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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Latest articles

Question 2: Trade-offs
July 21, 2011 / Social Relations Analysis E-Debate

What are the likely policy implications of the understanding that men and women take their joint concerns about household survival into consideration when assessing the trade-offs between e.g. investing in land improvements and engaging in off farm opportunities and other interventions?


  • Margaret MkromaAGRA – If indeed joint concerns get considered in assessing such trade-offs, then policies influenced by such understandings should promote and/or support household economic and social wellbeing. It connotes that both men and women enjoy a degree of agency expressed through their individual capacities to influence intra-household decisions. Where such an understanding is wrong or misplaced, then policies influenced by this may risk exacerbating the problems and situations of those with less power to negotiate and or bargain in intra-household decision making.


  • Christine Okali – I wonder if the concern about making matters worse for those with less power if policies are designed with these joint interests in mind is a reflection of poor policy formulation rather than anything else. Is the policy solution always to make separate provisions that somehow (it is not altogether clear how, or the processes involved) will ensure some form of equity?


  • Dr Joyce Otsyina – Programmes focused on women could be said to be underpinned by some understanding that both men and women are interested in the same resources. What is lacking is the fact that the interest of women in these resources is ‘killed’ since they (women) are not offered opportunities that will help them act on these interests. This takes us to the issue of important resources such as land, credit/financial facilities and information in which I think both men and women are interested, and which also programmes know are of interest to both. The problem comes where there is a lack of commitment to implement programmes which seek to improve the supply of these resources among women.

Question 1. Social Construction
July 20, 2011 / Social Relations Analysis E-Debate

How has the social construction of different groups e.g. women as vulnerable, responsible for household food security, and without agency or power, affected their opportunities to contribute to and/or benefit from mainstream agricultural policy?



  • Margaret MkromaAGRA – I think any response to the essentialist framing of women as the vulnerable “other” needs to go beyond a simple response that it has or hasn’t affected their opportunities to benefit from agricultural policy. It seems to me the particular contexts within which women are embedded (social, cultural, political) to a large degree work to either limit or expand the space for women to benefit or contribute to agricultural policy. We need to understand the two “problematiques” (construction of women as a vulnerable category, and the contexts in which they are located) as dynamically intersecting; and in ways that uniquely shape their experiences. We must understand those intersections for us to gain critical insights into women’s experiences and/or their ability to benefit or contribute to policy.


  • P Kantor This construction of women as vulnerable is central to the struggle to identify women as producers within mainstream agricultural policy, such as the USAID Feed the Future initiative. Women are most visibly connected to its nutrition and food security objectives, and not its production/productivity enhancement objectives. They are often labelled as vulnerable without demonstrating how, in relation to what activities or outcomes, and relative to, as well as in relation to men. More context-specific evidence is needed documenting what women and men do in agriculture and how social and institutional institutions, including the household, impinge on these activities, in order to better define areas of intervention that do more than deliver technical inputs without addressing the wider structural factors influencing whether and how women engage in agriculture. Such evidence also needs to be used to define innovative gender-responsive interventions, and to systematically test different approaches that might improve our understanding of how to scale up successes.’


  • Christine Okali Perhaps the question attributes too much influence to the framings themselves, and not enough to the social, cultural and political contexts within which individual women and men are embedded. Is it reasonable to suggest that more analytic research on the contexts within which women (and men?) have benefited or are likely to benefit from mainstream agricultural policy, would provide insight into the way these two “problematiques intersect”? If we take the example of commercial farming activities, there is limited information on women’s independent commercial activities.


The Long Conversation: Customary Approaches to Peace Management…
July 13, 2011 / Working Papers

The Long Conversation: Customary Approaches to Peace Management in Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya

Patta Scott-Villiers, Hussein Boru Ungiti, Diba Kiyana, Molu Kullu, Tumal Orto, Eugenie Reidy and Adan Sora
June 2011

FAC Working Paper 22

This working paper is a contribution to understandings of peace-building among pastoralists. From a pastoralist perspective, it throws light on the achievement of peace in a five-year effort led by leaders of the Borana and Gabra peoples of southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The instigators of the research, elders of Gabra and Borana, set the frame of the inquiry and its analysis, assisted by researchers from the Institute of Development Studies and Pastoralists Consultants International.

Their study reveals four aspects of peace management among pastoralists inthe Kenya-Ethiopia borderlands: moral consensus, information exchange, law and surveillance. It shows how these principles are understood, debated and acted upon by particular segments of society and with varying degrees of success in rural and urban areas and in different districts. To explain to an external audience some of the background, we draw on the work of Marco Bassi on vernacular procedures of consensus, and his observations on how moral and political principles entwine within East African pastoralist societies.

The study, by focusing on local people’s expressions to a group of local elders, necessarily plays down the roles of those that people understood less, saw less of, underestimated, or decided to remain silent about. Thus the story risks the impression that the indigenous citizens involved in this case manage peace, security, crime and violence with a minimum of outside help, which would not be entirely true. We hope the reader will tolerate this bias in order to understand the pivotal role of citizens in building peace.


FAC Working Paper 022v2 Pdf 4.11 MB 7 downloads


Can State Capacity for Agricultural Development be Compared Across Countries? Insights from Africa
June 29, 2011 / Research Papers

Claire Delpeuch and Colin Poulton
June 2011

Research Paper 21

Recent years have witnessed a renewed recognition both of the importance of agricultural development to growth and poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa and of the important role that the state has to play in stimulating market development in rural areas (Poulton et al. 2006; World Bank 2007). However, there is an “agricultural development paradox” during the early stages of rural development in that “the need for pro-poor state services is high when state failure is profound” (Kydd 2009, p453).

This raises important questions: what are the key dimensions of state capacity for agricultural development and how can they be measured? These questions are of interest to development organisations seeking to design and to monitor the impact of “capacity building” interventions. Increasingly, researchers are also likely to be interested in comparing (changes in) state capacity across countries. This raises the question of whether the rather intangible concept of capacity can be compared in this way.

This brief presents some reflections on this question. It investigates the concept of state capacity for agricultural development in Africa (section 2), then considers both direct (section 3) and indirect (section 4) approaches for measuring state capacity for agricultural development across countries.

Decentralisation in Africa: Scope, Motivations and Impact on Service Delivery and Poverty
June 29, 2011 / Working Papers

Lídia Cabral, Overseas Development Institute
March 2011

FAC Working Paper 20

This paper reviews the literature on decentralisation in Africa, with a focus on impact on service delivery and poverty reduction. It notes decentralisation is not necessarily good or bad, but success depends on the details of policy design and context, particularly the political motivations of ruling elites and its relations with local power bases and constituencies. In Africa, decentralisation is widespread but not deep. Driven largely by political motivations, decentralisation experiences in the region have consisted mostly of deconcentration of administrative functions, rather than true devolution of powers. Although there is limited evidence available, the impact of decentralisation on service delivery is probably limited, judging by its impact on intermediate variables such as access to information, locus of power, administrative performance and accountability relations. The propoor character of decentralisation is also questionable. Available evidence does not confirm that decentralised governments perform better in delivering services to the poor, despite the fact they ofter are their largest constituency. In Africa, decentralisation has been essentially used to consolidate alliances with local elites and thereby reinforce central power, rather than to pursue pro-poor policies. Institutional weaknesses and fiscal constraints have also limited the success of decentralisation in Africa. Therefore, as an overarching governance process, decentralisation may have limited chances of success without a more structural transformation in African societies which reduces the polarisation of power and gives the median voter greater agency.


FAC Working Paper 020 Pdf 429.86 KB 6 downloads


Land Grabbing in Africa and the New Politics of Food
June 22, 2011 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 41

by Ruth Hall

‘Africa is for sale’ is how some characterise it: there is a ‘land grab’ underway. Others are more cautious, speaking of ‘large-scale land acquisitions’, while the World Bank notes euphemistically the ‘rising global interest in farmland’. Whatever the prevailing terminology and ideologies, there is now ample evidence that large swathes of African farmland are being allocated to investors, usually on long-term leases, at a rate not seen for decades—indeed, not since the colonial period. The fact that much of this land is being acquired to provide for the future food and fuel needs of foreign nations has, not surprisingly, led to allegations that a neo-colonial push by more wealthy and powerful nations is underway to annex the continent’s key natural resources.


Policy Brief 041 Pdf 419.12 KB 8 downloads


CAADP and Fisheries Policy in Africa: are we aiming for the right reform??
May 9, 2011 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 40
by Christophe Béné

There has been much talk in the last few years about how agriculture is key to both poverty reduction and economic growth. In Africa, the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) launched the Comprehensive Af rican Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) in 2003 with the objective to attract significant donor funding for a new push for agricultural development. Although fisheries are officially part of the CAADP, the sector has yet to demonstrate its capacities to contribute to the CAADP objectives. This brief reviews the main policy issues related to fisheries in Africa. It discusses in particular the current model (the so-called “wealth-based approach”) that is being proposed as the overall policy ‘blanket’ for the continent’s fisheries, and examines why this model may not be the most appropriate for African small-scale fisheries.


Policy Brief 040 Pdf 381.65 KB 5 downloads


Integrating Social Difference, Gender and Social Analysis into Agricultural Development?
May 9, 2011 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 39

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


Policy Brief 039 Pdf 383.92 KB 4 downloads


Gender and Other Social Differences: Implications for FAC?
May 5, 2011 / Discussion Papers

Christine Okali

This paper addresses the challenge of integrating learning from four decades of gender and feminist research in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) into the research of the Future Agricultures Consortium of the Institute of Development Studies. Specifically it explores what this now extensive body of work on gender relations, farm household decision-making, social and accumulation strategies implies for the research taking place under FAC.

Why Integrate the Analysis of Social Relations into Agricultural Policy?
April 28, 2011 / Social Relations Analysis E-Debate


Over the last four decades there has been much emphasis on women and gender in African agriculture and agricultural policy.

There has also been plenty of talk about the importance of integrating social relations analysis into policy to achieve equitable, broad-based development in Africa. However, in large part this has not yet happened. Why?

In a recent FAC paper, Christine Okali, the moderator of this e-debate, argued that a social relations approach leads to more ambiguous interpretations of and expectations around social and technical change. This presents a challenge to research, development and policy actors given that policy narratives need to reign in complexity in order to provide clear guides for decision-making. Nevertheless, unless insights from the analysis of social relations begin to inform policy processes, and are integrated into policy recommendations, the dual goal of agricultural growth and equity will remain unachievable.

There is urgent need for an exchange of ideas and information to address how to make social relations analysis more accessible to and accepted by policy makers. For this reason FAC is inviting you to debate some key issues around the ways forward for achieving this.

Objective: The purpose of this debate is to explore the implications of different insights from and approaches to social analysis for agricultural policy formulation. This is a necessary step in future research planning, especially for the identification of information needs, but also for the translation of research results for policy making at different levels.

Dates: 30 May – 24 June 2011

Questions to be debated:

  • How has the social construction of different groups e.g. women as vulnerable, responsible for household food security, and without agency or power, affected their opportunities to contribute to and/or benefit from mainstream agricultural policy?
  • What are the likely policy implications of the understanding that men and women take their joint concerns about household survival into consideration when assessing the trade-offs between e.g. investing in land improvements and engaging in off farm opportunities and other interventions?
  • How do different kinds of households and wider kin groups incorporate terms of land access into their short and long term livelihood strategies, and what are the implications of this for land policy?
  • What are the pathways for linking outcomes of social relations analysis with the productivity and production outcomes of interest to policy?


Comments should be short, provocative and challenging. Comments should be submitted on our online forum which will be available from 30 May.


Background Reading

Politique en oeuvre: Accélération de la Croissance Agricole en passant par PDDAA
April 26, 2011 / Briefings politiques / Policy briefs in French

L’Agriculture est la base de la plupart des économies africaines. Pour des millions de petits propriétaires, l’agriculture est leur gagne-pain, elle soutient la sécurité alimentaire et les efforts de la lutte contre la pauvreté et elle favorise un développement économique plus étendu. La croissance agricole a pourtant été généralement décevante et il y a une préoccupation claire sur la situation de la faim à travers le continent1. L’Agriculture fait face à de nouveaux défis globaux des prix élevés de l’énergie et de l’alimentation et du changement climatique et des échecs internationaux des marchés. Les stratégies de développement agricole, ainsi qu’une productivité accrue et un développement viable contre la pauvreté doivent englober la commercialisation et la croissance à l’initiative du marché.

La terre et le gagne – pain : Sécuriser le développement généralisé et viable
April 26, 2011 / Briefings politiques / Policy briefs in French

La terre est primordiale pour le développement viable. L’agriculture et d’autres activés axées sur la terre soutiennent la plupart des stratégies des moyens d’existence des personnes vivant dans les zones rurales. En investissant dans des technologies appropriées, une gestion et une politique viables, elle a le potentiel d’assurer la sécurité alimentaire, la croissance économique et le développement à grande échelle.

‘Good Farmers’ in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evolving Narratives
April 19, 2011 / Working Papers

James Sumberg

In this paper the example of cocoa production in Ghana is used to explore how the narratives portraying African farmers have changed over the last 70 years. These evolving narratives are explored through the notion of a ‘good farmer’. The argument is that over this period the image of African farmers has been progressively rehabilitated, from ignorant and tradition-bound to skilled and research-minded. Over the same time period the image of formal research and extension was undermined. With the recent renewed interest in agriculture, narratives around African farmers are again evolving: ‘good farmers’ are now increasingly being defined as those who approach their farming as a proper business.


FAC Working Paper 121 Pdf 417.21 KB 18 downloads


Innovation works:pastoralists building secure livelihoods in the Horn of Africa
March 17, 2011 / Policy Briefs

Pastoralist areas of the Horn of Africa are experiencing rapid change. Markets are opening up, helping to improve livelihoods and generate substantial new wealth for local and national economies. Political and constitutional changes are creating opportunities for pastoralists to influence decision-making around the allocation of public resources as well as laws and practices affecting their rights. New technologies such as mobile phones as well as improvements in roads are opening up pastoral areas to greater movements of people, goods, and ideas. And new ways of delivering services to mobile and remote pastoralist populations have improved their access to healthcare, veterinary services and education.


Policy Brief 038 Pdf 972.46 KB 11 downloads


A New Deal for Food and Agriculture: Responding to uncertainty, building resilience
March 3, 2011 / Communications

A note from Ian Scoones, Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies and co-convenor of the Future Agricultures Consortium ( for the DFID White Paper team and the UK Parliamentary Inquiry into the Global Food Crisis.

Growth & Social Protection
March 3, 2011 / Meetings

2008–2009 Review 2009–2010 Workplan

Couplage entre Développement Agricole et Alimentation Scolaire en Afrique Subsaharienne : Une Pers
December 6, 2010 / Briefings politiques / Policy briefs in French

Ce document prend comme point de départ la proposition selon laquelle les interventions de protection sociale liées à l’alimentation peuvent être mises à profit pour promouvoir un changement transformationnel des systèmes d’exploitation agricole à caractère familial en Afrique subsaharienne. Il vise à mettre en exergue la complexité des modalités de transformation agricole associées à l’idée, pourtant apparemment simple, de l’horticulture vivrière locale pour les repas scolaires (HGSF / home-grown school feeding), une idée de plus en plus largement reconnue comme offrant une solution « gagnant-gagnant ». En analysant la littérature consacrée à l’HGSF ainsi que ses principaux fondements théoriques (à savoir : structuration de la demande, localisme, exploitations agricoles familiales), nous identifions les domaines d’incohérence surgissant de ces documents et des programmes, ainsi que les tensions susceptibles d’apparaître lorsqu’une même initiative vise à la fois des objectifs commerciaux et sociaux. Les arguments présentés dans le présent document ont pour objet de fournir une base permettant de clarifier les domaines suivants : 1) théorie du changement pour les programmes HGSF ; 2) conditions favorables à une issue positive des programmes HGSF en termes de développement agricole et 3) déploiement des programmes de recherche et d’évaluation d’impact. Ce programme de recherche aborde en outre, de façon plus générale, des domaines importants mais insuffisamment explorés tenant à la protection sociale globale et au discours sur le développement agricole.

Creating New Markets via Smallholder Irrigation: The Case of Irrigation-led Smallholder…
November 1, 2010 / Working Papers

Creating New Markets via Smallholder Irrigation: The Case of Irrigation-led Smallholder Commercialization in Lume District, Ethiopia

By Samuel Gebreselassie
June 2010

Following the 2008 global food crises, the agricultural development agenda has gained renewed international attention. Though this observed price instability reflects largely short-term disequilibria between supply and demand, many – especially major food importing countries – consider it an indicator of a new era that is characterised by much more unstable food prices on the international markets (Galtier, 2009). Consequently, investors from these countries were encouraged to lease farm lands in relatively land and water abundant countries in Africa and other parts of the developing world.


FAC Working Paper 118 Pdf 2.46 MB 26 downloads


The Malawi Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme: Lessons from Research Findings, 2005 – 2008
October 5, 2010 / Policy Briefs

Ephraim W. Chirwa, Victor Mhoni, Richard Kachule, Blessings Chinsinga, Edson Musopole, Beatrice Makwenda, Connex Masankhidwe, Willie Kalumula and Chrispin Kankangadza
January 2010

Maize, the main staple crop remains the dominant crop among smallholder farmers in Malawi. Smallholder farmers devote almost 70 percent of their land to maize cultivation, and maize availability in the country defines the food security situation of the country. Smallholder agriculture in Malawi has been characterized by low productivity, low technology and labour intensive, with maize mainly produced for subsistence consumption. The low productivity in smallholder agriculture has been attributed to loss in soil fertility, low application of inorganic fertilizers and traditional low technology rain-fed farming systems.


Policy Brief 034l Pdf 326.50 KB 7 downloads


Future Farmers: Youth Aspirations, Expectations and Life Choices
October 4, 2010 / Discussion Papers

Jennifer Leavy and Sally Smith
June 2010

Young people constitute a high and increasing proportion of the African population, with around 70 percent of the continent’s total population currently under the age of 30. Evidence suggests many young people are choosing not to pursue livelihoods in the agriculture sector, especially as farmers, which may have implications for national and international efforts to drive economic growth through investments in agriculture. An understanding of the aspirations of rural youth and the links between aspirations and career decisions will be critical if agricultural policies achieve their intended outcomes. This paper establishes the foundations for a programme of research by the Future Agricultures Consortium, based on a review of existing research on youth aspirations, expectations and life choices. It describes the dynamic processes through which aspirations are formed, shaped and influenced by economic context, social norms and customs, parental and peer influence, media, previous attainment and gender relations, and relates this to the agrarian context of sub-Saharan Africa. The paper concludes with a series of tentative hypotheses about youth aspirations, how they link to outcomes in the rural African context, and the implications for agricultural policy and practice.

Helping Africa to Feed Itself: Promoting Agriculture to Reduce Poverty and Hunger
September 26, 2010 / Occasional Papers

Steve Wiggins and Henri Leturque
January 2010

Understandable concern exists over the state of hunger in Africa: almost one third of the population are estimated to be hungry, while more than a quarter of infants are underweight in the countries to the south of the Sahara. Moreover, parts of Africa are all too often hit by sharp increases in hunger when harvests fail or strife breaks out. Can Africa feed itself? And what needs to be done?

This report reviews the evidence and opinions drawing on available statistics, the considerable literature and interviews by telephone and email with key informants. The review looks at the record on food security, problems and successes of agriculture to date, future challenges, and points of agreement and contention.

Seeds and Subsidies: The Political Economy of Input Programmes in Malawi
September 23, 2010 / Working Papers

Blessings Chinsinga
August 2010

This paper provides a critical account of the cereal seed systems in Malawi both in a historical and contemporary context with particular reference to the three input support programmes implemented since the late 1990s to date. The main argument of this paper is that the centrality of the question of food security in the country’s electoral politics in a post liberalisation context has created a seed industry dominated by multinational seed companies, offering farmers a narrow range of products mainly hybrid maize, and in which alternative cereal seed systems such as millet and sorghum are at the verge of extinction. The commercial interests of the multinational seed companies are propped by donors who are obsessed with promoting a vibrant private sector input supply system as an engine of a sustainable green revolution through input support programmes. This has invariably privileged the genetic material supplied by the multinational seed companies at the expense of the national breeding programme whose main client are the local seed companies controlling only 10 percent of the seed market. The government’s fixation on food security has also contributed to privileging the genetic material from multinational seed companies since they are deemed to be high yielding even though at the expense of the seed supply variety to the farmer. The interests of seed companies, donors and government have, even though for different reasons, coincided to create a seed industry that has a very narrow product portfolio, distributes benefits to a very small proportion of the population through various forms of commercial ventures and schemes of political patronage buoyed by excessive weaknesses in the regulatory framework for the seed industry. This paper therefore demonstrates that policy processes are predominantly characterised by the clash of competing and conflicting interests and viewpoints rather than impartial, disinterested or objective search for correct solutions for policy issues. However, the voices and views of the dominant coalitions almost always shape the major policy directions. The major recommendations for revitalising the seed industry include:

1. improving the efficiency and implementation of regulatory frameworks;

2. enhancing public sector breeding and dissemination of improved varieties; and

3. creating an enabling environment to stimulate local seed enterprises that can deliver products with the needs of the smallholder farmer in mind.


FAC Working Paper 013 Pdf 641.41 KB 8 downloads


Can Agro-Dealers Deliver the Green Revolution in Kenya?
September 23, 2010 / Working Papers

Hannington Odame and Elijah Muange
August 2010

The Government of Kenya, with the backing of development and charitable organisations, has been implementing programmes to increase agricultural productivity and rural incomes and trigger a new Green Revolution (GR). These activities focus on increasing farmers’ access to and application of modern farming inputs, particularly improved seeds and fertilisers, delivered mainly through agro-dealers. Given that Kenyan farmers operate in a highly heterogeneous environment, this study was motivated to ask: Can agro-dealers deliver the Green Revolution in Kenya? In answering this question, the study examined the evolution and characteristics of agrodealers in the cereals subsector and explored how they command a central position in policy narratives put forward by key actors in the policy arena, each advocating a new GR for Kenya.

Several key findings emanate from this study. First, both formal and informal seed systems are important channels for delivering cereal seeds to Kenyan farmers. The informal systems (which do not involve agro-dealers) provide seeds of local maize and other cereals to farmers in low rainfall areas in the greater Eastern region of the country. Conversely, the formal systems use agro-dealers in providing mainly improved maize seed to farmers in high rainfall areas of the greater Western and Central regions of the country. Notwithstanding the importance of the informal systems to many smallholder farmers, the legal, regulatory and policy frameworks, which are informed by international seed policies and conventions, tend to favour the formal systems. As a result, agrodealers may only spur a GR for a select group of privileged producers, mainly maize farmers operating in higher rainfall areas.

Second, while actors in the seed industry employ different approaches in their activities, they are driven by narratives put forward by particular key actors, all converging on the notion of the ‘agro-dealer’ as the carrier of improved seeds to farmers. Interestingly, while the actors promote the agro-dealer agenda, due to different politics and interests, they also support parallel activities that seem to undermine development and expansion of the agro-dealer network in some places.

Third, Kenyan agro-dealers engage in the sale and promotion of diverse commodities as a risk coping mechanism for business survival. Therefore, initiatives aimed at supporting agro-dealers ought to focus on the totality of the business instead of only seeds and fertilisers. As well, if agro-dealers are to deliver a GR in Kenya, capacity training programmes for agro-dealers should not only target the business owners but also ‘managers’ (i.e., those who actually serve customers and are responsible for dispensing advice and information as well as products).

Fourth, the universalising of agro-dealer narrative in GR programmes overlooks the heterogeneity of the ‘poor smallholder farmers’ and agro-dealers themselves. This has resulted in biased beneficiary targeting and disproportionate ‘wins’ for farmers and agro-dealers in high rainfall areas and large agro-dealers in low rainfall areas. Therefore, greater attention must be paid to meeting the needs of farmers in lower potential areas by developing innovative alternative business models. Such models might include sale of complementary non-agricultural products or services or the establishment of group-based agro which might operate part-time or on a not-for-profit basis as a service to their community. Alternatively, mobile agro-dealers might provide regular or periodic services to more remote areas that cannot sustain permanent agro-dealerships. In short, efforts must be made to move away from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ agro-dealer model as it is currently construed.

Finally, the GR programmes have been viewed by critics as a ‘Trojan horse’ for genetically modified (GM) seeds or simply a strategy to ‘roll out a gene revolution’ in Africa. As these new seeds have yet to be released widely, the extent to which agro-dealers have the knowledge and ability to coordinate local-level implementation of national biosafety regulations has yet to be determined and it therefore remains an area requiring further investigation. Given their limited capacity to provide timely advice and information on non-GM technologies to the majority of Kenya’s farmers, however, it is clear that careful consideration is needed before loading agro-dealers with even greater responsibilities and expectations.


FAC Working Paper 014 Pdf 1.41 MB 7 downloads


The Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Zimbabwe
September 23, 2010 / Working Papers

The Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Zimbabwe: Rebuilding the Seed System in a Post-Crisis

Charity Mutonodzo-Davies
August 2010

A decade of economic and political turmoil in Zimbabwe, as well as a period of radical land reform which reconfigured the country’s agricultural sector, dramatically affected its seed system, reducing supply of quality seeds and undermining regulatory control. This paper aims to understand how Zimbabwe can rebuild a seed system appropriate to the post-land reform context by asking questions about the underlying political economy of this process, exploring the important but often overlooked angle of politics of policymaking and identifying the broader political, economic and institutional factors that affect the way the seed system is structured. As Zimbabwe tries to re-establish its formerly vibrant agricultural sector following land reform, perspectives focus on technical and market solutions, with an absence of concrete analysis and debate about political economic aspects. Yet it is these wider dimensions of policy processes, and particularly the politics underlying these, which inevitably carry the day. Therefore, this study maps the national seed system, examines its historical origins and identifies key policy narratives, actors and networks and political interests shaping the Zimbabwean seed system. It highlights how a number of competing narratives co-exist in the current national policy debate, each suggesting a different route to revitalising the seed system. The dominant narrative, supported by powerful national and international actors and associated interests, has been excluding, obscuring and silencing two important alternative narratives.

These alternatives highlight the need to rebuild the private sector with all its ancillary structures for input distribution and the importance of agricultural diversification, non-maize pathways and the need to build from the grassroots. The suppressing of alternatives was done through different political economic processes, justified by particular technical arguments that were supported by clear interests. This potentially undermines longer term recovery based on rebuilding the seed system through the private sector and strengthening formal and informal farmer-based seed systems.


FAC Working Paper 015 Pdf 805.57 KB 4 downloads


Participation, Commercialisation and Actor Networks: The Political Economy of Cereal Seed Production
September 23, 2010 / Working Papers

Kojo Sebastian Amanor
August 2010

This paper examines the changing framework of cereal seed policy in Ghana from a state-led public sector service in the 1960s to a commercial sector activity in the 2000s, and the implications of these changes. The work argues that attempts to privatise seeds during the 1980s and 1990s under structural adjustment were not very successful, since private sector investors were unwilling to invest in the poorly developed seed sector. Subsequent interventions have built networks of civil society organisations working in conjunction with private and public partnerships to create a social, economic and knowledge infrastructure for the emergence of private seed markets. The paper examines the narratives about seeds that inform and mobilise these networks for the development of commercial seed. It is argued that there is an inherent tension within seed development between the participatory networks of plant breeding and the commercial networks of seed certification and distribution. Participatory breeding is based on farmers’ evaluation of new varieties, incorporation of farmers’ varieties and knowledge into breeding and open access relations between breeders and farmers. Through these relations, farmers also gain access to unreleased varieties, which they experiment with and distribute through their own networks.

In contrast with this, commercial networks are concerned with ‘manufacturing’ markets for seeds, where low demand exists and farmers usually multiply their own seeds. This results in strategies that see seeds as objects in themselves that can be appropriated, rather than as products of a largely public process of development. This results in narratives that portray commercial seeds as the panacea for the problems of farmers and depict the main constraints in agriculture as resulting from the lack of reach of commercial seed and agodealers into the rural areas. Thus a commercial Green Revolution is portrayed as the solution to food security issues in Africa. This approach, with its appeals to agricultural modernisation, is effective in mobilising support in the state, since state agricultural organisations are often embedded in agricultural modernisation paradigms. By stressing the importance of the private sector, these approaches appeal to the dominant neoliberal concerns in macroeconomic policy and the increasing power of agribusiness. However, the support of donors and new private foundations for building commercial markets and subsidising commercial seeds and the transaction costs of seed and input markets tends to lock farmers into agribusiness interests and contracts.

The assumptions about markets and improved seed serve to marginalise and undermine both the participatory basis on which breeding was organised during the seventies, and the search for more creative and critical solutions to the constraints of agricultural modernisation in the diverse, risky and uncertain environments that characterise much of Africa. The paper examines the new narratives about seeds, the impact of neoliberal reforms on the seed sector, and the interactions and conflicts that characterise the various actor networks that constitute seed development in a case study of the Northern Region of Ghana.


FAC Working Paper 016 Pdf 860.06 KB 5 downloads


The Political Economy of Ethiopian Cereal Seed Systems
September 23, 2010 / Working Papers

The Political Economy of Ethiopian Cereal Seed Systems: State Control, Market Liberalisation and Decentralisation

Dawit Alemu

August 2010

This paper presents the political and economic processes governing Ethiopian cereal seed systems by analysing the overall policy context, as well as the main interests driving seed policy formulation and implementation and the roles and interaction of the different public and private actors. It also examines how these interests and interactions are related to the performance of the system on the ground.

The nature of the Ethiopian agricultural sector, the historical evolution of the seed system and the seed specificities for each cereal crops has resulted in a wide range of actors with diverse linkages and policy processes. The analysis of these processes has identified a number of constraints faced by the Ethiopian cereal seed system. These constraints are a result of a economic and political drivers, including top-down state driven initiatives, agricultural liberalisation and the private sector and political-administrative decentralisation, all of which pull in different directions. While contrasting interests in federal and decentralised state level activities exist, ultimately it is the state-driven imperatives that define what private sector activity is possible. Centrally directed, state-supported efforts, including numerous campaigns, special projects and programmes along with ad hoc crash programmes, create numerous blockages in the supply and distribution of seed. These ‘pull-push’ factors have brought about severe strains within the system. Thus, it is important that the technocrats, politicians, international donors and supporters understand these political economic drivers of change in the Ethiopian cereal seed system.

By addressing these conflicts and contradictions, they may improve their chances of designing and implementing more technically effective and socially appropriate policies. This in turn will help establish a vibrant seed system which offers real choices for farmers in terms of seed type, quantity, and quality and delivery time at reasonable prices.


FAC Working Paper 017 Pdf 2.83 MB 7 downloads


Helping Africa to Feed Itself: Promoting Agriculture to Reduce
September 20, 2010 / Occasional Papers

A joint publication by Friends of Europe, the Overseas Development Institute and FAC.

Steve Wiggins and Henri Leturque
January 2010

Understandable concern exists over the state of hunger in Africa: almost one third of the population are estimated to be hungry, while more than a quarter of infants are underweight in the countries to the south of the Sahara. Moreover, parts of Africa are all too often hit by sharp increases in hunger when harvests fail or strife breaks out. Can Africa feed itself? And what needs to be done?

Future Farmers? Exploring Youth Aspirations for African Agriculture
August 5, 2010 / Policy Briefs

Demographic trends point to more young people in the African population than ever before – approximately 70 percent of Africa’s 1 billion people is under the age of 30. Across the continent many young people are reportedly choosing not to pursue livelihoods in agriculture, especially as farmers. If this is the case there are clear implications for the future of African agriculture, at a time of renewed government, donor and private sector investment in the sector given its links to economic growth, poverty reduction and food security.


Policy Brief 037 Pdf 455.50 KB 7 downloads


Awakening Africa’s Sleeping Giant? The Potentials and the Pitfalls
July 19, 2010 / Policy Briefs

In 2009 the World Bank published a report entitled Awakening Africa’s Sleeping Giant: Prospects for Commercial Agriculture in theGuinea Savannah Zone and Beyond. The report highlights the agricultural potential of Africa’s Guinea Savannah (henceforth GS) zone, which it describes as “one of the largest underused agricultural land reserves in the world” (p2). It argues that the time has come for this potential to be realized, noting the strengthening demand for agricultural commodities both in world
markets and within Africa, where population growth, rising incomes and urbanization are driving demand for staple foods as well as for
livestock and hor ticultural products. Macroeconomic and sectoral (taxation) policies are also increasingly favourable to agricultural
investment within Africa.


Policy Brief 036 Pdf 381.03 KB 4 downloads


Agricultural Services and Decentralisation in Kenya
July 19, 2010 / Policy Briefs

Colin Poulton and Gem Argwings-Kodhek
June 2010

Kenya will vote on a new constitution in August 2010. The document proposes greater decentralisation of government with elected governors heading 47 counties that will replace the current system of provinces and districts. This realignment of the institutional landscape presents a number of opportunities and challenges for agricultural service provision in the country. This brief draws on case studies in four districts of Kenya – Mwingi, Rachuonyo, Eldoret West and Nyeri South – that were conducted in 2007 and 2009 to explore the roles and performance of the Ministry of Agriculture and other rural development ministries in the country to provide context to discussions that need to be held in Kenya about the delivery of agricultural extension and other services in Kenya under the new constitutional order. The new constitution has the national ministry making policy, but crop and animal husbandry, fisheries, disease control and other services being undertaken at the county level.


Policy Brief 035 Pdf 319.26 KB 7 downloads


Social Protection for Agricultural Growth in Africa
July 13, 2010 / Working Papers

Stephen Devereux
January 2009

Various explanations have been advanced for the persistent under?performance of agriculture in many African countries, where smallholder farming is still the dominant livelihood activity and the main source of employment, food and income. Some of the oldest arguments remain the most compelling. African farmers face harsh agro?ecologies and erratic weather, characterised by low soil fertility, recurrent droughts and/or floods, and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns associated with climate change. Vulnerability to shocks is compounded by infrastructure deficits (roads and transport networks, telecommunications, potable water and irrigation) that keep poor communities poor and vulnerable, as testified by the phenomenon observed during livelihood crises of steep food price gradients from isolated rural villages to densely settled urban centres. African farmers have also been inadequately protected against the forces of globalisation and adverse international terms of trade – for instance, Western farmers and markets are heavily protected in ways that African farmers and markets are not.


FAC Working Paper 010 Pdf 356.53 KB 4 downloads


The Role and Performance of Ministry of Agriculture in Nyeri South District
July 13, 2010 / Research Papers

Booker Owuor, Beatrice Wambui, Gem Argwings-Kodhek and Colin Poulton
December 2009

Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy with many urban, and most rural folk deriving their livelihoods directly or indirectly from agriculture. The performance of the sector is therefore refl ected in the performance of the whole economy. Growth in the agricultural sector translates directly to the improvement in living standards of many farm families. Nyeri South District has a vibrant agricultural sector that provides the main source of livelihood for over 82% of its residents. Three commodities with varied histories – tea, coff ee and dairy – are the main agricultural enterprises. Eff ective realization of the agricultural sector’s goals in the district depends on reviving these commodities in a sustainable manner. For this to be achieved however, the structure, capacity and coordination capabilities of the agricultural sector ministries must be up to the task.

The Role and Performance of the MoA and Rural Development in Nyeri South District
July 13, 2010 / Research Papers

The Role and Performance of the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nyeri South District

June 2010

The workshop was held in the CDF Hall, Othaya, Nyeri South district, on 5th February 2010. The main objectives of the workshop were to disseminate and seek validation of the main findings of research into “The Role and Performance of the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development” in the district. This research was conducted during November and December 2009 and the resulting report can be downloaded from

Workshop Report on the Ministry of Agriculture at the District Level in Malawi
July 13, 2010 / Research Papers

FAC’s Malawi team
October 2009

This workshop was held on 23rd October 2009 at Panjira Lodge in Dedza district. The workshop brought together officials working in the agricultural sector from Thyolo, Dedza and Rumphi districts. The participants included District Agricultural Development Officers, Subject Matter Specialists from the Extension Sections including the Agricultural Extension Development Officers (AEDOs), Directors of Planning and Development, NGO Officials, Agro-dealers and farmer representatives. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MoAFS) Headquarters was represented by the Chief Economist responsible for Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E).

Getting Agriculture Moving: Role of the State in Increasing Staple Food Crop Productivity
July 13, 2010 / Research Papers

Colin Poulton and Andrew Dorward
June 2008

This paper argues that the state has a large potential role in increasing staple food crop productivity as a result of

  • The importance of staple food crop intensification in driving and supporting pro-poor growth in poor rural areas and
  • Intrinsic difficulties that inhibit staple food crop intensification without significant investment and coordination by the state.

Active state involvement was a pervasive feature of Asian green revolutions, but the task is not easy, particularly with the varied and often difficult agro-ecological conditions in Africa, the lack of irrigation infrastructure, likely impacts of climate change, the limited human and financial resources available to governments, and the political challenges facing governments in pursuing consistent policies.

Linking Agricultural Development to School Feeding
July 5, 2010 / Working Papers

James Sumberg & Rachel Sabates-Wheeler
June 2010

This paper is an output from the initial phase of the Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF) Project which is funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and implemented by the Partnership for Child Development at Imperial College. The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex is a project partner and part of the project’s agricultural technical consortium. As such IDS is charged with providing expertise across three areas: agricultural development, food security and social protection. IDS also play a central role in the evaluation component of the project.

Over the last five years HGSF – essentially an attempt to actively and explicitly link agricultural development with school feeding – has received increasing attention from international agencies (Sanchez et al. 2005), policy makers (e.g. CAADP4), national governments, academics (Morgan et al. 2007) and practitioners (Espejo et al. 2009). BMGF has funded or co-funded some of these activities as well as other closely related initiatives such as WFP’s Purchase-for-Progress (P4P) programme.


FAC Working Paper 012 Pdf 499.11 KB 6 downloads


Can the smallholder model deliver poverty reduction and food security
May 27, 2010 / Working Papers

By Steve Wiggins
July 2009

Despite the achievements of smallholders in Asia during the green revolution, there is scepticism that Africa’s smallholders — who dominate the farm area in most countries — can imitate this model and deliver agricultural growth. This paper assesses whether such pessimism is justified.

Given the high transactions costs of hiring labour of farms, diseconomies of scale can be expected when labour is relatively cheap and abundant compared to other factors of production: which may explain the survey evidence that small farms often produce more per hectare than larger farms. In conditions of low development with relatively cheap labour, small units may have advantages over larger ones.

Reforming Agricultural Policy: Lessons from Four Countries
May 27, 2010 / Working Papers

Lídia Cabral, Colin Poulton, Steve Wiggins and Linxiu Zhang
July 2006

Comparing reform of agricultural policy in Bangladesh, Chile, China and New Zealand, this paper derives lessons for countries contemplating reform.

In all cases reforms to farm policy were undertaken as part of overall reforms across the whole economy, started in response to a perceived national crisis and usually implemented by new governments with a mandate to make major changes. Political will is, not surprisingly, a necessary condition.

In designing reforms and their implementation, much depends on context, including external conditions such as world market prices. The scope for change, and certainly the sequence and pace of reform, may be as much a matter of administrative feasibility as choice. Where outcomes are uncertain and state capacity limited, gradual approaches to reform that allow for learning may be better than swift and comprehensive -‘big bang’ – packages.

This working paper presents the first stage of a review of agricultural reform experiences within African countries, specifically Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi. It aims to draw out issues for would-be reformers by examining the experience of four cases of agricultural reform, purposely selected as often being seen as successful.


FAC Working Paper 002 Pdf 2.56 MB 3 downloads


Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA)
May 19, 2010 / FAC projects

Conference Call

24th—28th May 2010

Egerton University Njoro, Kenya T

he Climate Change Adaptation in Africa (CCAA) announces the 2010 conference call at Egerton University, Njoro, Kenya. The conference will involve plenary sessions, with presentations from renowned international scientists on topics covering recent advances in knowledge on climate change adaptation in the dry lands. Other events include roundtable discussions involving the scientific community and representatives of agencies working with pastoral communities as well as members of vulnerable communities in the dry lands.

‘Global Land Grabbing’ conference
May 17, 2010 / FAC projects


International Academic Conference on ‘Global Land Grabbing’

6-8 April 2011

Co-organized and hosted by the Future Agricultures Consortium Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, Brighton, UK

The Journal of Peasant Studies, in collaboration with the Land Deal Politics Initiative (LDPI) is organizing an international academic workshop on ‘Global Land Grabbing’ to be held on 6-8 April 2011 at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.

LDPI: Small grant competition: Call for applications
May 17, 2010 / FAC projects

A convergence of factors has been driving a revaluation of land by powerful economic and political actors. This is occurring across the world, but especially in the global South. As a result, we are seeing a dramatic rise in the extent of cross-border, transnational corporation-driven and, in some cases foreign government-driven, large-scale land deals unfolding worldwide. The phrase ‘global land grab’ has become a catch-all phrase to describe this explosion of (trans)national commercial land transactions revolving around the production and sale of food and biofuels, conservation and mining activities.

Reclaiming Policy Space: Lessons from Malawi’s 2005/2006 Fertiliser Subsidy Programme
May 15, 2010 / Research Papers

Blessings Chinsinga
July 2007

This 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.

Commercialisations in Agriculture
May 15, 2010 / Working Papers

By Jennifer Leavy and Colin Poulton
September 2007
Accelerated growth in agriculture is seen by many as critical if the MDGs are to be met inAfrica. Although there are debates about the future viability of small farms (Hazell et al.2007), the official policies of many national governments and international development agencies accord a central role to the intensification and commercialisation of smallholder agriculture as a means of achieving poverty reduction.

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 still live). However, others fear that strategiesfor commercialising agriculture will not bring benefits to the majority of rural households, either directly or (in the view of some) at all. Instead, they fear that efforts to promote a morecommercial agriculture will benefit primarily large-scale farms.

At best, the top minority ofsmallholders will be able to benefit.In this paper, therefore, we discuss what is meant by the commercialisation of agriculture,emphasising the different pathways that commercialisation can take. We also examine whatneeds to be done if agricultural commercialisation is to be inclusive, bringing benefits to alarge proportion of rural households.The potential benefits of commercialisation and engaging in trade are well documented.These include stimulating rural growth, which poor people can gain from directly, forexample through: improving employment opportunities (depending on the labour intensity ofcrops grown); increasing agricultural labour productivity; direct income benefits foremployees and employers; expanding food supply and potentially improving nutritionalstatus. Multiplier effects encompass increased demand for food and services in the local area (von Braun and Kennedy, 1994).

The Political Economy of Ministry of Agriculture at the District Level: The Case of Rumphi District
May 14, 2010 / Research Papers

Blessings Chinsinga
March 2008

The main motivation of this research is to understand the functioning of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) at district level and beyond in a changing context shaped by political and market liberalization in which policy reforms have been greatly driven by the economic reform agenda of the IMF and World Bank (Omamo & Farrington, 2004). These reforms were designed to reduce the role government, cut back on public sector expenditures, improve balance of payments, reduce government deficits, enhance macroeconomic performance and help developing countries achieve higher economic growth rates. Referred to as structural adjustment programmes (SAPs); the key elements of policy reforms included macroeconomic restructuring, privatization of government agencies, liberalization of markets, removal of the government from the agricultural markets and elimination of subsidies. In the agricultural sector, SAPs “forced African governments to dismantle public agricultural research and extension programmes and drop whatever protection and incentive mechanisms existed for their small farmers” (UK Food Group, 2008: 9). The main goal of the SAPs was “to convert the role of the state into that of facilitator and regulator of the private sector” (Omamo and Farrington, 2004: 1). The MoAs would thus act merely as part players and not as the principal architects and drivers of agricultural policies and policy reforms.

Ministries of Agriculture: Structures, Capacity and Coordination at District Level in Malawi
May 14, 2010 / Research Papers

Blessings Chinsinga
February 2008

This study was carried out under the auspices of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) politics and policy processes sub-theme. Building on the earlier work of the sub-theme on the debates about the Ministries of Agriculture (MoAs) in developing countries, the study was intended as an entry point for grasping the functions, structures, rules, financial and human capacities of MoAs in Africa.

Democratic Politics and State Capacity Building: Ministries of Agriculture in Malawi and Kenya
May 14, 2010 / Research Papers

October 2009

Although fluctuating in intensity, debates about the role of the state remain fundamental to strategies for rural development and poverty reduction. Under structural adjustment African states were scaled back to play a minimalist public goods provider role, motivated in large part by the weakness and over-extension of the state prior to that. Whilst there is now broad recognition that a more activist, coordinating role is required to stimulate market development (World Bank, 1997, Dorward 2004), this places extra demands on the capacity of the state. Meanwhile, most African states are almost two decades into a transition to democracy. Whilst the median voter in most of these states is rural and poor, it remains unclear as to whether democratic politics can generate the incentives for the creation of “developmental” states that will serve the needs of such voters.

The Role and Performance of the Ministry of Agriculture in Rachuonyo District
May 14, 2010 / Research Papers

Geophrey O. Sikei, Booker W. Owuor and Colin Poulton
June, 2008

A widely accepted objective of agricultural development is to achieve sustainable intensification. With many people especially in the rural areas deriving their livelihoods directly or indirectly from agriculture, the performance of the sector is therefore reflected in the performance of the whole economy. Growth in agriculture is expected to have a greater impact on a larger section of the population than any other sector. For effective realization of the sector’s goals, the structure, capacity and coordination capabilities of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) cannot be overlooked.