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

Commercialisations in Agriculture
September 24, 2007 / Research Papers

By Jennifer Leavy and Colin Poulton

Accelerated growth in agriculture is seen by many as critical if the MDGs are to be met in Africa. Although there are debates about the future viability of small farms (Hazell et al. 2007), the official policies of many national governments and international development agencies accord a central role to the intensification and commercialisation of smallholder agriculture as a means of achieving poverty reduction. According to this thinking, smallholder agriculture is uniquely positioned to deliver broad-based growth in rural areas (where the vast majority of the world?s poor still live). However, others fear that strategies for commercialising agriculture will not bring benefits to the majority of rural households, either directly or (in the view of some) at all. Instead, they fear that efforts to promote a more commercial agriculture will benefit primarily large-scale farms. At best, the top minority of smallholders will be able to benefit.

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

By Blessings Chinsinga
September 2007

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

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

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

By Andrew Dorward, Peter Hazell and Colin Poulton

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

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

By Blessings Chinsinga
September 2007

 

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

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

1) grasping the narratives that tell the policy stories;

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Andrew Dorward, Peter Hazell and Colin Poulton
September 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blessings Chinsinga
August 2007

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

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

Economic_Growth_in_KenyaBy John Omiti and Timothy Nyanamba
August 2007

Vulnerability and human suffering are major challenges facing large sections of Kenyan society who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Policy reforms have failed to adequately address social protection issues afflicting particularly the most vulnerable groups.

 

This paper discusses ways in which social protection policies can be used to address the key sources or aspects of this vulnerability, and to promote agricultural and economic growth. The paper reviews social protection instruments, maps out actors involved in the provision of social protection, assesses the progress in provision of social protection in Kenya and identifies issues in moving forward to improve social protection, particularly in the agriculture sector.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Amdissa Teshome

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