APRA respond to inquiry into UK and Sub-Saharan African cooperation

Academics at APRA and the Institute of Development Studies were recently invited to contribute to an inquiry led by House of Lords Select Committee on International Relations and Defence, based on research carried out through the APRA consortium.

In the context of the COVID-19 crisis, the inquiry on UK and Sub-Saharan Africa— prosperity, peace and development co-operation moved from oral to written evidence format for its inquiry.  

Researchers Jodie Thorpe, Dr Seife Ayele and Dr Lars Otto Naess were asked to provide evidence in order to address the following questions:

  1.             How important is agriculture to Sub-Saharan Africa’s (SSA) economic development?
  2.             What can be done to support and improve the productivity of the agricultural sector in the region? What role should the private sector play?
  3.            Are there countries or regions in SSA which have successfully improved land use and agricultural productivity? What has worked and why?
  4.             What is your assessment of the level of priority afforded to agricultural programmes in SSA by the Department for International Development?
  5.            How will climate change affect the Sub-Saharan African agricultural sector?

Evidence was provided by drawing on relevant APRA policy briefs and working papers, as well as information from publications in scientific papers, from international organisations such as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, and data maintained by DFID.

Members of the committee were advised by APRA to bear in mind the heterogeneity of SSA, including different crop production and livestock keeping systems that prevail across the region, although with different intensities and scales, including smallholder family farmers and large commercial farmers.

The team emphasised the following points:

The importance of agriculture
  • Agriculture is an integral part and source of growth to the economies of SSA. Alongside contributing to gross national product (GDP), it is a significant source of jobs and livelihoods.
Measures to improve productivity
  • Raising productivity will require a number of factors to be addressed, such as improved inputs (e.g. seeds), greater access to mechanisation, and better access to more appropriate agronomic techniques and technologies, supported by extension services.
  • In parallel, other structural bottlenecks and barriers need to be addressed. These include poor access to financial services, and a lack of infrastructure and high transaction costs which undermine returns to investment in productivity enhancing measures.
The role of the private sector
  • Innovations in value chain coordination, such as contract farming or joint ventures with producer organisations, which can enable input and credit provision, support post-harvest activities, and enable market access. 
  • Access to financial services, in particular addressing the finance gap between what farmers in SSA need, and what is currently offered by commercial providers
  • Medium-scale farms and domestic or regional food crops as an alternative route for smallholder commercialisation than linkages with large firms producing crops for export.
The impact of climate change
  • The impacts of climate change on agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa are expected to be severe including rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns undermining cereal crop productivity.
  • Climate change-driven impacts often act as a threat multiplier, compounding other drivers of poverty and food insecurity.
  • The need for measures to promote flexibility, robustness and resilience in the face of a range of possible future climates, rather than planning for specific climate change scenarios.

Other topics that were expanded on and highlighted by the team include: 

  • The level of priority set by Department for International Development (DFID)towards agricultural programmes in SSA;
  • Agriculture and employment of young people in SSA;
  • Building an enabling environment for agriculture in Africa.

For full details of the written evidence submitted by APRA to the committee, click here.

Cover photo: Example of a House of Lords committee. Credit: House of Lords on Flickr.