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Agricultural policies in Africa harming the poorest

Staff writer |
Agricultural policies aimed at alleviating poverty in Africa could be making things worse, according to new research findings.

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University of East Anglia (UEA) researchers this week published a report on so-called 'green revolution' policies in Rwanda.

Governments, international donors and organisations such as the International Monetary Fund claim these strategies are successfully growing the economy and alleviating poverty, but researchers revealed that they may in fact be having very negative impacts on the poorest people in the country.

One of the major strategies to reduce poverty in sub-Saharan Africa is through policies aiming to increase and ‘modernise’ agricultural production.

Up to 90 per cent of people in some African countries are smallholder farmers reliant on agriculture, for whom agricultural innovation, such as using new seed varieties and cultivation techniques, holds potential benefit but also great risk.

In the 1960s and 70s policies supporting new seeds for marketable crops, sold at guaranteed prices, helped many farmers and transformed economies in Asian countries. These became known as "green revolutions".

The new wave of green revolution policies in sub-Saharan Africa is supported by multinational companies and western donors, and is impacting the lives of tens, even hundreds of millions of smallholder farmers, according to Dr Neil Dawson, who led the UEA study.

The UEA research reveals that only a relatively wealthy minority have been able to keep to enforced modernisation because the poorest farmers cannot afford the risk of taking out credit for the approved inputs, such as seeds and fertilisers.

Their fears of harvesting nothing from new crops and the potential for the government to seize and reallocate their land means many choose to sell up instead.


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