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.


Latest articles

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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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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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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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.


Policy Brief 036 Pdf 381.03 KB 0 downloads


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.


Policy Brief 035 Pdf 319.26 KB 0 downloads


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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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.



Policy Brief 032 Pdf 457.56 KB 4 downloads


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.



Policy Brief 031 Pdf 443.85 KB 1 downloads


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.



Policy Brief 030 Pdf 337.93 KB 1 downloads