmer First? book, when the idea of promoting farmer-led agricultural innovation was considered a marginal, almost subversive, issue. This was followed in 1994 with „Beyond Farmer First?. But today mainstream opportunities exist for transforming agriculture and putting farmers firmly in the driving seat of change.

In the intervening two decades, the Farmer First movement – a loose, informal network stretching across the world – has experimented with a range of participatory approaches to agricultural research and extension with farmers at the heart of the innovation process.

Participatory plant breeding, for example, has involved farmers in the process of choosing and testing new crop varieties. Extension systems have equally been transformed, moving from top-down instruction towards farmer-to-farmer exchange and joint learning. The use of new information technologies has expanded too, allowing information sharing between farmers. As a result, farmers are increasingly seen as partners in the innovation process, rather than merely recipients of national and international research and extension systems.

Yet failures of conventional agriculture and associated institutional arrangements are apparent everywhere. The generation of an African Green Revolution, for example, requires a new agriculture based on partnerships, not top-down impositions and rooted in diverse knowledges rather than singular technical solution. Wider perspectives on innovation, linking with research and markets, technology development and users are needed.

Judi Wakhungu, Executive Director, African Centre for Technology Studies, Nairobi, Kenya and co-chair International Assessment of Agricultural Science, Knowledge and Technology for Development (IAASTD) argues the book shows “why we need to continue questioning conventional assumptions about agriculture, and why multiple knowledges and sources of innovation are more important than ever.”

That opportunities exist for farmers to drive this innovation are especially evident in Africa. Government commitments through the CAADP/NEPAD framework are in place; funding support is being channelled through organisations like AGRA; and policy wider commitments are being affirmed by the IAASTD, the World Bank’s World Development Report on agriculture and the discussions around the Global Partnership for Agriculture.

And as this new book shows, there are two decades of „farmer first? experiences to build on.

Gordon Conway, Chief Scientific Adviser at the UK Department for International Development (DFID) notes: “Twenty years on and the concepts and practices of Farmer First remain powerful and compelling, and even more relevant in today’s world”.

Joachim Voss, former Director General of the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture in Colombia comments: “Farmer First has won broad acceptance by rigorously proving its superior efficiency in making science work for the poorest and most marginal farmers. It is indeed a pleasure to see how the established and dedicated practitioners, together with a new generation of committed young scientists, have built upon the original concepts and methods to create this dynamic, exciting and effective corpus of work.”

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Rising food prices: A global crisis
April 1, 2008 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Rising_food_pricesSoaring food prices pose problems for three groups. First, the poor whose ability to buy food is undermined. Second, governments of low-income countries facing higher import bills, soaring costs for safety net programmes and political unrest.

Third, aid agencies juggling increased demands for food, cash and technical advice. High food prices threaten the gains of the 1960s and highlight the long-term need for investment in, and better management of, the global food supply. This Paper examines the causes of rising food prices, expected trends, the likely impact, and possible policy responses.