The Future Agricultures Consortium produces research in a variety of formats.Several key research series are available for download, circulation and citation.

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FAC Land 31 Mar 10
April 6, 2010 / Meetings

The limits of decentralised governance: the case of agriculture in Malawi
March 31, 2010 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 33

Decentralisation reforms and the new policy extension in Malawi held the promise of a stronger role for districts and lower levels in agricultural governance and increased plurality of agricultural service providers. Such potential is yet to be realised. There is an impasse with the decentralisation process and local government performance and interaction with other service providers face considerable institutional and operational challenges. Such challenges are compounded by the increasing politicisation of Malawian agriculture policy. In the absence of progress in decentralisation or in the development of a diversi ed and competitive supply of agricultural services, traditional leaders are, in some cases, emerging as progressive actors with capacity to mobilise people to agricultural activities in a developmental way.


Policy Brief 033small Pdf 377.54 KB 3 downloads


Future Agricultures in Kenya
March 26, 2010 / Meetings

By John Omiti

Future Agricultures-kenyaCross-country co-ordination issues
Commercialization – Gem Arwings Kodhek / Steve Wiggins

Social Protection – Lydia Ndirangu/ Stephen Devereux
Country co-ordination – John Omiti / John Thompson

FAC Overview
March 5, 2010 / FAC Documents

General FAC Presentation – overview of research and themes

Achieving a Uniquely African Green Revolution
March 3, 2010 / E-debates

How can Africa’s farmers, scientists, development practitioners, private entrepreneurs and publicofficials, with the support of the international community, spark a Green Revolution in Africa,one that responds to the region’s unique social, political and ecological conditions? That was thechallenge presented to the over 113 delegates from 29 countries who attended a set of linkeddiscussions at the Salzburg Global Seminar in late April/early May 2008.

The main purpose ofthe deliberations was to assess the most critical issues and to review, refine and articulate anagenda for a new sustainable “Green Revolution” for Sub-Saharan Africa. The delegates weretasked with answering the question: What are the core elements of a “uniquely African GreenRevolution?”

Cash Transfers and High Food Prices: Explaining Outcomes on Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program
March 1, 2010 / Working Papers

Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and Stephen Devereux
January 2010

An ongoing and highly politicised debate concerns the relative efficacy of cash transfers versus food aid. This paper aims to shed light on this debate, drawing on new empirical evidence from Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP). Our data derive from a two-wave panel survey conducted in 2006 and 2008. Ethiopia has experienced unprecedented rates of inflation since 2007, which have reduced the real purchasing power of PSNP cash payments. Our regression findings confirm that food transfers or ‘cash plus food’ packages are superior to cash transfers alone – they enable higher levels of income growth, livestock accumulation and self-reported food security. These results raise questions of fundamental importance to global humanitarian response and social protection policy. We draw out some implications for the design of social transfer programmes and describe some steps that could be taken to enable ‘predictable transfers to meet predictable needs’

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The Role and Performance of the Ministry of Agriculture in Eldoret West District
March 1, 2010 / Research Papers

Booker W. Owuor, Job O. Ogada, Colin Poulton, and Gem Argwings-Kodhek
June 2010

Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy. Well managed, agriculture can be the single source that will spearhead the economy and alleviate poverty among the over 80 percent of Kenya’s population dependant on it. The sector has been fragmented into 10 ministries that all came out of a large Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) that is still seen as the parent Ministry and is viewed as the main player in the sector. This study was aimed at gaining a better understanding of how the sector is managed, and to critically examine the structure, capacity and coordination capabilities of the Ministry of Agriculture in Eldoret West District.

Policy frameworks for increasing soil fertility in Africa
February 25, 2010 / E-debates

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.

Soil Frameworks
February 25, 2010 / E-debates

We have had some fantastic – and varied – contributions to the debate. Many thanks to everyone who contributed. This note aims to draw out some themes and emerging conclusions. It is not comprehensive, and I urge everyone to read through the contributions, as there are many rich examples and interesting ideas about ways forward.

Response to Prof Collier
February 25, 2010 / E-debates

To produce the food necessary to reduce high world food prices and meet the future demands of a growing and more affluent population, large-scale commercial farming needs to be encouraged. Any romantic illusions about small-scale farmers should be set aside. Or so Professor Collier writing recently in Foreign Affairs (November/December 2008) argues.

Roland Bunch
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 2

The problem has been, for decades, that the world’s top scientists have not concentrated on the most important problems of small-scale farmers. If someone is dying of thirst, and you give him fried chicken, you are not going to save him, even if he does also happen to be malnourished. You have to respond to people’s most important needs–their limiting factors.

By far the largest problem worldwide with respect to the lack of appropriate agricultural technologies is that the CGIAR system, dominated by plant geneticists, has already decided what small farmers need, without being willing to look at all the indications that their priorities are dead wrong. The limiting factors of the vast majority of smallholder farmers in Africa are NOT genetic. The limiting factors for African smallholders are soil fertility, and more specifically soil nitrogen (and to a lesser extent, phosphorus), and water. But inorganic fertilizer is now priced way beyond smallholders’ reach. This fact is recognized by knowledgeable agronomists, and that is why they talk so much about subsidizing inorganic fertilizers. But subsidized fertilizers will only prolong the agony; they will artificially make green manure/cover crops and soil-enriching agroforestry less attractive, thereby putting off the moment when farmers will switch to the only technologies that can truly and sustainably solve the problem of African soil fertility.

Micro-scale water management is the second very important answer to Africa’s low productivity, and the CGIAR system has done even less along these lines. I know some small NGOs (with budgets in the hundreds of thousands of dollars) in Central America that have developed more small-scale water management technologies than has the entire CGIAR system.

If you are genuinely interested in the well-being of small-scale farmers, you will look into EPAGRI’s work with green manures in Santa Catarina State, Brazil, COSECHA’s work with small-scale water management in southern Honduras, FAO’s previous work in Lempira Dept., Honduras, green manure/cover crop work in Zambia, small farmers’ innovations near Bamenda, Cameroon, and even ICRAF’s work in Kenya and Malawi. The answers–the technologies Africa’s farmers really need–are already out there in the field. I would be happy, together with people like Jules Pretty and Pedro Sanchez, to develop an itinerary for you to go and study these technologies and their rapid adoption by smallholder farmers.

Joost Brouwer
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 2

To make science and technology work for small farmers in sub-Saharan Africa I think it is imperative that account be taken of within-field soil variability.  This is especially true in semi-arid areas, but also in other parts of Africa.

The farmers themselves take variability into account: they often manage different parts of a field in a different manner.  They do this because it is more efficient, and because it reduces production risks. Technology developments and technology transfers that do not connect with this site-specific management by farmers, and with the underlying reasons, risk being ignored or turned down.  Farmer, extension and scientific knowledge about short-distance soil and crop growth variability must be combined for

– improved knowledge, understanding and communication by and for all parties concerned

– better design and analysis of agronomic experiments

– more relevant extension approaches

– better management options for the farmers.It is not difficult to achieve this.

It just needs a change in attitude from seeing variability as a problem to seeing it as an asset and an opportunity for subsistence farmers.  

One simple step is to use an easily assessed environmental parameter as a co-variable in the analysis of agronomic experiments.  A well-chosen parameter will explain a signifcant part of the spatial (and temporal) variability in experimental results.  That same parameter can then be used to extend the experimental results to farmers.  Simple parameters that a farmer can also use include microtopography (high spots and low spots in a field); degree of crusting of the soil; distance from certain termite mounds or from certain trees; wet parts an dry parts of a field; and the presence and absence of certain weeds.

A 12-page brochure on a variability project at ICRISAT Sahelian Center in Niger, that aimed to do just this, was financed by IUCN’s Commission on Ecosystem Management and is available from (2.6 Mb).  Its pictures tell the story and a number of references are included.  Its main conclusions are given below.  I will be happy to discuss this further with whomever may be interested.

The following practical results from the variability research in Niger can already be extended to farmers and/or researchers:·

  • with-in field variability can play a yield stabilising role; this is especially important in times of uncertainty caused by climate change·
  • over-manuring by many farmers in the Sahel can be reduced by spreading the available manure over a three times larger area;
  • different aeolian sand deposits, often found side by side in a single field, should be managed differently;·
  • nutrient use efficiency by farmers can be increased through microtopography-related site-specific management, such as not applying cattle manure and urine in wet and/or crusted areas;         this is important for the management of local fertility resources (manure, urine, compost, crop residues, domestic refuse), as well as for the management of mineral fertilisers: what can happen to cattle manure can happen to N, K and sometimes also P fertilisers;·
  • with-in field rainfall infiltration may be increased by applying lime or gypsum, especially on older aeolian deposits that crust more easily;
  • Macrotermes termites play an important role in local increases in soil fertility on sandy soils;
  • Faidherbia albida seedlings in agro-forestry projects are much more likely to grow well, and survive to adulthood and full utility, if they are planted near an old Macrotermes mound.
  • short-distance soil- and crop growth variability can be better incorporated into agricultural research through the use of covariables and other statistical techniques.

Shellemiah O. Keya
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 2

Suitable technologies should be developed in a participatory approach with farmers playing a major role. Small scale farmers need technologies that are site specific and tested at the village/community level since there are many farming systems dictated by varying agro ecosystems. In order to ensure that integrated crop management technologies are appropriate for small scale farmers, the emphasis should be on facilitating learning about suitable science and technologies.

This will empower farmers with new ideas that will allow them to experiment and see what works best within a given context and available resources. The underpinning characteristics of the science and technologies should be their sensitivity to resource limitation and capacity to withstand biotic and abiotic stresses. For example water saving technologies is desirable to overcome water deficit under many growing conditions. The technologies developed should aim at mitigating climate change at the same time user friendly to women who are the majority of agricultural producers. It is also important that the technologies can be disseminated by appropriate means and in consideration with the farmer’s level of education, language and easily accessible dissemination tools.

Francis Shaxson
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 2

Sustainability: many factors contribute to sustainability of agriculture: the most important of all is the capacity of soil-inhabiting organisms to thrive, because their activities are vital (literally) to formation and recurrent re-formation of soil structure, maintaining soil porosity.   Its condition affects

  • Proportion of rainfall lost as surface runoff;  thus also soil erosion;
  • Volume of plant-available water in the rooting zone;  thus also with implications for resistance to effects of climatic drought;
  • Volume of water percolating down to the water-table, with implications for irrigation possibilities.

Organic matter: Organic matter is not merely a source of plant nutrients (albeit at low concentrations). It is also the substrate for soil organisms’ activity, so a regular supply is needed, as the organisms’ metabolism results in its transformation.  Tillage is a potent cause of oxidation of organic matter – to atmospheric CO2 – having caused soil organic matter to be lost from soil faster than it is returned from conventional cropping systems, with negative effects on soils’ cation exchange capacities and thus on capture and slow release of plant nutrients from applied fertilizers. 
Tillage can thus have two negative effects:

  • Physical damage to soil structure;
  • Provoking excess oxidation of organic matter.

Floods, water shortage (for plants, for rivers), sub-optimal plant growth, soil erosion are inter-related to sub-optimal conditions of soil porosity, associated with tillage.   Optimum conditions of soil porosity  can only be restored through the biotic activities of soil-inhabiting organisms.

There seems to be a widespread assumption that tillage agriculture is the only way to produce crops, onto which ‘soil management’, ‘erosion control’, ‘water management’ are seen as ‘add-ons’ rather than integral parts of the land-management system(s)..

‘Conservation agriculture’:
is mentioned briefly, apparently as an option, in the paper summarizing the Salzburg Seminar. Its three interlocking component features are:

  • Minimal disturbance of soil once brought to good condition;
  • Maintenance of a permanent cover of organic materials (e.g. crop residues) on the soil surface;
  • Crop rotations/sequences including legumes.

The interactions of the physical, chemical, biologic and hydric components of soil productivity are key to Conservation Agriculture’s success when functioning in good conditions of climate and management.   These aspects of optimum CA, and its outcomes, deserve close study.   These are features which any/all production systems should have in common, though their expression will vary from one situation to another (environmental and/or human). All too commonly their optimum combined expression has been damaged, obscured or unbalanced by inadequate land management in the past. CA, when optimised for a particular situation, is a means of achieving and maintaining the integration of crop (and even pasture and/or silvicultural) production with effective water management, erosion minimisation/avoidance, drought-effect minimisation, biodiversity in the soil, carbon retention in the soil, improvement of  people’s livelihoods, and consequent wider benefits to both society  and to the environment.    

If the soil is kept in good condition (physical characteristics = ‘soil quality’;  biological characteristics = ‘soil health’), all other attempts to improve the lot of farm-families have a better chance of lasting success than if the soil itself continues to degrade.   

In a given situation, we need to be able to characterise the condition of the soil as it is, the condition of the soil as we would like it to be, how to get from the first condition to the second, and how to maintain the latter when we have got there.

The follow-through of these ideas indicate significant implications for research, advisory work, policy, education and training at all levels, and the ways in which AGRA can have fullest effects.

Ralph von Kaufmann
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 2

I agree with the following statement “To empower smallholder farmers to participate in an African Green Revolution, improvements should be made in both: functioning and performance of agricultural input markets so that viable smallholders can access inputs at cost effective prices; and empowering vulnerable smallholders with purchasing power so that they can participate in the market process”. Balu Bumb, Program Leader, Policy, Trade, and Markets Program at the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC)

The so-called subsistence farmer is forced to produce for her family’s subsistence by the huge difference between the low farm-gate prices for what she produces and the high market prices for the same products.  This differential means that she has a comparative advantage in producing all her family needs herself rather than producing some things for sale and relying on the market for things she is not technically best placed to produce.  Only the better off can afford to be irrational in what they choose to produce. The subsistence farmer is operating at the edge so every production and marketing decision has a serious impact on their welfare and improving market efficiency has a major influence on their production options and technologies.
Therefore improving the functioning and performance of agricultural input markets will only be a partial solution. Markets must be improved for inputs, outputs and capital to level the playing field for smallholders and enable them to raise their incomes.  I am deliberately not including the market for land because I am yet to be convinced that there is an effective way of protecting smallholders from speculative buyers which is neither in their long-term interest nor are the buyers likely to be more productive farmers.

Michael Mortimore,
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 2

It appears presumptuous to try to add to the value of the comprehensive discussions at the Salzburg Global Seminar, and the wide-ranging report of its deliberations and recommendations (‘Towards an African Green Revolution’).
In looking for an African paradigm the Seminar did not resolve the fundamental question of relating demand with supply factors in driving ‘agriculture-led growth’. This issue seems to me to be also unresolved in debates about the Asian Green Revolution. In India, was it in essence a technological revolution, solving supply constraints, as popularly represented, or a transformation of the economic system led by growth in demand? Rapid population growth and massive urbanization (including successful industrialization via an Indian, labour-intensive model) were essential components. Can we imagine an Indian green revolution without these?

The slow growth of productivity in African agriculture is nearly always blamed on supply constraints. There is alleged to be a ‘crisis’ in African agriculture summarised by an ‘inability’ to produce enough food and an increasing dependency on imports. In the most extreme case (Zimbabwe) it is obvious that policy not supply constraints is to blame. Has it occurred to anyone that the close correspondence between food commodity production growth and demographic growth over the last 45 years could be explained by poverty (lack of purchasing power and consequently low prices)? Slack world prices for African exports have meanwhile undermined the export-led model promoted by the World Bank.
Incentives are critical determinants of the uptake of new technology, but often neglected. Certainly, markets can be made more efficient, and more accessible. Credit can overcome capital constraints. But a hard look at the structure of agricultural producer incentives in every African country is surely needed urgently.
Since 1960 most countries have at least doubled their population and at the same time urbanised to an extent that should not be ignored by agricultural planners. The leading example is Nigeria. In the last decade, a critical threshold was passed (50% urbanization). Now, less than half the population have the responsibility for feeding more than half of it. While this transition was taking place, there is evidence of dynamism in the agricultural sector (increased production of yams and cassava per capita, decline in per capita food imports, growth in output of niche commodities while there was a long-term consistency (though fluctuating annually) in output of cereal grains and pulses per capita,), during the period since the adoption of a new policy framework in the 1980s. Other countries may follow a similar course, if they are not already doing so, by virtue of demographic realities.
Agricultural revolution takes place in a multi-sectoral economic context. Most of the Salzburg Seminar discussions appear to have concerned themselves with sectoral policies and actions. An implied assumption appears to be that markets can be taken as ‘given’ and are infinite; therefore, supply constraints must be the problem.
The limitation of African urbanization as a driving force for agricultural revolution – through a radical transformation of rural-urban relations – is the failure of classical industrialization strategies to provide new employment and incomes on a sufficient scale. Poverty levels in many cities are only slightly lower than in some rural areas. Poverty reduction strategies are therefore a necessary ingredient of agriculture-led growth.
This suggests that the necessary conditions for agricultural revolution may lie outside the agricultural sector. This seems to have happened in England in the eighteenth century as well as in India in the twentieth. Precolonial African models are also available. For example, the intensification of small-scale farming in the Kano Close-Settled Zone of Nigeria during the nineteenth century was driven by demand growth for a range of commodities in its metropolitan market.
Although the Salzburg report rightly identifies participatory and accountability dimensions of policy as critical, these priorities seem to me to represent pathways rather than goals. In debates on African green revolution the function of consumer demand is frequently left out of the picture. Is this because everybody knows that India achieved its revolution through protecting its farmers (and its industry) from global competition, whereas (by a silent consensus) Africa must struggle to find its way under Doha conditions? The construction of an African paradigm needs to come to grips with these externalities and realities of macro-economic policy.

Patti Kristjanson
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 2

Science and Technology will only work for small-scale farmers if agricultural research is carried out differently than much of it has been in the past. Lessons from research that has successfully linked knowledge with action – changes in policies, practices, institutions and technologies – contributing to sustainable poverty reduction suggest the following principles are key:

Problem Definition.
Projects are more likely to succeed in linking knowledge with action when they use processes and tools that enhance efficient dialogue and cooperation between those who have or produce knowledge and decision-makers who use it, with project members defining the problem they aim to solve in collaborative, user-driven ways.

Program Management. Research is more likely to inform action if it adopts a “project” orientation and organization, with dynamic leaders accountable for meeting use-driven goals and targets and the team managing to avoid letting “study of the problem” displace “creation of solutions” as its research goal.

Boundary Spanning. Initiatives are more likely to link knowledge with action when they include “boundary organizations” or “boundary-spanning actions” that help bridge gaps between research and user communities. This boundary-spanning work often involves constructing informal new arenas, in which project managers can foster user-producer dialogues, joint product definition, and a systems approach free from dominance by groups committed to the status quo. Defining joint ‘rules of engagement’ in the new arena that encourage mutual respect, co-creation and innovation that addresses complex problems improves the prospects for success.

Systems integration. Projects are more likely to be successful in linking knowledge with action when they take a systems approach that recognizes scientific research is just one ‘piece of the puzzle.’ Such systems-oriented strategies aim to identify and engage with key partners who can help turn co-created knowledge generated by the project into action (new strategies, policies, interventions, technologies) leading to better and more sustainable livelihoods.

Learning orientation. Research projects are more likely to be successful in linking knowledge with action when they are designed as much for learning as they are for knowing. Such projects are frankly experimental, expecting and embracing failures so as to learn from them throughout the project’s life. Such orientations towards learning cannot thrive without appropriate reward systems for risk-taking managers, funding mechanisms that enable such risk-taking, and periodic external evaluation.

Continuity with flexibility. Getting research into use generally requires strategies aimed at strengthening linkages and effective patterns of interaction between organizations and individuals operating locally where impact is sought. A key role of boundary spanning work/organizations is the facilitation of processes that create strong networks and build innovation/response capacity of the system. Co-created communication strategies and boundary objects/products are key to the longevity and sustainability of project outcomes and impacts.

Manage asymmetries of power. Efforts linking knowledge with action are more likely to be successful when they come up with empowerment strategies aimed at ‘leveling the playing field’ in order to generate hybrid, co-created knowledge and deal with the often large (and largely hidden) asymmetries of power felt by stakeholders.

Toyin Kolawole
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 2

The current discussion on ‘Making science and technology work for small-scale farmers’ is closely linked with the earlier debate on the appropriateness of farmers’ voices in the African Green Revolution [AGR] initiative. Essentially, the thinking of agricultural scientists and technologists will be more effectively put to use if they align with those of the smallholder farmer. As I had earlier indicated, there is the need to revisit and strengthen Research-Extension-Farmer linkage if the dream of realising a sustainable AGR is to be achieved. There are a lot of lessons to learn [either way] in the process of a 2-way information sharing within the linkage system.

Technologies that are patterned in line with the taste and capability [in terms of finance and usability] of small farmers will undoubtedly work for the purpose for which they are designed. Sincere and thorough farmer consultations by the researcher/technologist will, therefore, be needed in the design and development of any technologies aimed at bringing about an agrarian change amidst the small-holders. Aside some field experience acquired over the years, Everett M. Rogers diffusion studies have shown that innovations that are: feasible; compatible [with farmer’s socio-cultural milieu]; cost effective; socially and economically advantageous; divisible; simple [to use]; and ‘triable'[in bits] are always popular amongst the end-users, all things being equal. Previous investigations conducted by us have also shown that technologies or innovations that are [environmentally and farmer] user-friendly and result effective are an answer to farmers’ yearnings and aspirations.

Considering all the above innovation characteristics in the process of technology development for the small farmer will be worth the effort of the researcher after all.

Kwesi Atta-Krah
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 2

The high contribution of small-scale farmers to Africa’s agriculture is not in doubt. This group produces the lion’s share of Africa’s agricultural productivity, and also contributes significantly to the GDP of several countries. In spite of this, small scale agriculture is inadequately targeted in research interventions, especially in science and technology. This has given rise to a wrongful impression that smallholder agriculture is only about the preservation of ancient methodologies and systems, and does not need to be researched.

The future of smallholder systems is threatened if it cannot be strengthened through science and technology based research. Such research must however be explored, taking into account the key fundamentals of these systems and aim to improve overall productivity without sacrificing the core elements of their sustainability – such as their biodiversity and other elements of their system resilience. The research must also begin from a deep understanding of the smallholder circumstances and realities, and target the kind of interventions that are realistic at the smallholder scale of production. An integrated agricultural research for development approach needs to be used in which the voice of the farmer is heard in the identification of potential realistic outcomes for which S&T research is then targeted. The issue of financing however needs to be addressed as part of an integrated approach, as science and technology products could require initial capital outlay that may not be available to some farmers.

Science and technology research for small-scale farmers need to orient towards efficiency and wealth creation for smallholders. How can research help to strengthen the value of the commodities generated from smallholder systems in a sustainable manner, and how can these be linked to markets? There needs to be more emphasis on agronomic, breeding and biotechnology improvements on indigenous crops of use and importance to local people and markets. Research on integrated pest management, for instance, needs to explore the combination of indigenous knowledge with new science and technology opportunities. Such research should aim at increasing yields and the expression of traits of importance to local people and to markets. This should also include research on neglected and under-utilized species.

The role of science and technology cannot be separated from the issue of public-private partnership. The private sector needs to be supported to get involved in supporting science and technology research that improves smallholder systems and enhances the wealth creation potential of these systems. Perhaps new equity instrument should ne developed by funding agencies such as the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and other development banks, to support private sector interests and investments in science and technology that is aimed at strengthening the productivity and wealth creation of smallholder farmers.

Solomon Bangali
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

African Green Revolution is geared towards making every African hunger free, following a balanced diet and with enough resources to take care of other needs. This objective is in line with AU/NEPAD CAADP objectives. The CAADP Round Table process initiative is an evidence-based and outcome-based policy and implementation framework that encourages collaboration and peer review and learning across countries. It forms an important opportunity platform for exchanging ideas and information between stakeholders, development partners, donors and researchers to map out ways to an increased agricultural productivity in Africa. The food crises coupled with the problem of climate change all have significant implications for our ability to improve and increase agricultural growth. These crises came at a time when Africans had already taken their own destiny into their own hands by their governments committing 10% of their GDP to agricultural development.

Agriculture is often neglected as one of the major factors that have contributed to Africa’s economic growth over the last decade. There is no doubt that the sector has underperformed over the last decade as a consequence of its neglect by governments and development agencies that provide virtually all the funding to the sector.  Public investment in the sector fell from 6.4% in 1980 to 4.5% in 2002 (IFPRI). Donor interest in the sector also fell remarkably from 26% of annual development assistance to 4% presently.  There is a further speculation of donor disengagement.

The cuts in funding to agriculture have adversely affected the level of innovation in the sector in spite of the very high returns on investment in agricultural innovation. An evaluation of 700 agricultural research and development projects in developing countries across the world shows that investment in these projects generated an internal rate of return of 43%. Furthermore, an IFPRI study (Fan, 2008) shows that agricultural research, extension and rural infrastructure are the three most effective public spending items in promoting agricultural growth and poverty reduction. Of these three, agricultural research has the greatest overall impact on poverty in developing countries. What is more, it has been estimated that a 1% increase in crop yield reduces the number of poor people by 0.72 percent in Africa (approximately 2 million people). Thirtle et al. (2003) show that increases in crop yield have greatest impact in Africa.

The decision making process regarding investment in agricultural research and development, and innovation has not been informed by evidence. This is perhaps a consequence of weaknesses in the architecture of institutions responsible for the sector’s advocacy at various levels—national, sub regional and continental.  The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is responsible for continental level advocacy in support of agricultural innovation, dissemination and adoption in particular CAADP Pillar IV:

(a) increased and better harmonized investment,

(b) human and institutional capacity strengthening,

(c) policies and markets(for example, trade, Biosafety and biotechnology),

(d) tested innovation practices, access to knowledge, information and technologies; and

(e) partnerships to promote innovation.   FARA’s experiences in advocating and facilitating agricultural research on the continent in order to meet the agricultural output targets set by African leaders is critical. CAADP pillar IV together with the other pillars is the response to an increase in productivity, reducing hunger and raising income of Africa’s poor.

Shellemiah O. Keya
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

During this last contribution we bear in mind the important recommendations emanating from the conference. Let us also be cognizant of the fact that to realize the green revolution actions on the recommendations can only take place at the national level. This means that effective partnerships must have the national players at the center. In this regard I would like to offer you the Africa Rice Center (WARDA) partnership model that has served the center well.

This partnership brings together the Directors Generals of NARS and they operate under an umbrella called National Experts Committee (NEC). They meet on alternate years to review the research agenda, comment on priorities and the impact being achieved. In turn NEC makes recommendations for better implementation of jointly proposed programs including, monitoring and delivery of products and services appropriate at the geopolitical level.

The NEC plays a major in advising the Council of Ministers (COM) constituted by the 22 member countries. In this way the recommendations made by NEC receives direct attention of the ministers of each country. This linkage brings together a Center, NARS DG and the Ministers of agriculture. It cultivates confidence and trust with national governments. It also ensures the proposed policies are articulated at the appropriate and highest level. Through task force and network mechanisms a wider partnership with universities, foster processes that equip those in the uptake chain with the necessary skills to bring about development impacts, reward capacity-strengthening activities by its scientists, and incorporate capacity strengthening activities that are within approved programs and projects. The goal of WARDA’s partnership is to improve livelihoods in rural and urban populations through strengthened partnerships and capacity, for dissemination of improved technologies. 

In WARDA’s view ppartnerships and coherence can be attained only when all actors in the R&D process are fully engaged in the research planning, priority setting and a transparent joint implementation of programs where the partners enjoy equal mutual respect. Methods of coordination and accountability should be discussed and periodically adjusted to suit local situations. CAADP and FAAP are beginning to provide suitable platforms for coordinating the actors at the national, regional and continental level. However, due to Africa’s heterogeneity,  actions among the key processes and initiatives going on to promote a Green Revolution requires innovative and flexible approaches. To ensure that these processes are transparent and coherent there is a need to involve law makers especially parliamentarians, nationally and across the region. Similarly new alliances are being formed and it is crucial to ensure that these too are rooted in the community where collective actions are taken.

Michael Mortimore
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

What is meant by ‘coherence’?  I take it to mean achieving a greater convergence between the following: policies affecting agriculture (including livestock production); crop and livestock producers’ livelihood goals; and supporting research and development efforts. Within this trinity, there is a widespread agreement that producers (and especially small-scale, poor producers) have too often been relegated to third place. The Salzburg report lays a proper emphasis on their full participation, notably in  

  • the Institutions and Innovations Working Group’s first recommendation to set up a farmer-owned, farmer-driven fund to direct research, innovation and development towards farmers’ needs;
  • the Markets, Trade and Investments Working Group’s third recommendation that smallholders and pastoralists should participate more in policy formation on value chains;
  • the Governance and Policy Processes Working Group’s first recommendation for non-state actors to become involved in the policy process;
  • the Equity, Rights and Empowerment Working Group’s first recommendation for collaborative partnerships between producers’ organisations, governments, NGOs, banks microfinance and international organisations.

Often repeated is the familiar expression ‘capacity building’

Achieving coherence must go beyond rhetoric. At the project level, communities and research/development agents can and do achieve coherent partnerships but bridging the gap to policy is more difficult. Policy is formulated at a different scale and the policy process (though not necessarily particular policies) has greater continuity than projects. Bridging research/ development and policy calls for continuity, financial resources, a common language, local ownership of the process, enlightened national leadership and stakeholder-based frameworks for negotiation and advocacy. In particular, scale differentiation between local interests (which may or may not achieve consensus) and national policy processes (which have to take account of interests outside agriculture or the rural sector) is a major challenge in trying to bring rural people into policy formation. The new democratic institutions associated with decentralization policies are addressing natural resource management issues (e.g., community forest management). They need to extend their remit into such areas as market regulation, price policies, and input supply. These and other policies determine the incentive structures for producers to invest in increasing output. 

Agricultural development literature has been understandably sectoral in scope, but it should not be assumed that new technologies or management systems can find their way into use without paying proportionate attention to economic or political considerations. In development practice, outside interventionists cannot directly influence policy. This must be attempted by newly-empowered communities within the existing political framework. But the local community will be listened to less, the ‘higher’ up the ladder they aim. However, the research/ development community is no longer necessarily external in personnel (though in funding, it often is). This creates a new opportunity for co-ownership of development initiatives by national or local research or advocacy institutions. 

Depending on specific conditions, mechanisms, frameworks or protocols are needed to link research, development and policy with communities in ways that avoid condescension or patronage towards local communities while at the same time recognising national versus local interests and longer versus shorter time perspectives. It seems less than ideal for this to be undertaken as a specialism rather than fully integrated with the research and development – but such integration calls for an interdisciplinary approach.

In seeking to create mechanisms for policy dialogue, two strategies suggest themselves:

  • Forums for dialogue can be convened at district or province level  – this being the ‘highest’ level  where contact between the administration and communities is still immediate, based on touring officers’ itineraries, election campaigns, government programmes and service provision, and cultural affinity between the rulers and the ruled.  Advocacy by community organizations may stand a chance of success at this level, and can be supported by indigenous research/ development organizations. Appropriate signals must, however, be passed to the national policy process. What fine-tuning of governmental procedures is necessary for such an exchange to be effective?.
  • Community organizations can combine or aggregate in a hierarchical structure whose top functionaries can press the case for policy priorities directly with the national government. This replicates lobbying by other vested interests, must be resourced and calls for political commitment. To some extent this potential depends on the size and diversity of the country in question. Senegal (for example) is small and well-integrated; Nigeria (for example) is vast and diverse.

Discussions on green revolution seem reluctant to embark on such issues, but both research and developmental experimentation is needed, country by country, to evaluate options for planting structural and institutional frameworks whose continuity can be guaranteed after externally funded projects and researchers withdraw.  The ‘capacity building’ so much favoured in the Salzburg report needs to accomplish a revolution in attitudes among indigenous disciplinary specialists (often trained abroad) who need to assume facilitative or advocacy roles alongside the communities they research or ‘develop’ in the long term.

The case for such institutional frameworks centred on agriculture rests basically in the lack of an alternative, because new democratic processes have not yet proved competence in agricultural issues – more pressing, perhaps, are political negotiations between opposed interests that have hijacked party systems. Rural people still say they feel marginalised; young adults prefer to abandon the village in favour of an insecure but perhaps better rewarded urban life. Agriculture sits uncomfortably on shifting sands of social change. The future performance of the sector, I suggest, is inevitably bound up with political realities and cannot be wholly encapsulated in a world of soil fertility, crop genetics, agronomic technologies, etc. – important though these are;

Much valuable action research has been conducted on new or adapted institutional structures in a context of natural resource management (a significant part of it supported by the Natural Resources Systems Programme of the UK Department for International Development, 1995-2006). A worthwhile objective would be to carry out a synthesis and evaluation of such work, in terms of its applicability to an African Green Revolution.

Kwesi Atta-Krah
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

I agree with all the points that Monica has raised. Additionally however, I would wish to make some generic points which in my opinion have great relevance for the process of partnerships and coherence building.

Before we can adequately address the issue of partnership mechanisms and processes, we need to be absolutely clear about the “nature of the beast” that we are eager to tame or to raise. Unless we do that, it will be a case of everything goes, and all forms of partnerships could be generated. The core essence of what constitutes the Green Revolution for Africa (GRA) needs to be adequately postulated and owned by the stakeholders. It needs to be clear what is unique about what an African Green revolution is about. Once that is known, it will be possible to clearly define the elements of what constitutes an activity in this revolution. Different kinds of activities that support the development of this revolution can then be identified and connected as part of the family of GRA initiatives.

I will argue that one of the key elements of the GRA is that it will have multiple dimensions, and will require multiple approaches and the involvement of multiple and diverse partners. It will also have elements of increased productivity and production within a framework of sustainability, resilience, and community involvement and partnerships. The GRA must not be seen as a PROJECT (in other words, it must not be seen as the AGRA project or program) – it is much bigger than a project. The GRA must be seen as a ‘revolution’ driven by a ‘movement’. As a revolution, it needs to have broad appeal and broad involvement of a range of stakeholders. It is in this context that the partnerships and coherence building needs to be seen.

Every revolution also needs a base for the purpose of coordination and consolidation. This is the role that I would see jointly played by AGRA, working in partnership with FARA. The FARA connection would help to link this revolution with the objectives and targets of CAADP and NEPAD. Partnerships within GRA must be seen both at the horizontal level (i.e. partnership among a set kind of stakeholders; for example community groups and farmers; agricultural input suppliers and dealers; researchers; etc), and at the vertical level. Vertical partnerships will involve multi-stakeholder parties, such as along a value chain for a particular commodity, or stakeholders within a targeted production system. Whatever partnerships are designed, they should not be seen as ends in themselves; there needs to be clear goal and expected outputs for any kind of partnership. The emphasis should not be on establishing ‘networks’ but rather on utilizing networking as a concept for achieving set goals. Some organ needs to drive these, and as already suggested, I would mention AGRA and FARA as best placed, along with a vibrant Farmers’ Organization.

In terms of process, I would suggest that we need to begin by having a data base of existing initiatives addressing the Green Revolution goals for each of the sub-regions of the continent. Each of these initiatives could be analysed in relation to their partnerships and functioning. Value-adding dimensions and further partnership links could be explored for each of them in order to strengthen their ability to deliver impact, according to the terms of the GRA. In this context targeted efforts must be made to get support and visibility for locally driven initiatives involving farmers and communities working with researchers and other parties in addressing the productivity and sustainability dimensions of the green revolution.

Best practices in partnerships and impact generation should also be identified and rewarded, and efforts made at up-scaling and out-scaling such success stories. I do hope these few preliminary thoughts are helpful.

Monica Kapiriri
February 2, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 3

Multi-stakeholder group composed of knowledgeable as well as open minded individuals, able to objectively assess, give advice, as well as represent the views of stakeholder groups they represent.  These representatives should be selected by their constituencies, and must be facilitated to ensure that they are linked and regularly informed of initiatives, challenges, issues etc, and link these to the evolution process of the GRA.

The best method to incorporate locally driven initiatives into larger alliances:

1) First there is need for a clear understanding of the local innovators and the alliance what the value addition of the initiative is to the overall alliance.

2) Issues of Intellectual property rights and compensation or award system for the local initiatives if it involves sharing their knowledge with other who may turn it into commercial enterprises…  All these need to be threshed out.

3) Linking will be easy, maintaining the rigour and sustaining the good values or products is often the challenge.  Very many seemingly successful local initiatives have been used to tap international resources by those above, promises to the local people that are not followed through, frustration and disintegration of initiatives. Therefore it is important to build the capacity of local initiators to represent themselves in the alliances, avoid middle-agents and ensure equitable distribution of benefits.

4) So if the other multi-stakeholder overseer group is formed, their role will be to foster and ensure equitable access to resources, as well as distribution to beneficiaries.  The group will also ensure that the local initiative do not lose direction as a result of being integrated in a larger alliance. As such the conditions of the alliances must be the kind that allow initiatives to retain their uniqueness, while at the same time learn and improve.

Toyin Kolawole
February 1, 2010 / Small Farm / Big Farm

The current discussion on ‘Making science and technology work for small-scale farmers’ is closely linked with the earlier debate on the appropriateness of farmers’ voices in the African Green Revolution [AGR] initiative. Essentially, the thinking of agricultural scientists and technologists will be more effectively put to use if they align with those of the smallholder farmer. As I had earlier indicated, there is the need to revisit and strengthen Research-Extension-Farmer linkage if the dream of realising a sustainable AGR is to be achieved. There are a lot of lessons to learn [either way] in the process of a 2-way information sharing within the linkage system.

Technologies that are patterned in line with the taste and capability [in terms of finance and usability] of small farmers will undoubtedly work for the purpose for which they are designed. Sincere and thorough farmer consultations by the researcher/technologist will, therefore, be needed in the design and development of any technologies aimed at bringing about an agrarian change amidst the small-holders. Aside some field experience acquired over the years, Everett M. Rogers diffusion studies have shown that innovations that are: feasible; compatible [with farmer’s socio-cultural milieu]; cost effective; socially and economically advantageous; divisible; simple [to use]; and ‘triable'[in bits] are always popular amongst the end-users, all things being equal. Previous investigations conducted by us have also shown that technologies or innovations that are [environmentally and farmer] user-friendly and result effective are an answer to farmers’ yearnings and aspirations.Considering all the above innovation characteristics in the process of technology development for the small farmer will be worth the effort of the researcher after all.

Pedro Sanchez
February 1, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

The Millennium Villages Project (MVP) is a community-based approach to achieving the MDGs. Many rural development programs have hindered their potential for success because local stakeholders did not participate adequately in the development process. A community-based approach is therefore essential for the success and sustainability of the MVP. A community-based approach is embodied in the established and known principles of participation, social and gender inclusion, equity, and local stakeholders’ ownership of the decision-making and development process.

The MVP also undertakes extensive programs to build capacity of farmers and local farmer organization. Capacity of both is strengthened by, among other things, working with farmer-based organizations and providing training to farmers, extension officers, and farmer-based organizations. MVP has also created many agriculture committees in the various clusters, and at least one at least one committee per settlement or community has been formed.

Farmers receive training in improved production and crop management techniques, post-harvest handling, construction of storage facilities, and conflict management prior to receiving agricultural inputs. In addition, learning plots are established to demonstrate agricultural techniques and practices. These plots also serve as place where farmers can engage in innovation and testing. For instance, in Bonsaaso, Ghana, Farmer Field Schools (FFS) were established to facilitate training. FFS is a participatory extension and training approach that focuses on building farmers’ capacity to make well-informed crop management decisions through increased knowledge and understanding of the agro-ecosystem. It encourages farmers to experiment on their own farms and make their own decisions based on their observations and knowledge through regular field visits and observations.

Case Study: Tiby, Mali
The Tiby Millennium Village cluster, which includes 11 villages and approximately 55,000 residents, is located in the southern region of Segou, one of the poorest areas in Mali. Food insecurity is prevalent because of sporadic, unreliable rainfall. The naturally poor soils have been further impoverished through nutrient extraction. The vegetative cover has seriously declined since the early 1970s, resulting in a loss of soil fertility and agricultural productivity.

In Tiby, a fertilizer and seed program was implemented through a program utilizing participative and transparent farmer based management. Relying on local committees composed of elected community members, farmers were given access to microfinance to purchase these inputs. The program, which utilized strong community leadership, had very successful results.

• 1,700 tons of fertilizer distributed to nearly 5,000 households feeding approximately 68,000 people
• Greater than 95% reimbursement rate managed by the community
• USD 445,000 generated and used to procure half of the rice farming fertilizer needs (750 tons)
• Significant political impact through the Government’s Rice Initiative

Steven Were Omamo
February 1, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

Question: 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?

While most of the recommendations and actions set forth could promote farmers’ voices in policy debate, the following recommendations are especially relevant:

  • Making policy relevant and responsive to smallholder farmers’ needs;
  • Enhancing accountability of state and non-state actors;
  • Improving access to financial resources, especially micro-finance;
  • Building capacity of farmer organizations; and
  • Taking the message to Africa,” with a focus on micro-finance organizations and extension service providers.

Question: How can we ensure that measurable targets are set for gender and equity?

Organizational culture, project and program design are the crucial entry points. The following investments have proven very effective in institutionalizing WFP’s highly successful “Enhanced Commitment to Women” policy:·

  • Ensuring that women benefit at least equally from assets created through program interventions;·
  • Enhancing women’s control of program resources;·
  • Ensuring that women are equally involved in program-related local bodies;·
  • Ensuring that gender is mainstreamed in programming activities;·
  • Conducting baseline studies in order to set realistic targets and establish a benchmark against which to measure results;·
  • Generating and disseminating gender-disaggregated data and information for monitoring and evaluation;·
  • Contributing to an environment that acknowledges the important role women play in rural economies and that encourages both men and women to participate in closing the gender gap; and·
  • Making progress towards gender equality in staffing, opportunities and duties, and ensuring that human resources policies are gender-sensitive and provide possibilities for staff members to combine their personal and professional priorities.

Question: How can we build capacity of grassroots organisations for basic skills (e.g., organisations and business skills) and leadership (to influence policy and negotiations)?

Basic skills and leadership in grassroots organizations can be most effectively enhanced if these organizations have a strong voice in all stages of project and program design and implementation. Their ownership of these processes should be explicitly enshrined in project implementations workplans, for which they should be jointly responsible and accountable. Organizations with deep field presence are well-placed to support such processes.

Question: How do we strengthen horizontal and vertical linkages and partnerships/networks with other organisations?

From WFP’s experience, local needs and constraints are the main drivers of effective horizontal and vertical linkages, partnerships and networks. Areas in which linkages should be enhanced include a range of services and support functions including: raising start-up funds, institution building, business networking and marketing, innovation and knowledge transfer, technical training, research, legal support, infrastructure development and maintenance, and community health and social services. A diverse variety of partners is needed to help satisfy this range of needs.

Question: How can we increase access to resources and services for small-scale farmers and marginalized groups?

It is crucial to integrate provision of supply-side and demand-side (or market) services and investments. Especially crucial is creation of platforms of substantial and stable demand for the crops grown by smallholder farmers, thereby reducing risks and improving incentives they face when investing in productivity-enhancing technologies and practices. WFP’s recently launched Purchase for Progress initiative is an example of the nature of such investments, which have been lacking thus far.

Question: 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?

WFP has found the following governance principles to be relevant and useful in its work with local organizations:·

  • Personal commitment to accountability and transparency at the head-of-agency and executive-staff levels, which creates a supportive organizational environment;·
  • A corporate policy that outlines how the organization will contribute to major equity-enhancing goals (such as the MDGs to cut poverty and promote gender equality) through standards and commitments that relate to the mission of the organization and that are commonly understood;·
  • Contractual agreements with partner agencies that further specify and concretize the standards and commitments, and the consequences of non-adherence;·
  • Guidelines that specify how to interpret and effectively operationalize the standards and commitments; and· Systematic monitoring-and-evaluation mechanisms of standards and commitments.

Toyin Kolawole
February 1, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

Clearly, development is about people. All efforts geared towards realising the potential of human personality are, therefore, encapsulated in one word: Development. Not until knowledge producers/researchers begin to reflect upon what their intentions are, it might be difficult to achieve any meaningful human progress. The African Green Revolution initiative could prove to be a significant platform for this after all. Perhaps, we need to probe ourselves and ask what on earth has become of the sub-Saharan African smallholder farmer in spite of all the scientific breakthroughs [in agricultural production] that have been achieved in the past by both international and national research centres. Perhaps, we need to ask what has been happening to agricultural productivity in Africa for the past decades. Perhaps, we need to find out where we have missed the point in bringing about food security in sub-Saharan Africa despite all the relatively huge investments in agricultural research over the years.

Perhaps, we need to gauge the feelings of small farmers on how scientists and policy makers still go about doing development business in Africa. Perhaps, academics in agriculture and other cognate disciplines [in spite of their various research findings and publications] need to sit down and think of where they have failed humanity in this respect.

That said, I think we need to revisit the modality for Research- Extension-Farmer linkage. Ralph von Kaufmann, in a way, did allude to this all important aspect in his earlier contribution. To make farmers voice heard would entail strengthening the linkage system between research and grassroots farmers. It would entail a complete overhaul of the entire system. It would entail proper funding for extension to enable it reach all the nooks and crannies of farming communities. As earlier noticed by Kwesi Atta-Kra, farmer representation may not be the ideal after all. Experience has shown that representatives have not represented well enough in time past. Majority of them have continued to defend their own interests. What then is the solution?

First, give all farmers the privilege to give feedbacks on research endeavours at all levels. And give legitimacy to this, too. This can only be achieved where the extension agency [both governmental and non-governmental] provides the necessary innovation, goodwill and leadership for this goal. By and large, strengthening farmers’ voices and acknowledging same will, thus, require some degree of humility from the knowledge producer and decision maker.

Second, Universities and colleges would need some re-structuring in the knowledge production process and also in their teaching curricula. It all about democratising knowledge production by incorporating farmers’ views and ‘research’ into formal teaching and mainstream research. This may be a challenge. But some are already starting to reform particularly so in South Africa [where indigenous knowledge is now being emphasised in schools and colleges]. To advance agricultural production and productivity in Africa, farmers and their knowledge systems need to form part of the building blocks for research and teaching in colleges and Universities. Systematising this in teaching and research will, in a way, and automatically become part of the policy processes. This won’t happen immediately but it will surely enhance the entire process in the long-run. In all, not allowing farmers voice to be heard on our path to realising a sustainable African agriculture, nay Green Revolution, is like a frog orchestra without a lead singer!

Ricardo Ramirez
February 1, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

Only the well organized, powerful farmers with good market linkages have thus far been able to make their voices heard to the extent that policies and programs are adapted to their needs. For the rest, intermediary individuals or organizations often provide the platform to enable their concerns to be heard.

If these “mediating” organizations have status in policy or research circles, then the voices may have an impact in the form of redirected programs or policies.

As others have already underlined, the active listening phase needs to be followed with action that is tangible in the eyes of farmers – not an easy task.

A recent dissertation by Sarah Parkinson on the progress of the Uganda NAADS program emphasized how farmers perceive the new program offerings on the basis of deep rooted perspectives (archetypes) that respond to their life experiences. No matter what NAADS officials say, it is the farmers’ heritage of experience that shapes what they believe will happen that is concrete and meaningful.

To move forward I can think of (at least) three key conditions that are necessary:

1. organizational culture;
2. duration of engagement, and
3. methodology.

Organizational culture means having individuals and organizations with a commitment to the principles behind “making farmers’ voices heard”. This means engaging those who will enable farmers’ voices at the local level, all the way to the regional and national audiences in research, marketing and policy circles. Identifying a network of dedicated individuals within these organizations (the champions) is a must. Second, the effort cannot be short term as both research, policy or market linkages will take time to respond. The conventional, 2-3 year duration project tradition is not conducive to these conditions – hence funding over the long term is a significant challenge. To keep all parties on track with progress over the longer terms, M&E procedures needs to respond to an adaptive learning approach (Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change are examples).

Last, but not least is methodology. There is an established track record in the field of participatory communication with a focus on “active listening” (see: for example: ). The methods and media opportunities exist but they do not thrive without conditions 1 and 2 in place. IDRC had developed one such relevant experience that is worth building on or supporting:

Shellemiah O. Keya
February 1, 2010 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

Here we are as scientists and others speaking on behalf of farmers – not an ideal situation. The range of these farmers includes fishers, rangers, foresters as well as full time to part time professionals who derive a proportion of income from farming. With urbanization the nature of small holder farmers is changing continuously.

Understanding the typology of an African farmer in the context of the Green revolution is crucial in framing the discussion. This is the farmer with limited access to inputs, technical information, markets and weather data. He/she depend heavily on rain fed agriculture, the social capital of the community for advocacy, representation and on security of tenure from the village to the Central Government. The small holder farmer is vulnerable to variable weather, heterogeneity of the agro ecosystem and multiple and inconsistent policies as he fights against constrained resource base.

The survival basis of the farmer is innovation and diversification. His/her responsiveness to production is influenced by the community, incentives, level of education and the family structure. We often consider them as not organized but paradoxically the small African farmer is resilient and has not disappeared despite their apparent lack of organization, a message to us that we ought to know them better as we argue for more space on their behalf.