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

Targeting in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi, 2006/07 – 2011/12
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 61
by Andrew Dorward and Ephraim Chirwa
July 2013

Targeting, the process of directing subsidised inputs to particular areas and to households within those areas, plays a critical role in Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP). It involves the implementation of particular targeting systems which are intended to deliver particular targeting outcomes and patterns of subsidised input access across areas and households. These affect how inputs are used, and hence programme impacts. Targeting is controversial and political, as it determines whether or not, how and how much particular people and groups benefit from the programme. Targeting is also difficult – and the large scale of the programme across the country adds to the challenges and costs in implementing and supervising targeting.

This policy brief sets out targeting issues that emerge from FISP evaluations and suggests criteria and options for improving targeting processes, outcomes and impacts.

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Policy Brief 061 Pdf 420.07 KB 2 downloads

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Factors Influencing Access to Agricultural Input Subsidy Coupons in Malawi
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 60
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Mirriam Matita and Andrew Dorward
July 2013

One direct way in which agricultural input subsidies can provide social protection to the poor is by targeting the poor with very high subsidies to ensure that they are able to access inputs. Although the Malawi Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme (MAISP) generally targets resource-poor households, the targeting guidelines also accord special consideration to vulnerable groups such as child-headed, femaleheaded or orphan-headed households and households affected by HIV and AIDS. This Policy Brief considers how the Malawi Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme has contributed to providing social protection to these poor and vulnerable households.

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Policy Brief 060 Pdf 266.26 KB 0 downloads

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Thinking about ‘Graduation’ from the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 59
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Andrew R. Dorward and Mirriam Matita
July 2013

Considering the high incidence of poverty and food insecurity among Malawi’s rural population, agricultural input subsidies can be seen in part as a social protection instrument, improving accessibility and availability of food for vulnerable groups. However, questions about the sustainability of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) have been raised since its introduction in 2005/06. Some have argued that with limited public resources and other competing needs of development, subsidisation of farm inputs for a food staple may not be the best use of scarce resources, justifying calls for an exit strategy. Others, however, describe the subsidy as a good thing insofar as it addresses chronic food insecurity in Malawi and contributes to inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction.

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Policy Brief 059 Pdf 284.55 KB 1 downloads

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Private Sector Participation in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 58
by Ephraim W. Chirwa and Andrew R. Dorward
July 2013

The Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) in Malawi has been implemented since the 2005/06 season with the objective of improving household and national food production and incomes. It targets more than 1.5 million farm families who receive subsidised fertilisers, improved maize seeds and/or legume seeds. The implementation of the FISP has involved the interaction of the Government of Malawi, the private sector, development partners, civil society organisations (CSOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), traditional leaders and smallholder farmers, all playing different roles in the implementation and success of the programme. The private sector has played a critical role, but its involvement in the programme has changed over time. This has included the procurement of fertilisers, the transportation of fertilisers to various markets, the retail sale of fertilisers, and the production and sale of improved seeds.

Benefits from the inclusion of the private sector in the implementation of a nation-wide agricultural input subsidy programme include efficiency, reduced bureaucracy, strategic development of the private market system, cost savings on the part of the Government, shared investment finance and costs, and reduction in displacement of commercial sales of inputs.

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Policy Brief 058 Pdf 379.30 KB 1 downloads

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Fertiliser Use on Women’s Plots: An Intra-Household View of the Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Programme
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 57
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Peter M. Mvula, Andrew Dorward and Mirriam Matita

The Government of Malawi has, since the 2005/06 agricultural season, been implementing a Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) targeting resource-poor smallholder farmers. The input subsidy is targeted at households and implicitly assumes that a household is a unitary decision-making unit and subsidised inputs will be used equitably on plots controlled by various members of the household.

This research demonstrates that in a socio-cultural environment in which men tend to dominate intra-household decision-making processes over allocation of income and resources, these issues are important in understanding the effectiveness of input subsidies and how they can create more equal opportunities for female and male members of the household. This research investigated gender differences in the application of fertilisers in general and subsidised fertilisers in particular, on plots controlled by male and female household members.

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Policy Brief 057 Pdf 263.60 KB 0 downloads

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Large-scale Land Deals, Food Security and Local Livelihoods
August 7, 2013 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 10
by Kate Wellard-Dyer

Large-scale foreign land acquisitions – land grabs – are major and real concerns for African populations.   The consequences of land deals are highly significant for local populations and the environment. Some see economic opportunities for local communities through employment and income generated from leasing or selling land. Others see land alienation as a major threat to local livelihoods, food security and the environment. The question is whether ‘win-win’ models exist – benefitting local people as well as providing an economic return to investors.  This policy brief draws on latest research by Future Agricultures. It asks: What are the drivers behind large-scale land deals in Africa and who are the main players? What is the impact of land deals on livelihoods and food security of existing land users? What can governments do to protect smallholder livelihoods?

Young People and Agri-food: Aspirations, Opportunities and Challenges
August 7, 2013 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 09
by Kate Wellard-Dyer

African governments, international agencies and NGOs are calling for policies which pay more attention to young people and agriculture.  This policy brief draws on research findings by Future Agricultures and asks: What are the expectations and aspirations of young rural men and women? What are the constraints and opportunities facing young people who wish to engage in productive agriculture? How can policies better support young people to engage successfully in the agri-food sector?

Reframing the New Alliance Agenda: A Critical Assessment based on Insights from Tanzania
June 14, 2013 / Policy Briefs

Future Agricultures / PLAAS Policy Brief 56
by Emmanuel Sulle and Ruth Hall

A dedicated investment in smallholder farmers to enable them to improve their land use and productivity is critical to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth in African countries.  The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (‘New Alliance’) focuses on public-private partnership (PPPs) with local investors and multinational corporations (MNCs) to produce food. However, this is unlikely to solve chronic problems of hunger, malnutrition and poverty because of under-investment in smallholder agriculture, and the rolling back of state support following structural adjustment programmes from the 1980s onwards.

The initial signs of New Alliance implementation, instead of reversing this chronic under-investment in smallholder agriculture, suggest the adoption of corporate agriculture, either turning smallholder farmers into wage workers and hooking them into value chains in which they have to compete with MNCs, or expelling them to search for alternative livelihoods in the growing cities. Although tempered by promotion of ‘outgrower’ schemes, in practice this agenda promotes large-scale commercialisation. We argue that African countries engaging with the New Alliance should focus instead on securing citizens’ access to land, water and improved governance. African countries have a better chance of addressing the root causes behind rural poverty and low agricultural productivity by investing directly in smallholder farmers themselves.

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Policy Brief 056 Pdf 426.66 KB 0 downloads

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The Green Belt Initiative and Land Grabs in Malawi
November 18, 2012 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 55
by Blessings Chinsinga and Michael Chasukwa

There is often a mismatch between the apparent benevolent intents and the practical manifestations of the large scale land deals. The empirical realities of the large-scale land deals call for critical scrutiny and interrogation of the underlying interests of the stakeholders involved to assess the extent to which they genuinely prioritize win-win scenarios. As the experiences of the Green Belt Initiative (GBI) in Malawi demonstrated, the smallholder farmer is almost always the loser.

This raises doubt as to whether the international initiatives such the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of tenure of land and other natural resources; the World Bank’s principles for responsible agricultural investment; and the Africa Union’s (AU) framework and guidelines on land policy shall make any significant difference on the actual outcomes of the large-scale land deals across the continent.

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Policy Brief 055 Pdf 273.02 KB 0 downloads

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Food security in a transforming system of global environmental change (GEC)
November 2, 2012 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 54
by Laura Pereira

The world’s food system is undergoing an unprecedented transformation: not just from the significant impacts of global environmental change (GEC), but also from the rapid expansion of transnational agribusiness. The food system is now a globalised, interconnected socioecological system and the global South is increasingly being integrated into this new, interconnected, efficiency-driven model.

There are three key outcomes of a wellfunctioning food system: food security, social welfare and environmental welfare (see Figure 1) yet, our current system has so far failed to provide these for the planet’s poor. How, then, will the future food system respond to the challenge of providing food security whilst also adapting to issues of rapid environmental and sustainability issues – most notably climate change? Developing a system of adaptive governance to meet these challenges is clearly an important area for research, but it requires an understanding of the complexity and uncertainty inherent in such measures.

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Policy Brief 054 Pdf 524.94 KB 1 downloads

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