Policy Briefs

The Policy Brief series was launched by Future Agricultures in 2005 to provide a forum for the analysis of important agriculture policy issues by leading researchers. The series aims to identify key issues, apply the best and most up-to-date research to help understand these issues, and explore the implications of this research for the design and conduct of policy. We typically publish between 8 to 10 Policy Briefs each year.

A significant number of our policy briefs are also translated into French.

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Latest articles

High and volatile food prices: Supporting farmers and consumers
May 9, 2012 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 08
by Kate Wellard-Dyer

Food prices are critical for African populations and economies and at the top of the agenda for African policy makers. The CAADP Framework for African Food Security promotes action to address food security challenges faced by stakeholders continent-wide – inadequate food supply, widespread and persistent hunger and malnutrition, and inadequate management of food crises. Addressing the problems of high and volatile food prices requires a multi-pronged approach, including actions both to prevent and mitigate crises.  This policy brief draws on latest research by Future Agricultures and asks:

  • What are the main causes of high and volatile food prices?
  • What is the impact of food price spikes on rural households and economies?
  • What can policy-makers do to prevent and mitigate the effects of food prices rises?

Agricultural labour productivity and food prices: Fundamental development impacts and indicators
May 9, 2012 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 53
by Andrew Dorward

This policy brief reviews historical changes in staple food prices (in terms of international grain prices) and highlights increasing agricultural labour productivity and falling food prices as critical drivers of development, food security and poverty reduction. These drivers are, however, challenged by growing threats facing global and local agricultural and food systems. Simple indicators for agricultural labour productivity and food price changes relative to the real incomes of poor people are proposed to focus international and national attention and policy on these issues.

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Policy Brief 053v2 Pdf 727.69 KB 12 downloads

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The short and medium term impacts of rises in staple food prices
May 9, 2012 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 52
by Andrew Dorward

Recent years have seen increasing average food prices, severe food price shocks (in 2007/8 and 2010/11), and increasing concerns about the impacts of food prices shocks, high food prices and food price volatility on poor and food insecure people. However, while there is general agreement that food price volatility leads to inefficient resource allocations and adjustment costs, and that high prices are bad for the urban poor (with large staple food expenditures), there has been more debate on the impacts of high food prices on the rural poor.

This policy brief

  • draws on basic microeconomic theory on the different meanings and effects of changes in staple food prices to different consumers and producers.
  • reviews empirical evidence of the effects of the 2008 food price spike on different people.

Recent years have seen increasing average food prices, severe food price shocks (in 2007/8 and 2010/11), and increasing concerns about the impacts of food prices shocks, high food prices and food price volatility on poor and food insecure people. However, while there is general agreement that food price volatility leads to inefficient resource allocations and adjustment costs, and that high prices are bad for the urban poor (with large staple food expenditures), there has been more debate on the impacts of high food prices on the rural poor.
This policy brief

draws on basic microeconomic theory on the different meanings and effects of changes in staple food prices to different consumers and producers.
reviews empirical evidence of the effects of the 2008 food price spike on different people.

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Policy Brief 052v2 Pdf 456.04 KB 13 downloads

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Factors Influencing Smallholder Commercial Farming in Malawi: A Case of NASFAM Commercialisation
April 25, 2012 / Policy Briefs

Full title: Factors Influencing Smallholder Commercial Farming in Malawi: A Case of NASFAM Commercialisation Initiatives

Policy Brief 51
by Ephraim Chirwa and Miriam Matita

Most of smallholder farming in Malawi focuses on producing food staples such as maize and rice for own consumption. The dominance of subsistence farming with traditional farming systems in the smallholder sector is one of the concerns in achieving agricultural productivity. The smallholder agriculture sector in Malawi remains unprofitable and is characterised by low uptake of improved farm inputs, weak links to markets, high transport costs, few farmer organizations, poor quality control and lack of information on markets and prices.

There are several initiatives by state and non-state actors that aim at promoting intensification and commercialisation of smallholder farming. One of the organisations spearheading the commercialisation of smallholder farming is the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM), a farmer –based organisation.

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Policy Brief 051v2 Pdf 230.60 KB 52 downloads

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Small farm commercialisation in Africa: A guide to issues and policies
April 18, 2012 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 50
by Steve Wiggins

Small farmers in Africa have long been engaged with markets — for produce, inputs such as fertiliser, credit, labour, land and information. Opportunities to do so are increasing with urbanisation and better roads linking villages to cities, making questions that arise about smallholder commercialisation all the more important. Expectations about process and outcomes differ considerably.

What does the evidence show? How do small farms commercialise? What are the outcomes? Are the fears of undesirable outcomes justified? And what should policy-makers be doing to encourage better outcomes? This briefing reports the highlights of an extensive review of the literature on commercialisation of small farms in Africa.

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Policy Brief 050 Pdf 439.64 KB 15 downloads

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From technology transfer to innovation systems: sustaining a Green Revolution in Africa
April 13, 2012 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 07

by Kate Wellard-Dyer

Smallholder agriculture is the core contributor to agricultural production in most African countries and the main driver for food security, poverty reduction and growth. But productivity remains desperately low with limited use of improved inputs (except where boosted by subsidies) – compounded by volatility in climate and markets.

Science and technology is widely seen as essential in turning African agriculture round. The Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Pillar IV is leading moves to revitalise, expand and reform Africa’s agricultural research and development effort.  Investments are being made by national governments, donors and private funders in (mainly international) research institutions to develop improved seeds and soil fertility technologies for a Green Revolution in Africa. Public and, increasingly, private sector delivery systems are gearing up to deliver these technologies to farmers. Within integrated agricultural research for development (IAR4D), focus is moving beyond the farm-gate to credit, markets and value-addition. Farmers are being involved earlier in the development process – the effectiveness of agricultural technology generation and dissemination institutions seen as depending crucially on relevance and responsiveness to farmer needs.

Yet ‘market-led technology’ approaches – aimed mainly at high potential agricultural areas – face serious challenges in delivering a broaderbased inclusive agricultural revolution.

This policy brief draws on research findings by Future Agricultures and asks:

  • Are there options outside conventional institutional routes that bring alternative expertise – particularly farmers’ own innovation experience – into revitalised innovation systems that cut across public, private and farmer-led processes?
  • How can agricultural innovation systems be made to work for poor people in expanding market access and enabling rural innovation?
  • Are there alternative pathways for more sustainable and socially-just development, and what obstacles – political-economic as well as technocratic – need to be overcome to pursue these?

Pastoralism in the Horn of Africa: Diverse livelihood pathways
April 13, 2012 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 06

by Kate Wellard-Dyer

Pastoralists in the Horn of Africa have struggled for centuries with drought, conflict and famine. They are resourceful, innovative and entrepreneurial peoples, by necessity. While there are profound difficulties in creating secure livelihoods for all, there are also significant successes.

The African Union’s Policy Framework for Pastoralism in Africa recognises pastoralists’ contributions to national and regional economies – supplying huge numbers of livestock and livestock products. Pastoralists’ production systems are highly adaptive and constantly respond to market and climatic change. At the same time human development and food security indicators are amongst the lowest on the continent. The Framework is designed to secure and protect the lives, livelihoods and rights of pastoral peoples, and is a platform for mobilising and coordinating political commitment to pastoral development in Africa.

This policy brief, based on latest research by Future Agricultures Consortium, reviews understandings and misunderstandings about pastoral livelihoods – innovation and entrepreneurship, not just coping and adapting; and cooperation and networking across borders, not just conflict and violence. It highlights the multiple pathways for future development of pastoral areas and offers an alternative view of pastoralism and practical ways forward.

The Politics of Seed Relief in Zimbabwe
April 11, 2012 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 49
By Charity Mutonodzo-Davies and Douglas Magunda

Over much of the past decade, the Zimbabwean government and donor organisations have implemented agricultural input support programmes, comprised of private suppliers (seed houses and fertiliser manufacturers), wholesalers and rural agro-dealers, bypassing the previously vibrant market chain. This article argues that these ‘seed relief’ programmes contributed to the collapse of the input supply chain, and therefore hastening the decline of agricultural productivity in Zimbabwe today.

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Policy Brief 049 V2 Pdf 288.96 KB 8 downloads

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The Political Economy of Ethiopian Cereal Seed Systems
April 11, 2012 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 48
by Dawit Alemu

Full title: The Political Economy of Ethiopian Cereal Seed Systems: State Control, Market Liberalisation and Decentralisation

This FAC Policy Brief examines the political and economic processes governing Ethiopian cereal seed systems by analysing the overall policy context, including the main interests driving seed policy formulation and implementation, and the roles and interaction of the different public and private actors. It also investigates how these interests and interactions are related to the actual performance of the system on the ground.

By focusing on three key political economic drivers of change within the seed system – state control, market liberalisation and decentralisation – the article asks: How are seed-related policies and implementation guidelines created? How do ideas about what makes ‘good’ policy and implementation guidelines evolve and change over time? Whose voices and views are taken into account in the policy process? What are the key arguments for the choice of actions? What spaces exist for new ideas, actors and networks, and how can these be opened up? And finally, what urgent national/regional seed policy issues and processes need to be considered for creation of a vibrant seed system within the country?

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Policy Brief 048 V2 Pdf 281.00 KB 16 downloads

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From Farmer Participation to Pro-poor Seed Markets
April 11, 2012 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 47
by Kojo Amanor

Full title: From Farmer Participation to Pro-poor Seed Markets: The Political Economy of Commercial Cereal Seed Networks in Ghana

Since the 1980s public research systems in seed production in sub-Saharan Africa have increasingly come under pressure to privatise. In Ghana, however, privatisation has been complex and fragmented since farmers are largely dependent upon their own seeds and are reluctant to purchase improved seed. With few large investors willing to approach an industry that has not yet established itself, the development of seed investment is predicated on creating a social infrastructure for improved seeds; this will gradually build demand among farmers and integrate them into improved seed, input and food processing markets. This FAC Policy Brief employs a political economy analysis to examine dominant political interests in the seed industry.

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Policy Brief 047 Pdf 197.96 KB 11 downloads

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Seeds and Subsidies: The Political Economy of Input Support Programmes in Malawi
April 11, 2012 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 46
by Blessings Chinsinga

This FAC Policy Brief examines the political economy of input programmes and identifies maize and input subsidies as central to agricultural political debates. Subsidy programmes that are centred on the supply of seed and fertiliser to support maize production to boost national food security have created a strong actor network including key government players, major donor aid agencies and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs). In recent years, this has created a unique and highly contested political economy of seeds in Malawi. Notwithstanding the strong narratives about national food security or public food aid, the benefits of both national and donor-led subsidy interventions are unevenly distributed, most to the benefit of elites. Moreover, international commercial seed sector players, pushing their patented genetic material, have won out in agricultural policy over local producers and varieties, again to the profit of local elites.

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Policy Brief 046 Pdf 202.19 KB 17 downloads

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Can Agro-dealers deliver the Green Revolution in Kenya?
April 11, 2012 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 45
by Hannington Odame and Elijah Muange

In a bid to return the country to food self-sufficiency, the Government of Kenya has been spearheading strategies for a new ‘Green Revolution’ in the food producing sector, as spelt out in its Strategy for Revitalizing Agriculture (SRA), a ten-year action plan launched in 2004. The SRA is entrenched in Kenya’s Vision 2030, the country’s framework for long-term investment and development (Republic of Kenya 2007; 2004). Crucial to the SRA is the increased generation, promotion and use of modern farming inputs and technologies, particularly improved seed and fertiliser. Small-scale independent stockists or input distributors, commonly known as ‘agro-dealers’, are seen to have a crucial role to play in distributing these inputs in a liberalised economy. As key actors in the Green Revolution agenda, agro-dealers are thus at the centre of current policy debates about the future of Kenya’s seed system.

This FAC Policy Brief sheds light on the rise of agro-dealers in recent national policy debates as central figures in the delivery of agricultural innovation, improved food security and the potential spark in igniting a smallholder-led revolution. It asks: can agro-dealers really deliver the Green Revolution in Kenya? Drawing on key informant interviews and surveys of agrodealers in two districts, Machakos in Eastern Province and Uasin Gishu in Rift Valley Province, it assesses the different politics and interests at play and the implications these raise for future investments in both formal and informal seed systems and the promotion of agro-dealers as catalysts of change in the agricultural sector.

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Policy Brief 045 Pdf 618.46 KB 10 downloads

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The Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Africa’s Green Revolution
April 10, 2012 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 44
by John Thompson and Ian Scoones

Drawing on lessons from case studies from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Zimbabwe conducted by the Future Agricultures Consortium during 2009-11, this Policy Brief assesses the political economy of cereal seed system research and development programmes and processes across Sub-Saharan Africa.

By examining the contrasting politics and different configurations of interests affecting the way cereal seeds are produced and delivered in these countries, it identifies opportunities for reshaping the terms of the debate and opening up alternative pathways towards more sustainable and socially just seed systems.

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Policy Brief 044 Pdf 247.60 KB 9 downloads

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Local knowledge, agriculture and climate change
November 29, 2011 / Policy Briefs

A new policy brief explores what role local farmers’ knowledge can play in national climate change adaption policy, and how each can learn from the other?  As delegates meet at the 17th Conference of the Parties on climate change in Durban, the brief explores the opportunities and barriers to this process through examples from Kenya and Namibia.

In both countries, parts of the government are engaging well with local knowledge, but there is still resistance in other parts, where formal systems and official knowledge are more highly prized.

Looking at these issues in the context of longer-term changes in the climate, and the movement of large numbers of people into cities, raises more questions. Although recommending farming as a livelihood works in the short- to medium-term, in the long term it may be better to consider diversification into “climate insensitive” livelihoods. And although mass movements of people into cities may seem a promising response to rural decline, these people often face poverty and vulnerability to climate change in their new home.

Farmers’ Knowledge and Climate Change Adaptation: Insights from Policy Processes in Kenya & Namibia (pdf)

Climate change and agriculture: victim, villain or opportunity?
November 29, 2011 / Policy Briefs

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Agriculture and Climate Change in the UN Climate Change Negotiations

In a new policy brief for Future Agricultures Merylyn Hedger takes a critical look at the agricultural agenda in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), to unscramble the issues surrounding agriculture which have become conflated in these negotiations. She also assesses whether UNFCCC is a useful route to addressing these issues and what other courses should be explored.

The 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) kicked off in earnest this week in Durban, South Africa, with over 190 delegates converging to try and craft a new deal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to reduce global warming.

Download: Agriculture and Climate Change in the UN climate negotiations (pdf)

Agriculture and Climate Change in the UN Climate Change Negotiations

The 17th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, known as COP17, kicked off in earnest this week in Durban, South Africa with over 190 delegates converging to try and craft a new deal for cutting greenhouse gas emissions to reduce global warming.

Negotiations are expected to continue for several days to come and no doubt agriculture will be in this the COP17 agenda as it has been in the previous convention. Merlyn Hedger, author of Future Agricultures Consortium’s new policy brief takes a critical look at the agricultural agenda in the UNFFC with an aim to unscramble the issues surrounding agriculture which have become conflated in these negotiations. She also assesses whether UNFFC is a useful route to addressing these issues and what other courses should people be looking into.

Agriculture and Climate Change in the UN climate negotiations
November 28, 2011 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 43
by Merylyn Hedger

Agriculture is both victim and villain in respect of climate change. Victim because most estimates indicate that climate change is likely to reduce agricultural productivity, production stability and incomes in some areas that already have high levels of food insecurity. Villain because agriculture is a key source for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Yet agriculture may also be part of the climate change solution: there is a considerable, albeit uncertain, technical potential for carbon storage in soils, particularly in developing countries.

This briefing paper aims to

  • Unscramble the various issues around agriculture which have become conflated in the climate negotiations
  • Outline what is formally being sought in negotiation texts under the Climate Convention (UNFCCC) and assess whether this is a useful route, and what other courses might be possible.
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Policy Brief 043 Pdf 535.12 KB 16 downloads

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Farmers’ Knowledge and Climate Change Adaptation: Insights from Policy Processes in Kenya & Namibia
November 28, 2011 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 42
by Andrew Newsham, Lars Otto Naess and Paul Guthiga

One major policy challenge for the agricultural sector is to make sure that lessons from farmers’ knowledge and experience are informing emerging climate change policy processes. This briefing paper reports on lessons from recent studies in two areas: first on seasonal forecasting and indigenous knowledge in Kenya, and second, agro-ecological knowledge and science in Namibia.

Advocates of local knowledge playing a role in adaptation policy and practice need a clearer understanding of how policy processes really work, in order to be more effective in making it happen. Efforts to link local to national are subject to broader processes of global change. Two of these are particularly discussed: first, the prospect of accelerated and more dangerous climate impacts by the 2060s; and second, deagrarianisation (a long-term shift away from farming livelihoods in rural areas).

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Policy Brief 042 Pdf 671.75 KB 7 downloads

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Land Grabbing in Africa and the New Politics of Food
June 22, 2011 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 41

by Ruth Hall

‘Africa is for sale’ is how some characterise it: there is a ‘land grab’ underway. Others are more cautious, speaking of ‘large-scale land acquisitions’, while the World Bank notes euphemistically the ‘rising global interest in farmland’. Whatever the prevailing terminology and ideologies, there is now ample evidence that large swathes of African farmland are being allocated to investors, usually on long-term leases, at a rate not seen for decades—indeed, not since the colonial period. The fact that much of this land is being acquired to provide for the future food and fuel needs of foreign nations has, not surprisingly, led to allegations that a neo-colonial push by more wealthy and powerful nations is underway to annex the continent’s key natural resources.

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Policy Brief 041 Pdf 419.12 KB 13 downloads

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CAADP and Fisheries Policy in Africa: are we aiming for the right reform??
May 9, 2011 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 40
by Christophe Béné

There has been much talk in the last few years about how agriculture is key to both poverty reduction and economic growth. In Africa, the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) launched the Comprehensive Af rican Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) in 2003 with the objective to attract significant donor funding for a new push for agricultural development. Although fisheries are officially part of the CAADP, the sector has yet to demonstrate its capacities to contribute to the CAADP objectives. This brief reviews the main policy issues related to fisheries in Africa. It discusses in particular the current model (the so-called “wealth-based approach”) that is being proposed as the overall policy ‘blanket’ for the continent’s fisheries, and examines why this model may not be the most appropriate for African small-scale fisheries.

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Policy Brief 040 Pdf 381.65 KB 8 downloads

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Integrating Social Difference, Gender and Social Analysis into Agricultural Development?
May 9, 2011 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 39

There is a widespread perception that ongoing social, economic, political, and environmental change processes in sub- Saharan Africa are leading to increasing levels of disadvantage based on social difference. This perception reflects the apparent inability of some groups to engage with new institutions for accessing and managing natural resources; new value chain governance models; and new regulatory measures affecting market access. In many rural locations it is women, along with young and poor men who are pinpointed as being increasingly disadvantaged.

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Policy Brief 039 Pdf 383.92 KB 7 downloads

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Innovation works:pastoralists building secure livelihoods in the Horn of Africa
March 17, 2011 / Policy Briefs

Pastoralist areas of the Horn of Africa are experiencing rapid change. Markets are opening up, helping to improve livelihoods and generate substantial new wealth for local and national economies. Political and constitutional changes are creating opportunities for pastoralists to influence decision-making around the allocation of public resources as well as laws and practices affecting their rights. New technologies such as mobile phones as well as improvements in roads are opening up pastoral areas to greater movements of people, goods, and ideas. And new ways of delivering services to mobile and remote pastoralist populations have improved their access to healthcare, veterinary services and education.

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Policy Brief 038 Pdf 972.46 KB 18 downloads

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The Malawi Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme: Lessons from Research Findings, 2005 – 2008
October 5, 2010 / Policy Briefs

Ephraim W. Chirwa, Victor Mhoni, Richard Kachule, Blessings Chinsinga, Edson Musopole, Beatrice Makwenda, Connex Masankhidwe, Willie Kalumula and Chrispin Kankangadza
January 2010

Maize, the main staple crop remains the dominant crop among smallholder farmers in Malawi. Smallholder farmers devote almost 70 percent of their land to maize cultivation, and maize availability in the country defines the food security situation of the country. Smallholder agriculture in Malawi has been characterized by low productivity, low technology and labour intensive, with maize mainly produced for subsistence consumption. The low productivity in smallholder agriculture has been attributed to loss in soil fertility, low application of inorganic fertilizers and traditional low technology rain-fed farming systems.

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Policy Brief 034l Pdf 326.50 KB 12 downloads

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Future Farmers? Exploring Youth Aspirations for African Agriculture
August 5, 2010 / Policy Briefs

Demographic trends point to more young people in the African population than ever before – approximately 70 percent of Africa’s 1 billion people is under the age of 30. Across the continent many young people are reportedly choosing not to pursue livelihoods in agriculture, especially as farmers. If this is the case there are clear implications for the future of African agriculture, at a time of renewed government, donor and private sector investment in the sector given its links to economic growth, poverty reduction and food security.

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Policy Brief 037 Pdf 455.50 KB 12 downloads

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Awakening Africa’s Sleeping Giant? The Potentials and the Pitfalls
July 19, 2010 / Policy Briefs

In 2009 the World Bank published a report entitled Awakening Africa’s Sleeping Giant: Prospects for Commercial Agriculture in theGuinea Savannah Zone and Beyond. The report highlights the agricultural potential of Africa’s Guinea Savannah (henceforth GS) zone, which it describes as “one of the largest underused agricultural land reserves in the world” (p2). It argues that the time has come for this potential to be realized, noting the strengthening demand for agricultural commodities both in world
markets and within Africa, where population growth, rising incomes and urbanization are driving demand for staple foods as well as for
livestock and hor ticultural products. Macroeconomic and sectoral (taxation) policies are also increasingly favourable to agricultural
investment within Africa.

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Policy Brief 036 Pdf 381.03 KB 7 downloads

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Agricultural Services and Decentralisation in Kenya
July 19, 2010 / Policy Briefs

Colin Poulton and Gem Argwings-Kodhek
June 2010

Kenya will vote on a new constitution in August 2010. The document proposes greater decentralisation of government with elected governors heading 47 counties that will replace the current system of provinces and districts. This realignment of the institutional landscape presents a number of opportunities and challenges for agricultural service provision in the country. This brief draws on case studies in four districts of Kenya – Mwingi, Rachuonyo, Eldoret West and Nyeri South – that were conducted in 2007 and 2009 to explore the roles and performance of the Ministry of Agriculture and other rural development ministries in the country to provide context to discussions that need to be held in Kenya about the delivery of agricultural extension and other services in Kenya under the new constitutional order. The new constitution has the national ministry making policy, but crop and animal husbandry, fisheries, disease control and other services being undertaken at the county level.

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Policy Brief 035 Pdf 319.26 KB 11 downloads

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The limits of decentralised governance: the case of agriculture in Malawi
March 31, 2010 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 33

Decentralisation reforms and the new policy extension in Malawi held the promise of a stronger role for districts and lower levels in agricultural governance and increased plurality of agricultural service providers. Such potential is yet to be realised. There is an impasse with the decentralisation process and local government performance and interaction with other service providers face considerable institutional and operational challenges. Such challenges are compounded by the increasing politicisation of Malawian agriculture policy. In the absence of progress in decentralisation or in the development of a diversi ed and competitive supply of agricultural services, traditional leaders are, in some cases, emerging as progressive actors with capacity to mobilise people to agricultural activities in a developmental way.

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Policy Brief 033small Pdf 377.54 KB 11 downloads

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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}

 

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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Policy Brief 032 Pdf 457.56 KB 13 downloads

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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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Policy Brief 031 Pdf 443.85 KB 11 downloads

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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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Policy Brief 030 Pdf 337.93 KB 14 downloads

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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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Policy Brief 029 Pdf 321.59 KB 11 downloads

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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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Policy Brief 028 Pdf 497.19 KB 10 downloads

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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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Policy Brief 027 Pdf 321.50 KB 9 downloads

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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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Policy Brief 026 Pdf 660.98 KB 7 downloads

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The Global Fertiliser Crisis and Africa
June 1, 2008 / Policy Briefs

By the Future Agricultures Consortium
June 2008

Political and media attention has rightly been focused on recent increases in food and energy prices and their impacts on consumers and national economies, particularly poor consumers and poor economies but much greater increases in fertiliser prices have received much less attention in industrialised economies. The impacts of these fertiliser price increases on many countries in Africa, however, are potentially very damaging in their effects on food security, poverty, and long term economic growth. In the many African countries that are heavily dependent on agriculture the impacts of high fertiliser prices and scarcity will extend beyond farmers to affect consumers, export earnings from cash crops, exchange rates, and the whole economy.

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Policy Brief 025 Pdf 450.63 KB 11 downloads

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

Policy Brief 24
By Blessings Chinsinga
February 2008

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

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Policy Brief 024 Pdf 394.14 KB 9 downloads

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

Policy Brief 23
By Blessings Chinsinga and Lídia Cabral
February 2008

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

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Policy Brief 023 Pdf 335.96 KB 10 downloads

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

Policy Brief 22
By Blessings Chinsinga
January 2006

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

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Policy Brief 022 Pdf 471.03 KB 9 downloads

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

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

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

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Policy Brief 021 Pdf 379.50 KB 15 downloads

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

Policy Brief 20
By John Omiti
February 2008

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

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Policy Brief 020 Pdf 398.59 KB 9 downloads

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

Policy Brief 19
By Rosemary Atieno and Karuti Kanyinga
Febuary 2008

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

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Policy Brief 019 Pdf 545.81 KB 8 downloads

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

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

Agricultural input subsidies were a common element in agricultural development in poor rural economies in the 1960s and 70s, including successful green revolutions. Although subsidies have continued, to a greater and lesser extent, in some countries, conventional wisdom as well as dominant donor thinking in the 80s and 90s was that subsidies had been ineffective and inefficient policy instruments in Africa, which contributed to government over-spending and fiscal and macro-economic problems.

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Policy Brief 018 Pdf 403.37 KB 8 downloads

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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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Policy Brief 017 Pdf 444.27 KB 8 downloads

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

Policy Brief 16
By Lidia Cabral and Ian Scoones

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

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Policy Brief 016 Pdf 359.96 KB 7 downloads

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

Policy Brief 15
By Lidia Cabral and Steve Wiggins

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

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Policy Brief 015 Pdf 358.70 KB 6 downloads

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

Policy Brief 14
By Rosemary Atieno

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

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Policy Brief 014 Pdf 348.90 KB 8 downloads

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

Policy Brief
By Blessings Chinsinga

This case study argues that political context matters in agricultural development issues. No matter what the technical or economic arguments for or against particular policy positions are, it is ultimately the configuration of political interests that influence agricultural policy outcomes on the ground.

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Policy Brief 013 Pdf 346.27 KB 7 downloads

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

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

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

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Policy Brief 012 Pdf 320.79 KB 11 downloads

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

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

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

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Policy Brief 011 Pdf 474.59 KB 7 downloads

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

Policy Brief 10
By Lídia Cabral and Ian Scoones
September 2006

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

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Policy Brief 010 Pdf 405.61 KB 8 downloads

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