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

Points of View
April 11, 2008 / Miscellaneous

PUT FARMERS FIRST TO TRANSFORM AGRICULTUREAchim Steiner

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

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

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

Farmer First Revisited discusses:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cadres politiques propices à l’amélioration de la fertilité des sols en Afrique
March 5, 2008 / Briefings politiques / Policy briefs in French

Chacun convient du fait que l’une des composantes centrales, pour parvenir à une « révolution verte africaine », porte sur la nécessaire résolution des problèmes majeurs de fertilité des sols qui pèsent sur l’agriculture africaine. A cet effet, l’AGRA (Alliance pour une révolution verte en Afrique) a lancé un nouveau programme de grande envergure, baptisé « Soil Health » (fertilité des sols) et concernant 4,1 millions d’agriculteurs en Afrique, ceci avec le soutien de la Fondation Bill and Melinda Gates, dont la contribution s’élève à 198 millions de dollars (www.agra-alliance.org/section/work/soils). La déclaration d’Abuja, en conclusion du sommet de l’Afrique sur les engrais qui s’est tenu en 2006, a instauré un contexte propice à des investissements majeurs visant à stimuler l’approvisionnement en engrais (www.africafertilizersummit.org/Abuja Fertilizer Declaration in French.pdf). Le CAADP (Programme global de développement de l’agriculture africaine) a joué un rôle actif dans le cadre des activités de suivi du sommet, notamment par son travail sur l’amélioration des marchés et des échanges (www.triomedia.co.za/work/nepad/newsletters/2008/issue212_15Feb2008.html#toc1 ). On recense par ailleurs de nombreuses autres initiatives, notamment le programme Villages du millénaire (www.millenniumvillages.org/ ), le programme Sasakawa-Global 2000 (www.saa-tokyo.org/french/sg2000/), ainsi que les activités de l’Association for Better Land Husbandry (Association pour une meilleure utilisation des terres d’élevage). Toutes ces initiatives considèrent la fertilité des sols comme une question centrale, même si les solutions et conditions politiques suggérées sont très différentes les unes des autres.

Commercialisation of Smallholder Agriculture in Selected Tef-growing Areas of Ethiopia
March 2, 2008 / Discussion Papers

By Samuel Gebreselassie and Kay Sharp

The poverty-reduction strategy adopted by Ethiopia seeks to achieve growth through the commercialisation of smallholder agriculture. The Plan for Accelerated and Sustainable Development to End Poverty (PASDEP), Ethiopia?s strategic framework for 2005/06 – 2009/10, relies on a massive push to accelerate growth. This is to be achieved by efforts in two directions: commercialisation of agriculture, based on supporting the intensification of marketable farm products (both for domestic and export markets, and by both small and large farmers); and promoting much more rapid non-farm private sector growth (MoFED, 2005). This study aims to contribute to this plan by identifying factors that can deepen and expand the scope of market participation of smallholders.

Narratives of Agricultural Policy in Africa: What Role for Ministries of Agriculture
March 1, 2008 / Research Papers

By Lidia Cabral and Ian Scoones
March 2006

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

The Social Protection Policy in Malawi: Processes, Politics and Challenges
February 7, 2008 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 24
By Blessings Chinsinga
February 2008

The livelihoods of Malawians are much more precarious today than they were probably two decades ago. Repeated shocks over the years have forced most households to dispose of key productive assets to meet immediate consumption needs, leaving them incapable of maintaining sustainable livelihoods.

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Malawi’s Agriculture Ministry: Fit for Purpose?
February 6, 2008 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 23
By Blessings Chinsinga and Lídia Cabral
February 2008

Malawi’s Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has a mandate to promote and accelerate broad-based and sustainable agricultural development, so as to stimulate economic growth and contribute to poverty reduction. The MoA is responsible for policy formulation and regulation, the coordination of training and collaboration with other stakeholders in the agriculture sector, and supervision of parastatal organisations, for which it also guarantees loans.

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The Malawi Fertiliser Subsidy Programme: politics and pragmatism
February 5, 2008 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 22
By Blessings Chinsinga
January 2006

Many people hoped that the end of one-party rule in Malawi in May 1994 would pave the way for economic recovery and social development. Instead, however, the democratisation process has coincided with a deepening crisis in Malawi’s agricultural sector. Between the 1970s and the 1990s, the country went from producing an agricultural surplus to a substantial food deficit. Per capita maize production fell significantly during the 1990s.

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Smallholder Coffee Commercialisation in Malawi
February 4, 2008 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 21
By Ephraim Chirwa, Andrew Dorward and Jonathan Kydd
February 2008

Coffee cultivation in Malawi is dominated by a small number of large-scale commercial estates, located mainly in the Southern region. In the Northern and Central regions, however, coffee is grown predominantly by large numbers of smallholder farmers on customary land, concentrated in the districts of Chitipa, Rumphi, Mzimba and Nkhata-Bay.

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Using Social Protection to Reduce Vulnerability and Promote Economic Growth in Kenya
February 3, 2008 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 20
By John Omiti
February 2008

While reducing risk and vulnerability, social protection (SP) measures can also promote productive activity and economic growth. This paper discusses how SP policies can be used to address key aspects of risk and vulnerability, and to promote economic growth in agriculture.

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The Politics of Policy Reforms in Kenya’s Dairy Sector
February 2, 2008 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 19
By Rosemary Atieno and Karuti Kanyinga
Febuary 2008

Recent reforms of Kenya’s dairy sector have been hailed as a long-term success story. This paper discusses the strengths and limits of Kenya’s dairy sector reforms and identifies some lessons to be drawn from its experience.

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La politique de protection sociale au Malawi : processus, politiques et défis
February 1, 2008 / Briefings politiques / Policy briefs in French

Les moyens d’existence des Malawites sont probablement beaucoup plus précaires aujourd’hui qu’il y a deux décennies.Les crises répétées sur plusieurs années ont contraint la plupart des foyers à abandonner leurs principaux actifs de production afin de répondre à leurs besoins immédiats, les empêchant de conserver des moyens de subsistance durables.

Le ministère de l’Agriculture au Malawi remplit-il bien sa mission ?
February 1, 2008 / Briefings politiques / Policy briefs in French

La mission du Ministère de l’Agriculture (MdA) est de promouvoir et d’accélérer un développement agricole diversifié et durable, pour stimuler la croissance économique et contribuer à la réduction de la pauvreté. Le MdA est chargé de promulguer des lois, de réguler les affaires agricoles, coordonner la formation, et collaborer avec les autres dépositaires d’enjeux du secteur ; il supervise aussi les organismes paragouvernementaux auxquels il accorde des prêts.

The Revitalisation of Kenya Cooperative Creameries
February 1, 2008 / Research Papers

Rosemary Atieno and Karuti Kanyinga
February 2008

This paper presents a case study of politics of policy reforms in the dairy sector in Kenya with particular reference to the Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC). It is developed for the Policy Processes sub theme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC).

The sub theme recognises that that while many policy recommendations on how to get agriculture moving have been made, too often such recommendations have foundered. This has been attributed to among other things, the narrow focus on the technical dimensions of policy, with little attention paid to the political economy and the complex politics of policy making in specific contexts (FAC 2007).

Rethinking Agricultural Input Subsidies in Poor Rural Economies
February 1, 2008 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 18
By Andrew Dorward, Peter Hazell and Colin Poulton
February 2008

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 over-spending and fiscal and macro-economic problems.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Les commercialisations agricoles: les conditions égales pour les petits exploitants agricoles ?
October 1, 2007 / Briefings politiques / Policy briefs in French

La croissance accélérée de l’agriculture est considérée par beaucoup comme déterminante pour répondre aux OMD en Afrique. Pour de nombreux gouvernements nationaux et associations internationales de développement, l’intensification et la commercialisation de l’agriculture paysanne jouent un rôle déterminant dans la réduction de la pauvreté. Les avantages potentiels de la commercialisation sont très bien documentés. Selon ce courant de pensée, l’agriculture paysanne a une position unique pour assurer une croissance à large assise dans les zones rurales où la plus grande majorité de la population pauvre mondiale vit toujours.

Agricultural Commercialisations – A Level Playing Field for Smallholders?
October 1, 2007 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 17
By Jennifer Leavy and Colin Poulton

Accelerated growth in agriculture is seen by many as critical to meeting MDGs in Africa. Many national governments and international development agencies see intensification and commercialisation of smallholder agriculture playing a central role in achieving poverty reduction. The potential benefits of commercialisation are well documented. According to this thinking, smallholder agriculture is uniquely positioned to deliver broad-based growth in rural areas, where the vast majority of the world’s poor people still live.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commercialisations in Agriculture
September 24, 2007 / Research Papers

By Jennifer Leavy and Colin Poulton

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. 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.

The Social Protection Policy in Malawi: Processes, Politics and Challenges
September 2, 2007 / Discussion Papers

By Blessings Chinsinga
September 2007

This paper is based on a study undertaken to critically understand the dynamics of policy-making and processes under the auspices of the Future Agricultures Consortium’s (FAC) sub-theme on politics and policy processes hosted by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the United Kingdom. FAC’s operative philosophy is that contrary to the traditional and highly stylised perspective, policy-making does not happen in neat distinct stages except perhaps in the minimal sense that policies are proposed, legislated and implemented. Policy processes are thus a complex mesh of interactions and ramifications between a wide range of stakeholders driven, and constrained by the contexts in which they operate (cf. IDS, 2006; Oya, 2006). Understanding the policy processes therefore requires:

  1. Grasping the narratives that tell the policy stories
  2. The way positions become embedded in networks of various actors; and
  3. The enabling or constraining power dynamics (politics and interests)

Rethinking Agricultural Input Subsidies in Poor Rural Economies
September 2, 2007 / Discussion Papers

By Andrew Dorward, Peter Hazell and Colin Poulton

Agricultural input subsidies were a common element in agricultural development in poor rural economies in the 1960s and 70s, and were a common element of successful green revolutions. Although they have continued to a greater and lesser extent in some countries, conventional wisdom and dominant donor thinking in the 80s and 90s was that subsidies had been ineffective and inefficient policy instruments in Africa and contributors to government over-spending and fiscal and macro-economic problems. Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in agricultural input subsidies in Africa and the complementary emergence of innovative subsidy delivery systems. These developments, together with new insights into development processes, require a revisiting of the conventional wisdom on subsidies: an examination of the various development opportunities and constraints facing African farmers, a review of recent experience with input subsidies in Africa, and a thorough re-examination of contributions and implementation modalities of agricultural input subsidies in the Asian green revolution.

The Social Protection Policy in Malawi: Processes, Politics and Challenges
September 1, 2007 / Discussion Papers

By Blessings Chinsinga
September 2007

 

This paper is based on a study undertaken to critically understand the dynamics of policy-making and processes under the auspices of the Future Agricultures Consortiums. (FAC) sub-theme on politics and policy processes hosted by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) in the United Kingdom. FAC.s operative philosophy is that contrary to the traditional and highly stylized perspective, policy making does not happen in neat distinct stages except perhaps in the minimal sense that policies are proposed, legislated and implemented.

Policy processes are thus a complex mesh of interactions and ramifications between a wide range of stakeholders driven, and constrained by the contexts in which they operate (cf. IDS, 2006; Oya, 2006). Understanding the policy processes therefore requires:

1) grasping the narratives that tell the policy stories;

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

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

The decision to study the social protection policy processes was inspired by the guarded optimism among stakeholders about the prospects of formulating a viable social protection policy as compared to the fertilizer subsidy policy programme which is generally orchestrated as a success story. It appears, however, that the differences between these two policy processes are largely due to the factthat the social protection policy deals with issues that are not as visible to the public eye and aspolitically sensitive as the issue of fertilizer popularly perceived as the magic wand to the enduring problem food insecurity. Moreover, the fertilizer subsidy programme is/was a political podium policy while social protection is a technocratically driven policy.

This is to say that fertilizer subsidy issues featured prominently in the 2004 electoral campaign whereas issues of social protection merely lurked at the background except, of course, with occasional vague references to the poverty reduction agenda. References to the poverty reduction agenda were made but often without articulating concrete plans of action to deal with the acute depth and breadth of poverty and vulnerability in the country. It comes therefore not as a surprise that unlike the fertilizer subsidy policy processes, the social protection policy processes are almost entirely divorced from the locus of real decision making.

The key building blocks of the fertilizer subsidy programme were debated and decided on in parliament. In a plural political dispensation parliament is designated as a functionally more appropriate arena for policy debates and dialogue since it brings together political parties representing various shades of opinion from different segments of society. Consequently, by occupying centre in the national legislature, the events leading to the conclusion and adoption of the fertilizer subsidy programme generated a national wide debate and dialogue. In sharp contrast, the social protection policy is nearing completion but a national wide debate and dialogue is virtually non-existent. The fertilizer subsidy programme was a regular feature in the major media outlets but there is almost a complete black out on media coverage about social protection.{jcomments off} 

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Rethinking Agricultural Input in poor Rural Economies
September 1, 2007 / Discussion Papers

By Andrew Dorward, Peter Hazell and Colin Poulton
September 2007

As part of discussions on the future of pastoral production systems in East Africa there have been a number of recent interventions arguing that something urgently needs to be done to deal with a Malthusian style crisis in pastoral areas. In short, the argument goes, there are too many people which, combined with a declining (or not increasing) productivity of the natural resource base, means that not enough livestock can be kept to sustain a viable pastoral system.

This argument has been most eloquently and effectively argued by Stephen Sandford in “Too many people,too few livestock: the crisis affecting pastoralists in the Greater Horn of Africa”. This is a response to this piece, aimed at sparking a wider discussion.Such a discussion is urgently needed. For at the same time as the pessimistic prognoses about pastoralist futures in the Greater Horn of Africa, there has been, for the first time in several decades, a revival of interest in pastoralism and livestock production.

This takes two forms – one a celebration of the ‘pastoral way of life’ and the importance of indigenous systems of production and management1 and another focusing on the market potentials of a ‘livestock revolution’2. What should we make of these positions? What should the practical and policy responses be? Pastoral pessimism?
The arguments of Sandford (and others) put the more up-beat assessments in doubt. What are some of the major elements of the pastoral pessimists’ argument?

1. That people:livestock ratios have declined in pastoralist households to a levelbelow 3 TLUs/person, deemed to be a ‘viable’ amount for sustainablelivestock production, due to a combination of human population growth anddeclining rainfall.

2. That primary and secondary productivity (through range management,veterinary and other interventions) are not sufficient to make up the gap, andare unlikely to be so in the future.

3. That real prices of livestock products have not increased (and are unlikely to do so, despite growing demand) to compensate for lower numbers per household.

4. That, with small and decreasing herd/flock sizes, sales remain focused on immediate cash needs rather than ‘commercial’ off take.

5. That pastoral economies remain poor, associated with limited circulation of cash, and so have little opportunity for growth through linkages to other income earning activities.

6. That land for grazing and livestock production continues to be removed for cropping, and that this, particularly if supported by irrigation, is probably a better bet for many pastoralists anyway.

7. That for many the best option is exit, but in a way that does not involve destitution and displacement.

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Resurrecting the Vestiges of a Developmental State in Malawi? Reflections and Lessons
August 22, 2007 / Research Papers

Blessings Chinsinga
August 2007

Malawi has experienced two distinct phases of development (although sub-phases can between be distinguished, especially in the second phase). The first phase spanned from the attainment of independence in July 1964 to the end of the 1970s, whilst the second phase began with the adoption of structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) in 1981 (cf. Chipeta, 1993; Chirwa, 1997; Harrigan, 2001; Chinsinga, 2002). The 1964–1979 period saw the country?s economy registering very high growth rates and enjoyed relatively favourable balance of payment positions. Almost every sector experienced tremendously rapid growth to the extent that the country was characterized at one point, alongside the Ivory Coast, as a star performer (cf. Archaya, 1978; World Bank, 1982). In stark contrast, the post-1979 phase witnessed almost every sector of the economy experiencing a stupendous decline, followed by persistently erratic recovery trends of boom-and-bust type patterns (cf. Kaluwa, et al., 1992; Chirwa, 1995; Chilowa, et al., 2000).

Using Social Protection Policies to Reduce Vulnerability and Promote Economic Growth in Kenya
August 1, 2007 / Discussion Papers

Economic_Growth_in_KenyaBy 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.

Broad categories of social protection instruments – including social safety nets and social security are discussed. Issues regarding to targeting as well as instruments that can be used to deliver social protection programmes in agriculture are outlined. This is intended to promote further policy discourse in the area of social protection in Kenya and other comparable countries.

In the existing social protection programmes in the country, weak coordination, overlaps, supervision and monitoring of the multi-sectoral programmes is a recognised cause for concern. To address social protection effectively, policies must embrace both economic growth and its distribution. There is a need to sensitise relevant government functionaries and other stakeholders to basic social protection and propose ways that could contribute to the sustainable financing of some social protection programmes for agricultural and general economic growth.

There is an urgent need for an approach to concentrate resources, to define roles and responsibilities, and facilitate coordination between different parts of government, United Nations agencies, non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs and CSOs). Sustainability of the target programmes would be enhanced by participation and ownership by the concerned community.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bottom Up Policy Process: An agenda for Future Agricultures in Ethiopia
June 23, 2007 / Media

A number of observers have described the policy making process in Ethiopia asstrongly influenced by a long history of centralised, hierarchical systems of control under Imperial rule and nearly two decades of military rule by the Derg. The present government has made efforts to reverse this legacy however,“in spite of significant political, administrative and financialdecentralisation, the centralised and controlling legacy remains an important factor”.

According to this observation, it is not easy to overcome a legacy in a short period of time. Future Agricultures, a learning consortium of local and international academics and researchers, has developed and tested an all inclusive policy consultation process that, if scaled up, could change the top down legacy. In the process of testing the model, indicative ideas for agricultural policy making have been generated.

Bottom Up Policy Process: An agenda for Future Agricultures in Ethiopia
June 23, 2007 / Media

By Amdissa Teshome

A number of observers have described the policy making process in Ethiopia as strongly influenced by a long history of centralised, hierarchical systems of control under Imperial rule and nearly two decades of military rule by the Derg. The present government has made efforts to reverse this legacy however.

Donor Policy Narratives: What Role for Agriculture?
March 3, 2007 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 16
By Lidia Cabral and Ian Scoones

How do international agencies concerned with agricultural development see the role of agriculture? What is the role for the market and the state? This briefing examines four recent statements from major aid agencies, asking how they see the role of agriculture in development.

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Politics and the Future of Ministries of Agriculture: Rethinking Roles and Transforming Agendas
March 2, 2007 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 15
By Lidia Cabral and Steve Wiggins

What form should a contemporary Ministry of Agriculture take, and how should it function? The answers to these questions depend on three major issues set within the context of agriculture. The first and foremost is the role assigned to agriculture. Is it an economic activity like any other, or it expected to fulfil roles in, for example, food security, regional equity or providing a buffer against destitution for the rural poor?

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The Limits of Success: The Case of the Dairy Sector in Kenya
March 1, 2007 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 14
By Rosemary Atieno

By most accounts the dairy sector in Kenya has been a long-term success story. In many respects it can be viewed as a classic ‘new’ agriculture case. It is smallholder based, integrated with the private sector, commercially oriented, and with wide pro-poor benefits (Leksmono, et al. 2006, Ngigi 2005, Hooton 2004, Republic of Kenya 2005). According to Ngigi (2004), more than 600,000 small-scale farmers produce milk, using dairy cows of improved breeds. Annual net earnings from milk sales are estimated at US $370 per year per household. Those holding between one and three cows produce 80 percent of Kenya’s milk, and the poorest group earn around half of their income from milk sales.

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Reclaiming Policy Space: Lessons from Malawi’s Fertiliser Subsidy Programme
February 1, 2007 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief
By Blessings Chinsinga

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.

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Promoting Agriculture for Social Protection or Social Protection for Agriculture? (ii) Policy
January 2, 2007 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 12
By Andrew Dorward, Rachel Sabates Wheeler, Ian MacAuslan, Chris Penrose Buckley, Jonathan Kydd, and Ephraim Chirwa

Risk and vulnerability play important roles in keeping poor rural people poor. Both agricultural and social protection policies can help growth benefit the poorest and most vulnerable people. In this second briefing paper on Agriculture and Social Protection we outline important interactions between social protection and agriculture development policies. Four strategic approaches addressing (with differing success) these interactions are described, together with the main policy instruments associated with them, and design and implementation issues for these instruments discussed.

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Promoting Agriculture for Social Protection or Social Protection for Agriculture? (i)Concepts/Frame
January 1, 2007 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 11
By Andrew Dorward, Rachel Sabates Wheeler, Ian MacAuslan, Chris Penrose Buckley, Jonathan Kydd, and Ephraim Chirwa

Agriculture’s major role in pro-poor economic growth in countries with large, poor rural sectors is increasingly recognised. There is also a major focus on social protection interventions to address risks and insecurity affecting poor people. However current policy debate and formulation makes limited attempts to integrate agricultural and social protection policies.

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Too many people, too few livestock: the crisis affecting pastoralists in the Greater Horn of Africa
January 1, 2007 / E-debates

The crisis in the Horn of Africa

In April 2006 OXFAM, writing of this year’s drought in the pastoral areas of Kenya said, “the recovery process could take 15 years.” Alas, without a substantial change in attitudes and approach, that prediction will prove grossly over-optimistic. There will be no recovery.

For many years the average level of well-being of pastoralists in the Greater Horn of Africa (GHA) and the distribution of individual households around the average have been getting worse, and they will continue to get worse even if all the risks (unfavourable uncertainties such as drought, conflict, disease and further loss of land) commonly cited as afflicting pastoralism are eliminated. This is a consequence of the growing imbalance between humans, livestock, natural environment and the technology available to improve land productivity and of the economies of scale (see PARIMA publications2) that ensure poorer households fare worse than richer.

What is the difference between Archiving and Trashing an Article?
October 11, 2006 / African Green Revolution

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.

We will be holding a moderated discussion on substantive action-oriented issues over a seven-week period during the months of October and November, 2008. The debate will focus on three central themes raised by the conference/seminar delegates and outlined in the report

What Role for Ministries of Agriculture in the 21st Century?
September 1, 2006 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 10
By Lídia Cabral and Ian Scoones
September 2006

Different ‘narratives’ – or storylines – about agricultural policies are being pushed by different actors in the policy process, each envisages a different kind of ministry of agriculture. Three different versions are elaborated. One sees the return of the heyday of the sectoral ministry with capacity and policy clout – to address the major constraints of agriculture, it is argued, what is required is a strong, well-funded line ministry, and the challenge today is to rebuild such an organisation. A second – at the other extreme – sees such sectoral ministries taking on a minimal role, focused on oversight and regulation, as the private sector takes on a more substantive role in a ‘free market’ environment. A third, perhaps less stridently articulated than the others, sees an important role for the state – and the ministry of agriculture, together with other state agencies – in addressing the coordination and intermediation roles of getting markets to work effectively, while ensuring at the same time public efforts are targeted to poverty reduction.

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Promoting Agriculture for Social Protection
August 1, 2006 / Discussion Papers

By Andrew Dorward, Rachel Sabates Wheeler, Ian MacAuslan, Chris Penrose Buckley, Jonathan Kydd, Ephraim Chirwa

August 2006

It is increasingly recognised that agriculture must play a role in pro-poor economic growth incountries with large, poor rural sectors. There is also a major focus on social protection interventions to address risks and insecurity affecting poor people. However current policy debate and formulation makes only limited attempts to integrate agricultural and social protection policies.

 

This paper outlines significant paradigm shifts in policies affecting both these fields and highlights pertinent issues arising from interactions between agricultural and social protection policies. The paper begins by setting out the sources and effects of stress in rural people’s livelihoods, and their responses to stress. Poor rural people’s livelihoods are complex, diverse and risk prone with inherent seasonal instability. Vulnerability not only affects people’s welfare, it also reduces growth, directly by destroying assets, and indirectly as the threat of shocks and stresses diverts assets from more productive activities to those that reduce vulnerability.

These responses involve removal of, resistance to, recovery from and relief from stresses. These responses are nested within three broader livelihoods strategies which people adopt (often together) to survive and to advance their welfare:

• ‘Hanging-in’, where activities are undertaken to maintain livelihood levels at a ‘survival’ level;

• ‘Stepping-up’, where investments are made in existing activities to increase their returns; and

• ‘Stepping-out’, where existing activities are engaged in to accumulate assets as a basis for investment in alternative, higher-return livelihood activities.

Development normally involves shifts in emphasis in people’s livelihoods, from hanging in (through low risk /low return subsistence activities) to stepping up (in higher risk / higher return commercial agricultural activities) to stepping out (from agriculture to higher return non-farm and often urban activities). Social protection and agricultural development policies should support this progression, but means of support should change with structural changes in livelihoods and in rural economies.

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Promoting Agriculture for Social Protection or Social Protection for Agriculture
August 1, 2006 / Discussion Papers

By Andrew Dorward, Rachel Sabates Wheeler, Ian MacAuslan, Chris Penrose Buckley,Jonathan Kydd, Ephraim Chirwa

It is increasingly recognised that agriculture must play a role in pro-poor economic growth in countries with large, poor rural sectors. There is also a major focus on social protection interventions to address risks and insecurity affecting poor people. However current policy debate and formulation makes only limited attempts to integrate agricultural and social protection policies. This paper outlines significant paradigm shifts in policies affecting both these fields and highlights pertinent issues arising from interactions between agricultural and social protection policies.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reforming agricultural policy: lessons from four countries
July 1, 2006 / Working Papers

By Lidia Cabral, Colin Poulton. Steve Wiggins, 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, anecessary 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 capacitylimited, 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. Itaims to draw out issues for would-be reformers by examining the experience of four cases of agricultural reform, purposely selected as often being seen assuccessful. These are:

• Reform of agricultural input markets in Bangladesh inthe early 1980s, followed by liberalisation of graintrading and the cancellation of several longstanding programmes of public distribution of grains during the late 1980s and early 1990s;

• The impact of economy-wide reforms and counterr eform of land on Chilean agriculture from 1973through to the 1980s;

• Introduction of the ‘household responsibility system’of production and liberalisation of marketing in China startimg around 1978;

Reforming Agricultural Policy: Lessons from four countries SUMMARY
July 1, 2006 / Research Papers

{jathumbnail off}reforming-agricultureComparing 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 wereundertaken 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 are view 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. These are:

• Reform of agricultural input markets in Bangladesh in the early 1980s, followed by liberalisation of grain trading and the cancellation of several longstandingprogrammes of public distribution of grains during the late 1980s and early 1990s;

• The impact of economy-wide reforms andcounter-reform of land on Chilean agriculture from 1973 through to the 1980s;

• Introduction of the ‘household responsibility system’ of production and liberalisation of marketing in China starting around 1978;and,

• Removal of price and other support to New Zealand farming that began in 1984 andcontinued into the 1990s. This review seeks to answer the following questions:

• What were the conditions that created the impetus for agricultural reform?

• What factors determined the actual content of the reform packages?

• What challenges were faced in the implementation of the reform and what lessons, if any, can be learnt from these for future reform programmes?

• What opposition was there to the reforms and how was this overcome?

• What factors exerted the greatest influence on the outcomes of the reform?

The country cases Bangladesh undertook two waves of agriculturalre forms between the late 1970s and early 1990s. In the first, the markets for agricultural inputs. above all fertiliser and irrigation equipment were liberalised. This led to falling prices, greater availability, and increased use of these inputs. Tubewells and pumps, in particular, allowed a major expansion of winter (‘boro’) rice production that saw increases in domestic supply of rice outstrip population growth and thereby drove down the price of rice.

This in turn made it easier to implement the second round of reforms where the markets for food grains were liberalised and some large-scale programmes of food subsidies were ended. Bangladesh benefited from phased implementation of reforms that allowed for learning, monitoring and adjustment to developments in the markets.

Reforming Agricultural Policy: lessons from four countries SUMMARY
July 1, 2006 / Working Papers

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agriculture,Growth and Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia Policy Processes Around the New PRSP (PASDEP)
March 20, 2006 / Research Papers

By Amdissa Teshome
March 2006

“Agriculture is the mainstay of the Ethiopian Economy”. This statement has almost become a cliché 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 mainstay 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 manmade factors. As a result, Ethiopia is characterised by large food self-sufficiency gap at national 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 extreme poverty in the midst of plenty – fertile land and relatively preserved environment. To complicate matters further, the country’s future is pinned on agriculture as demonstrated in a statement by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia in 2000.

The agriculture sector remains our Achilles heel and source of vulnerability …. Nonetheless, we remain convinced that agricultural based development remains the only source of hope for Ethiopia [emphasis added] (quoted in Devereux et.al. 2005: 121) ].

This complex nature and such high profile statements about the sector has led some commentators to believe that Ethiopia is unusual in emphasising agriculture over a long period of time. Carswell (2002) and Keeley and Scoones (2003) review four decades of intensive agricultural research and extension and policy debate, which brought about little change, primarily because the research focused on a “narrow range of technical options” that failed to appreciate the wider livelihood contexts within a given region let alone the entire country.

Agricultural Policy in Kenya: Issues and Processes
March 20, 2006 / Research Papers

Agricultural_Policy_in_KenyaAgriculture remains the backbone of the Kenyan economy. It is the single mostimportant sector in the economy, contributing approximately 25% of the GDP, andemploying 75% of the national labour force (Republic of Kenya 2005). Over 80% of theKenyan population live in the rural areas and derive their livelihoods, directly orindirectly from agriculture.

Given its importance, the performance of the sector istherefore reflected in the performance of the whole economy. The development ofagriculture is also important for poverty reduction since most of the vulnerable groupslike pastoralists, the landless, and subsistence farmers, also depend on agriculture as theirmain source of livelihoods. Growth in the sector is therefore expected to have a greaterimpact on a larger section of the population than any other sector. The development of thesector is therefore important for the development of the economy as a whole.

The importance of the sector in the economy is reflected in the relationship between itsperformance and that of the key indicators like GDP and employment. Trends in thegrowth rates for agriculture, GDP and employment, show that the declining trendexperienced in the sector’s growth especially in the 1990s, is reflected in the declines inemployment and GDP as a whole.

Policies that affect the performance of the sector have important implications for the economy.Policies for agriculture consist of government decisions that influence the level and stability of input and output prices, public investments affecting agricultural production, costs and revenues and allocation of resources. These policies affect agriculture either directly or indirectly. Improved agricultural production has been seen as one of the overall objectives for poverty reduction in the country.

The objectives of agricultural sector strategy have been increasing agricultural growth,seen as important for increasing rural incomes and ensuring equitable distribution. Due to limited availability of high potential land, it has been envisaged that increasing agricultural production will have to come from intensification of production through increased use of improved inputs, diversification especially from low to high valuecrops, commercialisation of smallholder agriculture, and increased value addition through stronger linkages with other sectors.

In the following sections, we review some of the key policy issues and concerns with respect to the sector’s development.