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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.


FAC Working Paper 001 Pdf 296.84 KB 0 downloads


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 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.

Future Scenarios for Agriculture in Malawi
March 19, 2006 / Miscellaneous

{jathumbnail off}Future_Scenarios_for_Agriculture_in_MalawiMalawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with per capita gross domestic product of $190, 30 percent of under-five children being malnourished and the infant mortality rate of 229 per 1,000 live births and a life expectancy at birth of 42 years (World Bank, 2001).

Data from a recent household survey shows that about 52.4 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, with 22.4 percent barely surviving in 2004 (NSO, 2005). There are gender differences in food insecurity with 62.9 percent of female-headed households and 54.6 percent of male-headed households reporting inadequate food consumption.

Report on the Future Agricultures Workshop, Awassa, SNNPR
March 1, 2006 / Miscellaneous

Future Agricultures is the UK Department for International Development funded learningconsortium comprising the Institute of Development Studies, Imperial College London and the Overseas Development Institute. The Consortium has been formed to stimulate debate and generate policy options for agricultural growth. The study focuses on three countries, namely Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi. As local partners of the Consortium the Ethiopia team was tasked with initiating policydebate through key informant interviews and where possible holding discussions in a form of workshops. The Awassa 2006 is one such workshop.

Organisation of the workshop. The Ethiopia team contracted a local NGO based in Awassa to organise the workshop. Participants were carefully selected from a range of institutions – government bureaus, nongovernment, research and academic institutions. A total of 22 individuals from Awassa and about 10 from Addis Ababa showed interest. However, a total of 21 participants (14 regional and 7 Addis Ababa) attended the one-day workshop. It was unfortunate that that all those registered could not attend because the workshop coincided with government meetings.

Land Policy and Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia
March 1, 2006 / Discussion Papers

Land is a public property in Ethiopia. It has been administered by the government sincethe 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. {jathumbnail off}

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 landplots has been conditional upon residence in a village. The transfer of land through longterm lease or sales has been forbidden1, and government sponsored periodicredistribution, though, discouraged administratively since the early 1990s, has not been outlawed (Mulat, 1999). Ethiopia is one of the few countries in Africa that has not made significant changes in its basic land policy for over three decades; except for occasional land redistributions to accommodate the growing population.

Land redistribution was more frequent during the Derg time and has been discouraged since 1991, though not totally eliminated. No redistribution has happened for 10 years in Amhara Region, 15 years in other regions. In1996, land was given to landless youth and returnee ex-soldiers in Amhara Region by reducing the holding of farmers who were reportedly associated with previous governments. Even though equity or social justice seems the major objective of there distribution, it also demonstrates the loophole in the policy which allows local authorities to use the land policy as a political instrument. In other regions, communal grazing and woodland was allotted to new claimants (Mulat, 1999).

Increasing population in the rural areas was thus absorbed in agriculture through levelling down of holdings,rather than through alternative forms of employment. Population growth could have been supported by rural non-farm employment creation, but this hasn’t happened so young adults people remain in rural areas either unemployed, as landless labourers or as share croppers on someone else’s land. This consequence of the land redistributions and the current land policy does not seem to have been foreseen by the government of Ethiopia.

Access to land is an important issue for the majority of Ethiopian people who, one way orthe other, depend on agricultural production for their income and subsistence. Landtenure issues therefore continue to be of central political and economic importance, as they have been at several junctures in Ethiopia’s history.

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Intensification of Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia. Options and Scenarios
March 1, 2006 / Discussion Papers

By Samuel Gebreselassie
March 2006

Ethiopia’s inability to feed its population and thus its continued dependence on foreign donations of food to sustain millions of its citizens is a dilemma that triggers a broad economic and sociological debate. The problem of Ethiopian agriculture cannot be primarily explained by natural endowments. By any measure, Ethiopia is well endowed at least in part with a fertile soil, abundant water resources and good climatic conditions until recently.

What needs careful analysis is why Ethiopian farmers continue to practice essentially the same farming methods with very little technical or management improvement for so long. The prevailing orthodoxy among Ethiopian development practitioners, however, is largely to see the problem of smallholder agriculture in Ethiopia strictly as a technical and resource related problem.

This view identifies the low level of agricultural productivity as the key problem and the solution that follows is to find ways to enhance productivity. Furthermore, productivity is essentially regarded as a technical/technological problem. Since the technology required for enhancing productivity is internationally available, what remains to be done is to widely diffuse this technology(particularly fertilizers and improved seeds) to areas with low productivity (Berhnau Nega, 2003).

The government of Ethiopia has tried to implement this technology-led extension programme particularly since the mid-1990s in a high-profile national program. But has this worked, and what the limitations of such a strategy? The national strategy chimes with a widely held view that poverty reduction in Ethiopia is impossible without significant growth in crop yields for major staples, and this requires improving farmers’ access to fertiliser, improved seeds, agricultural credit and other inputs. However, this view is not new. Indeed, it has dominated development thinking for the past four decades, and some developing countries have implemented it with some success, as part of a ‘green revolution’.

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Food Aid and Small-holder Agriculture in Ethiopia:
March 1, 2006 / Discussion Papers

Ethiopia has been structurally in food deficit since at least 19801. The contribution of agriculture to food security has declined as the growth in food production has failed to keep pace with population growth. The level of chronic food insecurity also increases as the distinction between transitory and chronic food insecurity has become increasingly blurred (Devereux, 2000). Ethiopia is the world’s most food aid dependent country.

Official statistics indicate that the country received 795 thousand metric tonnes of food aid annually between 1990 and 1999, which was about 10% of total domestic grain production. Food aid shipments increased to 997 thousand metric tonnes (equivalent to 11.5% of national production) between 2002 and 2032.


Intensification of Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia
March 1, 2006 / Discussion Papers

By Samuel Gebreselassie
March 2006

Ethiopia’s inability to feed its population and thus its continued dependence on foreign donations of food to sustain millions of its citizens is a dilemma that triggers a broad economic and sociological debate. The problem of Ethiopian agriculture cannot be primarily explained by natural endowments. By any measure, Ethiopia is well endowed at least in part with a fertile soil, abundant water resources and good climatic conditions until recently. What needs careful analysis is why Ethiopian farmers continue to practice essentially the same farming methods with very little technical or management improvement for so long.