Background to the conference

Agricultural development is back at the top of the development agenda in Africa.

Ten years ago, the Maputo Declaration committed African governments to substantial increases in investment. Since then, 23 countries have completed country investment plans as part of the African Union’s Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP).  The flow of funds from donors has also risen.

Much of this renewed attention to African agriculture has focused on the technical aspects of stimulating agricultural production and productivity.

Yet many of the key blockages to realising ambitious development goals lie in political and institutional issues. There has been much less attention paid to the issue of the politics of agricultural policy making. This conference aims to shine a light on these politics and what they mean for the future of agriculture in Africa.

Important questions include:


  • Drivers of investment: What are the political pressures leading African governments to increase investment in agricultural development? Do these favour smallholder agriculture or large-scale farming, food staples or export crops, state-led or private sector-led models, investment in public goods or transfers (such as subsidies)? What incentives does democratisation create for agricultural investment?
  • Shaping policy: What role can external actors play in shaping agricultural policy and incentives? Is there a “primacy of domestic politics” in agricultural policy and, if so, what does this mean for donors and for initiatives such as CAADP?
  • Civil society: How effective can we expect civil society organisations to be in pressurising African governments to deliver more pro-poor agricultural policy? Are there useful investments that donors could make in support of civil society “demand”? If so, over what time-frame might results realistically be seen?
  • How do the answers to these questions vary across African countries and why?

This conference seeks to bring together academic researchers with representatives of governments, civil society organisations and international donors to:
•    showcase recent work on the political economy of agricultural policy in Africa that attempts to answer these questions
•    draw practical lessons from this work for civil society organisations, donors and governments that are seeking to improve agricultural policy for the benefit of poor producers and consumers in Africa
•    identify key questions for further work in this area.

About the organisers

The conference is co-hosted by the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) and the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS).

FAC is a multidisciplinary and independent learning alliance of academic researchers and practitioners involved in African agriculture. With a network of over 90 researchers in Africa and beyond, it aims to encourage dialogue and the sharing of good practice by policy makers and opinion formers in Africa on the role of agriculture in broad based growth. With funding from the UK’s Department for International Development the consortium is active in fourteen countries across East, South and West Africa, as well as Europe, Brazil and China.

PLAAS was founded in 1995 as a specialist unit in the School of Government, Economic and Management Sciences Faculty at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Cape Town. Since then, PLAAS has developed a proven track record of undertaking high-quality research on land and agrarian reform, poverty, and natural resource management in South Africa and the southern African region. Besides research and postgraduate teaching, PLAAS undertakes training, provides advisory, facilitation and evaluation services and is active in the field of national policy development. Through these activities, and by seeking to apply the tools of critical scholarship to questions of policy and practice, it seeks to develop new knowledge and fresh approaches to the transformation of society in southern Africa.

(Picture: 17th Ordinary African Union Summit in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, from Embassy of Equatorial Guinea’s photostream on Flickr)