Strengthening Regional Agricultural Integration in West Africa

By John Staatz, Professor Emeritus, Dept. of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics, Michigan State University

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Photo credit: Ryan Vroegindewey

Soaring and volatile international food prices since 2007-08 have forced West African governments and their development partners to translate their long-standing rhetoric about support for West African agriculture into concrete programmes. Doing so effectively, however, has proven much more challenging than simply meeting the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) goal of increasing the share of national budgets and donor funds dedicated to the agricultural sector. A recently released joint study by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) and Michigan State University (MSU) draws lessons from such efforts over the past 10 years and suggests ways in which policies and programmes can be more effective in helping West Africa feed its young, burgeoning and increasingly urban population. Research by MSU, SFSA and West African scholars provides a number of crucial policy insights. Continue reading

Tackling crop losses at the root means sharing knowledge

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By Dr Ulrich Kuhlmann, Executive Director Global Operations, CABI


Learn more about this timely topic at the upcoming
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ACABIll farmers are affected by pests and diseases attacking their crops, but smallholder farmers and their dependents in low- and middle-income countries are disproportionately affected. To put it in perspective, there are about 500 million smallholder farmers worldwide who feed about 70% of the world’s population. When you cultivate less than a hectare (2.5 acres) of land and rely on your crops for both sustenance and income, fighting pests can become a battle for life and death. International trade and climate change are exacerbating the problem by altering and accelerating the spread of crop pests.

Occasionally, when a particularly destructive pest surfaces, it can make headline news. Last year it was reported that the tomato leaf miner moth (tuta absoluta) was wreaking havoc across Africa, causing USD 5 million of damage in Nigeria alone and driving up the price of tomatoes, a food staple. Earlier this year, the fall armyworm made the news for devastating maize crops from Ghana to South Africa. But for smallholder farmers the battle against pests is a daily struggle, not an intermittent occurrence.

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West Africa’s diet transformation: Will the region capitalise on its changing food demand?

By John Staatz, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Agricultural, Food and Resource Economics at Michigan State University, and Frank Hollinger, Economist at the Investment Centre Division (TCIA) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

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Demand for food in West Africa is changing dramatically, opening great opportunities to create new wealth and jobs. But will most of the wealth and jobs be created in West Africa or in the countries that export food to the region? The decisions made over the next few years by West Africans and their development partners will largely determine who benefits from this massive opportunity and its attendant challenges.

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Le climatologue et l’instituteur

Par Laurent Bossard, Directeur, Secrétariat du Club du Sahel et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CSAO/OCDE)

(English version follows)

image-finding-problems-to-fit-solutionsDans le deuxième opus des Notes ouest-africaines du Secrétariat du CSAO/OCDE («Les impacts climatiques dans le Sahel et en Afrique de l’Ouest: Le rôle des sciences du climat dans l’élaboration des politiques » ), Carlo Buontempo et Kirsty Lewis du Met Office UK s’interrogent sur le rôle des sciences du climat dans la formulation des politiques.

J’avais envisagé d’intituler ce blog « Ne laissez pas les climatologues s’occuper (seuls) du changement climatique ! ». Après tout, les auteurs eux-mêmes ne soulignent-ils pas que les climatologues ne sont pas nécessairement bien équipés pour identifier les éléments essentiels du climat et du changement climatique au regard des problématiques humaines ? J’ai toutefois finalement renoncé  du fait d’une admiration sincère pour cette corporation dont la lourde tâche est de nous aider à construire un avenir meilleur pour la planète.   Continue reading

Myanmar can flourish by sowing seeds of agricultural prosperity

By Deirdre May Culley and Martha Baxter, policy analysts at the OECD Development Centre

MyanmarDEVmattersOn 30 March, Htin Kyaw, a long-time adviser and ally of Aung San Suu Kyi – whose National League for Democracy party achieved a historic victory in recent electionsbecame the first elected civilian to hold office in Myanmar since the army took over in 1962.

The NLD won the democratic battle and enjoys unparalleled political capital and legitimacy. It must now deliver on exceedingly high expectations, build a cohesive multi-ethnic state and improve citizens’ lives. Economic progress will be indispensable if the country is to overcome years of ethnic armed conflict and move towards a common future. So what can the new government do?

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Nourrir sa population constitue le principal secteur d’activité de l’économie de l’Afrique de l’Ouest

par Laurent Bossard, Directeur, Secrétariat du Club du Sahel et de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (CSAO/OCDE)

(English version follows)

Cover image FREn inaugurant la nouvelle collection  « Notes Ouest-africaines » du Secrétariat du CSAO/OCDE, T. Allen et P. Heinrigs nous proposent une réflexion sur les opportunités de l’économie alimentaire de la région. Une occasion utile et nécessaire de se tourner vers le passé pour mesurer l’ampleur des mutations du monde réel… et de celles des idées.  

Je fais partie de ceux qui ont l’âge de se souvenir de l’agriculture ouest-africaine – sahélienne en particulier – au milieu des années 1980. Nous constations – déjà – la puissance de la croissance démographique. Entre 1960 et 1985, le nombre de sahéliens avait doublé et la population urbaine avait été multipliée par cinq. Et l’agriculture ne suivait pas le rythme. Abstraction faite des aléas climatiques (on sortait de la grande sécheresse de 1983), la tendance sur 25 ans était à l’augmentation des importations à un rythme de l’ordre de 8% par an. Jacques Giri dans son livre « Le sahel face aux futurs » paru en 1987, tirait la sonnette d’alarme : « Le système de production alimentaire sahélien est demeuré très traditionnel dans son ensemble, très vulnérable à la sécheresse et peu productif : il ne s’est adapté ni en quantité, ni en qualité, aux besoins (..). La région est de plus en plus dépendante de l’extérieur et en particulier de l’aide alimentaire. Le retour à des conditions climatiques plus favorables n’a pas fait disparaître cette dépendance ».  Continue reading

The Narrative of Development Has Changed

This interview, with Mario Pezzini, Director of the OECD Development Centre, first appeared in “Digital Development Debates” on October 14, 2015. Click here to read it anew

Interview by Frederik Caselitz and Prisca L. Watko

 

The OECD Development Centre serves as forum where policymakers can find solutions to pressing development questions. We met Director Mario Pezzini on the occasion of the Africa Forum held in Berlin this year, where Africa’s future role in the world economy was discussed. DDD had a chance to talk to Pezzini about the challenges facing Africa’s agriculture and how these are being analysed at the OECD Development Centre. Pezzini stresses the importance of considering overall rural development, not just agricultural development for rural communities. He sees the increase in population as a huge opportunity for Africa that could either help solve other problems or become a curse.

The OECD Development Centre brings together many different perspectives from the North and South. What are the most controversial issues and trends currently being discussed? Is agriculture a topic of discussion in the forum as well?

Mario Pezzini: If we go back in time, the North and the South didn’t share a common understanding of what was going on in emerging markets: In the 90s, 13 non-OECD countrieshad a growth rate more than the double that of OECD countries. Between 2000 and 2010, a total of 83, not just 13, countries enjoyed a growth rate more than double that of OECD countries. This resulted in a geographical shift. The geographical absolute centre of the economy, as stressed by the London School of Economics, was between Europe and North America in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean 40 years ago. The same exercise now locates the  very centre between Turkey and Iran. It is moving further east towards China and the South. A shift in wealth is taking place ex normal. Today, the picture is little bit more blurry, but the geography of the world has definitely changed.

A second important point is: What does being a developing country mean today? Are developing countries demanding cooperation and resources in order to follow the same path as developed countries have undertaken in the past? Today we are witnessing a wide range of development paths. There is no doubt that similarities in development do exist, but there are also differences in how development has taken place. We cannot just look back at our own history and say to developing countries: “Copy us and you will be successful”. Ideas and best practices come from everywhere, from developing and developed countries alike. This is the major point we focus on at the OECD Development Centre: The narrative of development has changed, and so has the agricultural sector in development.

Economic partnership agreements (EPA) between the European Union and several African countries are currently facing harsh critique. Many African economies are still monocultures that only sell primary products. Are EPA going to make it even harder for African countries to progress?

Most of these agreements are still under discussion, so the outcomes are not finalised. African countries often lack a local level of services and inputs to develop other types of production.

In many cases, agriculture continues to be based on the family model where a variety of products are grown, but not sold to the national and international markets. The capacity to improve productivity is still weak. How can this mode of production coexist with large-scale farming? How will Africa be capable of further developing rural societies and providing rural support for a different type of agriculture?

This is currently one of the big debates: On the one hand, we have people like Vandana Shiva who support small-scale farming and on the other hand people demanding more investment into modernizing rural economies. Is it possible to modernize small-scale farming as well?

I think that we have to focus on rural development in Africa in general. Agriculture is one important component of rural development, but not the only one. One of the major challenges for Africa, and also a huge opportunity, is the enormous population growth. The population is set to double by 2050. We have seen that China and India benefited from a strong increase in population, which allowed them to enlarge their employment base and improve their societies.In Africa today, there is only one young person for every old person. Population growth will mean there are several young people to support every old person. This will free important energy for growth and development. But what if these young people cannot find jobs, and especially jobs they perceive as decent? Social tensions will intensify. Increase in population is taking place throughout the continent, though more strongly in the centre of Africa, which is exactly the part of Africa where industrial development and the diversification of the economy have been the weakest. It is taking place in urban and in rural areas alike. So the bottom line for rural areas will not just be what to do about agriculture but first and foremost: What will happen to people in general, and youth and women in particular, as agriculture industrializes, as it becomes more and more productive and capable of generating exports? It is likely that its capacity to absorb young people and population in general, will drop in the medium and long term after an initial adjustment. This will likely drive a rural exodus with people leaving for the cities.

If this takes place at the same time and in parallel to manufacturing industrialisation, the population in the cities will increase, but not the number of jobs. We are currently observing jobless growth in Africa. This generates serious social problems in urban areas.  The solution to this problem lies back in the countryside, at least in part. We need to come up with development ideas for rural areas where agriculture is crucial. It is not the only sector though, and therefore other types of employment besides agriculture are needed. So is a different type of agriculture besides large-scale intensive production conceivable? The answer is yes, obviously, because there are different types of agriculture that depend on what is produced, the way it is produced, and the market in which it is sold. Strengthening local markets will be crucial so that more sophisticated products can be sold. Producing sophisticated agricultural products does not necessarily require a large scale and the use of chemicals and pesticides. The big picture is still the transformation of rural areas as a whole and not just of agriculture.

We have talked a lot about conflicts, challenges and differences. But in the evaluations the OECD Development Centre undertakes, what practices do North and South agree upon that can help eradicate hunger?

There is a wide capacity for creating dialogue and exchanging experience – despite how it may seem. When Korea held the Presidency of the G20, it introduced a point called “knowledge sharing” to the agenda of the G20 Working Group on Development.

For a long time we thought that the only factor missing was financing for development. We thought that by investing money we could temporarily compensate the poor and then reduce poverty on a permanent basis. The idea that we could also share some of our success stories only came up later. There is one important condition: Coming together at tables where participants have equal voices. We need to build trust among the actors in order for this to happen. I mentioned some areas in rural development, in regional development, but there are many more policy fields in which this exchange could take place.

One point must be clear though: The learning curve does not just run from North to South. It can also go from South to North. I have a good example: conditional cash transfer programmes (CCT), a very well-known social policy for the poor in which the government gives money to the poor. Funds are given to women instead of men and the requirements are that they send their children to school and to see a doctor. The first three countries to implement it were Brazil with the Bolsa Família program, Mexico with Progresa, and Bangladesh with the Female Secondary School Assistance Program II. Today there are more than 83 countries that have applied this scheme, most recently the US in New York City. So you can easily see that you can learn from all sides.

 


 

This article should not be reported as representing the official views of the OECD, the OECD Development Centre or of their member countries. The opinions expressed and arguments employed are those of the author.