Publications

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

Use the search field below or review our thematically structured research archive.


Latest articles

Dr. Keith D Shepherd
January 22, 2010 / Soil Fertility

In my view, any policy for improved soil fertility management must have the below ingredients to ensure efficiency and reliable learning.

  1. A systematic programme to properly diagnose soil fertility constraints and their associated risk factors spatially at different scales, using statistically valid sampling schemes. We have the technology to do this cost-effectively now. Participatory diagnosis by land users/communities is important but not a substitute for scientifically sound objective assessments. There is need for interaction among both types of systems.
  2. A systematic programme for testing soil fertility management options using standardized protocols and linked to the baseline above (no. 1) to provide evidence-based recommendations. Again this is required to complement and inform farmers testing strategies.
  3. Baselines and monitoring of soil fertility in soil management/development projects so impacts of interventions can be reliably assessed. Again no.1 above provides a method for doing this.

This evidence base is needed to inform decision making at all levels: individual farmers, communities, stockists, fertilizer/seed companies, land resource managers, national research and extension, government planning and finance ministries, donors, development agencies, etc. We have the technology to do this – we just need good design and systematic application. The types of systems I am describing are surveillance systems similar to those used in the public health sector – which indeed primarily guide public policy and practice.

Dr. Keith D Shepherd, Principal Soil Scientist
World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
k.shepherd@cgiar.org

Wyn Richards
January 22, 2010 / Soil Fertility

My few comments are based largely on my observation of agricultural practice in the developing world over the past 39 years , not on any great expertise in soil fertility. I refer particularly to the viable farming practices of NR dependent subsistence and subsistence-plus farmers as well as those who are more market oriented. I will not deal with land tenure issues although these certainly need to be addressed by policy makers as there is clearly a major influence on soil fertility emanating from the consequences of unfair land access; nor will I emphasise on the need for policy makers to address tree felling/forest clearing and its influence on soil degradation.  Rather I wish to deal with the lot of the literally hundreds of millions of farmers with access to 0.1 – 2 acres of land  – those who still practice slash and burn shifting cultivation to the more fortunate ones who own land that is ‘farmed’.

The first point I wish to emphasise is the need  for policy makers to be reminded that the most effective and resilient use of small parcels of land (and soil) is achieved through MIXED farming practices. Unfortunately, policy makers in the developing world have been over-influenced by land-use policies of large scale agriculture in the North/West where the whole marketing , economic and social structures are totally different to those in the South.

Unfortunately, there are a myriad examples where well-meaning but badly conceived approaches to land use in the South have created havoc among rural poor communities. For instance, in the 1970s, enticed by the lure of financial gain, the Kenya Govt convinced mixed (crop/livestock) farmers in the Machakos region to transform their small plots into maize-only  farms  in an attempt to create a maize bank for the country. Initially the ‘project’ was deemed to be successful judging by financial rewards for the farmers –  but ultimately the repeated mono-culture approach denuded the soil of tilth and fertility and the productivity declined precipitously . Furthermore, the incidence of kwashiorkor increased significantly during this time as the extra cash earned did not go to purchase the balanced diet required ( milk/meat, cabbage, beans etc) by growing children and which the mixed farm structure would have originally provided. There are many Machakos-like experiments  around the world; one only has to visit India to see the vast amount of land denuded by the mono-culture approach promoted by the Indian Govt of the past. The Green Revolution approach too has had its impact on soil fertility  as it has made too many demands of friable land.

My second point is related to the first –  but is regularly ignored. Successful small-scale farming is as much about social engagement with the community as it is  a means of sustenance and cash rewards. These social networks provide security, confidence to take risk and other forms of social capital that are often the drivers in poor societies. The terms efficiency and financial returns so appreciated in the North do not resonate so loudly in the small-farmer community. And, getting to the point, tradition and culture in the rural community has always been based on a mixed farming approach – the consequences of which has maintained and enriched soils for eons.

Wyn Richards
Natural Resources International Limited
w.richards@nrint.co.uk

Frank M. Place
January 22, 2010 / Soil Fertility

1.  The Soil Fertility Initiative.  I think it failed for several reasons.  First, it was top down led largely from the World Bank.  2.  It was even marginalized within the bank with really only one champion trying to move it forward, 3.  As far as I know there was never any new money for this – it became an approved use of World Bank country funds, but countries would have had to cut other programs, which as we know, is difficult to do in any country.  The new momentum is much broader based (institutionally) and has new money.

2.  Promoting wider adoption of soil fertility management practices.  What is written on the variability of soil constraints, even at micro scales, is very true.  It is further true that the uptake of any individual option or practice is very low with two possible exceptions:  (1) in some countries and for some higher value crops (mainly export crops) there has been high use of inputs including soil fertility management and (2) incorporation of animal manure or crop residues which are locally available by-products from other enterprises.

The overall lack of investment results from a combination of lack of incentives to invest in agriculture as a whole, lack of payoffs to the particular soil practices, or failing that, lack of credit or other resources to implement the practices.  All soil fertility management practices face some constraint in their implementation, be it cash/capital, labor, land area, irrigation/water, equipment, or other.  Because of that, their suitability to certain community and household conditions varies across the landscape, as do the soil constraints.  There is certainly no uniform technical solution, the there may be some consistent principles and approaches to follow.

So what to do?

1.  We do need better diagnoses of soil constraints because farmers truly can’t afford to be wrong about how to address their soils. They face high risks even when they are right.  Africa can’t afford too much sophistication in this, but it needs to advance from the current state of knowledge.

2.  Because of the general lack of profitability of smallholder agriculture, I just can’t see wide adoption of soil fertility practices unless there is significant public investment in the sector.  This needs to be in some of the areas mentioned – to help improve input markets, and to improve credit access by smallholder farmers.  The private sector cannot do these in Africa.  A real question is whether this is enough.  Well, it isn’t in the short run, for sure.  So I believe that smart subsidies are needed, not only for fertilizer, but to encourage the use of complementary soil fertility practices (e.g. to help support information dissemination or leguminous seed multiplication).  It seems clear from the examples we have had in recent years, that these types of investments can be very beneficial.  If they are not implemented, and agriculture production remains poor, many other costs emerge that do not enter into analysts’ equations (rising health needs, food aid, transactions costs associated with dual residence families, etc….).

3.  How to do that, what frameworks, investment strategies, partnerships, policies, institutions, etc, are needed?  Well that is not simple for sure and we do need some good ideas on that.  I am familiar with CAADP, TerrAfrica, AGRA, but haven’t really given thought to the bigger picture. Thus, I will hold off on commenting for now.

Frank M. Place, Economist
World Agroforestry Centre
f.place@cgiar.org

FAC_E-Debate-Contributions-Soil_Fertility
January 19, 2010 / E-debates

At least in the semi-arid regions of Africa, if within-field soil variability is not takeninto account, efforts to increase soil fertility will be less efficient and less likely tobe adopted by farmers. Most of these farmers already practice =precisionagriculture‘ and take short distance variability into consideration in theirmanagement. One can safely assume that they do so for good reason, given thattheir management systems have developed over many centuries.Precision agriculture is also relevant for the introduction of modern technologies.For example, the same principles are relevant to the efficient application ofmanure and the efficient application of compost and mineral fertiliser.For the best solutions, farmer knowledge, extensionist knowledge and researcherknowledge of within-field soil variability need to be combined.

Seasonality and Social Protection in Africa
January 15, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Scial_Protection_in_AfricaThis Working Paper draws on nearly twenty years of research in several African countries,on the inter-related themes of food insecurity, seasonality, coping strategies, famine, form a land in formal safety nets, and social protection. The paper has three objectives:

  • to document and synthesise evidence on the nature and consequences of 1seasonality across rural Africa, highlighting the similarities and convergencesacross contexts;
  • to explore the various policy interventions that have been implemented in 2 response to seasonality, with particular reference to the emerging social protectionagenda;
  • to argue that current approaches to social protection are misconceived and 3inadequate for addressing the seasonal dimensions of rural vulnerability.

2 Seasonality and ‘coping’ in four African countries

2.1 Seasonality is an under-reported food and health crisis that impoverishes and kills Africansevery year; only its severity and duration vary across households and over time. In rain-fedfarming systems, where smallholders depend on a single rainy season for most of their staple food needs, the annual ‘hungry season’ or soudure can last from a few weeks to several months, depending on the extent of food production, self-sufficiency achieved in a given year.

The rhythm of rural life in much of Africa is entirely dictated by this inflexible seasonal calendar, but the relative success or failure of this way of life is determined by the unpredictable behaviour of the weather. The mechanism is straight forward, repetitive as the calendar, and relentless. Smallholders prepare their plots while waiting for the rains to start, then they plant their seeds, then they pray that the rains will be adequate and well.

Seasonality and High Food Prices: a Double Challenge
January 15, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}
1. Seasonal hunger is predictable, can be understood and there are tested solutions

2. What happens during seasonal hunger and what happens in famine differs only in severity – Sequencing of coping remains largely the same

3. Moreover the link between them is causal: a chain of shocks leads to the erosion of resilience of a whole community, turning the “normal” seasonal hunger into a major catastrophe.

  • Production failures
  • Reduction of off-farm employment opportunities
  • Hazards
  • Action or inaction in the corridors of power Seasonality: father of all famine
  • Famine can not be stopped unless seasonal hunger is stopped

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Building a common foundation for fighting seasonal hunger
January 15, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off} Community-based management of acutemalnutrition programs

  • Child growth promotion programs (maternal andchild nutrition, especially from pregnancy to age 3)
  • Seasonal employment programs
  • Social pensions for those unable to work

A “minimum essential package” for fighting seasonal hunger, How much would universalizing a minimum essential package cost annually?

Indicative, order-of-magnitude estimates…

– CMAM programs: £0.96 to £1.87 billion to treat world’s 19 million severely acutely malnourished children
– Child growth promotion: £3.82 to £7.44 billion for approximately 600 million preschool children living in poor countries
– Seasonal employment programs: £15 to £27 billion at 100 days/yearand £1/day wage transfer for an estimated 200 million extremely poor households, plus administrative etc. costs
– Social pensions: £6.03 to £12.21 billion at 50p/day to 30 million elderly in the poorest countries

Total cost of package: £25.81 – £48.52 billion

  • less than 0.1% of global GDP0.
  • 1% of UK GDP equals about 4p/day per person
  • less than 7% of annual military spending worldwide From Policy to Rights
  • The right to food

-Included in international covenants: International Covenant Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Convention on the Rights of the Child

-Primary objective of covenants is to guide the incorporation of rights into national law

-Enforcement of the right to food has the effect of converting discretionary policy into legal entitlements

-India example of how legal protection of the right to food can have practical impact…
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Future Agricultures in Kenya
January 15, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}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

Challenges of FAC Research – 1
Carry-over from Phase 1

– Fertiliser paper (Karuti/Atieno)

  • Lack of Country Advisory committee
  • Objections from some national members
  • Slow Disbursements of funds

– leads to slow implementation

– loss of good field assistants

Carry-over from Phase 1

– Fertiliser paper (Karuti/Atieno)

  • Lack of Country Advisory committee
  • Objections from some national members
  • Diminishing interest by some members
  • Cross-country co-ordination issues
  • Slow Disbursements of funds

– leads to slow implementation

– loss of good field assistants

Challenges of FAC Research – 2

  • Data problems Time series and Cross-sectional
  • Sharing mechanisms
  • 5. Exchange rate variations
  • £ vs. €£ vs. $
  • Slow or ineffective implementation
  • Future Research Themes
  • Kenya Vision 2030
  • High input cost Inappropriate land use practices
  • Limited application of agricultural technology and innovation
  • Weak farmer institutions
  • Poor livestock husbandry practice limited extension services
  • Over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture
  • Inadequate credit facilities
  • DfID (2008-2013)
  • New agriculture technologies
  • High value agriculture in areas of medium to high potential
  • Rural economic Risk, vulnerability and adaptation
  • Market Managing natural resources
  • Future Prospects Appear pretty good! Strong stakeholder interest Good research output coming thru! Cross-country work very promising for policy uptake/outcomes.{jcomments off}

Policy Process Theme Progress and Challenges in Year 1
January 15, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Didn’t get started until December

– Long delay in contracts (DFID contract, PP time allocation)
– Getting team together (methodology and detailed planning for MoA district study)

  • Main policy engagement: Tuesday fertiliser workshop
  • MoA study:
    – Secondary data collection started
    – Field work to begin next week
    – Draft reports by March 31st, workshops June
  • Draft review of SWAps in agriculture (Lidia)  

Vision

  • Integrating political economy, institutional and technocratic perspectives on how and why agricultural policies are made
    –Linking broad governance to agricultureStraddles Sustainable Agriculture and Governance themes of DFID Research Strategy

Role and Performance of Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development

  • Role in 21st century
  • What they actually do and why
  • How well they do this and how to improve it
  • –Including potential for stakeholder participation in planning and evaluation

  • Phase 1: 2 districts in each of Kenya and Malawi
  • This year: 2 more districts in Kenya, 1 in Malawi
  • – Chosen by both agro-ecology and politics

  • Year 2: Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Ghan
  • – Action research component?

Relevance

  • Ministry capacity (regulator, coordinator, service provider?) fundamental to:
  • – efforts on commercialisation, technology adoption
    – CAADP objectives (10% budget target)

  • Extension debates:
    – AGRA stockist model, FIPS, NAADS
  • – Is there any future for public delivery?
    – “Mixed ecology” approach

    Relevance to DFID Research Strategy
    Little under Sust Ag, but Governance (Building Strong and Effective States) envisages research on:“… decentralisation and the role of local organisations and the private sector in delivering services. We will also examine the importance of a government’s financial management in the relationship between the state and the people. We will continue to examine the link between power, politics and the relationships between society and the state. We will ask how these shape development as well as contribute to holding the state to account to its actions.” [p33]

Growth & Social Protection
January 15, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}growth_and_social_protectionOUTPUTS  (1):   Working Paper series

WP01       Building Synergies between Social Protection and Smallholder Agricultural Policies
WP02       Agriculture and Social Protection in Malawi
WP03       Agriculture and Social Protection in Ethiopia
WP04       Agriculture and Social Protection in Ghana
WP05       Agriculture and Social Protection in Kenya
WP06       Social Protection for Agricultural Growth in Africa
WP07       Seasonality and Social Protection in Africa 

OUTPUTS  (2):   Briefing Paper series

FAC BP                    The Global Fertiliser Crisis and Africa
GSP BP01                Agriculture and Social Protection in Africa
GSP BP03                Agriculture and Social Protection in Malawi
GSP BP03                Agriculture and Social Protection in Ethiopia
GSP BP04                Agriculture and Social Protection in Ghana 

Agricultural Commercialisation
January 15, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}agricultural_commercialisationAim:

  • to examine relation of commercialisation of small farming
  • to levels of food security andother variations amongst households such as assets
  • to see how much intervention overcomes potential failures in factor & product marketsto observe early results

Method:

  • Study comparable communities of small and poor farmers subject to intervention to facilitate more commercialised production
  • Three areas of Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi
  • Observe outset of intervention, return two or one year later
  • Combination of qualitative study +  small household surveys
  • Start of studies to be staggered: 08/09 Kenya; 09/10 Ethiopia, Malawi
  • But not possible to begin in Kenya during current year Plan for 09/10 & onwards

Policy frameworks for increasing soil fertility in Africa
January 15, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}soil_fertility_in_AfricaEveryone is agreed that one of the central components of achieving an „African Green Revolution. is totackle the widespread soil fertility constraints in African agriculture. To this end, AGRA – the Alliance fora Green Revolution in Africa – has launched a major new „Soil Health. programme aimed at 4.1 millionfarmers across Africa, with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation committing $198 million to the effort www.agra-alliance.org/section/work/soils).

The Abuja declaration, following on from the African Fertilizer Summit of 2006 set the scene for major investments in boosting fertilizer supplies www.africafertilizersummit.org/Abuja) Fertilizer Declaration in English.pdf). CAADP – the Comprehensive  African Agricultural Development Programme – has been active in supporting the follow up to the summit, particularly through its work on improving markets and trade www.triomedia.co.za/work/nepad/newsletters/2008/issue212_15Feb2008.html#toc1 ).

Other initiativesabound – the Millennium Villages programme (http://www.millenniumvillages.org/), Sasakawa-Global 2000 www.saa-tokyo.org/english/sg2000/), the activities of the Association for Better Land Husbandry,among many others. All see soil fertility as central, although the suggested solutions and policy.requirements are very different..But what are the policy frameworks that really will increase soil fertility in ways that will boost production. in a sustainable fashion; where the benefits of the interventions are widely distributed, meeting broader.aims of equitable, broad-based development? Here, there is much less precision and an urgent need for a concrete debate.

For this reason, the Future Agricultures Consortium has decided to invite a wide range of participants to debate some key issues around the way forward for policy, and associated institutional arrangements.

Agriculture and Social Protection in Malawi
January 15, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Social_Protection_in_MalawiThis paper reviews social protection and agriculture policies in Malawi in order to explorethe links, synergies and conflicts that lie between them. It begins with brief backgroundinformation about Malawi, in terms of its economic and welfare indicators.

Particularemphasis is placed on understanding agricultural and social protection policies within thecontext of

(a) political issues and

(b) market and livelihood development.

This is followed witha review of agricultural and social protection policies, their interactions and their impacts onlivelihoods and welfare. Specific attention is given to evolving input subsidy policies whichare of particular relevance to this review. We conclude with a discussion of lessons that canbe learned from Malawian experience with agriculture and social protection.

Before examining specific agricultural and social protection policies in terms of their evolutionand outcomes, it is important to place these in context. We focus on three particular (andinter-related) aspects of context, the political context (as this affects the policy choices thatpoliticians make), the economic context (as this affects the policy demands, resources andhence options), and the agricultural and rural livelihood context (as this affects the policydemands and policy outcomes).

A broad historical understanding is critical in understandingthese contexts, and table 1 sets out major pertinent events since 1990/91. The Economic Context With more than 55% of its rural population in poverty and 24% ultra-poor in 2004/5(National Statistical Office, 2005, and GNI per capita of around 170 US$, Malawi is oneof the poorest countries in the world, as evidenced by a range of social and economic indicators. Many people in Malawi are characterized by high levels ofvulnerability, due to the fragility of their livelihoods, susceptibility to shocks, and largenumbers of non-poor people living just above the poverty line (Devereux et al., 2006).

Social Protection for Agricultural Growth in Africa
January 15, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Various explanations have been advanced for the persistent under-performance of agriculturein 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 argumentsremain 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 testifiedby the phenomenon observed during livelihood crises of steep food price gradients fromisolated rural villages to densely settled urban centres.

African farmers have also been inadequately protected against the forces of globalisation and adverse international terms oftrade – for instance, Western farmers and markets are heavily protected in ways that African farmers and markets are not. Finally, African agriculture has been the subject of numerous experiments – strategies,policies, programmes and projects – from ‘Integrated Rural Development Programmes’(IRDPs) in the 1960s to ‘Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers’ (PRSPs) in the 1990s.

Perhaps the most significant intervention of the last half-century was agricultural liberalisation,promoted under the ‘structural adjustment’ reform umbrella during the 1980s and 1990s. Following inconclusive evidence on the impacts of these policy reform processes, the debatecontinues over whether agricultural liberalisation was a good idea badly implemented by‘refusenik’ African governments, or a bad idea doomed to fail, that was imposed on African governments against their better judgement and against the interests of their poor andvulnerable citizens, many of whom are small farmers.

This debate is relevant to our topic,since government interventions in agriculture (pre-liberalisation) were motivated by concerns to achieve household and national food security, both by supporting agricultural growth and by protecting farmers against agricultural risks and market failures.

CGIAR Reform and Relevance for FAC
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Wrap-up

  • All these activities should be about process – but still debate about how narrow/broad the focus should be on particular content
  • Climate change/environmental sustainability – needs to be there, but shouldn’t drive the agenda – how do changes in climate affect the way we think about innovation systems? What are the factors – environmental and other – that affect them?
  • Off the shelf technologies – not just about getting them into farmers’ hands – must address governance and policy issues – examining the social and political trajectories that technologies travel will inform these debates
  • Particular projects and their focus:
  1. a broader approach to livestock would be useful, but focus on pastoral issues makes most sense
  2. would hope this would provide a platform for interacting with CG, reg’l research orgs, NARS, NGO networks, etc.
  • Need a more elaborate process to develop broader strategy for FAC work in STI à develop fuller proposal for Consortium to review
  • Innovation systems perspective has been there for some time – big challenge of programmes like Research Into Use and CG Challenge Programmes is operationalisation and developing and sustaining ‘stakeholder innovation platforms’ – many unanswered questions à CIMMYT struggling with this too
  • Role of gov’t – Ministries of S&T struggling with developing innovation output indicators to demonstrate impacts. MSTs weak in coordination and resource mobilisation
  • Regulation key issue – PPPs – incentive structure for interaction very weak, incoherence in the system à whole governance structure needs to be examined in this area

Country Reports Ethiopia
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Ethiopia team has expanded to new thematic areas for FAC:

  1. Investing in agriculture and pastoralism and ‘future pastoralisms’ – understanding patterns of investment – rural/urban, agric/pastoral areas
  2. Climate change, environment and sustainable development – building on capacity on CC, understanding impact on Ethiopian agriculture
  3. Future farmers and pastoralists – a passion for us, coming out of original consultations with youth and children, one reason agriculture has stagnated is loss of youth – how to attract back to agriculture

Challenges

  • Phase I – FAC Ethiopia team made the best of limited policy space by continuous dialogue, non-threatening approach, and building social capital. This will continue in Phase II.
  • However, policy space is getting narrower due to a new law governing charities and societies. Will affect work across the board! Government has given all NGOs one year to wrap up programmes, must register all again in 2010 – may close many down.
  • Various working groups set up but difficult to get moving – 7 task groups to identify key issues/priorities, then bring to core group to develop common strategy – but question of incentives/expectations.
  • Untimely budget release to undertake fieldwork led to uncertainties.
  • With respect to Social Protection, the theme still has a very low profile in MoLSA – because of limited resources, urban focused, but we are trying to include this in consultations. Need to identify good institutions to maintain momentum.

Country Reports Kenya
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Activities

  • National Stakeholder workshop is being held in June this year.
  • Progress on the Commercialisations and Social Protection methodology.
  • Working to raise the visibility level of FAC at the national level.
  • People are interested and knowledgeable and many places (e.g. institutions, universities) are working on agriculture.
  • FAC has good institutional members (i.e. KIPPRA, Tegemeo) that are solid. As well, FAC has links with other partners (CIAT, ICRAF, etc.)
  • The success of the Fertiliser Workshop proves commitment and interest; even the private sector attended the workshop, which is a good sign.
  • FAC Kenya produces credible material (e.g. reporting to Dfid)
  • Cross-country work is very promising.
  • Work continues to be carried over from Phase I and work on fertiliser subsidies (Gem, Colin + Karuti + Rosemary) will be finished soon
  • Setting up the advisory group proved difficult. FAC had names last year – senior fellows in Ministries which were floated with other members but it was felt there was too much government. More names from CSOs – no names are not forthcoming. Committee was never constituted, as nominations could not be decided upon.
  • FAC is looking to Tegemeo to include as partner.
  • But these are informal collections – no formal mechanism to control membership. Things are being incrementally institutionalised but we’re a network with unclear formula for non-compliance.
  • This is a critical stage for us. In Kenya, July meeting was our attempt to come up with solutions – we sought names “advisors on future agricultures” but may be too strong. “advisory” is sensitive to government.
  • FAC should think about what it needs first – advocacy, advice, authority. Accountability – it’s a loose and organise organisation (FAC) growing organically – a typical network. Think carefully FAC needs the Ministry – otherwise FAC will end up so it can’t advise etc.
  • The “advisory group” is not really advocacy but a ‘critical friend’ that comments on our work.

Discussion

  • Setting up the advisory group proved difficult. FAC had names last year – senior fellows in Ministries which were floated with other members but it was felt there was too much government. More names from CSOs – no names are not forthcoming. Committee was never constituted, as nominations could not be decided upon.
  • FAC is looking to Tegemeo to include as partner.
  • But these are informal collections – no formal mechanism to control membership. Things are being incrementally institutionalised but we’re a network with unclear formula for non-compliance.
  • This is a critical stage for us. In Kenya, July meeting was our attempt to come up with solutions – we sought names “advisors on future agricultures” but may be too strong. “advisory” is sensitive to government.
  • FAC should think about what it needs first – advocacy, advice, authority. Accountability – it’s a loose and organise organisation (FAC) growing organically – a typical network. Think carefully FAC needs the Ministry – otherwise FAC will end up so it can’t advise etc.
  • The “advisory group” is not really advocacy but a ‘critical friend’ that comments on our work.

Country Reports Malawi
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Circumstances in Malawi are similar to those in Kenya: there is limited policy space. As well, there is an impending general election so after May 09 there should be more openings in Ministry of Agriculture that will want to talk about way forward.

Core team – Ephraim Chirwa, Blessings Chinsinga (Policy Processes), Andrew Dorward (GSP)

Progress

  • Advisory Group – preliminary consultations are done – key ministries still being approached, but change of PS/directors in MoAFS problematic – policy environmental sensitivity.
  • Ministry of Agriculture – most of civil society is interested in agriculture but they lack the analytical capacity to engage effectively with the Ministry. If the ministry is not interested in this group, should we continue planning? For us, the main challenge is engagement. Subsidy programme has become so political; nobody wants to talk about (not at least until May 19).
  • Theme of agricultural growth: many policy workshops in Malawi and within the region. Social protection process has stalled but has been retained on the basis that the ministry did not have active consultation. They are sitting back and wanting to restart the process but will wait until after the election. Not going to be an issue before the election.
  • Challenge MoAFS – General election in May 09. Will slow process. Official invitations will only be made after Ministry is on board as part of AG. May improve after the elections.
  • Also participated in farmer organisation study – touches on commercialisation
  • Agriculture growth and commercialisation – work in progress on seasonality – we should have a draft working paper by the end of the year.
  • We have engaged at various levels (including Andrew) for evaluation of Malawi input subsidy. Will help to inform results from first evaluation.
  • We have participated in regional and international workshops at the level of policy makers (e.g. Salzburg). Policy makers (SADC) were there and this was significant. Ministries of Ag form SADC countries also.
  • Jatorpha – marketing it as a commercial crop among smallholders. They want to do a baseline and monitor. It’s a five-year project. Sampling will look at adoption rates. Related to the Commercialisation theme, coffee etc. is not a crop for farmers. Japtropha is a different product with little experience about marketing this. We have been contracted to do the baseline but no funds mean we have not started.
  • Also participated in farmer organisation study – touches on commercialisation
  • Ag growth and commercialisation – work in progress on seasonality – we should have a draft working paper by the end of the year.
  • We have engaged at various levels (including Andrew) for evaluation of Malawi input subsidy. Will help to inform results from first evaluation.
  • We have participated in regional and international workshops at the level of policy makers (e.g. Salzburg). Policy makers (SADC) were there and this was significant. Ministries of Ag form SADC countries also.
  • Policy processes theme – problems like delay in funding changed plans. First phase we were in two districts, we propose to add a district in the north and bring all farmers together in workshop.

A New Deal for Food and Agriculture: Responding to uncertainty, building resilience
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Interlocking uncertainties: new challenges for food and agriculture

The interlocking food, fuel, financial and climate crises present major challenges fordevelopment. This is particularly so in Africa – and for the poor across the world. The bottom billion is now not only resource poor, but hungry too. The shocks of recent years are unprecedented: they interact in ways that create extreme poverty traps,   increasing the vulnerability of the poor – and especially women and children.

Such shocks are felt especially acutely in so-called fragile states where governance is weak and the potential for conflict is high. Already facing extreme risks and challenging livelihoods, poor people must now deal with deep, interacting and interlocking uncertainties. Increasingly the consequence of a complex, interconnected and globalised world, extreme volatility will remain a feature of the development landscape. Coping with and proofing against such risks and uncertainties must be the core challenge of any international development endeavour.

Addressing food insecurity and hunger lies at the heart of this. MDG1 has stated our global ambitions. But the recent combination of food, fuel and finance shocks, and the long term stress of climate change, has set us back. Even approaching the targets looks like a forlorn hope. But there are solutions to these challenges; although recent events put these into new perspective, adding a new urgency to the task.

The immediate effort, particularly in Africa – but also in large parts of Asia – must be effective relief and social protection measures to avoid the already hungry becoming hungrier. The ‘silent tsunami’ of global hunger is a real phenomenon, and it has not gone away with the reversal of the food and fuel price hikes of 2008. The financial crisis adds to the burden, as remittance flows dry up and economies slow down. A major effort to ensure a basic safety net is needed to offset the negative impacts of extreme price, production and market volatility that affect the poor.

Agriculture, Growth and Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia: Policy
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Poverty_Reduction_in_Ethiopia“Agriculture is the mainstay of the Ethiopian Economy”. This statement has almost become acliché for development professionals in Ethiopia. Those who went to school 50 years ago,read it; and later on wrote about it. So has the present generation. The Report on the Ethiopian Economy, Volume IV (EEA/EEPRI, 2004/05:10) stated, for example:“…agriculture is the main stay of the Ethiopian economy and the most volatile sector….mainly due to its dependence on rain and the seasonal shocks that are frequently observed”.

As things stand, our children and grandchildren will be repeating this refrain for generations to come. Yet, the sector has been unable to realise its potential and contribute significantly to economic development. How can we change this? In the Ethiopian context, agriculture is proving to be the most complex sector to understand. On the one hand, it contributes the largest share to GDP, export trade and earnings, and employs 84% (PASDEP, 2006) of the population.

On the other hand, despite such socio-economic importance, the performance of the sector is very low due to many natural and man-made factors. As a result, Ethiopia is characterised by large food self-sufficiency gap atnational level and food insecurity at household level (EEA/EEPRI, 2004/05:145). Whereas in the Northern highlands, farmers struggle to make ends meet on completely degraded land, in the South and Southwestern part of the country, people live in extremepoverty in the midst of plenty – fertile land and relatively preserved environment.

Tocomplicate matters further, the country’s future is pinned on agriculture as demonstrated in a statement by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia in 2000.

Intensification of Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

The prevailing orthodoxy is to see the problem of smallholder agriculture in Ethiopia strictly as a technical and resource related problem. This view identifi es the low level of agricultural productivity as the key problem. In response, the government of Ethiopia has since the mid 1990s, implemented a high-profi le, national technologyled extension programme. But has this worked, and what are the limitations of such a strategy?

The Smallholder Intensification Programme

The Ethiopian government’s development strategy centres on ‘Agricultural Development Led Industrialization’. A ‘green revolution’-like intensifi cation of smallholder agriculture was seen as key. Policymakers assumed that signifi cant productivity growth could be easily achieved by improving farmers’ access to technologies which would narrow the yield gap. Researchers identified crop technology packages that could make a huge difference.

They indicated that maize yield, for instance, can be increased from current farmers’ yields of 1.6 tonnes/ha to 4.7 tonnes/ha, if farmers used the right type and amount of improved seed varieties, fertilizers and other recommended practices. The ‘Participatory Agricultural Demonstration Training Extension System’ (PADETES) thus aimed to attain yield improvements at a national level, based on the much touted experience of the Sasakawa Global 2000 programme.

The strategy was a technology-based, supply-driven intensifi cation which consisted of enhanced supply and promotion of improved seeds, fertilizers, onfarm demonstrations of improved farm practices and technologies,improved credit supply for the purchase of inputs and close follow up of farmers’ extension plots

Rethinking Agricultural Input Subsidies in Poor Rural Economies
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Poor_Rural_EconomiesAgricultural input subsidies were a common element in agricultural development in poor rural economies in the 1960s and 70s, including successful green revolutions. Although subsidies have continued, to a greater and lesser extent, in some countries, conventional wisdom as well as dominant donor thinking in the 80s and 90s was that subsidies had been ineffective and inefficient policy instruments in Africa, which contributed to government overspending and fiscal and macroeconomic problems.

Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in agricultural input subsidies in Africa, together with the emergence of innovative subsidy-delivery systems. These developments, together with new insights into development processes, make it necessary to revisit the conventional wisdom on subsidies.

This should include an examination of the various development opportunities and constraints facing African farmers, a review of recent experience with input subsidies, and a thorough reexamination of the role played by agricultural input subsidies in the Asian green revolution.

Overview – Ian Scoones and John Thompson
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

When the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) began, there was a different context in debates about agriculture. Policy research was being done, but not much. FAC was providing a space that was underrepresented at that time – not any longer. There are many things going on now and the policy environment is changing with more and new actors (e.g. ISTD, AGRA, CAADP, Millennium Villages, etc.) and urgent issues – food crisis, fertiliser crisis, more publications). And there are now bigger players and bigger debates around policy-focussed research. We need to continue to argue for our space at this table.

In the FAC phase II proposal, we described a broad mission: aims “to encourage dialogue and the sharing of good practice by policy makers and opinion formers in Africa on the role of agriculture in broad based growth”.

There are others that also cover similar territory (e.g. CAADP, AGRA IFPRI, etc.) – where do we fit? What do we do that’s different? How to insert FAC into more mainstream processes where we can challenge, critique, confront? What is our niche?

  • We are situated in the international scene – imbedded in particular areas conducting ‘real research’ in ‘real places’) and this speaks to broader debates and contributes to interesting insights.
  • We are a diverse partnership – multiple institutions, UK and Africa – membership – university, NGO consultants, disciplinary diversity (e.g. agriculture economists) so we don’t have a singular focus.
  • We commit ourselves to process-orientation (Policy Processes) multiple scenarios – constructing future agricultures – no definitive view about what should be but open to creating debate.
  • We are independent, flexible, etc. – values noted in external report. One of our selling points – particularly as the mainstream (right hand column).
  • We provide research that is not automatically available – we are able to challenge conventional wisdom. 

SEMINAR AGENDA University of Sussex Brighton, England
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}University_of_Sussex_Professor Jeremy Swift specialises in the development of pastoral economiesin Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. His particular interests include;

  • poverty,
  • famine,
  • land tenure and
  • pastoral governance.

Pastoral policy-making has lagged far behind other policy domains mainly because pastoralism has been widely misunderstood and ignored by policy makers.

Pastoralists’ own economic and social strategies have often been considered irrational, and in need of radical change. This opening session of the seminar will look at key aspects of pastoral policy and open the debate – to be explored in detail during the rest of the seminar – about what policies might be appropriate, feasible and effective.

Policy Processes – Colin Poulton
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Progress and Challenges

  • Didn’t get started until December
  1. Long delay in contracts (DFID contract, PP time allocation)
  2. Getting team together (methodology and detailed planning for MOA district study)
  • Main policy engagement Tuesday Fertiliser workshop
  • MoA study

  1. Secondary data collection started
  2. Fieldwork starting next week
  3. Draft by end of Year 1
  • Draft review of SWAps in Agriculture – Lidia C

Discussion

  • What would impact of CAADP target be on Mins of Ag and RD? à will they be overwhelmed by more money?
  • How can you focus on district offices only à how do you get to the ‘mixed ecology’? – in terms of delivery we’re talking about gov’t, CSO and priv sector/traders and how they work together; alternative access to services/extension – but focus is on Mins of ARD because they haven’t moved as far as the others / National-level discussions – need to think how to engage with Mins of Finance
  • Ethiopia? – Will come in Yr 2, after finishing most of the Kenya and Malawi work
  • Need to note study by IFPRI, EEAR and others on extent of national extension delivery – very relevant to FAC study à ask more political economy, institutional and governance issues on back of this
  • Lessons from Research Into Use? – DFID realised these governance issues – role of the state, political processes, etc – were missing link in regional and national work – now working to rectify this – inform FARA, ASARECA, etc. to link up with stakeholders they’re accountable to

The Future of Pastoralism in Ethiopia
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Pastoralism_in_EthiopiaEthiopian representatives and leading international thinkers deliberate overthe state of pastoralism, making a new analysis of potential futures Understanding of Pastor Pastoralism alismEthiopia has Africa’ Africa’s largest livestock population. Over 60% of its land area iss semi-arid lowland, dominated by the livestock economy economy.

Today Ethiopia is looking day for a new and deeper understanding of its pastoralist regions and an accurate appreciation of their environmental and socio-economic trajectories. Ethiopians from the Federal and Regional governments and from traditional institutions met at the University of Sussex, Brighton, England in December 2006 to deliberate over the future for pastoralism in Ethiopia.

They discussed past and present pastoralist policies and policy processes and set out a policy objective that calls for ‘creating sustainable livelihoods and improved living conditions and reducing vulnerability vulnerability, risk and conflict in pastoral areas.’ They proposed to achieve, this through ‘enhanced socio-economic integration, recognition of pastoralists pastoralists’voice and maximising the potential of the pastoral economy economy.’

This report is drawn from evidence given by academic scholars in the fields ofeconomics, anthropology, environmental studies and political science, together with the deliberations of the Ethiopian team. It summarises the data and presents a fresh analysis of potential futures for pastoralists. It begins by setting out thefacts and figures in section one; putting forward evidence on influential longer-term factors that affect development in pastoralist regions.

The publication then looks toward the future, envisioning some of the choices pastoralists may make over the next 20 years. The analysis uses the research evidence to consider how the key influences on pastoralism may combine to shape the future. If market potential is high and environmental productivity is good, what is the most likely direction of development? Where are the benefitslikely to accrue and what risks do people face? Conversely, if markets are, inaccessible and population outstrips production from the natural environment,what would the likely outcomes then be? This combination of science and imagination produces a new new, more detailed and more realistic understanding, of the way pastoralism works and its future in Ethiopia.

Growth and Social Protection – Stephen Devereux
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Outputs

  • Working Papers Series – 7 papers based on secondary sources based on FAO / FAC work – intersection between seasonality, SP and smallholder ag, country cases (3 FAC countries + Ghana + overviews + seasonality)
  • FAC briefing papers – summarising longer working papers
  • ODI NR perspective – Malawi input subsidy team
  • Seasons of Hunger – Hunger Watch + FAC
  • All above signal new theme on seasonality, SP and smallholders – brought in Robert Chambers
  • Another book – Social Protection in Africa – Frank Ellis + Philip White – not FAC product

Discussion

A lot going on – impressive

  • Portfolio of activities – lesson on how to do things with such a strange budget profile
  • Seasonality – 20 years ago people were addressing; why did it get dropped off the agenda? How will this research put it back on the agenda and how will it be kept on? A: Reason for the conference will be to address that issue. Structural adjustment removed a whole set of buffers that smooth food pricing, etc. and ignored financial market failures (seasonal finance). Need to develop theory and get it back in undergraduate degree programmes. Bangladesh is a place where gov’t is addressing this.
  • Give list of possible research plans how will you select priorities? FAC team have own preferences – e.g., seasonality, SP and pastoral areas; 1-year cycle; etc. But some will be demand-driven. Will use time after Seasonality conference to discuss.
  • Scoping study on Climate Change Adaptation, Social Protection and Agriculture – IDS Climate Change team leading in SE Asia, soon E Africa
  • RiPPLE – Household studies in N Ethiopia – seasonal water availability and hh strategies

Pastoral Innovation Systems Perspectives from Ethiopia and Kenya
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Pastoral_Innovation_SystemsThe Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) aims to encourage critical debate and policy dialogue on the future of agriculture in Africa. The Consortium is a partnership between research-based organisations in Africa and the UK, with work currently focusing on Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi.Through stakeholder-led policy dialogues on future scenarios for agriculture, informed by field research, the Consortium aims to elaborate the practical and policy challenges of establishing and sustaining pro-poor agricultural growth in Africa, with a focus onEthiopia, Kenya and Malawi.Current work focuses on four core themes:

Policy processes: what political, organisational or budgetary processes promote or hinderpathways to pro-poor, agriculture-led growth? What role should different actors, includingMinistries of Agriculture, have in this?
Growth and social protection: what are the trade-offs and complementarities betweengrowth and social protection objectives?
Agricultural commercialisation: what types of commercialisation of agriculture bothpromote growth and reduce poverty? What institutional and market arrangements arerequired?Science, technology and innovation: how can agricultural technology be made to workfor the poor? How are technology trajectories linked to processes of agrarian/livelihoodchange?

Policy Dialogues and Scenarios
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Kenya perspective

  1. CAADP agenda, MDG agenda, Vision 2030 all circulating around same set of issues – difficult to isolate CAADP process from other strategies/processes
  2. Philosophical differences about bottom-up processes – decision makers often disagree about how to introduce participatory processes into NR and agric policy issues
  3. Kenya federalism is a very sensitive issue – ‘majimboism’ – serious tensions between those advocating regionalism/federalism and those promoting centralism à there are constituency funds/processes to influence policy processes
  4. Sensitivities over regional processes – Northern Lands strategy still in development; minister may not wish to discuss with neighbouring countries

Malawi perspective

  1. Can’t see place for a comprehensive consultation – already many – but by focusing on topics like ‘future farmers’ or ‘farmers’ organisations’ – this would be important for bringing up voices of key constituencies
  2. Process of this nature would be important for stimulating the decentralisation process, which has almost stopped – particularly important at the moment – opportunities for organising local people around issues of service delivery à open avenues for people for engaging with local government structures
  3. Africa Regional Dept – Afrobarometer – opinion surveys could get some quick results à Blessings – results may be out end of Mar for Malawi – could be useful information
  4. CAADP – having their 4th Platform Partnership meeting in Pretoria end of March – get in touch with focal points in FAC countries – organise event on future farmers and farmers’ organisations.

DFID – Broader Trends and Initiatives in African Agriculture – Terri Sarch
January 14, 2010 / Miscellaneous

Top of Ag Advisers – Global Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security (GPAF).

Top of the agenda: Global Partnership of Agriculture and Food Security

During the food price crises – Dfid asked: “What could we do about without spending too much money” – took it to the G8, etc. so the idea was created. At the same time, the UN set up the high level task force – GPAS would be setup to deliver the Comprehensive Framework for Action.

  • The have CAADP and other African country buy in – struggled to get FAO and some Latin countries.
  1. During food price crisis senior DFID advisers were asking what do we do about it – GPAF? – developed with French, G8 Tokyo meeting endorsed
  2. High Level Task Force – Comprehensive Framework for Action
  3. HLTF agreed GPAF would be set up to initiative the CFA – launched at Madrid meeting in late Jan 09
  4. DFID Food Group now focusing on pushing ahead on GPAF
  • New DFID ‘Food Group’
  1. Temporary group set up to address food crisis in July 08 – to run to Mar 09 – inform DFID policy
  2. DFID Development Committee is due to consider how the Food Group can move forward the food security agenda
  • White Paper 4
  1. Focus of WP3 – Making Gov’t Work Better
  2. Focus of WP4 – Security – Food, Climate, Economic, Conflict
  3. Food Security – good for Food Group to set out agenda
  4. But… latest news, FS likely to be subsumed under Economic Security

Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia
January 12, 2010 / Policy Briefs

By Samuel Gebreselassie
Policy Brief 001

Land, Land Policy and Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia Land and land tenure is a hot policy issue in Ethiopia. Three key issues are raised – farm size and fragmentation and the question of what is a ‘viable’ farm unit; tenure security and whether lack of land registration/certification or titling undermines investment in productivity improvements; and finally the issue land markets and whether imperfectly functioning markets constrain opportunities for land consolidation, investment and agricultural growth.{jcomments off}

 

FAC Communications Strategy
January 11, 2010 / FAC Documents

This twelve-month outreach plan aims to identify/distil key lessons and messages from FAC’s published and ongoing research and use communication channels or “pathways” to target specific agriculture policy stakeholders with these lessons and messages. The timing of outreach activities should coincide with agriculture policy windows (e.g. key conferences, when parliaments are in session, budget deliberations, government consultations on policy, media events, etc.).

Lessons from Malawi’s Fertiliser Subsidy Programme
December 21, 2009 / FAC Documents

By Blessings Chinsinga
February 2007 PB02 This case study argues that political context matters in agricultural development issues. No matter what the technical or economic arguments for or against particular policy positions are, it is ultimately the configuration of political interests that influence agricultural policy outcomes on the ground.

Key Consortium Outputs and Events: Phase I
December 21, 2009 / FAC Documents

  1. Soils and Fertilizers – December 2005
  2. Will Formalising Property Rights Reduce Poverty? – January 2006
  3. Millennium Villages – the solution to African poverty? – June 2006
  4. Aid modalities to agriculture – the end of the SWAp? – November 2006
  5. Growth linkages in agriculture: single blueprint or multiple trajectories? – Dec. 2006
  6. Seasonality: four seasons, four solutions? – April 2007
  7. Low External Input and Sustainable Agriculture: Beyond the Hype? – November 2007
  8. Can Ethiopia Realise a Better Agriculture in its ‘Third Millennium’? The Role and Dilemma of Farm Prices – October 2007
  9. An African Green Revolution? Some personal reflections – October 2007
  10. Global Assessments and the Politics of Knowledge: Lessons from the International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology – April 2008

FAC Outputs for 2008/2009
December 21, 2009 / FAC Documents

Agricultural input subsidies were a common element in agricultural development in poor rural economies in the 1960s and 70s, including successful green revolutions. Although subsidies have continued, to a greater and lesser extent, in some countries, conventional wisdom as well as dominant donor thinking in the 80s and 90s was that subsidies had been ineffective and inefficient policy instruments in Africa, which contributed to government overspending and fiscal and macroeconomic problems.

Commercialisations in Agriculture
November 11, 2009 / Working Papers

Jennifer Leavy and Colin Poulton
September 2007

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 strategies for 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 more commercial agriculture will benefit primarily large-scale farms. At best, the top minority of smallholders will be able to benefit.

Accelerated growth in agriculture is seen by many as critical if the MDGs are to be met in Africa. 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.

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Social Protection for Agricultural Growth
November 11, 2009 / Working Papers

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

Seasonality and Social Protection in Africa
November 11, 2009 / Working Papers

Stephen Devereux
January 2009

This Working Paper draws on nearly twenty years of research in several African countries on the inter-related themes of food insecurity, seasonality, coping strategies, famine, formal and informal safety nets and social protection. The paper has three objectives:

  1. To document and synthesise evidence on the nature and consequences of seasonality across rural Africa, highlighting the similarities and convergences across contexts
  2. To explore the various policy interventions that have been implemented in response to seasonality, with particular reference to the emerging social protection agenda
  3. To argue that current approaches to social protection are misconceived and inadequate for addressing the seasonal dimensions of rural vulnerability
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Establishment Of Kenya National Agricultural Innovation Systems
November 11, 2009 / External Analysis

Studies on systems of agricultural innovation in Kenya and other African countries have shown that the concept of innovation exists in form of technologies, products, processes and organizational forms. Notable also is the existence of indigenous systems of innovation which have not been considered in development of modern innovations. In other instances, this concept of innovation has not been operationally explored in terms of its capacity to improve agricultural productivity which would culminate into a food secure nation and economically empowered farmers. Despite the existence of various organizations dealing with systems of innovation, there are weak linkages between them and more so, along the commodity value chains.

Synthesis Report for Theme III: Growth and Social Protection June 2005–September 2007
November 11, 2009 / Discussion Papers

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

This report describes the main activities and outputs of the Future Agriculture Consortium (FAC) under the theme of Growth and Social Protection for Phase I. Core work on the theme has involved the development of a conceptual framework setting out potential and evolving synergies and conflicts between social protection and agricultural growth in the livelihoods of poor and vulnerable people, in local and national economies, and in policy formulation and implementation. Publication and discussion of the framework has led to its uptake outside the FAC and in the country theme work. In Ethiopia and Malawi this has engaged strongly with evaluations and national and donor policy reviews of innovative and major national social protection and/or agricultural growth policies.

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

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

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

Making science and technology work for the poor
November 11, 2009 / Discussion Papers

By Ian Scoones

In this viewpoint piece I want to argue that, as currently organised, R and D systems – both public and private – don’t necessarily respond well to the needs of poor people in developing countries. Despite all the hype about the potentials of science and technology for reducing poverty, there are many missed opportunities. Very often poor and marginalised people across the global south do not end up benefiting from S and T. How then should we rethink R and D so that S and T can help in the important challenge to ‘make poverty history’?

Soil Fertility – Contributions
November 11, 2009 / 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.

e-Debate-Contributions-Soil Fertility-Oct 08
November 11, 2009 / E-debates

Atlest in the semi-arid regions of Africa,if within-field soil variability is not taken into account,efforts to increase soil fertility will be less efficient and less likely to be adopted by farmers. Most of these farmers already practice precision agriculture and take short distance variability into consideration in their management.

Failing Farmer radio transcript
November 11, 2009 / Media

Presenter: Nik Gowing

Guests: Dr Makanjuola Olaseinde Arigbede; Andrew Bennett; Kevin Cleaver; Crawford Falconer; Professor LouiseFresco; Anthony Gooch; Duncan Green; Simeon Greene; The Honourable Kate Kainja Kaluluma; Paul Nicholson;Esther Penunia; Professor Norah Olembo; Peter Robbins; Dr. Pedro Sanchez

NIK GOWING: in the rich countries and the poorer countries, in the developed world and the developing world, in the north and the south smallholder farmers are leaving the land. Our food is increasingly being produced by big business. As long as there is food for you and me to buy does it matter? A growing body of expert opinions says yes it does.Studies show that in poorer countries the tens of millions of small farms are a win win for economic growth and poverty reduction. They are more efficient than large farms. They keep large numbers of people in paid productive work and they ensure secure supplies of food. So if small farms are so important why is their very existence under threat? Why should we care about failing the farmer?

Well we’ve brought together an international panel of farmers’ representatives, from government, from tradebodies, scientists, business, non governmental organisations and donor agencies to discuss whether we are failing the farmer. Let’s hear from three smallholder farmers for whom farming is their way of life that’s under threat. Paul Nicholson, you’re a farmer from the Basque region in Northern Spain, you speak for the international peasant movement which is La Via Campesina. Why should we be caring about the small farmer? Small farmers produce the majority of all the food we consume wherever we are in this world.

Land, Land Policy and Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia
November 11, 2009 / Discussion Papers

By Samuel Gebreselassie

Land is a public property in Ethiopia. It has been administered by the government since the 1975 radical land reform. The reform brought to an end the exploitative type of relationship that existed between tenants and landlords. Tenants became own operators with use rights, but with no rights to sell, mortgage or exchange of land. The change of government in 1991 has brought not much change in terms of land policy. The EPRDF-led government that overthrew the Military government (Derg) in 1991 has inherited the land policy of its predecessor. Even though the new government adopted a free market economic policy, it has decided to maintain all rural and urban land under public ownership. The December 1994 Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia proclaimed that ‘Land is a common property of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of transfer’. Since the 1975 land reform, which made all rural land public property, the possession of land plots has been conditional upon residence in a village. The transfer of land through long-term lease or sales has been forbidden1, and government sponsored periodic redistribution, though, discouraged administratively since the early 1990s, has not been outlawed (Mulat, 1999).

Using Social Protection Policies to Reduce Vulnerability and Promote Economic Growth in Kenya
November 11, 2009 / Discussion Papers

By John Omiti and Timothy Nyanamba
August 2007

Vulnerability and human suffering are major challenges facing large sections of Kenyan society who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Policy reforms have failed to adequately address social protection issues afflicting particularly the most vulnerable groups. This paper discusses ways in which social protection policies can be used to address the key sources or aspects of this vulnerability, and to promote agricultural and economic growth. The paper reviews social protection instruments, maps out actors involved in the provision of social protection, assesses the progress in provision of social protection in Kenya and identifies issues in moving forward to improve social protection, particularly in the agriculture sector.

BBC World Debate: Failing the Farmer?
November 8, 2009 / External Commentaries

By Presenter Nik Gowing

Small farmers produce the majority of all the food we consume wherever we are in this world – but in the rich countries and the poorer countries, in the developed world and the developing world, in the north and the south smallholder farmers are leaving the land. Our food is increasingly being produced by big business. As long as there is food for you and me to buy does it matter? A growing body of expert opinions says yes it does.

David Bonbright
November 6, 2009 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

If you think in terms of systems, or if you live long enough, you come to the view that structural incentives are very very important in shaping outcomes. Other factors — like capacity, supply drivers, and values — matter too, of course. But if these swim against the current of structural incentives, they will eventually be swept out to sea!

So I ask myself how we might create structural incentives to promote Smallholder Farmer Voice. Here is one answer that bears consideration. I call it the Feedback Principle:

Credible public and donor reporting by an organization intending agriculture-related outcomes includes not only the logic and evidence for the outcomes, but also

(1) what smallholder farmers say about what the organization says it have achieved; and

(2) how the organization proposes to respond to farmer feedback.

There are a host of important, absorbing-to-solve questions about howorganizations should prepare for and do high quality constituency-validated reporting in a way that is meaningful and not tokenistic. But the main point on the how to challenges is that given a transparency-based incentive to do it along the lines of the one created by the Feedback Principle, organizations will figure out how to do it, and do it well. Our work at Keystone has taught us that if you are serious about making farmers’ voices heard, then you must ensure that their voices are fundamental to assessment and reporting. And to make farmers’ voices fundamental to assessment and reporting, you have to involve them in defining goals in the first place, and in how we will know success when we see it. While we have found that there are no shortcuts to progress here, there are some simple solutions that are easy to implement and don’t add to the ‘consultation burden’ that farmers already bear. If there is interest, I can say more about these ways and means.

Goran Forssen
November 6, 2009 / African Green Revolution - Theme 1

Being a representative of Farmers Organisations (FOs) in Southern Africa, I find the topic “Making the farmers voice heard” both interesting and challenging. My opinion is that the strengthening of the farmers’ voice is absolute necessary and fundamental for the achievement of agriculture development and a green revolution in Africa. It was therefore most encouraging that almost all working groups in the “Towards an African Green Revolution Conference and Seminar” made recommendations on the need for strengthening of the capacity of FOs.

A number of good recommendations were presented by the different working groups in the conference/ seminar. However, I believe that the role that FOs should play in making the farmers’ voices heard did not come out clearly in the discussions. I have therefore made an attempt in this submission to outline some of the key-roles that are important for FOs to perform in order to create a better understanding for the support that they are in need of. I have focused my discussion on two key areas which are both crucial for strengthening of the voice of farmers. The first area focuses on the role FOs should play in order to influence agricultural policies and programmes. The second area focus on the role FOs should play in order to achieve a more equal power balance between smallholder farmers and agribusinesses. I have finally made an attempt to discuss: What should be done to enable FOs to play their roles?

What role should FOs play to increase smallholder farmers’ influence on agricultural policies and programmes?
Smallholder farmers’ influence on agricultural policies and programmes is generally week. Most organizations representing smallholder farmers lack or has limited capacity to effectively engage in different policy formulation processes. Because of their limited capacity, FO’s have had a tendency to be more reactive than proactive in the policy formulation process and have often entered the process at a late stage when it is difficult to influence the decisions. As a result, they have had little influence on agricultural policies.

To become more influential, there is need to strengthen the capacity of National Farmers Unions to:
a) Identify the critical policy issues and to develop their own policy agenda.
b) Analyse the issues through farmer lead policy research.
c) Formulate policy proposals/ positions through consultative processes with their members. This is important in order to create ownership of the policy positions and to enable their representatives to lobby for their positions with strength.
d) Engage in effective advocacy and lobbying with the decision makers. This includes formation of networks and alliances for their positions/ proposals, development of effective lobby strategies, etc.
e) Communicate their positions, objectives and achievements with their members, stake holders and general public.

What role should FOs play strengthen smallholder farmers marketing powers?
Smallholder farmers’ power balance with agribusinesses is also generally weak. Studies have shown that the power balance between farmers and agribusinesses is heavily tilted in favour of the agribusinesses. Unequal power balance has resulted in smallholder farmers not being able to get a fair price for their products in relation to other actors in the value chain.

To achieve more equal partnerships that enable mutual growth and fair deals between smallholder farmers and agribusinesses, there is need to develop and strengthen the capacity of Commodity Organisations and national Farmers Unions to:
a) Provide information to their members about marketing opportunities, producer prices, etc. and to link up farmers with agribusinesses willing to buy their products,
b) Analyse value chains, and develop marketing strategies and member services that are relevant to the members needs.
c) Engage in collective negotiations with agribusinesses about contracts in contract farming arrangements
d) Monitor implementation of contract arrangements,
e) Provide advisory service and farmers’ skills development on production techniques, standards, marketing, etc.,
f) Develop, promote and organise appropriate bulk input and output marketing systems for members including auctioning, warehouse receipt systems, brokerage, etc.
g) Promote establishment of appropriate agribusinesses such as farmers’ cooperatives,

What should be done to enable FOs to play their roles?
To perform the above roles, national FOs will be in need of training, advisory service and technical backstopping support. Such support could be provided for by various specialised organisations in different subject matters. E.g. policy research institutions could be assigned by FOs to carry out policy analysis. Other institutions could carry out training on lobby and advocacy, etc. This type of technical support could be coordinated by the Regional FOs. E.g. SACAU is already providing and coordinating capacity building support to its member organisations (National Farmers Unions) in Southern Africa. However, the ability to provide such services will depend on the availability of financial resources.

Simultaneously, the national FOs themselves will be in need of financial resources to perform their activities. This includes to employing specialists; to pay for office space and equipment; and to pay costs for implementation of different activities.

A common problem is that most FOs representing smallholder farmers are unable to generate such financial resources from their members. The main reason is that the farmers they represent are poor and the FOs has to put their membership fees at such low levels that are affordable to the poor farmers but not sustainable for their organisations.

For most smallholders FOs, the main source of income has been financial support from various development and donor agencies. Such support has mainly enabled FOs to maintain core functions of their organisations. Few organisations have received financial support that has enabled them to significantly strengthen the voice of the smallholder farmers.

Although desirable, it is not realistic to believe that national FOs, in particular Farmers Unions representing smallholder farmers, will be in a position, at least in the short to medium term, to generate adequate funds from their members. They will remain in need of financial support from development and donor agencies. It will therefore be important that those agencies not only maintain their support but significantly increase their support to FOs.

To make donor support more efficient, there is need for increased donor coordination and a shift from project to programme support along the lines of the Paris declaration. Such programmes should be planned for by the FOs themselves and should outline the role they should play, backstopping support that they would be in need of, capacities that they would require and gaps that needs to be filled, with focus on achieving agriculture development in Africa. An important part in their planning should be to address gender issues, and specific interests expressed by women and poor farmers.

National programmes could be integrated into regional programmes and support to the national FOs could be channelled through the regional FOs. The idea of the establishment of an African-wide, farmer-owned and farmer-driven fund for directing research, innovation and technology development toward farmers needs, should be broadened and should include institutional capacity building of national and regional FOs to perform services that enables the achievement of a uniquely Green Revolution in Africa.

African Green Revolution
November 6, 2009 / African Green Revolution

maize_smallholderTowards a “Green Revolution” for Africa How can Africa’s farmers, scientists, development practitioners, private entrepreneurs and public officials spark a “uniquely” Green Revolution in Africa, one that responds to the region’s unique social, political and ecological conditions?

The aim of this moderated e-Discussion is to focus the discussions on action-oriented approaches to address the “how” part of the African Green Revolution discussions. The Salzburg Global Seminar (SGS), in partnership with the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), has undertaken a series of events on the theme of an “African Green Revolution”. The main purpose of these initiatives is to assess the most critical issues and to review, refine and articulate an agenda for a new sustainable “Green Revolution” for Sub-Saharan Africa. The Salzburg report represents a summary of the week-long deliberations, highlights key points of agreement and divergence, and sets out a number of recommendations for follow-up and future action.In light of the considerable interest generated by the conference and seminar, SGS, FAC, and IDS are creating a space for people to contribute to and extend this important discussion. The three broad discussion themes were considered sequentially. Participants are asked to address this question under the following three themes and to highlight the best actions that can be taken to address these issues:

  1. Making Farmers’ Voices Heard October 13th – October 24th

Inclusion is seen as crucial to the new agenda for African agriculture. Governments, donors, farmer organisations and NGOs, must consider the particular issues surrounding small-scale farmer and issues of equity. An equitable Green Revolution requires an increased ability to facilitate inclusive approaches in which farmers, especially the small-holder, women and the poor, can access training develop new knowledge and skills in organisational leadership, business management, innovation processes, policy engagement and advocacy, and performance monitoring and learning. Contributions on this theme should revolve around concrete actions – indicating who the key actors are – to address the following questions: Which of the recommendations set forth best achieve the goal of amplifying farmers’ voices in policy debates and decision-making processes? How can we ensure that measurable targets are set for gender and equity? How can we build capacity of grassroots organisations for basic skills (e.g., organisations and business skills) and leadership (to influence policy and negotiations)? How do we strengthen horizontal and vertical linkages and partnerships/networks with other organisations? And how can we increase access to resources and services for small-scale farmers and marginalized groups?

  1. Making Science and Technology Work for Small-scale Farmers October 27 – November 7th

The role of appropriate science and technology that meets the need of the small-scale farmers was identified as a crucial component for an equitable and sustainable Green Revolution for Africa. Making science and technology work for the poor calls for a multiplicity of approaches to establish links to diversity and complexity, across a range of different environments and systems throughout the continent. This requires an urgent push for major investments and key inputs now – such as improved seeds, organic and inorganic fertilisers, and soil and water management – to address nutrient deficiencies and boost productivity. Contributions to this theme should revolve around concrete actions to address the following questions: Which of the recommendations and what specific actions should be pursued to ensure that appropriate technologies are developed to assist small-scale farmers and establish inclusive processes that engage farmers throughout? What policy measures and incentives are needed to influence the governance of both public and private sector R&D systems to make them more responsive to the needs and priorities of small-scale farmers?

  1. Partnerships and CoherenceNovember 10th – November 21st

There has been much debate about the importance of coordination and alignment of initiatives and institutions. It is recognized that there are many actors involved in the “Green Revolution” and that the challenge lays in linking up various agendas to make sure we are moving in the right direction and not working at cross purposes. Contributions on this theme should focus on concrete actions to address the following questions: Which of the recommendations and proposed actions will enable coherence and encourage strategic partnerships and alignment? What are the best methods to coordinate actions among the key process and initiatives, such as CAADP, AGRA, and other public and private efforts? How can we ensure that the policy processes enhance the compact and roundtable processes of these initiatives and ensure that policy stability, transparency and coherence are created at national and international levels? What are the best methods to ensure bottom-up (i.e. locally driven) initiatives are incorporated into these alliances?

Moderator

Ms. Nalan Yuksel (IDS, University of Sussex), who was one of the lead authors for the UN Millennium Project’s Task Force on Hunger Report and author of “Achieving a Uniquely African Green Revolution” the final report of the Salzburg Global Seminar, will moderate the E-Forum discussion.

The moderator reserves the right to edit contributions on the basis of relevance/focus and language, but not in relation to content, view or opinion (see Principles of Engagement). Contributions will be posted several times per week. At the end of topic discussion, submissions will be drawn together in a short summary, with the moderator highlighting any new points for further discussion. At the end of the process the moderator will synthesise the contributions into a short document which will be sent to all participants.