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

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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