Seasonal Neglect? Aseasonality in Agricultural Project Design

Seasonal Neglect? Aseasonality in Agricultural Project Design Based on a literature review and observation of selected agricultural projects, this paper reflects on whether and how projects that support agriculture-based livelihoods in Africa account for seasonality in their design, delivery and evaluation. The following questions are addressed. Under which circumstances does seasonality create the greatest stress for farmers and farm households? Seasonality manifests differently in different contexts, and the strategies that farmers adopt to „cope with seasonality vary. However, studies of „coping strategies„ reveal common indicators of stress: selling food cheaply after harvest and buying it back later at high prices, rationing food consumption, even selling productive assets like livestock in severe „hungry seasons„. All of these responses undermine the viability of farm-based livelihoods. How can agricultural projects reduce seasonal stress and minimise the involuntary adoption of damaging „coping strategies„? Why isn’t seasonality acknowledged more in agricultural project design? Unirrigated agriculture in Africa is entirely dictated by seasonal cycles, but climate change is causing rainfall to become increasingly erratic, seasonal hunger to intensify and agriculture-based livelihoods to become increasingly vulnerable. Yet agricultural projects rarely recognise the centrality of seasonality in rural livelihoods. Why is seasonality neglected in project design, and what are the implications for project outcomes and impacts? What are the key things that design can do differently? In the past, agricultural interventions were more sensitive to seasonality than they are today. Governments implemented measures that included counter-seasonal grain market operations, pan-seasonal food pricing and subsidised input distribution. These interventions have largely disappeared, leaving poor farmers facing the challenges of seasonality with little protection. This raises fundamental challenges for agricultural project design. How can agricultural projects be better designed to take account of seasonal cycles in rainfall, production, labour requirements and employment opportunities, disease and malnutrition, and food and commodity prices?

File: Devereux 2009 - Aseasonality in agricultural project design.pdf