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

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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 0 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 1 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 0 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 0 downloads

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