Working Papers

This series reports research activities or interim findings and aim to share ideas and elicit feedback. Future Agricultures publishes approximately six to ten Working Papers per year.

We also support a series of LDPI Working Papers through our involvement in the Land Deal Politics Initiative.

Some of our Working Papers are also available in a French translation: see Documents de travail for a full list.


Latest articles

Farmer-Based Seed Multiplication in the Ethiopian Seed System: Approaches, Priorities & Performance
May 11, 2012 / Working Papers

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.

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FAC Working Paper 036v2 Pdf 519.71 KB 7 downloads

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Initial Conditions and Changes in Commercial Fertilizers under the Farm Input Subsidy Programme
May 11, 2012 / Working Papers

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’.

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FAC Working Paper 030 Pdf 416.67 KB 2 downloads

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Conceptualising Graduation from Agricultural Input Subsidies in Malawi
May 11, 2012 / Working Papers

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.

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FAC Working Paper 029 Pdf 524.26 KB 3 downloads

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Agro-dealers, Subsidies and Rural Market Development in Malawi: A Political Economy Enquiry
April 30, 2012 / Working Papers

Working Paper 31

by Blessings Chinsinga
December 2011

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.

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FAC Working Paper 031 Pdf 350.52 KB 55 downloads

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Young People and Policy Narratives in sub-Saharan Africa
April 30, 2012 / Working Papers

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.

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FAC Working Paper 132 Pdf 484.29 KB 34 downloads

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Agro-Dealers and the Political Economy of Agricultural Biotechnology Policy in Kenya
April 25, 2012 / Working Papers

Working Paper 33

Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Africa project

by Hannington Odame and Elijah Muange
December 2011

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.

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FAC Working Paper 033v2 Pdf 497.27 KB 3 downloads

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From Negligence to Populism: An Analysis of Mozambique’s Agricultural Political Economy
April 25, 2012 / Working Papers

By Domingos M. do Rosário
April 2012

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.

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FAC Working Paper 134 Pdf 428.06 KB 22 downloads

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Gender and Intra-Household Use of Fertilizers in the Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Programme
April 20, 2012 / Working Papers

Working Paper 28

by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Peter M. Mvula, Andrew Dorward and Mirriam Matita
December 2011

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.

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FAC Working Paper 028 Pdf 317.46 KB 5 downloads

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Gender Analysis: Engaging with Rural Development and Agricultural Policy Processes
April 18, 2012 / Working Papers

Christine Okali
January 2012

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?

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FAC Working Paper 026 Pdf 327.74 KB 7 downloads

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Factors Influencing Access to Agricultural Input Subsidy Coupons in Malawi
April 18, 2012 / Working Papers

Ephraim W. Chirwa, Mirriam Matita and Andrew Dorward
December 2011

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.

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FAC Working Paper 027 Pdf 327.21 KB 13 downloads

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Transforming Livelihoods for Resilient Futures: How to Facilitate Graduation in Social Protection
September 19, 2011 / Working Papers

Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and Stephen Devereux
August 2011

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.

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FAC Working Paper 023 Pdf 1.75 MB 3 downloads

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Youth and policy processes
September 5, 2011 / Working Papers

Dolf te Lintelo
August 2011

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).

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FAC Working Paper 025 Pdf 699.99 KB 4 downloads

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Heifer-in-trust, Social Protection and Graduation: Conceptual Issues and Research Questions
September 5, 2011 / Working Papers

James Sumberg, Gountiéni Damien Lankoandé
August 2011

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.

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FAC Working Paper 124 Pdf 352.00 KB 13 downloads

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The Long Conversation: Customary Approaches to Peace Management…
July 13, 2011 / Working Papers

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
June 2011

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.

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FAC Working Paper 022v2 Pdf 4.11 MB 4 downloads

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Decentralisation in Africa: Scope, Motivations and Impact on Service Delivery and Poverty
June 29, 2011 / Working Papers

Lídia Cabral, Overseas Development Institute
March 2011

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.

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FAC Working Paper 020 Pdf 429.86 KB 4 downloads

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‘Good Farmers’ in Sub-Saharan Africa: Evolving Narratives
April 19, 2011 / Working Papers

James Sumberg

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.

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FAC Working Paper 121 Pdf 417.21 KB 11 downloads

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Creating New Markets via Smallholder Irrigation: The Case of Irrigation-led Smallholder…
November 1, 2010 / Working Papers

Creating New Markets via Smallholder Irrigation: The Case of Irrigation-led Smallholder Commercialization in Lume District, Ethiopia

By Samuel Gebreselassie
June 2010

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.

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FAC Working Paper 118 Pdf 2.46 MB 13 downloads

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The Political Economy of Ethiopian Cereal Seed Systems
September 23, 2010 / Working Papers

The Political Economy of Ethiopian Cereal Seed Systems: State Control, Market Liberalisation and Decentralisation

Dawit Alemu

August 2010

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.

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FAC Working Paper 017 Pdf 2.83 MB 6 downloads

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Seeds and Subsidies: The Political Economy of Input Programmes in Malawi
September 23, 2010 / Working Papers

Blessings Chinsinga
August 2010

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.

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FAC Working Paper 013 Pdf 641.41 KB 5 downloads

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Can Agro-Dealers Deliver the Green Revolution in Kenya?
September 23, 2010 / Working Papers

Hannington Odame and Elijah Muange
August 2010

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.

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FAC Working Paper 014 Pdf 1.41 MB 6 downloads

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The Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Zimbabwe
September 23, 2010 / Working Papers

The Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Zimbabwe: Rebuilding the Seed System in a Post-Crisis

Charity Mutonodzo-Davies
August 2010

A decade of economic and political turmoil in Zimbabwe, as well as a period of radical land reform which reconfigured the country’s agricultural sector, dramatically affected its seed system, reducing supply of quality seeds and undermining regulatory control. This paper aims to understand how Zimbabwe can rebuild a seed system appropriate to the post-land reform context by asking questions about the underlying political economy of this process, exploring the important but often overlooked angle of politics of policymaking and identifying the broader political, economic and institutional factors that affect the way the seed system is structured. As Zimbabwe tries to re-establish its formerly vibrant agricultural sector following land reform, perspectives focus on technical and market solutions, with an absence of concrete analysis and debate about political economic aspects. Yet it is these wider dimensions of policy processes, and particularly the politics underlying these, which inevitably carry the day. Therefore, this study maps the national seed system, examines its historical origins and identifies key policy narratives, actors and networks and political interests shaping the Zimbabwean seed system. It highlights how a number of competing narratives co-exist in the current national policy debate, each suggesting a different route to revitalising the seed system. The dominant narrative, supported by powerful national and international actors and associated interests, has been excluding, obscuring and silencing two important alternative narratives.

These alternatives highlight the need to rebuild the private sector with all its ancillary structures for input distribution and the importance of agricultural diversification, non-maize pathways and the need to build from the grassroots. The suppressing of alternatives was done through different political economic processes, justified by particular technical arguments that were supported by clear interests. This potentially undermines longer term recovery based on rebuilding the seed system through the private sector and strengthening formal and informal farmer-based seed systems.

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FAC Working Paper 015 Pdf 805.57 KB 2 downloads

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Participation, Commercialisation and Actor Networks: The Political Economy of Cereal Seed Production
September 23, 2010 / Working Papers

Kojo Sebastian Amanor
August 2010

This paper examines the changing framework of cereal seed policy in Ghana from a state-led public sector service in the 1960s to a commercial sector activity in the 2000s, and the implications of these changes. The work argues that attempts to privatise seeds during the 1980s and 1990s under structural adjustment were not very successful, since private sector investors were unwilling to invest in the poorly developed seed sector. Subsequent interventions have built networks of civil society organisations working in conjunction with private and public partnerships to create a social, economic and knowledge infrastructure for the emergence of private seed markets. The paper examines the narratives about seeds that inform and mobilise these networks for the development of commercial seed. It is argued that there is an inherent tension within seed development between the participatory networks of plant breeding and the commercial networks of seed certification and distribution. Participatory breeding is based on farmers’ evaluation of new varieties, incorporation of farmers’ varieties and knowledge into breeding and open access relations between breeders and farmers. Through these relations, farmers also gain access to unreleased varieties, which they experiment with and distribute through their own networks.

In contrast with this, commercial networks are concerned with ‘manufacturing’ markets for seeds, where low demand exists and farmers usually multiply their own seeds. This results in strategies that see seeds as objects in themselves that can be appropriated, rather than as products of a largely public process of development. This results in narratives that portray commercial seeds as the panacea for the problems of farmers and depict the main constraints in agriculture as resulting from the lack of reach of commercial seed and agodealers into the rural areas. Thus a commercial Green Revolution is portrayed as the solution to food security issues in Africa. This approach, with its appeals to agricultural modernisation, is effective in mobilising support in the state, since state agricultural organisations are often embedded in agricultural modernisation paradigms. By stressing the importance of the private sector, these approaches appeal to the dominant neoliberal concerns in macroeconomic policy and the increasing power of agribusiness. However, the support of donors and new private foundations for building commercial markets and subsidising commercial seeds and the transaction costs of seed and input markets tends to lock farmers into agribusiness interests and contracts.

The assumptions about markets and improved seed serve to marginalise and undermine both the participatory basis on which breeding was organised during the seventies, and the search for more creative and critical solutions to the constraints of agricultural modernisation in the diverse, risky and uncertain environments that characterise much of Africa. The paper examines the new narratives about seeds, the impact of neoliberal reforms on the seed sector, and the interactions and conflicts that characterise the various actor networks that constitute seed development in a case study of the Northern Region of Ghana.

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FAC Working Paper 016 Pdf 860.06 KB 4 downloads

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Social Protection for Agricultural Growth in Africa
July 13, 2010 / Working Papers

Stephen Devereux
January 2009

Various explanations have been advanced for the persistent under?performance of agriculture in many African countries, where smallholder farming is still the dominant livelihood activity and the main source of employment, food and income. Some of the oldest arguments remain the most compelling. African farmers face harsh agro?ecologies and erratic weather, characterised by low soil fertility, recurrent droughts and/or floods, and increasingly unpredictable weather patterns associated with climate change. Vulnerability to shocks is compounded by infrastructure deficits (roads and transport networks, telecommunications, potable water and irrigation) that keep poor communities poor and vulnerable, as testified by the phenomenon observed during livelihood crises of steep food price gradients from isolated rural villages to densely settled urban centres. African farmers have also been inadequately protected against the forces of globalisation and adverse international terms of trade – for instance, Western farmers and markets are heavily protected in ways that African farmers and markets are not.

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FAC Working Paper 010 Pdf 356.53 KB 3 downloads

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Linking Agricultural Development to School Feeding
July 5, 2010 / Working Papers

James Sumberg & Rachel Sabates-Wheeler
June 2010

This paper is an output from the initial phase of the Home-Grown School Feeding (HGSF) Project which is funded by Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and implemented by the Partnership for Child Development at Imperial College. The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex is a project partner and part of the project’s agricultural technical consortium. As such IDS is charged with providing expertise across three areas: agricultural development, food security and social protection. IDS also play a central role in the evaluation component of the project.

Over the last five years HGSF – essentially an attempt to actively and explicitly link agricultural development with school feeding – has received increasing attention from international agencies (Sanchez et al. 2005), policy makers (e.g. CAADP4), national governments, academics (Morgan et al. 2007) and practitioners (Espejo et al. 2009). BMGF has funded or co-funded some of these activities as well as other closely related initiatives such as WFP’s Purchase-for-Progress (P4P) programme.

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FAC Working Paper 012 Pdf 499.11 KB 3 downloads

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Can the smallholder model deliver poverty reduction and food security
May 27, 2010 / Working Papers

By Steve Wiggins
July 2009

Despite the achievements of smallholders in Asia during the green revolution, there is scepticism that Africa’s smallholders — who dominate the farm area in most countries — can imitate this model and deliver agricultural growth. This paper assesses whether such pessimism is justified.

Given the high transactions costs of hiring labour of farms, diseconomies of scale can be expected when labour is relatively cheap and abundant compared to other factors of production: which may explain the survey evidence that small farms often produce more per hectare than larger farms. In conditions of low development with relatively cheap labour, small units may have advantages over larger ones.

Reforming Agricultural Policy: Lessons from Four Countries
May 27, 2010 / Working Papers

Lídia Cabral, Colin Poulton, Steve Wiggins and Linxiu Zhang
July 2006

Comparing 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 were undertaken 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 a review 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.

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FAC Working Paper 002 Pdf 2.56 MB 2 downloads

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Commercialisations in Agriculture
May 15, 2010 / Working Papers

By Jennifer Leavy and Colin Poulton
September 2007
Accelerated growth in agriculture is seen by many as critical if the MDGs are to be met inAfrica. 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 strategiesfor 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 morecommercial agriculture will benefit primarily large-scale farms.

At best, the top minority ofsmallholders will be able to benefit.In this paper, therefore, we discuss what is meant by the commercialisation of agriculture,emphasising the different pathways that commercialisation can take. We also examine whatneeds to be done if agricultural commercialisation is to be inclusive, bringing benefits to alarge proportion of rural households.The potential benefits of commercialisation and engaging in trade are well documented.These include stimulating rural growth, which poor people can gain from directly, forexample through: improving employment opportunities (depending on the labour intensity ofcrops grown); increasing agricultural labour productivity; direct income benefits foremployees and employers; expanding food supply and potentially improving nutritionalstatus. Multiplier effects encompass increased demand for food and services in the local area (von Braun and Kennedy, 1994).

Agriculture and Social Protection in Ghana
May 14, 2010 / Working Papers

Ramatu Al-Hassan and Colin Poulton
January 2009

Ghana was one of the first countries in Africa to embark on structural adjustment reforms. 25 years on, its continuing commitment to reform for national economic development has yielded impressive gains in growth and poverty reduction. Poverty in the country is measured through periodic Ghana Living Standards Surveys (GLSS). In 1991/92 GLSS3 found that 51.7% of the population were living below the national poverty line. By 1998/99 (GLSS4) this had fallen to 39.5% and by 2005/06 (GLSS5) it had fallen to 28.5% (Ghana Statistical Service 2007). In absolute terms the number of poor people in Ghana has fallen from 7.9 million in 1991/92 to 6.2 million in 2005/06. At current growth rates, Ghana should achieve MDG1 before 2010.

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FAC Working Paper 009 1 Pdf 324.26 KB 3 downloads

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Social Protection and Agricultural Development in Kenya
May 14, 2010 / Working Papers

Patrick Irungu, Lydia Ndirangu and John Omiti
March 2009

Patrick Irungu, Lydia Ndirangu and John Omiti March 2009 This paper focuses on social protection programs in Kenya’s agriculture. A case study approach was used where three cases were examined: (a) emergency seed distribution in the arid and semi-arid lands and remote areas which are inadequately served by the formal seed sector, (b) hunger and safety net programme in northern Kenya, and (c) Njaa Marufuku Kenya. The study found that while social protection programs/strategies are necessary to cushion vulnerable groups from covariate risk, these have not been properly domesticated in the Kenyan policy and legal frameworks. In fact, the national response to shocks and stresses among the vulnerable groups has largely been ad hoc. Emergency interventions have been implemented in rather haphazard and knee-jerk approach with minimal strategic policy focus. And even where social safety nets have been implemented, these have largely been untargeted, uncoordinated and humanitarian in nature. Hence, although some efforts have been made in the past to entrench social protection in the Kenyan society (e.g., the Equity Bill, the Affirmative Action Bill and the Constitutional Review), these initiatives have suffered from lack of political goodwill, ethnic and class chauvinism and political patronage. There is therefore need to for the Kenyan society as a whole to re-define its strategic direction with regard to empowering poor households to enable them cope with shocks. The starting point would be to design a comprehensive social protection policy which is now in progress.

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FAC Working Paper 005 1 Pdf 482.58 KB 3 downloads

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Building synergies between social protection and smallholder agricultural policies
April 14, 2010 / Working Papers

Rachel Sabates-Wheeler, Stephen Devereux and Bruce Guenther
January 2009

The paper explores how social protection and agricultural policies interact, creating either synergies or conflicts between them. To the extent that social protection measures help poor rural people expand their assets, use them more efficiently and adopt higher return activities, there should be strong synergies with agricultural development. Reverse synergies can also arise, if agricultural policies help farmers improve their livelihoods and reduce their vulnerability. But conflicts can occur if policy objectives are inconsistent with each other, and these are also examined in this paper. We draw on numerous examples from the across the globe, but with specific emphasis from the African continent to highlight issues including, liquidity constraints, scale and threshold effects, timing, seasonality and policy complementarities. In conclusion we consider lessons for how the agricultural policies and social protection instruments can be designed and implemented to exploit welfare and growth synergies.

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FAC Working Paper 006 Pdf 465.58 KB 3 downloads

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Cash Transfers and High Food Prices: Explaining Outcomes on Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program
March 1, 2010 / Working Papers

Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and Stephen Devereux
January 2010

An ongoing and highly politicised debate concerns the relative efficacy of cash transfers versus food aid. This paper aims to shed light on this debate, drawing on new empirical evidence from Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP). Our data derive from a two-wave panel survey conducted in 2006 and 2008. Ethiopia has experienced unprecedented rates of inflation since 2007, which have reduced the real purchasing power of PSNP cash payments. Our regression findings confirm that food transfers or ‘cash plus food’ packages are superior to cash transfers alone – they enable higher levels of income growth, livestock accumulation and self-reported food security. These results raise questions of fundamental importance to global humanitarian response and social protection policy. We draw out some implications for the design of social transfer programmes and describe some steps that could be taken to enable ‘predictable transfers to meet predictable needs’

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Commercialisations in Agriculture
November 11, 2009 / Working Papers

Jennifer Leavy and Colin Poulton
September 2007

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.

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.

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FAC Working Paper 003 Pdf 414.99 KB 2 downloads

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Social Protection for Agricultural Growth
November 11, 2009 / Working Papers

Various explanations have been advanced for the persistent under?performance of agriculturein many African countries, where smallholder farming is still the dominant livelihood activityand the main source of employment, food and income. Some of the oldest argumentsremain the most compelling. African farmers face harsh agro?ecologies and erratic weather,characterised by low soil fertility, recurrent droughts and/or floods, and increasinglyunpredictable weather patterns associated with climate change. Vulnerability to shocks iscompounded by infrastructure deficits (roads and transport networks, telecommunications,potable water and irrigation) that keep poor communities poor and vulnerable, as testifiedby the phenomenon observed during livelihood crises of steep food price gradients fromisolated rural villages to densely settled urban centres. African farmers have also beeninadequately protected against the forces of globalisation and adverse international terms oftrade – for instance, Western farmers and markets are heavily protected in ways that Africanfarmers and markets are not.

Seasonality and Social Protection in Africa
November 11, 2009 / Working Papers

Stephen Devereux
January 2009

This Working Paper draws on nearly twenty years of research in several African countries on the inter-related themes of food insecurity, seasonality, coping strategies, famine, formal and informal safety nets and social protection. The paper has three objectives:

  1. To document and synthesise evidence on the nature and consequences of seasonality across rural Africa, highlighting the similarities and convergences across contexts
  2. To explore the various policy interventions that have been implemented in response to seasonality, with particular reference to the emerging social protection agenda
  3. To argue that current approaches to social protection are misconceived and inadequate for addressing the seasonal dimensions of rural vulnerability
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FAC Working Paper 011 Pdf 820.73 KB 3 downloads

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Agriculture and Social Protection in Ethiopia
January 11, 2009 / Working Papers

Stephen Devereux and Bruce Guenthe
January 2009

Agriculture and social protection in Ethiopia are inextricably interconnected. Smallholder farming is the dominant livelihood activity for the majority of Ethiopians, but it is also the major source of vulnerability to poverty, food insecurity and their often fatal consequences– chronic malnutrition, premature mortality, recurrent famines. Ethiopian farmers have been the recipients of enormous volumes of food aid and other humanitarian assistance over recent decades, to such an extent that emergency relief has become institutionalised within government structures and donor agency country programmes.

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FAC Working Paper 008 1 Pdf 444.06 KB 2 downloads

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Agriculture and Social Protection in Ghana
January 11, 2009 / Working Papers

Ghana was one of the first countries in Africa to embark on structural adjustment reforms. 25 years on, its continuing commitment to reform for national economic development has yielded impressive gains in growth and poverty reduction. Poverty in the country is measured through periodic Ghana Living Standards Surveys (GLSS). In 1991/92 GLSS3 found that 51.7%of the population were living below the national poverty line. By 1998/99 (GLSS4) this had fallen to 39.5% and by 2005/06 (GLSS5) it had fallen to 28.5% (Ghana Statistical Service2007). In absolute terms the number of poor people in Ghana has fallen from 7.9 million in 1991/92 to 6.2 million in 2005/06. At current growth rates, Ghana should achieve MDG1before 2010.

Agriculture and Social Protection in Malawi
January 1, 2009 / Working Papers

Andrew Dorward, Bruce Guenther and Rachel Sabates-Wheeler
January 2009

This paper reviews social protection and agriculture policies in Malawi in order to explore the links, synergies and conflicts that lie between them. It begins with brief background information about Malawi, in terms of its economic and welfare indicators. Particular emphasis is placed on understanding agricultural and social protection policies within thecontext of:
(a) Political issues and
(b) Market and livelihood development

This is followed with a review of agricultural and social protection policies, their interactions and their impacts on livelihoods and welfare. Specific attention is given to evolving input subsidy policies which are of particular relevance to this review. We conclude with a discussion of lessons that can be learned from the Malawian experience with agriculture and social protection.

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FAC Working Paper 007 Pdf 650.87 KB 2 downloads

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Reforming agricultural policy: lessons from four countries
July 1, 2006 / Working Papers

By Lidia Cabral, Colin Poulton. Steve Wiggins, Linxiu Zhang
July 2006

Comparing 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 were undertaken 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, anecessary 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 capacitylimited, 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 a review of agricultural reform experiences within African countries, specifically Ethiopia, Kenya and Malawi. Itaims to draw out issues for would-be reformers by examining the experience of four cases of agricultural reform, purposely selected as often being seen assuccessful. These are:

• Reform of agricultural input markets in Bangladesh inthe early 1980s, followed by liberalisation of graintrading and the cancellation of several longstanding programmes of public distribution of grains during the late 1980s and early 1990s;

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

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

Reforming Agricultural Policy: lessons from four countries SUMMARY
July 1, 2006 / Working Papers

Comparing 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 were undertaken 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.

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FAC Working Paper 001 Pdf 296.84 KB 2 downloads

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