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 0 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 0 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 1 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 2 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 0 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 0 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 0 downloads

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