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Africa: Neglecting Agriculture, 1
Oct 24, 2007 (071024)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"The central finding of the study is that the agriculture sector
has been neglected by both governments and the donor community,
including the World Bank. ..The Bank's limited and, until recently,
declining support for addressing the constraints on agriculture has
not been used strategically to meet the diverse needs of a sector
that requires coordinated intervention across a range of
activities." - World Bank Independent Evaluation Group
In its World Development Report for 2008, released on October
19 and entitled "Agriculture for Development," the World Bank
stressed the importance of a renewed emphasis on agriculture. The
report argues that "for the poorest people, GDP growth originating
in agriculture is about four time more effective in reducing
poverty than GDP growth originating outside the sector.
The report, which was covered extensively in the international
press, is available, along with much related material, on the World
Bank website at http://go.worldbank.org/ZJIAOSUFU0
In this and another Bulletin sent out today, AfricaFocus presents
excerpts from two related reports that have received much less
press attention. The first, the executive summary of which is
below, is a highly critical report of the World Bank's record on
agriculture from its own Independent Evaluation Group. The second,
a report from the EcoFair Trade Dialogue on "What the World Bank
Missed," is excerpted in another AfricaFocus Bulletin
The U.S. Farm Bill, which the Senate is due to discuss this week,
is likely to be renewed with little or no reforms demanded by
critics. For background on the bill and its implications for
international agriculture, see the resource page from the Wilson
Center at http://tinyurl.com/39x6vo
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
World Bank Assistance to Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa
An IEG Review
World Bank Independent Evaluation Group
The Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) is an independent unit
within the World Bank Group. The goals of evaluation are to learn
from experience, to provide an objective basis for assessing the
results of the Bank Group's work, and to provide accountability in
the achievement of its objectives.
- Agricultural development in Africa is a complex technical,
economic, social, and political challenge that has to be overcome
if the Region is to reduce extreme poverty and hunger to meet the
first Millennium Development Goal.
- Given the diverse constraints to agricultural development in
Africa, the strategy for the development of the sector needs to be
multifaceted, with coordinated interventions across a range of
- The Bank has had limited success in helping address the
challenges of agricultural development in Africa.
- The Bank now has an opportunity, drawing on its comparative
advantage as a multisector lending institution and as the single
largest donor to African agriculture (during 1990 2005), to help
ensure a coordinated and multifaceted approach to agriculture
development in Africa.
[Excerpts only. For full executive summary and full report see
Sub-Saharan Africa is a highly complex Region of 47 countries with
7 distinctly different colonial histories. It is also highly
diverse, with more than 700 million people and at least 1,000
different ethnic groups. The Region is a critical development
priority. It includes some of the world's poorest countries, and
during the past two decades the number of poor in the Region has
doubled to 300 million more than 40 percent of the Region's
population. Africa remains behind on most of the Millennium
Development Goals (MDGs) and is unlikely to reach them by 2015.
A major drag on Africa's development is the underperformance of the
agriculture sector. This is a critical sector in the Region,
because it accounts for a large share of gross domestic product
(GDP) and employment. The weak performance of the sector stems from
a variety of constraints that are particular to agriculture in
Africa and make its development a complex challenge. Poor
governance and conflict in several of the countries further
complicate matters. IEG has assessed the development effectiveness
of World Bank assistance in addressing constraints to agricultural
development in Africa over the period of fiscal years 1991 2006 in
a pilot for a wider assessment of the Bank's assistance to
The central finding of the study is that the agriculture sector has
been neglected by both governments and the donor community,
including the World Bank. The Bank's strategy for agriculture has
been increasingly subsumed within a broader rural focus, which has
diminished its importance. Both arising from and contributing to
this, the technical skills needed to support agricultural
development adequately have also declined over time.
The Bank's limited and, until recently, declining support for
addressing the constraints on agriculture has not been used
strategically to meet the diverse needs of a sector that requires
coordinated intervention across a range of activities. The lending
support from the Bank has been "sprinkled" across various
agricultural activities such as research, extension, credit, seeds,
and policy reforms in rural space, but with little recognition of
the potential synergy among them to effectively contribute to
agricultural development. As a result, though there have been areas
of comparatively greater success research, for example results
have been limited because of weak linkage with extension and
limited availability of such complementary and critical inputs as
fertilizers and water. Hence the Bank has had limited success in
contributing to the development of African agriculture.
The Challenges of African Agriculture
Agricultural output has grown in Africa, but it is difficult to
calculate a reliable growth rate for the Region over the study
period because of wide variations across countries and over time.
Some countries, such as Gabon, moved from poor performance in 1990
2000 to better performance in 2000 04; others, such as Malawi,
moved in the opposite direction. The change has often been
dramatic, which makes aggregate growth rates misleading. For
example, agriculture in Angola grew at 13.7 percent a year during
2000 04, although growth had retreated by 1.4 percent yearly during
1990 2000. Only about a quarter of the countries in the Region,
among them Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Nigeria, and Tanzania, show
consistent agricultural growth of over 3 percent in the 1990 2004
Total agricultural output in Africa consists primarily of food
crops. Agricultural export crops account for less than 10 percent
of total production. While some export crops, including cotton,
have contributed to poverty alleviation in countries such as
Burkina Faso, food crops have performed poorly in most countries.
Cereal yields in Africa, even in 2003 05, were less than half those
in South Asia and one-third those in Latin America. Africa also
lags behind other Regions in the percentage of cropland irrigated,
fertilizer use, and labor and land productivity per worker. While
the great strides in South Asia's agricultural production from 1961
to 2001 were mainly the result of increased yields, gains in food
production in Africa were produced primarily through the expansion
of cultivated land. Meanwhile, crop yields stagnated.
Beginning in 1973, Africa became a net food importer. Since that
time, food production has not kept pace with the rapidly growing
population, and food imports have grown rapidly. Meanwhile,
Africa's exports, which are primarily agriculture-based, declined;
for several commodities, including coffee, the Region's share of
the world market evaporated. Agricultural subsidies in Organisation
for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have
played a major role in keeping world prices low for several of
these crops. This, among other factors, has impacted the adequacy
of returns to farmers.
Agriculture in Africa is primarily a family activity, and the
majority of farmers are smallholders who own between 0.5 and 2.0
hectares of land, as determined by socio-cultural factors. Women
provide about half of the labor force and produce most of the food
crops consumed by the family.
Agricultural land in Africa falls into several agroecological zones
that run across countries. It is largely characterized by poor
soils, highly variable rainfall, and frequent droughts. Transport
infrastructure is poor, access to irrigation is limited, and under
rain-fed conditions, chronic food insecurity is a reality for
millions of small farmers. To survive in this harsh environment,
most farmers rely on diversified coping strategies. To ensure at
least some produce from their land, African farmers normally plant
several varieties of crops (typically 10 or more) with different
maturation periods, together with trees. Livestock is also an
important source of security for farmers in Africa, particularly in
lean years. The average smallholder's access to credit is also
extremely limited. Hardy crops such as millet, sorghum, cassava,
and other root crops are more important than cereals such as rice
and wheat, which were the mainstay of the Asian Green Revolution.
In this environment, for farmers to have an incentive to practice
intensive agriculture and take risks with new crop varieties, a
number of factors need to come together at the same time, or at
least appear in an optimal sequence, including improved seeds,
water, credit, and access to markets; good extension advice; and
adequate returns through undistorted prices for inputs and outputs.
A strategy for development of agriculture in Africa must consider
each of these factors in the context of Africa's unique
characteristics and specific local conditions.
Past Approaches to African Agriculture
Until very recently, agricultural development in Africa was
neglected by both governments and donors. During the 1960s,
immediately following independence, governments in several African
countries considered agriculture primarily a source of resources
for industrialization. Then, in the 1970s, the World Bank led the
shift toward a broader development model in Africa that was
consistent with a more general shift in the understanding of
development. This committed the institution to integrated rural
development to directly attack Africa's rural poverty and
underdevelopment. In the mid-1980s, when African countries faced
severe fiscal crises, donors prioritized improvements in the
efficiency of resource allocation and pressed agriculture marketing
reforms. But structural reforms also fell short of producing the
desired growth effects.
The Role of Aid
Bilateral and multilateral donor aid for development of African
agriculture declined from $1,921 million in 1981 to $997 million in
2001 (in 2001 dollars). Lending from both sources has since
rebounded with the increasing focus on African development. OECD
data show that although bilateral donors as a group have played a
comparatively larger role, the World Bank was the single largest
donor to African agriculture between 1990 and 2005. The largest
bilateral donors were the United States and Japan.
Foreign private sector flows into Africa are modest in comparison
with bilateral and multilateral aid (Hazell and von Braun 2006).
Private commercial investment in African agriculture has been
largely limited to export crops and higherpotential zones. A number
of international seed companies have invested in maize seed
multiplication, and in September 2006 the Rockefeller and Bill and
Melinda Gates Foundations together launched a new partnership to
help Africa develop its agriculture.
Agriculture's Potential and the Bank's Strategy
For Africa to meet the MDGs, it will be necessary to realize the
potential of the agriculture sector, to provide the support needed
for it to contribute to growth and poverty reduction. Research by
Dorosh and Haggblade (2003) and IFPRI (2006a) found that
investments in agriculture generally favor Africa's poor more than
similar investments in manufacturing.
The World Bank has not had a separate strategy for agriculture in
Africa except as part of its wider rural development strategies,
and over time the agriculture strategy was subsumed in a broader
rural focus. More recently, however, the Africa Action Plan has
recognized the agriculture sector as a potential driver of growth.
The Bank's Overall Assistance and Its Assessment
Over fiscal years 1991 2006, the Bank provided the countries of the
Africa Region with $2.8 billion in investment lending (as distinct
from adjustment lending) in agriculture, constituting 8 percent of
total Bank investment lending to the Region. A large part of this
lending has been in the form of agriculture components in rural
projects. In addition, there have been 77 Development Policy Loans
with agriculture components, and in 18 of these, agriculture was a
This limited investment lending has performed below par. IEG data
show that the percentage of satisfactory outcome ratings for
largely agricultural investment projects during 1991 2006 is lower
than that for non-agriculture investments in the Region (60 against
65 percent satisfactory). It is also lower than the percentage for
similar investment projects in other Bank Regions (73 percent
satisfactory). Sustainability ratings are also below average.
Although further analysis is needed, the study found that largely
agricultural projects in countries with less favorable agricultural
conditions have done better than similar projects in countries with
more favorable conditions.
The Bank's activities in support of agricultural development in
Africa have comprised lending, analytical work, and policy advice.
Until very recently the analytical work necessary for the diagnosis
of issues and actions and to help shape the policy advice and
lending has been limited, scattered, of variable quality, and not
easily available. In addition, IEG found that there are no specific
procedures in place to ensure that the findings of analytical work
are systematically reflected in lending and policy dialogue.
IEG found that the lending support provided by the Bank has not
reflected the interconnected nature of agriculture activities.
Rather, the lending has been "sprinkled" across an array of
activities in rural space, including research, extension, marketing
reform, drought relief, seed development, and transport, but with
little recognition of the relationships among them and the need for
all of these areas to be developed at the same time, or at least in
an optimal sequence, to effectively contribute to agricultural
development. While the Bank's broader rural focus from the
mid-1980s was justified, an unintended result was that it led to
less focused attention on the need for various activities that are
critical for agricultural development in rural space to come
together at the same time or to take place in some optimal
This review found that none of the top 10 borrowers, among them
Cote d'Ivoire, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Uganda, had received
consistent and simultaneous support across all critical subsectors.
That is not to suggest that the Bank should do this alone it might
well be done better in partnership but the Bank could reasonably be
expected to take the lead in fostering such a multifaceted
approach, based on its comparative advantage as a multisector
[see full executive summary for this section on specific topics]
Key Findings on Bank and Country Factors of Performance
- The institution's strategy for the development of the agriculture
sector has been part of its rural strategy, and over time the
importance of agriculture in the Bank's rural strategy has
declined. Both arising from and contributing to this, technical
skills to support agricultural development adequately have also
declined over time. Data from the Human Resources Department of the
World Bank show that there were 17 technical experts mapped to the
Agriculture and Rural Development Department in Sub-Saharan Africa
in 2006, compared with 40 in 1997.
- The Bank's diagnosis of a country's development status and
priorities in the agriculture sector is carried out primarily
through analytical work. Until very recently this work has been
limited and not readily available. Nor have the findings from
analytical work strategically informed Bank client policy dialogue
and lending program design.
- Bank policy advice appears to have had farreaching implications
for the direction of agricultural development in African countries,
in particular its policy advice associated with the adjustment
agenda. However, results have fallen short of expectations because
of weak political support and insufficient appreciation of reality
on the ground, among other things.
- The Bank's data systems and support for M&E have been
insufficient to adequately inform the institution's effort to
develop agriculture in Africa across a broad front. Current data
systems do not allow the institution to track in enough detail how
much is being provided for development of specific activities such
as seed development and credit. M&E at the project level has been
of limited value in answering fundamental questions about outcome,
impact, and efficiency, such as who benefited, which crops received
support and how, what has been the comparative cost effectiveness,
and to what can one attribute gains.
- Although the governance environment in several African countries
continues to be weak, political commitment for the development of
agriculture in client countries appears stronger than in the past.
African governments, many of which were allocating less than 1
percent of their budget to agriculture, agreed in July 2003 at the
African Union Summit to allocate at least 10 percent of national
budgetary resources for programs to support agricultural growth in
the next five years.
- Considerable agricultural research capacity exists, although the
sustainability of the activities supported remains uncertain.
Overall, government capacity in several countries remains weak, and
local agriculture ministries are still relatively ineffective
partners in promoting development of the agriculture sector. Though
further analysis is needed, the study finding that largely
agricultural projects in countries with less favorable agricultural
conditions have done better than similar projects in countries with
more favorable conditions suggests that other factors such as
political economy and country capacity are also a challenge for
agricultural development in Africa.
To effectively support the implementation of the Africa Action Plan
and its appropriate focus on agricultural development as a key
priority, IEG recommends that the Bank:
- Focus attention to achieve improvements in agricultural
- Establish realistic goals for expansion of irrigation and
recognize the need to increase productivity of rain-fed agriculture
through improvements in land quality, as well as water and drought
- Help design efficient mechanisms, including public-private
partnerships, to provide farmers with critical inputs, including
fertilizers, water, credit, and seeds.
- Support the development of marketing and transport
- Improve its work on agriculture:
- Increase the quantity and quality of analytical work on
agriculture and ensure that policy advice and lending are grounded
in its findings.
- Support public expenditure analyses to assess resource
availability for agriculture and to help set Bank priorities.
- Rebuild its technical skills, based on a comprehensive assessment
of current gaps.
- Establish benchmarks for measuring progress:
- Improve data systems to better track activities supported by the
- Strengthen M&E to report on project activities in various
agro-ecological zones and for different crops and farmer
categories, including women.
- Develop a system to coordinate agricultural activities in a
country with road access, market proximity, and soil conditions.
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