Research Papers

The Research Paper series reports findings to the research community. It is intended to contribute new analysis to agricultural issues in Africa and FAC publishes five to ten Research papers annually.


Latest articles

Commercialisations in Agriculture
September 24, 2007 / Research Papers

By Jennifer Leavy and Colin Poulton

Accelerated growth in agriculture is seen by many as critical if the MDGs are to be met in Africa. Although there are debates about the future viability of small farms (Hazell et al. 2007), the official policies of many national governments and international development agencies accord a central role to the intensification and commercialisation of smallholder agriculture as a means of achieving poverty reduction. 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 still live). However, others fear that strategies for commercialising agriculture will not bring benefits to the majority of rural households, either directly or (in the view of some) at all. Instead, they fear that efforts to promote a more commercial agriculture will benefit primarily large-scale farms. At best, the top minority of smallholders will be able to benefit.

Resurrecting the Vestiges of a Developmental State in Malawi? Reflections and Lessons
August 22, 2007 / Research Papers

Blessings Chinsinga
August 2007

Malawi has experienced two distinct phases of development (although sub-phases can between be distinguished, especially in the second phase). The first phase spanned from the attainment of independence in July 1964 to the end of the 1970s, whilst the second phase began with the adoption of structural adjustment programmes (SAPs) in 1981 (cf. Chipeta, 1993; Chirwa, 1997; Harrigan, 2001; Chinsinga, 2002). The 1964–1979 period saw the country?s economy registering very high growth rates and enjoyed relatively favourable balance of payment positions. Almost every sector experienced tremendously rapid growth to the extent that the country was characterized at one point, alongside the Ivory Coast, as a star performer (cf. Archaya, 1978; World Bank, 1982). In stark contrast, the post-1979 phase witnessed almost every sector of the economy experiencing a stupendous decline, followed by persistently erratic recovery trends of boom-and-bust type patterns (cf. Kaluwa, et al., 1992; Chirwa, 1995; Chilowa, et al., 2000).

Reforming Agricultural Policy: Lessons from four countries SUMMARY
July 1, 2006 / Research Papers

{jathumbnail off}reforming-agricultureComparing reform of agricultural policy in Bangladesh, Chile, China and New Zealand, this paper derives lessons for countries contemplating reform. In all cases reforms to farm policy wereundertaken as part of overall reforms across the whole economy, started in response to a perceived national crisis and usually implemented by new governments with a mandate to make major changes. Political will is, not surprisingly, a necessary condition.

In designing reforms and their implementation, much depends on context, including external conditions such as world market prices. The scope for change, and certainly the sequence and pace of reform, may be as much a matter of administrative feasibility as choice. Where outcomes are uncertain and state capacity limited, gradual approaches to reform that allow for learning may be better than swift and comprehensive ‘big bang’ packages.

This working paper presents the first stage of are view of agricultural reform experiences within African countries, specifically Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi. It aims to draw out issues for would be reformers by examining the experience of four cases of agricultural reform, purposely selected as often being seen as successful. These are:

• Reform of agricultural input markets in Bangladesh in the early 1980s, followed by liberalisation of grain trading and the cancellation of several longstandingprogrammes of public distribution of grains during the late 1980s and early 1990s;

• The impact of economy-wide reforms andcounter-reform of land on Chilean agriculture from 1973 through to the 1980s;

• Introduction of the ‘household responsibility system’ of production and liberalisation of marketing in China starting around 1978;and,

• Removal of price and other support to New Zealand farming that began in 1984 andcontinued into the 1990s. This review seeks to answer the following questions:

• What were the conditions that created the impetus for agricultural reform?

• What factors determined the actual content of the reform packages?

• What challenges were faced in the implementation of the reform and what lessons, if any, can be learnt from these for future reform programmes?

• What opposition was there to the reforms and how was this overcome?

• What factors exerted the greatest influence on the outcomes of the reform?

The country cases Bangladesh undertook two waves of agriculturalre forms between the late 1970s and early 1990s. In the first, the markets for agricultural inputs. above all fertiliser and irrigation equipment were liberalised. This led to falling prices, greater availability, and increased use of these inputs. Tubewells and pumps, in particular, allowed a major expansion of winter (‘boro’) rice production that saw increases in domestic supply of rice outstrip population growth and thereby drove down the price of rice.

This in turn made it easier to implement the second round of reforms where the markets for food grains were liberalised and some large-scale programmes of food subsidies were ended. Bangladesh benefited from phased implementation of reforms that allowed for learning, monitoring and adjustment to developments in the markets.

Agricultural Policy in Kenya: Issues and Processes
March 20, 2006 / Research Papers

Agricultural_Policy_in_KenyaAgriculture remains the backbone of the Kenyan economy. It is the single mostimportant sector in the economy, contributing approximately 25% of the GDP, andemploying 75% of the national labour force (Republic of Kenya 2005). Over 80% of theKenyan population live in the rural areas and derive their livelihoods, directly orindirectly from agriculture.

Given its importance, the performance of the sector istherefore reflected in the performance of the whole economy. The development ofagriculture is also important for poverty reduction since most of the vulnerable groupslike pastoralists, the landless, and subsistence farmers, also depend on agriculture as theirmain source of livelihoods. Growth in the sector is therefore expected to have a greaterimpact on a larger section of the population than any other sector. The development of thesector is therefore important for the development of the economy as a whole.

The importance of the sector in the economy is reflected in the relationship between itsperformance and that of the key indicators like GDP and employment. Trends in thegrowth rates for agriculture, GDP and employment, show that the declining trendexperienced in the sector’s growth especially in the 1990s, is reflected in the declines inemployment and GDP as a whole.

Policies that affect the performance of the sector have important implications for the economy.Policies for agriculture consist of government decisions that influence the level and stability of input and output prices, public investments affecting agricultural production, costs and revenues and allocation of resources. These policies affect agriculture either directly or indirectly. Improved agricultural production has been seen as one of the overall objectives for poverty reduction in the country.

The objectives of agricultural sector strategy have been increasing agricultural growth,seen as important for increasing rural incomes and ensuring equitable distribution. Due to limited availability of high potential land, it has been envisaged that increasing agricultural production will have to come from intensification of production through increased use of improved inputs, diversification especially from low to high valuecrops, commercialisation of smallholder agriculture, and increased value addition through stronger linkages with other sectors.

In the following sections, we review some of the key policy issues and concerns with respect to the sector’s development.

Agriculture,Growth and Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia Policy Processes Around the New PRSP (PASDEP)
March 20, 2006 / Research Papers

By Amdissa Teshome
March 2006

“Agriculture is the mainstay of the Ethiopian Economy”. This statement has almost become a cliché for development professionals in Ethiopia. Those who went to school 50 years ago, read it; and later on wrote about it. So has the present generation. The Report on the Ethiopian Economy, Volume IV (EEA/EEPRI, 2004/05:10) stated, for example: “…agriculture is the mainstay of the Ethiopian economy and the most volatile sector…. mainly due to its dependence on rain and the seasonal shocks that are frequently observed”. As things stand, our children and grandchildren will be repeating this refrain for generations to come. Yet, the sector has been unable to realise its potential and contribute significantly to economic development. How can we change this?

In the Ethiopian context, agriculture is proving to be the most complex sector to understand. On the one hand, it contributes the largest share to GDP, export trade and earnings, and employs 84% (PASDEP, 2006) of the population. On the other hand, despite such socio-economic importance, the performance of the sector is very low due to many natural and manmade factors. As a result, Ethiopia is characterised by large food self-sufficiency gap at national level and food insecurity at household level (EEA/EEPRI, 2004/05:145).

Whereas in the Northern highlands, farmers struggle to make ends meet on completely degraded land, in the South and Southwestern part of the country, people live in extreme poverty in the midst of plenty – fertile land and relatively preserved environment. To complicate matters further, the country’s future is pinned on agriculture as demonstrated in a statement by the Prime Minister of Ethiopia in 2000.

The agriculture sector remains our Achilles heel and source of vulnerability …. Nonetheless, we remain convinced that agricultural based development remains the only source of hope for Ethiopia [emphasis added] (quoted in Devereux et.al. 2005: 121) ].

This complex nature and such high profile statements about the sector has led some commentators to believe that Ethiopia is unusual in emphasising agriculture over a long period of time. Carswell (2002) and Keeley and Scoones (2003) review four decades of intensive agricultural research and extension and policy debate, which brought about little change, primarily because the research focused on a “narrow range of technical options” that failed to appreciate the wider livelihood contexts within a given region let alone the entire country.

Promoting Agriculture for Social Protection or Social Protection for Agriculture
March 1, 2006 / Research Papers

By Andrew Dorward, Rachel Sabates Wheeler, Ian MacAuslan, Chris Penrose Buckley, Jonathan Kydd, and Ephraim Chirwa
March 2006

There is widespread concern at continuing poverty and food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa and the poor record of agriculture in promoting broad based economic growth. African agriculture has performed poorly over the last forty years or so, with very low or negative per capita in much of this period, and much of the growth it has achieved has been from unsustainable land extensification rather than yield intensification (Kydd et al, 2004).

Future Scenarios for Agriculture in Malawi
March 1, 2006 / Research Papers

Ephraim W. Chirwa, Jonathan Kydd and Andrew Dorward
March 2006

Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world with per capita gross domestic product of $190, 30 percent of under-five children being malnourished and the infant mortality rate of 229 per 1,000 live births and a life expectancy at birth of 42 years (World Bank, 2001). Data from a recent household survey shows that about 52.4 percent of the population lived below the poverty line, with 22.4 percent barely surviving in 2004 (NSO, 2005). There are gender differences in food insecurity with 62.9 percent of female-headed households and 54.6 percent of male-headed households reporting inadequate food consumption.

Agriculture, Growth and Poverty Reduction in Ethiopia: Policy Processes Around the New PRSP (PASDEP)
March 1, 2006 / Research Papers

Amdissa Teshome
March 2006

“Agriculture is the mainstay of the Ethiopian Economy”. This statement has almost become a cliché for development professionals in Ethiopia. Those who went to school 50 years ago, read it; and later on wrote about it. So has the present generation. The Report on the Ethiopian Economy, Volume IV (EEA/EEPRI, 2004/05:10) stated, for example: “…agriculture is the mainstay of the Ethiopian economy and the most volatile sector…. mainly due to its dependence on rain and the seasonal shocks that are frequently observed”. As things stand, our children and grandchildren will be repeating this refrain for generations to come. Yet, the sector has been unable to realise its potential and contribute significantly to economic development. How can we change this?