Briefing Paper

Diana Hunt and Michael Lipton
  • In most of sub-Saharan Africa, faster growth in agriculture is a precondition for sustainable economic growth and poverty reduction. This will require technical progress tailored to Africa's varied agro-ecologies, notably improved seeds, more fertilizer and water management. Models of how to do this are available from Asia's Green Revolution and from some recent African success stories.
  • Africa is short of capital and increasingly land-scarce. It also has many underemployed poor people. Asian experience shows that in such conditions employment-intensive, small-scale farming is usually both more efficient and more pro-poor than available alternatives.
  • Current foreign land acquisitions in Africa will serve its interests only if they underpin the development of scientific, labour-absorbing and usually small-scale farming. In some former 'settler economies', progress will require careful land reform.
  • Other requirements are improvements in infrastructure and institutions - transport, marketing facilities, credit and insurance - tailored to the needs of small- and medium-scale farming. Markets and states need one another.
  • Recent progress - through increased shares of public resources devoted to agriculture, donor pledges, some improved output trends and better access for sub-Saharan farm products to world markets - is real but overstated; much more needs to be done.

Also read:

Green Revolutions for Africa?
Programme Paper
Diana Hunt, January 2011