Full title: Repeated Access and Impacts of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi: Any Prospects of Graduation?
Future Agricultures Working Paper 65
Ephraim Chirwa, Mirriam Matita, Peter Mvula and Andrew Dorward
This paper analyses the impacts of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) using a balanced four-year panel of 461 households from 2004/5, 2006/7, 2008/9 and 2010/11 agricultural seasons. We find evidence of economy wide and input market effects of the subsidy programme. The economy-wide effects of the subsidy programme are strong particularly due to lower maize prices and increased ganyu wage rates. The economy-wide effects of the subsidy which arise from higher ganyu wage rates, reduced time spent on ganyu, availability of maize at local level and lower prices of maize have enabled poor households to access maize when they run out of their own production.
With respect to input market effects, with 2010/11 conditions and quantities of subsidised fertiliser, a 1 percent increase in subsidised fertilisers reduces commercial demand by 0.15 – 0.21 percent. However, using various welfare indicators, we find mixed results on the direct beneficiary household effects of the subsidy programme from panel data analysis and there is no overwhelming evidence on the relationship between repeated access and impacts of the subsidy. The direct beneficiary impacts on food consumption, self-assessed poverty and overall welfare are weak and mixed while there is some statistically significant evidence of positive impacts on primary school enrolment, under-5 illness and shocks. Nonetheless, the impact analysis highlights the challenges of targeting and sharing of subsidy among households, which may have implications on the direct beneficiary impacts and prospects to sustainably graduate from the programme.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 64
Ephraim Chirwa and Andrew Dorward
The involvement of the private sector in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) has changed over the lifetime of the programme with increasing participation in fertilizer procurement, inclusion and exclusion in fertiliser retail sales, increased participation in seed sales and increased participation in the transportation of fertilisers to various outlets in Malawi. This paper documents changes in private sector involvement in various aspects of the programme since 2005/06 and identifies benefits and challenges of participation of the private sector in the implementation of the programme.
The paper reviews the experience of private sector participation using data from the Logistics Unit and household and community surveys conducted in the 2006/07, 2008/09 and 2010/11 agricultural seasons. The analysis shows that commercial sales of fertilisers, although lower than the pre-subsidy levels, have been increasing suggesting that the programme has in the medium term stimulated demand for fertilisers in Malawi. This has occurred at a time when the private sector has increasingly participated in the procurement of subsidy fertiliser but has been excluded from retailing of subsidy fertilisers. The seed component of the subsidy programme, which has always involved the private sector, has attracted additional seed growers and expanded the number of varieties for maize seeds and legumes.
Full title: Graduation of Households from Social Protection Programmes in Ethiopia: Implications of Market Conditions and Value Chains on Graduation
Future Agricultures Working Paper 63
The purpose of this research is to analyse how market conditions and value chain development of Food Security Programme (FSP) promoted products affect livelihood performance and possibility of graduating (as enabler and constrainer) from social support programmes in Ethiopia. The study is conducted in contrasting socioeconomic and livelihood settings of Oromia and Tigray regions. This will help to investigate how these two factors affect the resilience of households to various shocks, and their ability to live productive lives in a sustained manner.
This paper was produced under the Future Agricultures Early Career Fellowship Programme
Future Agricultures Working Paper 62
Laura Silici and Anna Locke
Private equity (PE) and venture capital are forms of investment that bring together specialised fund managers and investors to provide equity investments into private (i.e. non-publicly listed) companies. Compared to other emerging markets, the PE industry in Africa is still at an early stage of development but several circumstances suggest that its growth is proceeding at a sustained pace.
The agribusiness sector in Africa has become an increasingly important destination for investments, and investment in this sector is projected to grow further in future. PE may represent an additional, important source of capital for agriculture. However, due to lack of publicly available data, very little is known about PE deals concluded in Africa, where they stand within the panorama of agribusiness investments and the impact they have on local economies.
This study seeks to shed some light on the volume and the characteristics of PE investments in agribusiness in Africa, with the objective of assessing whether, and how, these could contribute to developing the sector.
This paper was produced under the Future Agricultures Early Career Fellowship Programme
Full title: Dynamics of Maize Seed Production Systems in the Brong Ahafo Region of Ghana: Agricultural Modernisation, Farmer Adaptive Experimentation and Domestic Food Markets
Future Agricultures Working Paper 61
By Kojo Sebastian Amanor, June 2013
This Working Paper examines the dynamics of maize production in distinct environments and localities in Brong Ahafo Region, Ghana, and the various factors that have influenced patterns of agricultural adaptation, innovation and transformation. Specifically, it analyses the influences of neoliberal policies on the institutional framework of maize seed policy, on the technical recommendations of state institutions and on farmer production systems.
Drawing on detailed interviews with market traders and small-scale producers, it also contrasts the priorities of farmers with the recommendations of agricultural services and the extent to which research recommendations reflect or fail to reflect the actual developments in maize production systems. Finally, it explores the implications of policy support for the commercialisation of seeds for the wider seed system, including interactions between the formal, informal and market sectors.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 60
By Kassahun Berhanu, May 2013
This study examines the motives that underlie the drives of the Ethiopian government in embracing the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) as a national plan of action aimed at effecting agricultural transformation. This is despite the fact that Ethiopia had already surpassed the targets set by CAADP for furthering agricultural-led economic growth. The central argument advanced in this study is that Government of Ethiopia (GOE)’s adopting of CAADP is not the outcome of any shift in the already existing domestic political incentives. It is rather prompted by the EPRDF government’s recognition of the limitations of smallholder agricultural growth on one hand and the quest to offset the negative effects of its soured relations with donors in the aftermath of the May 2005 Elections on the other.
Full title: Governing REDD+: global framings versus practical evidence from the Kasigau Corridor REDD+ Project, Kenya
STEPS Centre Working Paper 55
by Joanes Atela
This paper explores the governance and feasibility of globally-linked REDD+ projects in local African settings, focusing on the Kasigau project in Kenya, Africa’s first REDD+ project accredited under internationally accepted standards. The project is a commercial venture and during the last five years it has unfolded in a relatively vulnerable Kenyan setting. A policy process analysis, interactive fieldwork and document review has explored its interrelationship with local livelihood assets and state institutional capabilities.
The paper reveals that while REDD+ institutions are globally standardised through negotiations interlocked with political and development interests, projects are faced with state and local resource histories and perceptions, and in responding to such settings, these projects become highly contextual. Locally, the Kasigau project links carbon benefits to specific and significant local vulnerabilities such as low ‘value’ dryland, water scarcity and illiteracy. This has yielded an apparently uncontested acceptance and favourable perception of the project among the Kasigau people, appearing to reverse long histories of exclusion from their resources by centralised state-based resource management regimes. Yet the negative perception of state institutions that the Kasigau people have built up over time raises questions as to whether the state can ably oversee a successful REDD+ process, as is assumed by the international community. If resource management is not factually decentralised in particular countries, greater capture of local resource rights in REDD+ could result from state regimes than from private-commercial regimes. As such, international gains in safeguarding local communities in REDD+ could be seriously compromised. Kenya recently initiated land reforms as part of resource decentralisation, but the resulting regimes remain fuzzy, subordinate to powerful centralised interests, focused on individual title, and inadequately adapted to particular local contexts. Such reforms potentially re-shuffle the local engagement of the Kasigau project which draws its apparent success partly from a communalised land tenure system.
This paper concludes that communal systems, if well-defined, may provide a better basis for the governance of REDD+ projects, enabling inclusivity, collective action and societal benefits. If projects can genuinely enable local people to manage and benefit from their forest resources, REDD+ promises to be a multi-governance programme that bridges the gap between global and local institutions and interests in the sustainable use of forests.
Colin Poulton and Karuti Kanyinga
Working Paper 59
In March 2004 the Kenyan government set out its radical Strategy for Revitalising Agriculture (SRA). Almost a decade on, remarkably little progress has been made on its priority areas. Beyond bureaucratic resistance to economic reform, we explain the political roots of inertia in the SRA case, encompassing both the political logic of maintaining commodity chain-based state organisations and the impossibility of achieving the necessary collective action for radical reform within a dysfunctional coalition government. Continuation of the historic approach to agricultural development in Kenya is good for regional elites but fails to deliver critical public goods for poorer smallholder producers. We, therefore, consider what political changes might be needed before more radical reforms to Kenyan agricultural policy can be implemented.
John Baptist D. Jatoe, Damien G. Lankoandé and James Sumberg
This paper tests the ‘systems of innovation’ hypothesis for a selection of crops in Ghana and Burkina Faso that have shown significant growth in production over an approximately 20-year period. The question is whether such growth can only occur if supported by a system of innovation. Using two indicators (a common understanding on objectives and priorities, and a high level of interactivity) we find little evidence for the existence of anything that might be considered a high functioning system of innovation.
This paper begins highlights some key features that shape agrarian labour relations in Zimbabwe, illustrated through the setting of Goromonzi district. The new agrarian structure that forms the basis of the reconfigured agricultural production systems and labour relations is then analysed. This allows for the examination of the labour mobilisation patterns among the different classes of producers resulting from agrarian restructuring. The assessment of the material conditions that farm labourers derive from selling labour in various ways and their responses to the challenges they face precede the conclusions.
The new agrarian labour relations are explored using empirical research in Goromonzi district. Research undertaken by the African Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS) since 2002, including a baseline survey in 2006 of 695 landholders and 173 farm workers in Goromonzi is used to illustrate the outcomes prior to economic stabilisation in 2009.iii The analysis draws from the results of the survey reported in Moyo et al. (2009) and the data referenced as AIAS (2007). Qualitative surveys in Goromonzi in 2012 are used to trace the dynamic changes to agrarian labour relations as further land redistribution occurred and the macro-economic context and agrarian policies shifted. Data was collected through interviews and observations from farm labourers, landholders, farm compounds, traditional authorities and state officials.
Full title: Making Sense of Gender, Climate Change and Agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa: Creating Gender-Responsive Climate Adaptation Policy
Christine Okali and Lars Otto Naess
Attention to gender and climate change has increased steadily over the last decade. Much of the emerging policy-focused literature resembles to a considerable degree the gender and environment literature from the 1990s, with the nature of women’s work being used to justify placing women at the centre of climate change policy. However, in contrast with the portrayal of women in earlier literature as knowledgeable guardians of the environment, the women at the centre of gender and climate change policy are typically portrayed as vulnerable, weak, poor, and socially isolated. Arguably, this is a reflection of the politics of gender rather than the reality of the men and women who regularly experience and deal with changes of various kinds.
We argue for a more realistic and nuanced framing of gender that is built on an acknowledgement of social complexity, and an understanding of social, including gender relations, in specific local settings. Such a framing would provide a more valuable starting point for understanding the way in which both women and men, together and separately in their different, and changing roles, shape the outcomes of external interventions. This shift does not mean that targeting vulnerable women to meet short term needs is not valuable. Rather, the intention is principally, to minimise the risks of policy failure resulting from the adoption of often erroneous but popular assumptions about the different roles that women and men play, and must continue to play, to achieve food security in the face of climate change.
FAC Working Paper 55
There is uncertainty and no small controversy surrounding the potential impacts of commercial agricultural developments that are being proposed for sub-Saharan Africa by domestic governments and foreign investors. Much of the debate concerns how Africa’s rural poor could be affected. One response is to look back and review what the outcomes have been from earlier such developments. This should include consideration of the institutional setting to help us understand how institutions influence the character and outcome of commercial agricultural schemes.
This working paper assesses the historical experience of three farming models that have figured in recent investments in sub-Saharan Africa: plantations, contract farming and commercial farming areas. Based on a literature review, the paper concentrates on the involvement of, and effects on, rural societies in and around the area where the schemes were located. It looks mainly at sub-Saharan Africa but also considers case studies from Latin America and Asia.
This paper was produced as part of the Land and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa (LACA) project.
FAC Working Paper 54
Kojo Sebastian Amanor
This paper examines how liberal economic reforms that permeated and transformed economies during the 1980s and 1990s, both in the emerging BRICS powers themselves as well as in Africa, mediate and influence the relationships between emergent powers and African nations. It investigates the impact of South-South relations on the nature of development and technical cooperation, aid and investment, as well as in the configuration of relations between states, farmers and the private sector. It then examines the extent to which the experiences of China and Brazil in developing their agriculture result in qualitatively new paradigms for agricultural development which create opportunities for a redefinition of the development of policy and practice.
Alternatively, it looks at how South-South development cooperation may merely reinforce the drive to capital accumulation unleashed by global economic liberalisation, and reflect strategies by emergent powers to acquire new markets for agricultural technology, inputs, services and new sources of raw materials. Finally, the paper questions the extent to which alternative paradigms can be created within the institutional framework created by neoliberal reform.
FAC Working Paper 53
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Current debate is still largely centred on China’s engagement with African agriculture as either a threat or an opportunity. Such debate will not be resolved without a broader body of empirical evidence on the nature and impacts of the diversity of Chinese agriculture engagements in specific African contexts. This paper explores Chinese narratives on: China’s own agriculture and development success; African agriculture challenges and opportunities; and the nature of China-Africa cooperation, to ask how to best engage with China-African agriculture cooperation to improve the outcomes for African agriculture.
The paper first reviews current literature on China-Africa cooperation for agriculture development and identifies gaps that this paper attempts to fill and methods used in this research. Then a very brief overview is given of the institutional arrangements for China-Africa agriculture cooperation, presenting available data on the nature and scale of these engagements. The following sections present narratives from policy papers, media, statements by officials, literature, and informant interviews on this cooperation towards an exploration of the underlying patterns, justifications, relationships and styles of Chinese agriculture engagements in Africa. In the latter section, challenges to the dominant discourse and potential alternative models are explored. Finally, the conclusion brings forward preliminary assessments of these narratives and suggestions for further research.
FAC Working Paper 51
Lídia Cabral and Alex Shankland
This paper summarises the findings of a scoping study on Brazilian development cooperation in agriculture in Africa. The study comprised, in the first instance, a review of the relevant literature and interviews with key informants in Brazil, undertaken between October 2011 and March 2012. This was complemented by an international seminar on the topic held in Brasília on May 2012, which brought together experts and practitioners from Brazil, Africa, China and Europe to discuss Brazilian agricultural cooperation in the context of South-South engagements with Africa. The seminar represented a unique opportunity to gather and contrast experiences and viewpoints on the subject across a wide range of state and non-state actors.
The paper is structured into five sections. This brief introduction is followed by an overview of the general features of Brazilian cooperation, including its drivers, principles, modalities and institutional setting. Section 2 describes cooperation with the African continent, with particular focus on its agriculture component and its growing significance. The fourth section offers some preliminary observations and hypotheses for further investigation. Section 5 concludes with some suggestions for the subsequent stage of the research.wpdm_package id='4456']
FAC Working Paper 49
Sérgio Chichava, Jimena Duran, Lídia Cabral, Alex Shankland, Lila Buckley, Tang Lixia and Zhang Yue
The purpose of this paper is to provide an account of the policies, narratives, operational modalities and underlying motivations of Brazilian and Chinese development cooperation in Mozambique. It is particularly interested in understanding how the engagements are perceived and talked about, what drives them and what formal and informal relations are emerging at the level of particular exchanges.
The paper draws on three experiences representing a variety of engagements and suggesting the increasingly blurred motivations shaping cooperation encounters: (i) ProSavana, Brazil’s current flagship programme in Mozambique, which aims to transform the country’s savannah land spreading along the Nacala corridor, drawing on Brazil’s own experience in the Cerrado; (ii) the Chinese Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre (ATDC) in the outskirts of the Mozambican capital; (iii) a private Chinese rice investment project in the Xai-Xai irrigation scheme, which builds on a technical cooperation initiative. The conclusion discusses the extent to which observed dynamics on the ground suggest the emergence of distinctive patterns of cooperation and identities issues for further research on Brazilian and Chinese engagements in Mozambique.
FAC Working Paper 52
This paper explores the differences in Brazilian and Chinese investments in Ghana. It examines the extent to which the framework of South-South cooperation illuminates or masks these changing relationships and their political economy dimensions. The paper also addresses the social vision of development embedded in frameworks of South- South cooperation and whether they harmonise with Ghanaian agrarian sector visions and societal developments.
The extent, framing and structure of Chinese and Brazilian investments in Ghana are examined. The changing political economy of the agrarian sector within Ghana is outlined, as well as the changing framework of agrarian policy in the context of market liberalisation and rise of agribusiness. The specificities of Chinese agricultural investments in Ghana are examined in relation to its wider investments and interests in Ghana. Brazilian investments within the Ghanaian agricultural sector are examined in relation to the expansion of Brazilian agribusiness and its integration into the global economy. The paper discusses the impact of such developments on Ghanaian agriculture and society.
FAC Working Paper 50
The increased importance of South-South cooperation in rural and agricultural development, and especially the increased role of BRICS countries, has been debated in relation to international development assistance, specifically in terms of
(i) the modalities and policies for agricultural development deployed, including officially articulated cooperation principles and visions and priorities for agricultural development
(ii) the main actors in the cooperation process
(iii) the explicit and implicit rationales for the modalities that underpin technical cooperation in agriculture
(iv) the lessons for established donors, and
(iv) local perceptions of the value added of the approaches deployed.
This paper provides an overview of rural and agricultural development cooperation and tries to answer these questions for the case of Brazilian and Chinese agricultural development cooperation activities in Ethiopia.
In general, the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) promotes harmonisation and an alignment process of donor support through the Ethiopian High Level Forum, with nine subsidiary sector-specific working groups. Brazil and China are not engaged in any of the nine government-donor coordination platforms including the platform for agriculture, natural resource management and food security, which is called the Rural Economic Development and Food Security Sector Working Group (RED&FS SWG).
However, Brazil and China are engaged as bilateral development partners in Ethiopia, mainly in the form of experience sharing in public governance, technical cooperation, and attraction of private and public investments. Moreover, the cooperation has very specific characteristics in that, in the case of Brazil, the GoE focuses on renewable energy sector development mainly related to biofuels, whilst in the case of China, cooperation is more focused on agricultural technology and skill transfer.
The paper first presents an overview of the cooperation in rural development in Ethiopia, followed by documentation of the level of engagement by Brazil and China in the major areas of cooperation, i.e. experience sharing in public governance, technical cooperation and strengthening private investment.
FAC Working Paper 48
by Langton Mukwereza
This report describes the status of agricultural aid and cooperation programmes by Brazil and China in Zimbabwe from three perspectives:
- A specification for each programme: the actors (governmental or otherwise) and their roles in the provision of such aid.
- The nature of the aid and cooperation programmes: i.e. operational instruments used (e.g. financial support, technical cooperation, food aid, government-to-government, private sector driven), volumes pledged/disbursed, and a description of the status with specific projects and programmes.
- An analysis of the relevance and impacts (current and foreseen) of the cooperation programmes.
Albeit preliminary at this stage, the scope for the cooperation programmes to accomplish intended outcomes is discussed throughout the ensuing sections, with reference made to the actors and interests being served, and any networks being formed.
FAC Working Paper 47
Price volatility is exacerbated by the tendency of market actors to follow momentum strategies, where price rises encourage more buying, and falls encourage selling.
This paper focuses on the impacts of this activity with respect to global food prices, in order to understand the relationship between financial markets and food price volatility.
It examines how the relationship between financial actors and food commodity markets – particularly futures markets – changed in the last ten years. The paper also explores the benefits and costs of the increased role of financial sector actors in these markets, and how the balance between benefits and costs might change in the future. Further, it asks what reforms, if any, are needed to ensure that benefits exceed costs.
The paper establishes the context in terms of price movements and the evolution of food and financial markets over the past decade, and develops a typology of speculation as a framework for thinking about these issues. It goes on to apply this typology to global food markets, and reviews the differing explanations for food price movements. The author also considers the role of uncertainty and complexity, and the role of financial markets in this regard, and considers some policy options.
STEPS Centre Working Paper 49
by Joanes Atela
In the context of major scientific and policy concern with the causes and implications of climate change, various actors are now keen to demonstrate how agricultural carbon finance can help achieve multiple benefits or ‘triple wins’ for sub-Saharan African agriculture.
The target areas for these demonstrations have complex sociopolitical histories including prior donor interventions seeking to address related problems of poverty and the environment. Agricultural carbon finance, with associated globally framed narratives and interests, arrives on the back of these interventions and intersects with existing socio-cultural contexts and local and national policy processes to reshuffle livelihoods and ecologies.
This paper explores this interplay empirically, drawing on evidence from the Kenya Agricultural Carbon Project (KACP). KACP is the first World Bank supported project on agricultural carbon finance in Africa and has worked with groups of smallholders in western Kenya since 2008. Fieldwork, interviews and document analysis show how a powerful donor-science network has established a dominant narrative around ‘triple wins’ which does not resonate well with local circumstances.
Farmers, concerned with food security through maize farming, focus on only one ‘win’- increases in maize production – with little awareness of or attention to climate resilience or carbon income. The Kenyan government, on the other hand, faces an implicit dilemma as to whether to mechanize agriculture as a quick fix for looming hunger or to embrace conservation agriculture for carbon finance.
As more powerful, resource and scientifically endowed global and project development institutions intersect rather messier, informal and complex local institutions, there is not a neat unfolding of a planned ‘agricultural carbon project’ – but a more complex situation from which various actors are nevertheless able to draw benefit, but from which certain farmers lose.
This paper therefore justifies the need to go beyond top-down donor and science-driven projectization of agricultural carbon finance. Approaches and associated capacity-building need to inform farmers more fully of links between sustainable farming practices and carbon; clarify their carbon rights, and attend to wider development issues such as water access and secure land tenure which bear heavily on carbon projects. This is vital if smallholder farmers are to become more empowered to expand their opportunities and wellbeing in the context of climate change and the uncertain promise of carbon money.
This paper was produced jointly by Future Agricultures and the ESRC STEPS Centre
Assessing Enablers and Constrainers of Graduation: Evidence from the Food Security Programme, Ethiopia
FAC Working Paper 44
Rachel Sabates-Wheeler, Mulugeta Tefera and Girma Bekele
The purpose of this report is to identify the main enablers and constrainers of resiliency and graduation from food and cash support provided through the Food Security Programme (FSP) in Ethiopia. Different groups of women and men were interviewed to explore and interrogate the gendered experiences of change in relation to social protection provisions.
The aim was to: identify different pathways to graduation for different participating households; identify indicators of graduation, resilience and sustainability that go beyond simple benchmarks or thresholds; and understand the enablers and constrainers to graduation. The larger objective of this work is to learn from the ways households strengthen their livelihoods in different PSNP scenarios in order to inform policy debates around assessing sustainable graduation from social protection programmes.
FAC Working Paper 46
by Blessings Chinsinga, Michael Chasukwa and Lars Otto Naess
This paper explores climate change – agriculture debates in Malawi in view of the increasing interest and funding pledges for the agricultural sector in a changing climate. While there is increasing evidence of how climate change may affect Malawian agricultural systems, and a growing body of literature on possible response strategies, less is known about how priorities are made, by whom and with what outcomes. This matters because climate-related funding can be a major factor for how the agricultural sector develops, in Malawi as in other countries across Africa. This paper is the first of its kind to analyse policy discussions on climate change and agriculture in the country. The primary focus is the national level, but some of the implications of national debates at sub-national levels, and the questions they raise, are also discussed.
FAC Working Paper 45
by Daniel Bruce Sarpong and Nana Akua Anyidoho
This paper examines agriculture-climate change policy discussions in Ghana in the context of, on the one hand, increasing international interest and activity around climate change and agriculture, and on the other, concerns over whether climate policy and funding priorities are aligned to domestic development priorities. The paper poses the following questions: What are the contested areas and dividing lines in policy discussions and practices around climate change, which actors are supporting different viewpoints, and what traction do they have in the types of interventions that are being promoted?
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.
by Nana Akua Anyidoho, Happy Kayuni, John Ndungu, Jennifer Leavy, Mohamadou Sall, Getnet Tadele and James Sumberg
FAC Working Paper 32
This paper is about the portrayal of youth in policy documentation in sub-Saharan Africa. Historically, young people’s engagement with policy and the array of institutions that affect their lives can be characterised by two broad, interacting themes: marginalisation and mobilisation. Marginalisation is associated with deeply rooted tendencies to defer to age in ‘gerontocratic’ societies (see, for example, Harris 2004), leaving young people outside circles of power, or lacking in ‘voice’ (see also te Lintelo 2011). This can lead to youth disaffection, which may either catalyse young people to mobilise, or make them a fertile recruiting ground for the political projects of others (e.g. Peters et al 2003; Peters and Richards 1998; Richards 1995). Thus, mobilisation can be seen to be, at least in part, a consequence of isolation and disempowerment. These themes are evident, to varying degrees, in each of five study countries we focus on in this paper: Ethiopia; Ghana; Kenya; Malawi; and Senegal. It is based on a review of key national policy documents and other formal policy documentation in the five countries. The review sought to discover how rural youth and youth-related issues are portrayed. Major policy domains were considered including: agriculture and rural development; education; health; employment; economic development; crime and security; natural resource management; and climate change. The analysis focused on the visibility of young people within the policy domain; the content of policy frames and narratives on young people; and linkages between youth and agriculture.
Working Paper 33
Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Africa project
by Hannington Odame and Elijah Muange
Public and private actors and their networks are committing substantial resources to support agro-dealers to deliver novel technologies and information in line with the New Green Revolution for Africa. The main point of entry has been the cereal seed system, with a focus on maize seed in particular, which is seen as both a key staple and a politically important crop. In Kenya, the seed system landscape has been changing dramatically in recent years, with the entry of highly influential seed companies, biotechnology research and legislation of the biosafety regulations. Thus, the prospect of genetically modified (GM) crops being pushed through agribusiness networks is an emerging issue, raising the question of whether small-scale, independent stockists or ‘agro-dealers’ have the capacity to deliver these technologies and provide local regulatory control over the new seeds.
This study sought to investigate the policy and institutional environment within which agricultural biotechnology agro-dealers have evolved, as well as the agendas that are being pushed by particular interests in the new pro-GM policy and institutional environment in Kenya and their expected outcomes.
By Domingos M. do Rosário
FAC Working Paper 34
Produced as part of the FAC Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa (PEAPA) work stream
The paper analyses the changing configuration of the political system since the Rome Peace Agreement of 1992. It discusses how the “political settlement” underlying the Peace Agreement and the outcomes of multiparty elections thereafter have shaped governance, including policy-making concerning the agriculture sector and the rural economy.
The paper argues that private interests and electoral objectives have been important drivers of policy decisions taken by the governing elites concerning the agriculture sector and local governance, with precedence over donor influence. By contrasting the political choices and governance approaches adopted by the two different presidential administrations in office since the first multiparty elections were held in 1994, it is argued that one (led by Joaquim Chissano) is marked by features of “neopatrimonialism”, whereas the other (led by Armando Guebuza) is showing signs of electoral “populism”. The former is characterised by significant rent distribution by the governing elite to a narrow “selectorate”. The latter is manifested by a paternalistic and politically mobilising discourse emanating directly from the President and appealing to the broader electorate, particularly the rural population of the central and Northern region of the country, who has been traditionally opposed to the ruling party.
Working Paper 28
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Peter M. Mvula, Andrew Dorward and Mirriam Matita
The Farm Input Subsidy Programme targets households for subsidized farm inputs, and usually it is the head of the household who receives the coupons. Since households tend to have multiple plots which are controlled by different members of the household, there may be intra-household issues that arise in the use of farm inputs available to the household.
We find that while male-headed households are more likely to receive coupons than female-headed households, there seems to be less bias in intra-household use of subsidized fertilizers (or fertilizers in households receiving subsidy) between plots controlled by female and male members. This is despite the fact that, more generally, household incomes from various sources tend to be controlled and allocated by men. It also contrasts with evidence that plots controlled by female members were less likely to be applied with fertilizers when we consider all fertilizers in subsidized and unsubsidized households.
One of the great ironies of the last 40 years is that sub-Saharan Africa, a continent of ‘female farming par excellence’ (Boserup 1970), became populated, at least within much development discourse, by rural women represented as either ‘cardboard victims or heroines’ (Cornwall et al. 2004:1). How did this disjuncture come about? What have been its implications for agricultural development policy and practice? How can more nuanced understandings of gender and social relations be fruitfully brought into agricultural research and policy processes?
Ephraim W. Chirwa, Mirriam Matita and Andrew Dorward
Since the 2005/06 agricultural season, the government of Malawi has been implementing a targeted agricultural input subsidy programme through the provision of fertilizers and maize seeds to smallholder farmers at subsidized prices. This paper analyses the factors that influence access to agricultural input subsidies in Malawi.
The results show that vulnerable households such as the poor and elderly-headed are less likely to receive fertilizer coupons and receive less of the subsidized fertilizers. Households with larger parcels of land and those who sell part of their produce (commercialized) are more likely to receive coupons and also tend to acquire more fertilizers. Use of open meetings in the allocation of coupons tends to favour the poor and the poor receive more fertilizer compared with other alternative ways of allocating coupons. We also find a positive relation between participation in other social safety nets and access to subsidized fertilizer coupons, suggesting that households with multiple access to different types of social protection programmes are not excluded from the input subsidy programme by virtue of benefiting from other social protection programmes.
Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and Stephen Devereux
It is frequently claimed that the most innovative feature of social protection, in contrast to safety nets, is that it has the potential to reduce the vulnerability of poor people to the extent that they can manage moderate risk without external support. This has led to an expansion of large-scale ‘productive safety net’ programmes. The potential to reduce vulnerability so that people can move off social protection provision is popularly termed ‘graduation’.1 However, the vision for graduation rests on the assumption of the existence of a large population of low-productivity, risk-prone and often poor households. Under this scenario, if risk can be underwritten through appropriate social protection then significant numbers of poor people have the potential to move out of vulnerability and extreme poverty into more productive and resilient livelihoods.The ambition of this paper is to map out the theory of change underpinning the notion of graduation and to set out, conceptually and empirically, the range of enabling and constraining factors that facilitate or undermine this change process.
Dolf te Lintelo
The rapid and sustained increase in the number of young people in the global south is one of today’s most significant demographic trends. Around 90 percent of young people reside in developing countries (Shankar 2010). By 2030 Africa is projected to have as many youth as East Asia and by 2050 could also exceed the youth population in South Asia (Garcia and Fares, 2008). Young people make up approximately 30 percent of the total population in African countries, and this is increasing fast (Panday 2006). Growing numbers of young people entail a process of demographic change within societies; ‘rejuvenation’ in a literal sense. Thus, in 2005, 76 percent of the Zambian population were under 30 years of age, with those between 20 and 29 years accounting for a mere 18 percent (CSO 2007, p.12 in: Locke and Verschoor 2007).
Whereas some expert commentators are pessimistic about the prospects for economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa (e.g. Collier 2008), youth bulges are recognised by many as a window of opportunity. They are seen to potentially offer a demographic dividend: where a larger workforce with fewer dependents could generate strong economic growth (Fares and Garcia, 2008; Gunatilake et al, 2010). Yet, experiences to date are mixed: while in East Asia, the policy and institutional environment facilitated the harnessing of the demographic dividend to achieve strong growth, similar demographic dynamics in Latin America failed to yield better economic outcomes (Fares and Garcia, 2008).
James Sumberg, Gountiéni Damien Lankoandé
The imagery of movement is deeply engrained in development discourse, and particularly in relation to poverty: we commonly talk, for example, of people moving ‘out of poverty’ or ‘up the asset ladder’. Nevertheless, these simple images hide what are now widely understood to be complex, non-linear and dynamic processes that are impacted by a bewildering array of factors from human agency and policy to the structure of the global economy and natural disasters. It is within this context that the potential role and contribution of social protection to poverty reduction must be understood.
The Long Conversation: Customary Approaches to Peace Management in Southern Ethiopia and Northern Kenya
Patta Scott-Villiers, Hussein Boru Ungiti, Diba Kiyana, Molu Kullu, Tumal Orto, Eugenie Reidy and Adan Sora
FAC Working Paper 22
This working paper is a contribution to understandings of peace-building among pastoralists. From a pastoralist perspective, it throws light on the achievement of peace in a five-year effort led by leaders of the Borana and Gabra peoples of southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. The instigators of the research, elders of Gabra and Borana, set the frame of the inquiry and its analysis, assisted by researchers from the Institute of Development Studies and Pastoralists Consultants International.
Their study reveals four aspects of peace management among pastoralists inthe Kenya-Ethiopia borderlands: moral consensus, information exchange, law and surveillance. It shows how these principles are understood, debated and acted upon by particular segments of society and with varying degrees of success in rural and urban areas and in different districts. To explain to an external audience some of the background, we draw on the work of Marco Bassi on vernacular procedures of consensus, and his observations on how moral and political principles entwine within East African pastoralist societies.
The study, by focusing on local people’s expressions to a group of local elders, necessarily plays down the roles of those that people understood less, saw less of, underestimated, or decided to remain silent about. Thus the story risks the impression that the indigenous citizens involved in this case manage peace, security, crime and violence with a minimum of outside help, which would not be entirely true. We hope the reader will tolerate this bias in order to understand the pivotal role of citizens in building peace.
Lídia Cabral, Overseas Development Institute
FAC Working Paper 20
This paper reviews the literature on decentralisation in Africa, with a focus on impact on service delivery and poverty reduction. It notes decentralisation is not necessarily good or bad, but success depends on the details of policy design and context, particularly the political motivations of ruling elites and its relations with local power bases and constituencies. In Africa, decentralisation is widespread but not deep. Driven largely by political motivations, decentralisation experiences in the region have consisted mostly of deconcentration of administrative functions, rather than true devolution of powers. Although there is limited evidence available, the impact of decentralisation on service delivery is probably limited, judging by its impact on intermediate variables such as access to information, locus of power, administrative performance and accountability relations. The propoor character of decentralisation is also questionable. Available evidence does not confirm that decentralised governments perform better in delivering services to the poor, despite the fact they ofter are their largest constituency. In Africa, decentralisation has been essentially used to consolidate alliances with local elites and thereby reinforce central power, rather than to pursue pro-poor policies. Institutional weaknesses and fiscal constraints have also limited the success of decentralisation in Africa. Therefore, as an overarching governance process, decentralisation may have limited chances of success without a more structural transformation in African societies which reduces the polarisation of power and gives the median voter greater agency.
In this paper the example of cocoa production in Ghana is used to explore how the narratives portraying African farmers have changed over the last 70 years. These evolving narratives are explored through the notion of a ‘good farmer’. The argument is that over this period the image of African farmers has been progressively rehabilitated, from ignorant and tradition-bound to skilled and research-minded. Over the same time period the image of formal research and extension was undermined. With the recent renewed interest in agriculture, narratives around African farmers are again evolving: ‘good farmers’ are now increasingly being defined as those who approach their farming as a proper business.
Creating New Markets via Smallholder Irrigation: The Case of Irrigation-led Smallholder Commercialization in Lume District, Ethiopia
By Samuel Gebreselassie
Following the 2008 global food crises, the agricultural development agenda has gained renewed international attention. Though this observed price instability reflects largely short-term disequilibria between supply and demand, many – especially major food importing countries – consider it an indicator of a new era that is characterised by much more unstable food prices on the international markets (Galtier, 2009). Consequently, investors from these countries were encouraged to lease farm lands in relatively land and water abundant countries in Africa and other parts of the developing world.
The Political Economy of Ethiopian Cereal Seed Systems: State Control, Market Liberalisation and Decentralisation
This paper presents the political and economic processes governing Ethiopian cereal seed systems by analysing the overall policy context, as well as the main interests driving seed policy formulation and implementation and the roles and interaction of the different public and private actors. It also examines how these interests and interactions are related to the performance of the system on the ground.
The nature of the Ethiopian agricultural sector, the historical evolution of the seed system and the seed specificities for each cereal crops has resulted in a wide range of actors with diverse linkages and policy processes. The analysis of these processes has identified a number of constraints faced by the Ethiopian cereal seed system. These constraints are a result of a economic and political drivers, including top-down state driven initiatives, agricultural liberalisation and the private sector and political-administrative decentralisation, all of which pull in different directions. While contrasting interests in federal and decentralised state level activities exist, ultimately it is the state-driven imperatives that define what private sector activity is possible. Centrally directed, state-supported efforts, including numerous campaigns, special projects and programmes along with ad hoc crash programmes, create numerous blockages in the supply and distribution of seed. These ‘pull-push’ factors have brought about severe strains within the system. Thus, it is important that the technocrats, politicians, international donors and supporters understand these political economic drivers of change in the Ethiopian cereal seed system.
By addressing these conflicts and contradictions, they may improve their chances of designing and implementing more technically effective and socially appropriate policies. This in turn will help establish a vibrant seed system which offers real choices for farmers in terms of seed type, quantity, and quality and delivery time at reasonable prices.
This paper provides a critical account of the cereal seed systems in Malawi both in a historical and contemporary context with particular reference to the three input support programmes implemented since the late 1990s to date. The main argument of this paper is that the centrality of the question of food security in the country’s electoral politics in a post liberalisation context has created a seed industry dominated by multinational seed companies, offering farmers a narrow range of products mainly hybrid maize, and in which alternative cereal seed systems such as millet and sorghum are at the verge of extinction. The commercial interests of the multinational seed companies are propped by donors who are obsessed with promoting a vibrant private sector input supply system as an engine of a sustainable green revolution through input support programmes. This has invariably privileged the genetic material supplied by the multinational seed companies at the expense of the national breeding programme whose main client are the local seed companies controlling only 10 percent of the seed market. The government’s fixation on food security has also contributed to privileging the genetic material from multinational seed companies since they are deemed to be high yielding even though at the expense of the seed supply variety to the farmer. The interests of seed companies, donors and government have, even though for different reasons, coincided to create a seed industry that has a very narrow product portfolio, distributes benefits to a very small proportion of the population through various forms of commercial ventures and schemes of political patronage buoyed by excessive weaknesses in the regulatory framework for the seed industry. This paper therefore demonstrates that policy processes are predominantly characterised by the clash of competing and conflicting interests and viewpoints rather than impartial, disinterested or objective search for correct solutions for policy issues. However, the voices and views of the dominant coalitions almost always shape the major policy directions. The major recommendations for revitalising the seed industry include:
1. improving the efficiency and implementation of regulatory frameworks;
2. enhancing public sector breeding and dissemination of improved varieties; and
3. creating an enabling environment to stimulate local seed enterprises that can deliver products with the needs of the smallholder farmer in mind.
Hannington Odame and Elijah Muange
The Government of Kenya, with the backing of development and charitable organisations, has been implementing programmes to increase agricultural productivity and rural incomes and trigger a new Green Revolution (GR). These activities focus on increasing farmers’ access to and application of modern farming inputs, particularly improved seeds and fertilisers, delivered mainly through agro-dealers. Given that Kenyan farmers operate in a highly heterogeneous environment, this study was motivated to ask: Can agro-dealers deliver the Green Revolution in Kenya? In answering this question, the study examined the evolution and characteristics of agrodealers in the cereals subsector and explored how they command a central position in policy narratives put forward by key actors in the policy arena, each advocating a new GR for Kenya.
Several key findings emanate from this study. First, both formal and informal seed systems are important channels for delivering cereal seeds to Kenyan farmers. The informal systems (which do not involve agro-dealers) provide seeds of local maize and other cereals to farmers in low rainfall areas in the greater Eastern region of the country. Conversely, the formal systems use agro-dealers in providing mainly improved maize seed to farmers in high rainfall areas of the greater Western and Central regions of the country. Notwithstanding the importance of the informal systems to many smallholder farmers, the legal, regulatory and policy frameworks, which are informed by international seed policies and conventions, tend to favour the formal systems. As a result, agrodealers may only spur a GR for a select group of privileged producers, mainly maize farmers operating in higher rainfall areas.
Second, while actors in the seed industry employ different approaches in their activities, they are driven by narratives put forward by particular key actors, all converging on the notion of the ‘agro-dealer’ as the carrier of improved seeds to farmers. Interestingly, while the actors promote the agro-dealer agenda, due to different politics and interests, they also support parallel activities that seem to undermine development and expansion of the agro-dealer network in some places.
Third, Kenyan agro-dealers engage in the sale and promotion of diverse commodities as a risk coping mechanism for business survival. Therefore, initiatives aimed at supporting agro-dealers ought to focus on the totality of the business instead of only seeds and fertilisers. As well, if agro-dealers are to deliver a GR in Kenya, capacity training programmes for agro-dealers should not only target the business owners but also ‘managers’ (i.e., those who actually serve customers and are responsible for dispensing advice and information as well as products).
Fourth, the universalising of agro-dealer narrative in GR programmes overlooks the heterogeneity of the ‘poor smallholder farmers’ and agro-dealers themselves. This has resulted in biased beneficiary targeting and disproportionate ‘wins’ for farmers and agro-dealers in high rainfall areas and large agro-dealers in low rainfall areas. Therefore, greater attention must be paid to meeting the needs of farmers in lower potential areas by developing innovative alternative business models. Such models might include sale of complementary non-agricultural products or services or the establishment of group-based agro which might operate part-time or on a not-for-profit basis as a service to their community. Alternatively, mobile agro-dealers might provide regular or periodic services to more remote areas that cannot sustain permanent agro-dealerships. In short, efforts must be made to move away from the ‘one-size-fits-all’ agro-dealer model as it is currently construed.
Finally, the GR programmes have been viewed by critics as a ‘Trojan horse’ for genetically modified (GM) seeds or simply a strategy to ‘roll out a gene revolution’ in Africa. As these new seeds have yet to be released widely, the extent to which agro-dealers have the knowledge and ability to coordinate local-level implementation of national biosafety regulations has yet to be determined and it therefore remains an area requiring further investigation. Given their limited capacity to provide timely advice and information on non-GM technologies to the majority of Kenya’s farmers, however, it is clear that careful consideration is needed before loading agro-dealers with even greater responsibilities and expectations.