FAC Working Paper 43
by Colin Poulton
Theories of policy neglect of, or discrimination against, agriculture in Africa include urban bias (Lipton 1977; Bates 1981) and the narrow self-interest of autonomous elites (van de Walle 2001). Whilst structural adjustment removed much of the previous tax burden on African agriculture (Anderson and Masters 2009), the sector also saw declining investment from international development partners and through national budgets (Fan et al. 2009). Whilst there has been some recovery in public investment in agriculture over the past decade, signalled by the 2003 Maputo Declaration (Assembly of the African Union 2003), investment in the infrastructural and institutional public goods needed to support smallholder-led agricultural growth remains disappointing. As a result, the contribution of the agricultural sector to growth and poverty reduction objectives in Africa is widely believed to have been below potential.
In theory, democratisation, which has proceeded unevenly across Africa during the past two decades, should encourage pro-poor agricultural policy, as the majority of voters in many countries remain rural and poor. This paper draws on case studies of recent policy change (attempted and actual) in eight African countries, plus an analysis of the political systems in these countries, to explore the evolving role of competitive electoral politics in agricultural policy making. An important observation is that politicians are as likely to rely on ethnic allegiances and forms of social or political control to secure votes as they are to engage in policy competition. Moreover, the political incentives facing senior policy makers in the agricultural and rural development sphere may be inimical to the development of strong institutions to promote smallholder agricultural growth. Instead the paper finds that it is exogenous factors – macroeconomic dependence on agriculture and, most strikingly, sustained threats to regime survival – that create positive incentives for agricultural investment, even where social or political control is relied on to secure votes. The implications for participants in agricultural policy processes are briefly explored.
FAC Working Paper 42
by Kassahun Berhanu
The central argument in this paper is that, for the past two decades, state-led agricultural extension in Ethiopia, implemented by excluding other players in general and non-state actors in particular, has facilitated uncontested control of the public space by the incumbent Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). In addition to its presumed economic ramifications, the ongoing agricultural extension scheme that is a major component of transforming smallholder agriculture is driven by political imperatives aimed at effectively controlling the bulk of the Ethiopian electorate whose votes in periodic elections are crucial to the regime’s perpetuation in power.
FAC Working Paper 40
by Brian Cooksey
The Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa (PEAPA) Programme examines the impact of political competition, patronage, and foreign aid on agricultural policy outcomes across a sample of eight African countries. This report examines the effects of these factors on agricultural policy formulation and implementation in Tanzania through the lens of two initiatives, the Agricultural Sector Development Programme (ASDP) and the National Agricultural Input Voucher Scheme (NAIVS). The report asks whether competitive politics has improved the policy regime for rural voters as political parties compete for their support and the ruling elite responds to increasing electoral pressures to deliver concrete benefits. The broad conclusion is that both vote-seeking and patronage incentivise agricultural policy but that the benefits to voters in terms of private and public goods delivered as a result are limited by the same patronage practiced from national to local levels. On balance, donor aid supports essentially statist policies which serve to marginalise the private sector as the ‘engine of growth.’
Full title: The Political Economy of Agricultural Policy Processes in Malawi: A Case Study of the Fertilizer Subsidy Programme
FAC Working Paper 39
by Blessings Chinsinga
This paper examines the political economy of the agricultural policy processes in Malawi through the lenses of the fertilizer subsidy programme that has raised the profile of the country on the international stage since 2006. Malawi is a regular feature in the international agricultural policy debates as a model for the rest of Africa to emulate in order to achieve a uniquely African Green Revolution (Dugger, 2007; Perkins, 2009; AGRA, 2009). Through its subsidy programme, and against fierce resistance by donors as well as some local fiscal conservatives, the argument is that Malawi has pioneered the implementation of smart subsidy that has transformed the country from a perpetual food beggar for close to two successive decades to a self reliant nation.
Full title: From Subsistence to Smallholder Commercial Farming in Malawi: A Case of NASFAM Commercialisation Initiatives
FAC Working Paper 37
Ephraim W. Chirwa and Mirriam Matita
This paper investigates the relationship between food security and commercialisation using data from a household survey in National Smallholder Farmer Association of Malawi (NASFAM) operated areas. NASFAM promotes commercialisation of agriculture by introducing the principle of farming as a business among its members who are largely smallholder subsistence farmers.
The study finds that households with plenty of family labour are therefore likely to participate in NASFAM commercialisation initiatives. We also find a positive relationship between participation and value of durable assets, suggesting that wealth is an important determinant in the decision to participate in commercialisation. Household food security also increases the probability of participation, suggesting that when food markets are unstable, farmers that are not food secure may be constrained in their attempt to commercialize their farming systems. Furthermore, we find that the degree of commercialisation is negatively associated with age and household size but positively associated with food security, access to fertilizers, NASFAM business orientation and market access benefits.
FAC Working Paper 38
by David Booth and Frederick Golooba-Mutebi
Agricultural development policies in sub-Saharan Africa continue to be weak, and the reasons are to be found in the incentives transmitted to policy makers by countries’ domestic political systems. The enfranchisement of rural voters within multi-party political systems does not seem to have altered the fundamental dynamics, raising the question whether – in Africa as in Asia – successful agricultural transformation will happen first in countries whose rulers are driven by concerns to avert rural-based political threats of a more fundamental sort.
This paper explores this question with reference to Rwanda. It argues that the political incentives are indeed different from those in comparable African countries, but that this did not immediately lead to the adoption of an appropriate agricultural strategy. Today, thanks to a major shock and some serious rethinking, policy has turned a corner and the results are promising. What this experience has revealed is that the political economy of agricultural policy in Rwanda is distinguished by a capacity for learning from errors as well as a seriousness about implementation that are not widely observed elsewhere in the region.
Working Paper 36
by Dawit Alemu
At the advent of Ethiopia’s new economic development plan, the Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) 2010 – 2015, the Farmer-Based Seed Multiplication (FBSM) programme has increased hopes in the strengthening of the country’s national seed system. Although FBSM engages in various strategies and numerous actors across Ethiopia (Dawit and Spielman 2006), the primary function of FBSM involves the organisation of farmer groups at local levels throughout Ethiopia to produce seed that can either be conditioned (cleaned and bagged) or left in raw form, and provided both for sale to the formal sector or for local exchange. The overall goal of FBSM is contributing to the target of doubling agricultural production through improving access to and use of quality seeds of improved crop varieties along with sustaining the availability of germplasm of local varieties.
The principal advantages of FBSM are identified as follows: (i) improved seed production of locally demanded varieties; (ii) production of crop seeds for which there are less commercial interest; (iii) production and marketing of seed within communities for the purpose of reducing seed cost; and (iv) the possibility of serving as seed demonstration sites to encourage the adoption of alternative crop varieties. Although these advantages are appealing, the current implementation of FBSM demands considerable supervision from extension personnel, suffers from low quality seed recovery rates from participating farmers, places local seed supply under exactly the same climatic risks as local grain production, and its financial sustainability is unproven. This study examines FBSM efforts across Ethiopia and critically analyses the roles of its actors. The narratives, priorities, and agenda approaches of the actors promoting FBSM are documented through a series of case studies, all of which reflect a diversified demand for seed that is based on differing agro-ecological and socio-economic contexts and different sets of actor-networks. The study examines the operation of FBSM initiatives, exploring who is involved and who benefits from the programme. Links to the informal (illegal) private sector and the commercial sector are investigated, including FBSM associations with national and regional seed enterprises. The limits of FBSM initiatives are also documented.
Full title: Initial Conditions and Changes in Commercial Fertilizers under the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi: Implications for Graduation
Working Paper 30
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Andrew Dorward and Mirriam Matita
The government of Malawi has been implementing agricultural input subsidies since 2005/06 as an intervention aimed at improving food security among resource poor smallholder farmers. Although the issue of graduation is not articulated in the design of the programme, this study investigates the determinants of changes in the demand for commercial fertilizers in the presence of the subsidy programme. The increase in purchase of commercial fertilizers by subsidized households may indicate prospects of graduation from the subsidy programme in future. Using panel data between the 2004/05 and 2008/09 seasons, we find that 6 percent of households that did not purchase commercial fertilizer in 2004/05 could afford to purchase fertilizers commercially in subsidy years. Relative to those that never purchase fertilizers, these households tend to have higher per capita expenditure and higher values of durable assets. The econometric results show that initial conditions matter, with initial household size, per capita expenditure, agricultural output, and existence of business enterprise all playing a positive role in the changes in demand for commercial fertilizer. We also find that commercial fertilizers decreases with initial commercial fertilizers, land holdings and existence of ADMARC. The results suggest that the poor may have low prospects of graduation and less involvement of ADMARC and greater participation of the private sector can help in improving the ‘potential graduation conditions’.
Working Paper 29
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Andrew Dorward and Mirriam Matita
The government of Malawi has been implementing a large-scale Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) since 2005/06 as an intervention aimed at improving food security by addressing resource poor smallholder farmers’ affordability constraints in purchasing inorganic fertilizers. However, in the design of the programme, there is lack of articulation on the graduation of some farmers from the subsidy over time. This paper considers ways in which the concept of graduation may be usefully applied to the FISP and sets out a broad conceptualisation of graduation for potential application in programme design and implementation.
Working Paper 31
by Blessings Chinsinga
This paper examines the micro-politics of Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) and the roles of agro-dealers as potential anchors or drivers of a ‘uniquely African Green Revolution’. The drive toward the development of a viable network of agro-dealers is a direct consequence of the failure of the liberalization of the agricultural sector to trigger a vibrant private sector-led market. The agro-dealer initiative was introduced to address the question of missing markets for the rural farmer and deal once and for all with the question of pervasive food insecurity in Malawi.
While agro-dealership has tremendous potential to facilitate private sector led agricultural growth and development, the implementation of FISP has substantially altered the operative context for agrodealers. FISP has thrown up considerable challenges that require urgent redress if the agricultural sector is to serve as an engine of sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. The major finding of this study is that instead of functioning as a ‘smart’ subsidy, with huge potential for kick-starting the development of viable private sector-led agricultural growth, FISP has degenerated into an instrument of patronage at various levels. It has been captured by a network of elites who have appropriated it as a cash cow for rapid wealth accumulation rather than as a medium for broadening farmers’ access to productivity-enhancing inputs and technologies. The elite capture of FISP is primarily due to the institutional arrangements that mean that agro-dealers can only participate in FISP if and only if they have contracts with seed companies.
These challenges can be dealt with by the design and enforcement of a robust policy and institutional framework for agro-dealership. Most of the challenges revealed in this study are linked to the absence or weak enforcement of policy and regulatory frameworks for agro-dealers specifically, and the seed industry in general. There is therefore urgent need to develop and implement a policy and institutional framework for the agrodealership that outlines legitimate practices and expectations. Such efforts, however, are likely to face resistance as a consequence of the expansive rentseeking opportunities associated with FISP.