Strategic Assessments and Development Pathways for Agriculture in the Semi-Arid Tropics

Freeman, H.Ade; Rohrbach DA-OCD;. Strategic Assessments and Development Pathways for Agriculture in the Semi-Arid Tropics.; 2002.


The agricultural economies of Africa have witnessed three major changes during the past 10 to 15 years that justify a reassessment of agricultural research priorities. First, liberalization of macroeconomic and trade policies has increased the relative importance of tradeables in the commodity mix. Second, agricultural input and product markets have expanded, broadening the range of livelihood strategies available to rural households. Finally, broader partnerships for technology development and dissemination are creating new opportunities. Many of Africa’s poorest and most food-insecure farmers live in semiarid areas. To survive in a harsh and variable environment, they pursue a range of livelihood strategies. Different households pursue different development paths. But almost all seek to diversify their income sources and investment strategies as a means to reduce risk and respond to changing market conditions. How can R&D agencies improve the payoffs to farmers’ investments? There are trade-offs between different alternatives – should the farmer spend her limited money looking for an off-farm job, or on livestock, or on a bag of fertilizer? It is hard to evaluate these trade-offs. But recent investment trends offer some clues on the trade-offs involved, and on how farmers’ investment decisions are influenced by changes in policy, technologies, and market conditions. In July 2002, ICRISAT sponsored a conference on Targeting agricultural research for development in the semi-arid tropics of sub-Saharan Africa to discuss how best to link technology development, market expansion, and agricultural growth in Africa’s semiarid tropics (SAT). This meeting • Examined and compared alternative growth paths for poverty alleviation and development of smallholder agriculture • Reviewed the market and institutional factors influencing technology adoption • Assessed the current stock of available technologies • Discussed institutional arrangements linking national and international research programs and the public and private sectors. The meeting concluded with a series of recommendations for better targeting of agricultural research to achieve faster development. This policy brief summarizes the discussions and outputs from the meeting.

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