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

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 2 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 2 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 2 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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