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Evaluation of the 2006/7 Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme, Malawi: Final Report
March 12, 2008 / Miscellaneous

This report evaluates the 2006/7 Malawi Government Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme (AISP). The main objective of the evaluation is to assess the impact and implementation of the AISP in order to provide lessons for future interventions in growth and social protection. The evaluation combined qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection and analysis.

Quantitative data were collected through a national survey in 2007 of 2,491 households who were previously interviewed in the 2004/05 Integrated Household Survey, a survey of retail shops selling inputs in six districts and data on stocks and sales from manufacturers, large-scale importers and dealers of fertilizers and seeds.

The quantitative data was triangulated by qualitative data from focus group discussions with smallholder farmers in 12 districts, and key informant interviews with government staff, input distributors and beneficiary and non-beneficiary households. The analysis is based on descriptive statistics, econometric modelling and livelihood and rural economy modelling. An Interim Report in March 2007 provides fuller details of the implementation of the programme.

Mid Term Review Future Agricultures Consortium
November 1, 2007 / Miscellaneous

The Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) is a project funded by the Renewable NaturalResources and Agriculture Mid_Term_Review_Future_Agricultures_Consortium(RNRA) Team of DFID’s Policy Division. It is a project that has the aim to improve the quality of public policy towards agriculture in low income Sub- Saharan Africa (SSA) countries. This objective arises from DFID’s Policy Paper onagriculture published in 2005 (DFID, 2005), in which the central importance of agricultural growth for poverty reduction in countries where the majority of the poor live in rural areas is affirmed. The project began in May 2005 and is scheduled to complete its current phase in March 2008. The project team has submitted a proposal to DFID for a second phase of the project to last from April 2008 to March 2011. The tasks of this mid-term review are asfollows (see Review TOR at Annex A):

(a) to assess the likelihood of FAC meeting its purpose to ‘encourage dialogue and sharing ofgood practice by policy makers and opinion formers in developing countries on the roleof agriculture in broad based growth’;
(b) to make recommendations on the FAC plan for the remaining 6 months of their currentfunding period (to March 2008); and
(c) to make recommendations on the FAC proposal for extension and expansion beyondMarch 2008.

Agriculture has certainly been moving up the strategic poverty reduction agenda in SSA.Agriculture often has a key position in individual country’s PRSPs (for example, the EthiopiaPASDEP is largely built around a strategy entitled Agricultural Development LedIndustrialization), and the sector has become a priority strategic focal point for NEPAD in theshape of its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).

Many international reports on the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals have alsoaccorded agriculture special strategic priority; for example, the UN Millennium Project(2005), the Africa Commission (2005), and of course most recently the World DevelopmentReport 2008 (World Bank, 2007), the preparation of which involved significant contributionsfrom members of FAC.FAC operates at the intersection of knowledge and policy.

This is a difficult intersection atwhich to work. On the one hand, the knowledge side of this interaction may be incomplete,contested, and complex to the extent that straightforward messages are difficult to formulateand convey. On the other hand, policy often represents a considerable dead weight of pastpractice, entrenched organizations and interests, and unwillingness to reorder priorities.Moreover, the personal and political interests that make some policy options more attractivethan others to public decision makers can be exceedingly difficult to decipher or anticipate.

What FAC sets out to do is to try to open up this policy space so that information and optionscan circulate more freely, and good ideas may stand a better chance of being taken up. Thereis no doubt that this is a worthwhile activity. FAC’s relative success to date in achieving thisobjective, and the way it might go about doing this more effectively in the future, are thefocal points of this review.

FAC Meetings Series, Autumn 2007
October 1, 2007 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}FAC-meetingEarly in the new century a consensus on agricultural and rural development emerged that provided renewed impetus to efforts to boost both agricultural development and the rural non-farm economy, in a context of ever closer rural-urban linkages and globalisation.

Both governments and donors have committed themselves to support this.The challenge has been to translate themes into practical policy. For two years the Future Agricultures Consortium, supported by DFID, has been investigating how to do this,primarily in Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi.

This set of meetings presents of the results of this work. It also includes the World Bank presenting the 2008 World Development Report on Agriculture and Development, and two sessions on the way forward and whether or not emerging challenges from biofuels, climate change, and the growth of China and India imply that the agenda needs radical revision.

Synthesis Report for Theme III. Growth and Social Protection
October 1, 2007 / Miscellaneous

By Rachel Sabates-Wheeler, Andrew Dorward, John Omiti, Stephen Devereux, Amdissa Teshome, Ephraim Chirwa
October 2007

This report describes the main activities and outputs of the Future Agriculture Consortium(FAC) under the theme of Growth and Social Protection for Phase I. Core work on the theme has involved the development of a conceptual framework setting out potential and evolving synergies and conflicts between social protection and agricultural growth in the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people, in local and national economies, and in policy formulation and implementation.

Publication and discussion of the framework has led to its uptake outside the FAC and in the country theme work. In Ethiopia and Malawi this has engaged strongly with evaluations and national and donor policy reviews of innovative and major national social protection and/or agricultural growth policies.

Such engagement has, necessarily, followed the national rather than FAC timetable, and hence theme work in these two countries has not reached the planned September completion; this is a price worth paying for the opportunities to learn from and contribute to these major national programmes, which have continent-wide relevance. In Kenya, theme work has explored, with national stakeholders, the multiple and often uncoordinated social protection interventions of different players, as well as their actual and potential interactions with agricultural development.

This work has generated considerable interest and provides a platform for rethinking and improving policies and interventions. Work on this theme has achieved considerable leverage through its integration with non-FAC work being conducted by FAC-members and by stimulating interest in the theme by other players. There are also strong cross-theme linkages through work on the policy processes of social protection and agricultural policy development, and through recognition of the importance of labour markets and on- and off-farm diversification in social protection /agriculture livelihood linkages.

Further work in the remainder of Phase I will involve writing up and reporting the work in Ethiopia and Malawi, and synthesis of this with other work being conducted by consortium members, with particular emphasis on cross-country lesson-learning.
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Agricultural Commercialisations
September 24, 2007 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Agricultural_CommercialisationsAccelerated growth in agriculture is seen by many as critical to meeting MDGs in Africa. Many national governments and international development agencies see intensification and commercialisation of smallholder agriculture playing a central role in achieving poverty reduction. The potential bene.ts of commercialisation are well documented.

According to this thinking, smallholder agriculture is uniquely positioned to deliver broad-based growth in rural areas, where the vast majority of the world’s poor people still live. Others fear that strategies for commercialising agriculture will not bring bene.ts to the majority of poor rural households, either directly or, in the view of some, at all. Instead, they fear that efforts to promote a more commercial agriculture will benefit primarily large-scale farms. At best, a minority of better-off smallholders will be able to bene. This paper from the Future Agricultures Consortium considers alternative perspectives on agricultural commercialisation. The paper attempts to get away from the idea that there is one ideal commercial agriculture, following a linear path to some clearly de.ned end point.

Commercialisations can take different pathways, especially if simple distinctions, e.g. between ‘food’ and ‘cash’ crops, are avoided. The authors argue for a diverse range of commercialisations, locally speci.c trajectories, and engagement with both domestic and export markets. Growth-poverty reduction linkages for smallholder farmers through commercialized agriculture do not lie along just one or two channels.

Lessons from Malawi’s 2005/2006 Fertilizer Subsidy Programme
July 1, 2007 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Lessons_from_MalawiThis paper is based on research work carried out the under auspices of the Politics and Policy Processes theme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC). It demonstrates that political context matters in agricultural development policy issues, using as illustration the case of the fertilizer subsidy programme (FSP) launched in Malawi in the 2005/2006 growing season.

This case study was chosen due to the widely orchestrated narratives of success surrounding the fertilizer subsidy story, particularly from the government and various sections of the society at large. Narratives of success are debited to the government.s determination to implement the programme despite strong resistance from certain donors, private sector captains and a wide array of technical experts which ended the country’s persistent failure to produce adequate food to feed itself for a period close to two decades. The country achieved food self sufficiency without having to take recourse to imports or donations for the first time in many years.

Previous interventions, notably, the Starter Pack (SP) and the Targeted Input Programme (TIP) failed to bring to an end the problem of endemic food insecurity in Malawi. The 2005/2006 maize harvest registered a record high of 2.72 million tones, nearly 0.25 million tones greater that the previous estimated harvest pegged at 2.5 million tones in the 1999/2000 growing season achieved with the combination of good rains and the starter pack programme (cf. Doward, et al. 2007). The success narrative has been further strengthened by the turnaround among several donors in their characterization and perception of the programme.

From totally condemning the programme as non-viable, the majority of the donors are now willing to engage with it provided the government is prepared to refine some elements of the programme.s design and procedures of implementation. The magnitude of success of the 2005/2006 subsidy programme remains, however, a subject of contentious debate. The main argument of the paper is that no matter what the technical arguments for or against (cf. John, 1998; Keeley and Scoones, 2003).

Contrary to the traditional and highly stylized perspective, policymaking does not happen in neat distinct stages except perhaps in a minimal sense that policies have to be proposed, legislated and implemented. Policy processes are instead a complex mesh of interactions and ramifications between a wide range of stakeholders who are driven and constrained by the contexts within which they operate.These developments require a radically different framework for understanding policy processes altogether.

According to the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) (2006) and Oya (2006), understanding the policy processes require:

(1) grasping the narratives that tell the policy stories;

(2) the way policy positions become embedded in networks of various actors; and

(3) the enabling or constraining power dynamics (politics and interests).

This suggests that policy processes, among other things, encapsulate power struggles, ideological contexts, patterns of social mobilization, struggle for political legitimacy, the force of external pressures and changing technical fashions. It is therefore imperative to go beyond the narrowly defined technical expertise and to recognize that policies as well as their implementation must be negotiated outcomes, requiring the involvement of multiple stakeholders with different interests (Scoones, et al., 2005).

This augurs very well with the current case study as it clearly demonstrates that agricultural policy processes are driven essentially by political forces and as such they cannot be fully understood without understanding the political economy surrounding them. Infact, in predominantly agro based economies; the political survival of governments greatly depends on perceptions of the success of agricultural policy processes judged largely on the basis of delivering on food security at whatever cost (cf. Johnston, 1996 and Oya, 2006). It is thus not surprising that the government of Malawi has been politically and not necessarily technically tactful in handling the fertilizer subsidy programme geared at revitalizing the agricultural sector with the view of achieving food security that has eluded successive governments since the turn of the 1990s.

The government implemented the fertilizer subsidy programme in the face of fierce donor resistance who argued that the programme run counter to the ongoing economic liberalization efforts but perhaps more critically the programme was criticized as placing unnecessary fiscal burden on the state to be sustainable in the long-run. The government implemented the programme to the tune of MK 7.1 against the initial budget of MK 4.7 billion without any donor support. This study drew essentially on the review of secondary sources (press reports, academic papers,government and donor documents) and on key informant interviews with officials from government, donor agencies, civil society and the private sector.

The analysis is structured along five sections. After this introduction, Section 2 explains the origins and context for the fertilizer subsidy programme. Section 3 provides details on the programme and the evolution in thinking within government. Section 4 discusses three different donor positions on the fertilizer programme: those totally opposing it, those supporting it and those reluctant but willing to engage with the government.s policy. Section 5 analyses the programme.s impact and adjustments in government and donor positions. Section 6 provides someconcluding reflections.

Too Much Inequality or Too Little, Inequality and Stagnation in Ethiopian Agriculture
July 2, 2006 / Miscellaneous

inequalityThe agricultural sector remains our Achilles heel and source of vulnerability …Nonetheless, were main convinced that agricultural based development remains the only source of hope for Ethiopia. (PrimeMinister Meles Zenawi 2000).

A powerful strand of thinking about the causes of long-term agricultural stagnation in Ethiopia defines the problem in terms of inequality. Indeed, it is possible to interpret most Ethiopian agricultural policy initiatives of the past three decades in terms of divergent views on the extent and consequences of rural inequality.

This article investigates the hypothesis that (too little rather than too much) inequality has contributed to agriculture’s under performance, and considers the implications for policy in terms of four alternative pathways for Ethiopian agriculture. Any Ethiopian over 40 years old has lived through three remarkably different political regimes:

  • the feudal imperial era under Emperor Haile Selassie;
  • the socialist military dictatorship of ColonelMengistu’s Derg; and
  • the market-oriented,Westernaligned democracy of PrimeMinister Meles Zenawi.

Each regime has imposed an entirely different set of policies on smallholder agriculture, where over 80 per cent of the population makes its living, yet all three have presided over an agricultural sector that is stagnant and acutely vulnerable to recurrent drought and other livelihood shocks. Following the “creeping coup” that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie during the 1974 famine,the Derg implemented a radical agrarian transformation based on redistribution of land.

Between 1976 and 1991, all rain-fed farmland in highland Ethiopia was confiscated and redistributed,after adjusting for soil quality and family size, among all rural households. This land reform was motivated not only by the Derg’s Marxist egalitarian ideology, but by its conviction that feudal relations in agriculture had exposed millions of highland Ethiopians to intolerable levels of poverty andvulnerability. Redistribution therefore had both equity and efficiency objectives. It was implementedas a mechanism not just for breaking the power of the landlords, but also for eradicating historically entrenched inequalities in control over land, with the aim of achieving sustainable increases in agricultural productivity and rural incomes.

Was the Derg’s economic analysis flawed? Hindsight suggests that the land reform was a political success but an economic failure. The Derg period is now remembered as a time of militarisation, war and repression, the worst African famine of the twentieth century, economic stagnation and failed development programmes –villagisation, state farms, forced resettlement. Redistributing land may or may not have been anecessary step for enhancing rural livelihoods, but it was evidently not sufficient. The Derg’s land reforms did not extend to the right to buy and sell land, which constitutionally belongs jointly to the state and the people.

Narratives of Agricultural Policy in Africa: What Role for Ministries of Agriculture
March 20, 2006 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Ministry_of_agricultureMuch policy research on African agriculture has focused more on ‘what policy’ type of questions,rather than on the processes by which policy is made and implemented (Omamo, 2004). The focus has been on ‘policy fixes’, based often on idealised models of the ways things should be, rather than the way they are, or are likely to be.

Researchers, consultants, donor agencies and decision-makersat government offices therefore concentrate on devising solutions for problems and overlook the complexities of the process of translating such elaborate, technical policy prescriptions into practice. Much of this translation role is left to ministries of agriculture. But what role should they play giventhe policy debates raging about the future of agriculture in Africa?

This paper provides a preliminary contribution to the debate on agricultural policy processes by focusing on the current roles and capacity of ministries of agriculture in devising and delivering agricultural policies. By unpacking the different ‘narratives’ – or storylines – about agricultural policies being pushed by different actors in the policy process, the paper asks what kind of ministry of agriculture is envisaged, either implicitly or explicitly? Three different versions are elaborated.

One sees the return of the hey-day of the sectoral ministry with capacity and policy clout – to address the major constraints of agriculture, it is argued, what is required is a strong, well-funded line ministry, and the challenge today is to rebuild such an organisation. A second – at the other extreme – sees such sector all ministries taking on a minimal role, focused on oversight and regulation, as the private sector takes on a more substantive role in a ‘free-market’ environment.

A third, perhaps less stridently articulated than the other narratives, sees an important role for the state – and the ministry of agriculture,together with other state agencies – in addressing the coordination and intermediation roles of getting markets to work effectively, while ensuring at the same time public efforts are targeted to poverty reduction. Which of these models – or hybrids and variants of them – make sense today? The analysis in this paper is conducted around two hypotheses.

The first is that, in the twenty-first century, ministries ofagriculture are no longer the key architect and driver of agricultural policies and policy reform. Other public sector agencies and non-state actors play, increasingly, a more central role in the reform and development of the agriculture sector. Indeed, over the years, the position of the state inthe agriculture sector seems to have been continuously eroded by a series of interconnected factors,which include inter alia:

(i) the demise of the socialist model of state intervention;

(ii) thewidespread adoption of the orthodox liberalization/privatisation approach to economic growth;

(iii) the structural transformation of the global economy (both at political, economic, social and culturallevels) driven to a large extent by the dramatic fall in transportation and communication costs;

(iv)the pervasive discourse on government failure, particularly in Africa; and

(v) the expansion of thethird (non-governmental and not-for-profit) sector beyond emergency relief, responding to both stateand market failures, and now emerging as an important actor in the development process.

These have contributed to the reshaping of agricultural governance structures, as well as of functions and structures of ministries of agriculture – including withdrawal from direct involvement production and marketing activities, privatization of public-sector enterprises, allegedly greater emphasis of the public sector on regulatory and enabling functions and provision of classic public goods (rural infrastructures and research) and development of new partnerships and outsourcing arrangements with the private and NGO sectors. Concomitantly, and to some extent in consistency with the above,there has been, over the last two decades, a persistent reduction in the amount of financial resources(domestic and external) allocated to the agriculture sector and to ministries of agriculture inparticular.

Future Scenarios for Agriculture in Malawi
March 19, 2006 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Future_Scenarios_for_Agriculture_in_MalawiMalawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with per capita gross domestic product of $190, 30 percent of under-five children being malnourished and the infant mortality rate of 229 per 1,000 live births and a life expectancy at birth of 42 years (World Bank, 2001).

Data from a recent household survey shows that about 52.4 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, with 22.4 percent barely surviving in 2004 (NSO, 2005). There are gender differences in food insecurity with 62.9 percent of female-headed households and 54.6 percent of male-headed households reporting inadequate food consumption.

Report on the Future Agricultures Workshop, Awassa, SNNPR
March 1, 2006 / Miscellaneous

Future Agricultures is the UK Department for International Development funded learningconsortium comprising the Institute of Development Studies, Imperial College London and the Overseas Development Institute. The Consortium has been formed to stimulate debate and generate policy options for agricultural growth. The study focuses on three countries, namely Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi. As local partners of the Consortium the Ethiopia team was tasked with initiating policydebate through key informant interviews and where possible holding discussions in a form of workshops. The Awassa 2006 is one such workshop.

Organisation of the workshop. The Ethiopia team contracted a local NGO based in Awassa to organise the workshop. Participants were carefully selected from a range of institutions – government bureaus, nongovernment, research and academic institutions. A total of 22 individuals from Awassa and about 10 from Addis Ababa showed interest. However, a total of 21 participants (14 regional and 7 Addis Ababa) attended the one-day workshop. It was unfortunate that that all those registered could not attend because the workshop coincided with government meetings.