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

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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FAC Working Paper 003 Pdf 414.99 KB 3 downloads

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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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FAC Working Paper 011 Pdf 820.73 KB 5 downloads

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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.

Seeds In Africa Sussex
November 3, 2009 / Cereal Seed Systems

African Smallholders: Consumers and Seeds

FAC Meetings Autumn07
November 2, 2009 / FAC Documents

Early 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.

The Crisis Of Pastoralism
November 2, 2009 / E-debates

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.

 

The Social Protection Policy in Malawi: Processes Politics and Challenges
November 2, 2009 / Research Papers

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

BBC World Debate: Failing the Farmer?
November 1, 2009 / Media

Small farmers produce the majority of all the food we consume wherever we are in this world Butin 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 paidproductive 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?

First of all more than half of the world’s population are farmers, peasants or fisher folk. And we are the mainstay of local economy. We maintain not only local economy but the local cultures, the bio diversity.We are the stewards of nature in that sense, we maintain er a clear water.

And the crisis of family farmers all over the world north and south means that there is not only a big impoverishment of rural areas but also er it drives an immigration from rural areas to urban areas and er it isgenerating a huge hunger for the first time in history hunger’s basically rural.Well let’s move to Africa, to Nigeria, Er Doctor Olaseinde Arigbede. You’re from Nigeria, you’reboth a medical doctor and a farmer. You’ve got 25 hectares for maize, for yams, er for cassava and other vegetables.

Er represent the union of small and medium scale farmers there. What is the condition, what isthe state of health of smallholder farming in Nigeria? Well I’m glad you called it state of health and not just thinking about sustainability which has been abused so far, but state of health is very important. Now a nation, a nation requires people to work to feed it. It is the small-scale farmers who have fed our nations for ages. And these smallscale farmers have so many obstacles placed on their heads, on their shoulders, on their backs.

Governments disappoint them, they’re unfaithful to them, they neglect them, they deny their rights for support, because thosewho produce for a nation have a right to state support, they’re denied this right. At the international level good lord, all global bodies are ganged up against the small farmers. Why the hell are wefighting WTO, why are we fighting IMAF and all that? They are putting pressure on this farmer and claiming that this farmer is an anachronism which must disappear.Well let’s hear from Asia, from Esther Penunia. You’re from the Philippines. How important is thesmall farmer right across Asia?

Pastoral Innovation Systems Perspectives from Ethiopia and Kenya
October 1, 2009 / Occasional Papers

While there has been much discussion of the importance
of innovation in African agriculture, remarkably little
has focused on mobile pastoral systems. Everyone agrees
that science, technology and innovation must be at the
centre of economic growth, livelihood improvement and
development more broadly. But it must always be asked:
what innovation – and for whom? Decisions about direction,
diversity and distribution are key in any discussion
of innovation options and wider development
pathways.

In March 2009 over 50 pastoralists from across
southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya from a dozen
ethnic groups gathered in the Borana lowlands at the
‘University of the Bush’ to debate key pastoral development
issues.

Big farms or small farms: how to respond to the food crisis?
July 16, 2009 / Miscellaneous

Debates on the scale of farming are back on the agenda. In a number of recentarticles, Professor Paul Collier, author of ‘The Bottom Billion: Why the PoorestCountries are Failing and What Can be Done About It’, made the case (see Position 1 below) for encouraging large-scale commercial farming as way toget African farming moving. Favouring small farmers, he argues, is romantic but unhelpful

During 2008 there have been many reports of private companies in the Northand state corporations in the South reacting to the opportunity and threat ofhigher food prices by planning to acquire land in Africa, South-east Asia, Braziland Central Asia to produce food. The most startling of these announcementsis that of the Daewoo Corporation of the Republic of Korea that revealed that itwas acquiring the rights to farm no less than 1.3 million hectares of Madagascar,a position from which the company and the government have now backedaway from following a storm of local and international protest.In many cases the reports suggest that the aim is to farm the land on a largescale, rather than to contract production through existing family smallholdings.

It is now more than three years since IFPRI, Imperial College, and ODI organiseda workshop at Wye for specialists to debate the issues surrounding small farms.It looks to be time to revisit those arguments in the light of higher food prices,the arguments being made for largescalefarming and apparent intent ofcapital-rich investors.

In May 2009, the Future AgriculturesConsortium welcomed a range ofopinions in regard to this debate; thisreport by FAC member Steve Wigginssummarises the contributionsand themes emerging from thediscusisons.

Political Economy Of Cereal Seed Systems Workshop Report (13-15 Jul 09)
July 13, 2009 / Cereal Seed Systems

The Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC – www.future-agricultures.org) is a network of research organisations in the UK and Africa committed to promoting informed policy dialogue and debate on the future of agriculture in Africa. It is funded by the UK?s Department for International Development, and has a secretariat currently located at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex.

The Science, Technology and Innovation theme of FAC is developing a new strand of work on the „Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Africa?. A Planning and Methodology Workshop was held at the University of Sussex on 13-15 July 2009 to help develop an analytical framework and research design for this work to guide scoping studies in five countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe. This report summarises the main discussions and action points from that event.

Big farms or small farms: how to respond to the food crisis?
July 1, 2009 / E-debates

Debates on the scale of farming are back on the agenda. In a number of recentarticles, Professor Paul Collier, author of ‘The Bottom Billion: Why the PoorestCountries are Failing and What Can be Done About It’, made the case (seePosition 1 below) for encouraging large-scale commercial farming as way toget African farming moving. Favouring small farmers, he argues, is romantic butunhelpful.

During 2008 there have been many reports of private companies in the Northand state corporations in the South reacting to the opportunity and threat ofhigher food prices by planning to acquire land in Africa, South-east Asia, Braziland Central Asia to produce food. The most startling of these announcementsis that of the Daewoo Corporation of the Republic of Korea that revealed that itwas acquiring the rights to farm no less than 1.3 million hectares of Madagascar,a position from which the company and the government have now backedaway from following a storm of local and international protest.In many cases the reports suggest that the aim is to farm the land on a largescale, rather than to contract production through existing family smallholdings.

It is now more than three years since IFPRI, Imperial College, and ODI organiseda workshop at Wye for specialists to debate the issues surrounding small farms.It looks to be time to revisit those arguments in the light of higher food prices,the arguments being made for largescalefarming and apparent intent ofcapital-rich investors.

In May 2009, the Future AgriculturesConsortium welcomed a range ofopinions in regard to this debate; thisreport by FAC member Steve Wigginssummarises the contributionsand themes emerging from thediscusisons.Contributions to this deabte andthis report are posted electronicallyon the Future Agricultures‘ web site:www.future-agricultures.org

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Farmers’ Organisations
June 2, 2009 / Policy Briefs

By John Thompson, Amdissa Teshome, David Hughes, Ephraim Chirwa and John Omiti
June 2009

This FAC Policy Brief presents what we have termed ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Farmers’ Organisations’. This seeks to provide some insights into what may be described as the ‘critical elements of success’ in high-performing farmers’ organisations in Africa. The seven ‘habits’ identified are:

(1) Clarity of mission;
(2) Sound governance;
(3) Strong, responsive and accountable leadership;
(4) Social inclusion and raising ‘voice’;
(5) Demand-driven and focused service delivery;
(6) High technical and managerial capacity; and
(7) Effective engagement with external actors.

These habits offer a useful checklist of working principles and practices to assess the performance of farmers’ organisation in Africa and elsewhere.

 

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Challenges and Opportunities for Strengthening Farmers Organisations in Africa: Lessons
June 1, 2009 / Policy Briefs

By John Thompson, Amdissa Teshome, Ephraim Chirwa and John Omiti
June 2009

Farmers’ organisations (FOs) are increasingly being asked to play a central role in driving agricultural transformation processes in Sub-Saharan Africa, despite their mixed record of success. As governments, donors and NGOs rush to promote the scaling up and diversification of FOs’ activities and membership, this policy brief draws on findings of a study of the roles, functions and performance of FOs in Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi to suggest some principles and practices for supporting FOs in Africa.

 

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Agriculture and Social Protection in Ghana: A ‘LEAP’ in the Dark?
March 5, 2009 / Policy Briefs

By Stephen Devereux
March 2009 

Despite impressive progress on poverty reduction at national level in Ghana, chronic poverty and livelihood vulnerability persist, especially among small farmers in northern regions. This Briefing Paper reviews social protection mechanisms for addressing vulnerability among Ghanaian farming families, from ‘PAMSCAD’ in the 1980s to the new National Social Protection Strategy (NSPS) and the Livelihoods Empowerment Against Poverty (‘LEAP’) cash transfer programme.

 

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Agriculture and Social Protection in Ethiopia: The Politics of Land and ‘Graduation’
March 4, 2009 / Policy Briefs

By Stephen Devereux
March 2009

Agriculture and social protection are inextricably interconnected in Ethiopia. Smallholder farming is the dominant livelihood activity for most Ethiopians, but is also a major source of poverty and food insecurity. In terms of agricultural policy, the government’s belief in agriculture as the backbone and main source of economic growth is reflected in its view that land is the ultimate ‘safety net’ for rural households, who should therefore be prevented from selling it. In terms of social protection, the fact that farmers are the main recipients of food aid has fuelled the government’s fear of ‘dependency’ in rural communities, which explains the predominance of public works projects as their preferred delivery mechanism, as well as recent shifts in safety net thinking towards cash transfers rather than food aid, with predictable transfers expected to lead to ‘graduation’ within 3-5 years.

 

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Agriculture and Social Protection in Malawi: Fertiliser Policies and Politics
March 2, 2009 / Policy Briefs

By Stephen Devereux
March 2009

Agricultural and social protection policies must be understood in the context of political agendas, market development and trends in rural livelihoods. This Briefing Paper reviews interactions between agricultural and social protection policies in Malawi – classified as social protection from, independent of, for, through and with agriculture – and their impacts on livelihoods and welfare. Specific attention is given to the evolution of input subsidy policies (i.e. ‘fertiliser politics’).

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Establishment of Kenya National Agricultural Innovation Systems
March 1, 2009 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}{jcomments off}Since the last decade, many of the world’s economies have been faced with food crisis,characterised by high food prices and food shortages year after year. African countries are among the worst hit, where most of the poor people suffer from silent food problems. This is partly due to unequal distribution of the available food supplies, which breeds dual economies; one that is wellfed while the other is languishing in hunger and poverty (Reutlinger, 1977). Food security has also been threatened by heightening production costs, lower farmer prices and the international financial crisis.

This, coupled with climatic change has led to reduction in the production of some staple foodcrops such as maize in Southern Africa, a situation which would lead to deeper and more widespread food crisis (Brink, 2008). Global food crisis has led to much debate and extended discussions at the international frontiers onhow best to address it. Various approaches have been designed and implemented both at national and international levels. For instance, in 2008 the G8 member countries committed themselves to partner with Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in efforts to reverse the decline in agricultural productivity since most of African economies are agriculture-based (Los Angeles CA,2008).

Other suggested efforts include designing and implementing a commercial agricultural alliance forAfrica which would partner with development partners in efforts aimed at attaining food security and empowering farmers (Brink, 2008). Southern Africa has developed one such platform, Food,Agricultural and National Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) which uses an interactive approach in tapping new and existing innovations to address macro-economic issues.

One such innovation is the Agricultural Input Subsidy Program (AISP) in Malawi which has turned the food crisis into an opportunity for economically empowering farmers and ensuring there is sufficient food for the households (FANRPAN, 2008). This initiative has been rated as a success due to prevailing good policies in Malawi, along with the interactive nature of the programme and the adoption of value chain approach. In this context the value chain approach will be used to analyse agricultural innovation by chain players at levels from production to consumption.

Farmer First Revisited Innovation for Agricultural Research and Development
March 1, 2009 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}By Ian Scoones and John Thompson
March 2009

Agriculture is an urgent priority worldwide and farmers in the developing world find themselves in the front line of some of the world’s most pressing issues – climate change, globalization and food security. The problem with the agricultural research and extension which is meant to support these farmers is that it is often delivered in a linear, top-down fashion which is inappropriate to their social, physical and economic needs.

Twenty years ago, the Farmer First workshop at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK, started from this premise, and launched a movement to encourage farmer participation in agricultural research and extension so as to find better solutions to farmers’ needs.Since that time methodological, institutional and policy experiments have unfolded around the world – all aimed at putting farmers first. Farmer First Revisited presents accounts of such experiments which were brought by delegates to a workshop in December 2007 and which include successes and failures and the lessons that have been learned.

Agricultural innovation now takes place less within national public-sector research organizations and more in diversified public-private systems. This book asks: how do farmers engage in these public and private systems? In the context of increasingly globalized and complex agricultural supply chains, how do farmers take part in the policy processes defining access to markets, and in agricultural research and development? Farmer First Revisited should be read by students, policy makers, agricultural scientists and social scientists aiming to bring the concerns of grassroots farmers to the fore.

‘Farmer First Revisited is a powerful testament to the impact of the Farmer First Approach. From an almost subversive critical movement that challenged the prevailing linear science-driven paradigm, Farmer First has won broad acceptance by rigorously proving its superior efficiency in making science work for the poorest and most marginal farmers.
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Innovation for Agricultural Research and Development
March 1, 2009 / Miscellaneous

By Ian Scoones and John Thompson
March 2009

Agriculture is an urgent global priority and farmers find themselves in the front line of some of the world’s most pressing issues – climate change, globalization and food security.Twenty years ago, the Farmer First workshop held at the Institute of Development Studies,University of Sussex, UK, launched a movement to encourage farmer participation in agricultural research and development (R&D), responding to farmers’ needs in complex, diverse, risk-prone environments, and promoting sustainable livelihoods and agriculture. Since that time, methodological, institutional and policy experiments have unfolded around the world. Farmer First Revisited returns to the debates about farmer participation in agricultural R&D and looks to the future.

With over 60 contributions from across the world,the book presents a range of experiences that highlight the importance of going beyonda focus on the farm to the wider innovation system, including market interactions as well asthe wider institutional and policy environment. If, however, farmers are really to be put first, apolitics of demand is required in order to shape the direction of these innovation systems. This calls for a major rethinking of agricultural R&D, the boosting of the knowledge and capacities of farmers’ organizations to innovate, the strengthening of networks and alliances to support, document and share lessons on farmer led innovation, and the transformation of agricultural higher education.

Farmer First Revisited should be read by students,policy makers, development professionals, and natural and social scientists aiming to bring the concerns of grassroots farmers to the fore. Ian Scoones is a Professorial Fellow and JohnThompson is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, UK.Book Contents Foreword by Robert Chambers.

Part I: Farmer First RevisitedChallenges to strengthening Agricultural Innovation Systems

Part II: Systems of innovationPart III: The politics of demand and organizational change

Part IV: New professionalism, Learning and change Fostering Farmer First methodological innovation.
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Agriculture and Social Protection in Africa
March 1, 2009 / Policy Briefs

By Stephen Devereux
March 2009

The following propositions are generally accepted:
1. Progress in reducing hunger and food insecurity in Africa is unacceptably slow.
2. Hunger and food insecurity are major impediments to poverty reduction in Africa.
3. Poverty, hunger and food insecurity in Africa are still predominantly rural.
4. Agriculture is a key sector in rural household strategies to exit poverty and food insecurity.
5. There is an urgent need for a renewed commitment to agricultural extension and

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Put Farmers First To Transform Agriculture
February 12, 2009 / Miscellaneous

Agriculture and food are urgent global priorities with farmers on the front line of some ofthe 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 books 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 topdown 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 Banks. 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. “

Future Agricultures Consortium
February 12, 2009 / Miscellaneous

By Ian Scoones and John Thompson
12 February 2009

Our mission:

“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”. But aren’t others doing this? CAADP (with the legitimacy of an international governmental process) and AGRA, IFPRI and others (with lots of money)…..likely to be others, So where do we fit?, What do we do that is different?

FAC niche
A diverse partnership

  • Dialogue and deliberation – opening up the debate.
  • Embedded in local settings – but linking to the wider debates
  • Independent, flexible, agile, responsive.
  • Able to challenge, critique and confront
  • Communications – linking findings to wide audiences
  • Relationship with DFID – bridging research and policy.

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Future Agricultures Consortium
February 12, 2009 / Meetings

By Ian Scoones and John Thompson
12 February 2009

Our mission:

“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”. But aren’t others doing this? CAADP (with the legitimacy of an international governmental process) and AGRA, IFPRI and others (with lots of money)…..likely to be others, So where do we fit?, What do we do that is different?

Agriculture and Food Security: Pre-Evaluation Review of DFID Policy
February 3, 2009 / Miscellaneous

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This report considers whether the DFID agriculture policy remains relevant in the light of the recent food crisis and where and why consideration might be given for changes to be made. It is not an evaluation2 and it does not suggest a new policy but aims to provide direction and identify issues and some alternative ways in which the policy might evolve, especially in its relationship with food security.

The policy focussed on the role that agricultural productivity and growth plays in poverty reduction. It did not repeat the analysis of livelihoods and food security that had been covered in earlier papers3 but complemented them by emphasising the benefits of concentrating on areas that had most growth potential.

The mechanisms through which growth reduces poverty were identified as being by increasing income directly in a sector where most poor people live; by increasing the supply, and thereby decreasing the price, of food; by providing labour intensive employment in rural areas; and through the linkages agriculture generates with other economic sectors. The policy provided support for farmers through macro level policies, more effective public spending and focussing on market opportunities, agricultural finance, new technologies, land and property rights as well as reductions of national and international market distortions.

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Agriculture and Food Security: Pre-Evaluation Review of DFID Policy
February 3, 2009 / External Analysis

John Wyeth, Steve Ashley

This report considers whether the DFID agriculture policy remains relevant in the light of the recent food crisis and where and why consideration might be given for changes to be made. It is not an evaluation and it does not suggest a new policy but aims to provide direction and identify issues and some alternative ways in which the policy might evolve, especially in its relationship with food security.

Fertiliser Subsidies: Lessons from Malawi for Kenya
February 1, 2009 / Policy Briefs

By Colin Poulton
February 2009

Since 2005/06 a large-scale agricultural inputs subsidy programme has been in place in Malawi, which, combined with good rains, has resulted in the country moving from chronic food insecurity to maize surplus. This in turn has excited interest in fertiliser subsidies in other countries, including Kenya (itself chronically maize deficit). In this briefing note we summarise some of the key lessons learnt from evaluation of the Malawi fertiliser subsidy to date. Some of these are directly applicable to Kenya. However, the agro-ecological political and market contexts of Malawi and Kenya are different, so we also consider how these differences affect the transferability of the fertiliser subsidy programme.

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Agriculture and Social Protection in Ethiopia
January 11, 2009 / Working Papers

Stephen Devereux and Bruce Guenthe
January 2009

Agriculture and social protection in Ethiopia are inextricably interconnected. Smallholder farming is the dominant livelihood activity for the majority of Ethiopians, but it is also the major source of vulnerability to poverty, food insecurity and their often fatal consequences– chronic malnutrition, premature mortality, recurrent famines. Ethiopian farmers have been the recipients of enormous volumes of food aid and other humanitarian assistance over recent decades, to such an extent that emergency relief has become institutionalised within government structures and donor agency country programmes.

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Agriculture and Social Protection in Ghana
January 11, 2009 / Working Papers

Ghana was one of the first countries in Africa to embark on structural adjustment reforms. 25 years on, its continuing commitment to reform for national economic development has yielded impressive gains in growth and poverty reduction. Poverty in the country is measured through periodic Ghana Living Standards Surveys (GLSS). In 1991/92 GLSS3 found that 51.7%of the population were living below the national poverty line. By 1998/99 (GLSS4) this had fallen to 39.5% and by 2005/06 (GLSS5) it had fallen to 28.5% (Ghana Statistical Service2007). In absolute terms the number of poor people in Ghana has fallen from 7.9 million in 1991/92 to 6.2 million in 2005/06. At current growth rates, Ghana should achieve MDG1before 2010.

Building synergies between social protection
January 1, 2009 / Miscellaneous

By Rachel Sabates Wheeler, Stephen Devereux and Bruce Guenther
January 2009

The paper explores how social protection and agricultural policies interact, creating either synergies or conflicts between them. To the extent that social protection measures help poor rural people expand their assets, use them more efficiently and adopt higher return activities,there should be strong synergies with agricultural development. Reverse synergies can also arise,if agricultural policies help farmers improve their livelihoods and reduce their vulnerability.

But conflicts can occur if policy objectives are inconsistent with each other, and these are alsoexamined in this paper. We draw on numerous examples from the across the globe, but withspecific emphasis from the African continent to highlight issues including, liquidity constraints,scale and threshold effects, timing, seasonality and policy complementarities. In conclusionwe consider lessons for how the agricultural policies and social protection instruments can bedesigned and implemented to exploit welfare and growth synergies.

After a lengthy period of relative neglect, agriculture is back on the policy agenda of many African governments and international agencies. Smallholder farming is recognised by the Commission for Africa, NEPAD and others as central to rural livelihoods and therefore indispensable to food security and poverty reduction and the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in Africa. At the same time, however, the multiple risks and vulnerabilities that smallholders face are increasingly well understood, and new policy frameworks are emerging that distinguish between different types and sources of risk (for example, idiosyncratic and covariant risk affecting agricultural production, markets and health) and between different response options (investment in crop or livestock protection, irrigation, market stabilisation and access, cash transfers, and so on).

Reducing risk in smallholder farming requires agricultural development policies, and policies that create a conducive enabling environment for agriculture, while managing risk in smallholder farming requires social protection policies that can also contribute to reducing risk. The paper analyses how social protection and agricultural policies interact, creating either synergies or conflicts between them.

We explore both current and potential synergies and conflicts between ‘welfare-promoting’ and ‘growth-promoting’ forms of social protection and agricultural development. To the extent that social protection measures help poor rural people expand their assets, use them more efficiently and adopt higher return activities, there should be strong synergies with agricultural development. Reverse synergies can also arise, if agricultural policies help farmers improve their livelihoods and reduce their vulnerability. But conflicts can occur if policy objectives are inconsistent with each other, and these are also examined in this paper.
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