LOW-RESOURCE AGRICULTURE IN AFRICA
Office of Technology Assessment
This is a draft of an Office of Technology Assessment
document. It is being made available solely for
review purposes and should not he quoted, circulated,
reproduced or represented as an official OTA document.
The material is undergoing revision and should not be
considered as final.
- /F -Y
Low-Resource Agriculture in Africa Advisory Panel
Mary B. Anderson, Chair
=Consultant in International Economic Development
Bridges Project, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Vice President for International Programs
University of Dar-es-Salaam
Provost and Vice President for
Department of Anthropology
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA
Department of Sociology, Anthropology
and Social Work
Kansas State University
Yellow Springs, OH
The Reverend Thomas Hayden*
Director Social Concerns Department
Society for African Missions
Resident and Director
Institute for Development Anthropology
Department of Political Science
University of Florida
Director of International Development
Department of Political Science
University of California
Department of Sociology
Institute of Development Studies
University of Nairobi
Center for Asian Development Studies
* Resigned as of June 24, 1986.
Low-Resource Agriculture in Africa
OTA Project Page
Phyllis N. Windle, Project Director
Analytical Staff for the Final Report
J. Kathy Parker, Analyst
Ted MacDonald, Analyst
Allen Ruby, Research Analyst
Chris Elfring, Editor
Additional Analytical Staff for Special Report
George Scharffenberger, Contractor
Kathy Desmond, Contractor
Beckie Erickson, Sally Shafroth,* Administrative Assistant
Nellie Hammond, Secretary
Carolyn Swann, Secretary
Roger C. Herdman, Assistant Director, OTA
Health and Life Sciences Division
Walter E. Parham, Food and Renewable Resources Program Manager
* Until December 1986.
LOW-RESOURCE AGRICULTURE IN AFRICA
Table of Contents
1. Summary and Options
Part I: The African Setting
3. IThe Role and Potential of Low-Resource Agriculture
Part II: Principles of Low-Resource Agriculture and Guidelines for Its
4. :Principles for Improved Management of Natural Resources, More Productive
:Household Systems, and More Effective Institutions
5. -.The Role of Technology in the Potential of Low-Resource Agriculture
PartIII:. Promising Technologies for Improving
6. 7.Varieties and Livestock/Cropping Practices
-a. Crop Breeding
:'.b. Integrating Animal/Cropping Systems
d. Agrofores try
.7. ..Improved Use of Soil and Water Resources
! a. Soil and Water Management
b. Improving Soil Fertility
ic. Small-scale irrigation
8. Improved Systems to Reduce Losses
:.a. Integrated Pest Management
,.b. Harvest and Post-harvest Technologies
Part IV: Supporting the Development of Low-Resource Agriculture
9. :-A Strategic Approach for Improving Food Security
10. Implementing a Strategic Approach
attitudes,.operation, and development-assistance practices. The Agency for
International Development (AID), as:che Lead U.S. development agency, would be
the-most important organization that would need.to make some changes to
successfully implement the low-resource agriculture focus. In the past, AID
has been constrained by a number of factors, including its reward system,
planning process, and organizational structure.
The African Setting
Africa faces a well-known litany of problems and feeding its growing
populations is one challenge among the many. "et when people in the developed
nations seek to help Africans face this challenge, they often underestimate
the impact of one crucial element: Africa is Africa. It is a continent o.f
tremendously varied cultures and environments, philosophically and
substantively different from the developed nations.
Although it can be dangerous to generalize, some common elements can be
seen in African agriculture. Generally, African agriculture is small-scale,
diverse, and dynamic. It depends principally on local knowledge and is highly
adapted to Local environments and cultures. Few outside inputs are used.
Women play a key role in oood production (Figure 2). Risk aversion while
striving to maximize yields is an important objective The approach may be
labor intensive, but other financial costs.are low. This approach is called
low-resource agriculture (LRA)** and it is the predominant type of agriculture
throughout Africa, although it can take greatly different forms in different
places. The people involved can be called Low resource agriculturalists.
Africa, as used in this report, refers to Sub-Saharan Africa (see fig. 1).
(To be added: Box 1. Description of different agencies' terminology)
SOURCE: Gowal Accowntng Office. "Afrtca AgIacutul Polclegs. A Mof Concrd Effort WIN Be Nemded If Refonm Is Expected." GAOMNSIAD044
Sept. 8. 13. (Ad1aptd hmr mampo Mariin Greenwe AssocI*at4s Inc.
They are farmers, fishers, and herders who coil at a very basic level and-yet
they often have:been ignored by policymakers both inside and outside of their
countries. The agriculturalists who work these systems are rural people,
often women, who are generally poor and who have limited access to and control-
over land, water, labor, capital, external sources of information and
technology, and external inputs such as commercial fertilizer. Within these
constraints, low-resource agriculturalists have responded both resourcefully
and flexibly to the challenges of growing food in Africa.
Individually, the contribution each low-resource agriculturalist makes to
the national economy is small; in total, however, they feed most of the
cc:.tinent.'s rural population. They developed their approach over time through
trial,and error, making them economically viable and ecologically sound within -
the African context. But the African context is changing rapidly no-., and LRA
systems are increasingly outdated. The traditional approaches simply cannot
meet the increasing demands of Africa's growing populations' and expectations.
iThus, one important question posed today is how to improve low-resource
agriculture. One necessary step is to improve our understanding of the low
resource agriculturalist's approach and accept it as a viable -- and actually
central component of Africa's strategy for food security. With better
understanding, the benefits of this.traditional approach can be blended wit
the merits of modern agriculture. The result could be a "hybrid" approach
that.combines modern-productivity with the best characteristics of traditional
agriculture and the realities of Africa.
Given the central role and potential of the low resource aericulturalist
in Africa, what questions arise !or U.S. Jeieiapmlent as:.sitaPt.*? AlthouAn it
will remain essential for Africa to progress on many fronts both within and
outside of the agricultural sector, it is clear that for the United States to.
successfully assist in Africa's development it will .have to support low-
resource agriculture. Current policy and technologies offer some good
potential,to help the low-resourcecagriculturalist; the key will be whether
Congress, the Agency for International Development, other development
organizations, and other actors in our Nation's foreign policy choose to
support this strategy for low-resource agriculture.
The Potential of Low-Resource Agriculture
What contribution do low-resource agriculturalists make to Africa's food
production now, and what can be expected in the future? According to USDA
data for eight sample countries, Low-resource agriculturalists produce the
majority of the continent's major food crops. They produce about 73 percent
of Africa's millet, 61 percent of the sorghum, 75 percent of the rice, and 96
percent of the continent's starchy staples. In addition, LRA represents the
'principle employer.in most African countries. Thus, the.potential contribu-
tions of an improved and intensified low-resource agriculture are great.':
Using few externally purchased resources, low-resource farmers and
herders have been surprisingly resourceful feeding most of the people :most
of the time in rural Africa, and providing an important buffer against famine
in some of the worst times. They also play a role in national economies.
Evidence suggests that in most-developing countries, small-scale agriculture
has some distinct advantages over Large scale, capital intensive agriculture
(Staacz, 1986). In general, small-scale agriculture:
Generates more empLoyment per unit of capital investment.
Is more economically efficient currently..
S Generates a pattern of effective-demand for domestically produced
industrial products and services that is more conducive to
development in other sectors of the economy.
Past success is not enough. As Africa has changed, it has outpaced the
capabilities of traditional low-resource agriculturalists. Today, the
approach is not producing enough food in certain regions and projections for
the future are increasingly grim. In addition, as pressures to grow more food
increase the traditional systems are no longer able to work in harmony with
the environment. For instance, fallow periods are being shortened so serious
natural resource degradation is becoming more common and yield reductions are
occurring. Also, as it now exists low-resource agriculture is not a
successful approach for decreasing poverty or improving the quality of life in
a broader sense.
Food security is a critical goal in Africa. It means "access by all
people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Its essential
elements are availability of food and ability to acquire it" (Reutliner and
Pellekaan, 1986). This means that people should have dependable, long-term
access to food through local -production, or through the power, to purchase food
via local, national, regional, or international markets. In spite of its
problems, African agriculture, especially low-resource agriculture, has
significant potential to make increased and substantial contributions to food
security and economic development in Africa. This optimism arises from two
1) the actual potentials of the natural resource base itself, and
2) examples of successful experimentation that have produced
3) potential of LRAists to change and experiment.
Supporting the potential to increase the productivity of the vast numbers
of low-resource agriculturalists in Africa could be.a key element in a
comprehensive development strategy. In addition to the potential :o improve
production by capitalizing on the natural potential of existing resources
(e.g., available lands, fish production, etc.), low-resource agriculture can
improveincome by reducing labor inputs and production costs. It also can be
designed to reduce energy costs, for example, through agroforestry. Research
advances, in particular, could help develop these potentials, at least in part
by striving to design "hybrid technologies" that combine local knowledge,
practices, and inputs with modern techniques.
It should be noted that it is difficult to look at this issue accurately
because a serious lack of data exists. This OTA analysis is a "best effort"
but is-necessarily flawed because of this data problem. This analysis should
be interpreted with an understanding of this built-in degree of uncertainty.
In addition, much of the data that does exist is conservative and reflects the
long-standing tendency to short-change the role of low-resource agriculture in
Africa-i. (See Box 2.)
A Strategic Approach to Support.Low-Resource Agriculture
Development assistance stands the best chance of success if the various
efforts.involved are coordinated into a cohesive strategy motivated by clear
goals and objectives. From its analysis. OTA has concluded that U.S.
development assistance to Afric: should include an .iproach r:u. su!.po;r:. -r.u
enhances the potential of Low-resource agriculture. The ultimate goal of this
strategic approach is to improve people's well-being in an equitable way and
What Do We Know
From the literature and experts,
lessons that we have learned:
o To increase food production
distribution systems, money
the following illustrate some of the
is not enough. There must be better
for purchase of food, etc.
o To increase inputs is not enough -. They must be appropriate, low
cost or lead to high return on investment, timely and come with
information on how to use them.
o To increase prices is not enough. There must be more knowledge,
more and more timely inputs, availability of credit, technologies
geared to take advantage of price incentives, etc.
o. To increase technology is not enough. Tractors may open new areas,
but they do not resolve issues of weeding new opened 'land or
harvesting increased production which often increases the drudgery
of women, nor do they resolve problems of transport, storage and
markets to handle produce from increased production.
o To increase production is not enough. If there are not enough
storage areas, processing capability, food will spoil.
o To increase technology is not enough. If they are not sustainable,
they will do more harm than good.
o To increase credit is not enough. If it is not available to the
major producer, i.e., women, then they do not reach a major segment
of the producer population. If there are no technologies, credit
used for investment in agricultural development will not be
necessary except for the other uses to which credit is applied,
o To provide new hybrids is not enough. If they do not reduce the
risk of farmers and increase the stability of income they will not
o To increase production is not enough if the foods are not
o To use only new research knowledge is not enough. It is a waste of
centuries of acquired experience, experimentation and adaptation to
o To invest in staple food production is not enough. There must be
income from cash crops to reduce foreign debt and to provide income
to farmers for the purchase of food.
o To increase cash crop production is not enough. Even if it provides
income, that income often goes to men and it is not necessarily used
to purchase-food which is the woman's re ponsibility.
o To provide low-resource technologies is not enough. They must be
-designed to reduce labor inputs, one of the major constraints to
agricultural production in Africa (especially seasonal). Also
returns to labor under LRA may be higher than those for. other
production systems, especially when considering how Ira reduces
o To develop low-resource agriculture is not enough. It is a starting
point. There is a need to increase efficient use of internal
resources, selectively use external resources, etc. Technologies
must evolve to meet changing. conditions of LRAists and agriculture.
o The Green Revolution as the answer to African food production is not
enough. There needs to be an improved range of options, including
Green Revolution techniques and technologies.
o To focus on only rural areas is not enough. That may be where the
center of food production takes places and where some off-farm
employment takes place. But, rural areas must be better linkedCt
urban areas for markets, inputs, employment, etc.
o To do a lot of short term activities is not enough. They may help
in their incremental and ad hoc way, but long term commitment-is
needed for research-and assistance.
'" --- --7-
to provide low-resource agriculturalists with greater options for their
future. "Increased:food security is one specific way to-improve well-being.
'Neither the strategic approach outlined here, nor any other, can be
expected to produce a "Green'Revolution" in African agriculture. Instead,
low-resource agriculture can be expected to change gradually. Technology can
contribute significantly to this process by expanding the technical repertoire
available to low resource farmers and herders.
A-low-resource agriculture approach notes four major features of African
agriculture and identifies corresponding guidelines for development assistance
groups to heed:
'. A complex web of connections: low-resource agriculturalists in
Africa are a diverse group and low-resource agriculture functions in a complex
web of relations and interactions within individual farming systems and by
links outside the farming system. Therefore, promising development assistance
S Ensure improved understanding of the ecological, social, economic,
*'- institutional, and technical components of farming systems and their
.integration into a whole.
*-;: Integrate and -use interdisciplinary knowledge of these various
.* Prevent disrupting existing positive links external to the farming
system, maintain and strengthen other links, and promote new ones.
2. Flexibility in the f.ce of diversity: !ow-resource ftrme.rs and
herders have responded t.,..t .iain degree )f uncertainty, risk. and
vulnerability with resourcefulness, flexibility, and diverse strategies. In
particular, these responses minimize risk while maximizing returns.
---- -- -
Therefore, promising devqLopmen: assistance efforts would:
Support the risk averse strategies, the diversity, and the
flexibility that characterize the resourcefulness of low-resource'
farmers and herders and thus reduce their vulnerability.
S* Design, implement, monitor, and evaluate policies, economic
strategies, and technologies for their differential local effects by
age, gender, ethnic group, and economic status.
Use multiple channels for policies, programs, and projects and
adjust these as a result of monitoring and feedback.
3. Local riches: Local resources, such as the skills of local people,
local knowledge, local practices, local institutions, and indigenous plants
and animals reflect adaptations to the diverse localized conditions that
characterize sub-Saharan Africa. Therefore, promising development.assistance
Use Local resources as a starting point.
Promote and enhance such key resources as the knowledge and labor of
African women and give special consideration to the potentially
negative effects on women of certain policies, technologies, and
Insist that local participation be an integral factor in the
initiation, design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation'of
A. Resources for Alrica's children: African agricultural systems, 'which
were sustainable int he past, are not keeping pace presently with rapid
change; they can be managed for environmental, social, institutional,
r -- --
technological, and economic sustainability. Low-resource agriculture in
Africa is increasingly unable to keep pace with the pressures and demands
being placed on it because of unprecedented population growth and increasing
poverty. In the aggregate, the problem-is extremely serious. In the areas
most susceptible or most affected, it is a crisis. Therefore, promising
development assistance efforts would:
Ensure that donors, national governments, and others work with low-
S resource agriculturalists to manage their land and resources
sustainability to preserve options for Africa's children.
-* Shift attitudes, policies, and practices of donors, African
government", and low-resource farmers and herders regarding
.This strategic approach is not entirely new, but builds on past
approaches such as AID's "Basic Human Needs" approach and-the current emphasis
on policy reform. These latter directives can be seen as providing tools,
such as policy dialog and promotion of the private sector, to accomplish the
intent of the former. Nor is this approach advocated as the single best
strategy for sub-Saharan Africa. 'The'development of low-resource agriculture
is essential for African economic development, but it is not the only
component of that process.
.OTA's analysis suggests that the principles and features outlined here
are required for successful development to occur (Esman, 1986; Fleuret, 1986;
Grover and Malvestuto. 1986: Kni;ht ind Child. 1926: Nor nh.. 1986: U.S.
Congress, 1986). A tairiy larae ..,nsensus-exists reiardin, :he way tr.a OT.
has characterized LRA, the guidelines drawn from this characterization, and
the needed features of development assistance that result. While some would
disagree with hne central focus on LRAi.differences of opinion are more likely
regarding specific questions of implementation.
It is with no small degree of frustration that many of the lessons'
learned to date about how (and how not to) promote Africa agriculture have
come from development assistance failures. Inappropriate technologies, Lack
of knowledge of the agricultural systems and the Land's resource base, lack of
local participation, and programs that are not sustainable are all among the
reasons for the failures. This strategic approach has merit as a guide to
less intrusive, more evolutionary, and more consistent development
assistance. The-strength of this approach is that it reshapes the process of
development assistance as well as the product. There would be costs, of
course, involved in this strategic shift, but in the Long-term the cost of not
using such a strategy would likely be greater.
A number of critical issues exist which will make it difficult to
implement a low-resource approach to agriculture within the development
community in Africa, including:
Inflexible bureaucracies, with few incentives to involve low-
The attitudes of donors, who tend to focus too much on increases in
productivity and too little on reducing the risks confronted by Low-
S Disciplinary divisions and disputes,
Lack of long-term commitment to development assistance,
Lack of knowledge chat only more research can fill. especially about
the systems where low-r soJ;re agriculture takes place and what. is
and is not environmentally, socially, economically, technologically,
and institutionally sustainable, and
Potentially conflicting objectives-with regard to the role and
contribution of low-resource agriculture (e.g., should countries
strive to produce cheap food for urban areas or encourage food and
income for rural development).
The Role Technology Can Play
Africa agriculture is in rapid transition. Although traditional
extensive, shifting agriculture remains important, the vast majority of the
continent's agriculturalists are shifting to a more intensified, permanent
agriculture. In general, African agriculture is moving toward systems where
more inputs (both internal and external) are used. Therefore technological
innovation in low-resource agriculture systems will be a major factor in
determining Africa's ability to meet the challenges ahead. This innovation
'will include a blending of the best of traditional and modern agriculture.
The prospect that Africa will need to double its agricultural production
over the next few decades to keep pace with population growth is daunting.
For Africa, however, there is no Green Revolution in sight -- no hope for a
dramatic technological change like that which occurred in Asia. But this does
not mean that there is no hope, only that the methods and goals -- and
technological approaches used are by necessity different in the African
context. Rather than relying on the well-defined technology package of inputs
that produced the Green Revolution, the most viable strategy for promoting
food security in Africa call. fo" evolution of exist-in fnarmin systems. A
more diversified approach is needed. where the technoloaies';re better united
to the needs and characteristics of the wide range of small-scale, resource
poor.farming systems that predominate in Africa. Although much uncertainty
exists over the availability and potential of various technologies, it is
clear-that some technologies-do exist that show high potential -for-use and
wider application in the farming systems of Africa. Promising technologies,
as defined for this assessment, are those which at present are often
overlooked and underused by development assistance agencies, and which are:
technically and environmentally sound;
socially desirable, that is, they address farmer-identified problems
and operate within farmer-constraints and they attempt to minimize
the disruption of existing farming systems;
economically affordable, and
technically, environmentally, socially, and economically
The focus of technological development in Africa should not be simply
increased yields, it-is to improve food security including both-food
production and access to food. Reduction of risk, Labor,:.and environmental
degradation are complementary goals. This study focuses primarily on
promising technologies to improve food security, especially those that
increase net agricultural production with some attention to processing
technologies and related issues. While OTA's analysis sees an .important role
for technology in the future of African agriculture, it is only one factor
among many that must be considered. Thus, it is essential that research to
adapt and develop low-resource agriculturalists technologies be accompanied by
attempts to address the many non-technical Eactors (e.;.. social.
institutional, political) chac.influence the overall picture. These
nontechnical factors operate at the national and farm Level. For example,
African governments struggling with debt servicing burdons find it difficult
to focus resources on LRA development. Civil strife or refugee problems can
overwhele efforts to promote LRA. :At the farm level,.women's'lack of credit
or extension seriously limits the potential of LRA by limiting their access to
STable 1 lists the promising technologies studied in this assessment. The
most promising approaches have certain elements in common. First, risk
aversion is an important but previously underemphasized objective. Second,
the technologies tend to be labor-efficient, but not labor-displacing. In
addition, it is crucial that the benefits produced accrue to farmers, and that
'farmers especially women are included in the development, extension, and
evaluation of the techniques. It is also essential that the technologies be
flexible, and enable farmers to make changes ("modernize") no matter what
level:of resources they have now or may have in the future.
One key element.is the importance of the local environment both people
and resources and this accounts for OTA's organization of technologies by
agroecological zone. Farmers' knowledge should be solicited in the design and
implementation of technologies, and existing farmer practices should serve as
the starting point for the development of "hybridized" traditional-modern
technologies. To make this strategy work, research needs to be reoriented so
it relies less on expensive, external inputs, such as fossil fuels, and more
on internal inputs, such as more efficient use of labor and renewable
Ideally, it would be useful to provide a detailed, quantitative analysis
of the technological potenti! of low-resource azricuiLur'- in Africa but this
is not possible. Unlike tn.- situation in the United St.atrc.. :here potential
production increases can be estimated relatively reliably, for instance, if
fertilizer input is doubled, in Africa there is too much uncertainty to make
STable 1: Promising technologies and practices; agroecological zone of
implementation; primary benefits. .4I think. this. should-becstandardized-to-.--
AID'a classification system, but for now A-arid/seti-arid, S-Seasonally humid,
C-Continuously humid, H-Highlands.
Technology and practices
. Animal traction
zone primary benefits "
A,S,C,H improves resistance to diseases,
pests, and toxic minerals; improves
efficiency of resource use
A,S,C,H reduces drudgery;improves labor
Animal health & nutrition AS,C,H
Animal breeding A,S,C,H improves resistance to disease
Small ruminants & poultry A,S,C,H
Aquaculture A,S,C,H source of protein; recycle nutrients
-. Inc trioppin
Dispersed field tree
Ocher linear plantings
Soil and Water Manageent
A,S,C,H reduces risk of crop failure; improves
efficiency of resource use; reduces pest problems
increases soil organic matter; source of
S,C,H increases soil organic matter; source of
A,S,C,H decreases wind damage, especially of
seedlings; decreases evapotranspiration;
source of fodder, fuelvood
A,S,C,H source of fodder,fuelwood; contain
A,S,R increase water available from rainfall
increase water available from rainfall
A,S increase water available from rainfall;
reduce soil erosion
A.,S labor efficient method of growing crops
using water from annual floods .
Improving Soil Fertility
Integrated Pest Management
C,H enables-production on land that would
otherwise be waterlogged
C,H reduces water and soil runoff
C,H prepares land without incurring costs of
plowing soil erosion, excessive leaching
S,C,H reduces water and soil runoff
-A,S,C,H increases soil organic matter
A,S,C,H increases soil fertility
A,S,C,H increases soil fertility
A,S,C,H increases soil fertility
increases water availability
increases water availability
increases water availability
increases water availability
A,S,C,R reduce risk of accidental introduction
A,S,C,H improves resistance to pests and disease
A,S,C,H reduces pest population by manipulating
A,S,C,H reduces pest populations by using
A,S,C,H reduces pest populations by killing them
with synthetic biocides
such an estimate.7 The African farmer's access to this input, the type
available, the ability to purchase:it, the capability to use it effectively,
etc., is much more variable than in developed countries. In this analysis,
less emphasis is placed on quantifying what the technology can accomplish and
more attention is paid to the logic of why that technology is the most
appropriate for the situation.
An important criterion in deciding that these technologies can make
significant contributions is their probability of being adopted by low-
resource farmers. Some of the technologies discussed in this report are
already in use but are capable of improvement (e.g., intercropping). Other
are "new" but it is expected that farmers would accept them because the
technologies are well-matched to the needs and resources of the
agriculturalists. For example, farmers currently recognize that declining -
soil fertility is a constraint and know that shifting cultivation is no longer
an option for dealing with this problem. -Alley cropping is a technology that
can be used to alleviate this farmer-identified problem. By combining
scientifically-based improvements for accelerating fallows with other benefits
such as fuelwood or fodder production, this technology represents an
affordable way to address several farmer concerns.
Implementation.of AStrategic Approach to L9A
Despite a long-standing tradition of foreign assistance, the United
States needs to be humble about predicting Africa's agricultural future
because most of the choices are n..r oirs to make. Development assistance ia
just that assistance. Low-resource agriculture is the system used by most
of the continent's people, and it is clear that it will play a central role in
theirf.uture. However, the diversity of low-resource strategies and the
heterogeneity of the people involved.make a.single blueprint approach to
agricultural development impossible. There simply are too many variables --
agroecological zones, farming systems, cultural differences -- for any
blueprint to fit the majority of Low-resource agriculturalists in the most
applicable way possible for each.
The United States could make significant contributions to improve low-
resource agriculture. How to draw out this potential is a key question that
needs to be addressed. In addition to strategic factors outlined above,
attention needs to be directed to funding, specific implementation approaches,
and current dc/elopment strategies.
Funding. The total cost of using an Low-resource agriculture approach. t.o-
African development cannot be determined. This is because low-resource
agriculture should be only part of a total African development effort and its
importance will differ from place to place. A low-resource agriculture
approach may be more expensive in the short term, but costs should decline as
African capabilities increase.
.Current congressional funding is neither adequately constant nor balanced-
to support the long-term planning and implementation needs of LRA
development. Overall assistance to Africa significantly increased between
1978-1985 but with swings in the annual available funding making it difficult
to develop a long-term approach. Sharp declines in 1986 and 1987 funds make
future planning more difficult while affecting current implementation. The
rise.in assistance to Africa included increased funding for aArlcultural
assistance. Much of this assistance was available from increased ESF and PL
480 funding not Development Assistance Funds (see Table 2) The shift to
increased use of ESF and PL 480 for agricultural assistance also inhibits
- -- .
Changes in Amounts of DA and ESF for SSA
(millions of constant 1985 $)
DA Z of
.*. f -
long-term development work. ESF (because of its political application) and PL
480 (because of its relief component)-country and region levels can swing
radically. Funding cuts in ESF combined with politically earmarking of its
use has led to declines in African levels. Additionally, the use of ESF for
agricultural developmental work has focused on policy reform. Increasing ESF
levels while holding DA steady (in constant terms) has led to a shift to
emphasizing policy reform while reducing relative funding for other
agricultural needs (e.g. infrastructure, education, credit, etc.). Long-term
stable levels of funding may better be promoted by making DA the primary
source of funding for agricultural assistance to Africa partly because
Congress has mandated its use for development and partly because of the
unreliability of the other funding sources.
AID's funding of agricultural development increased between 1978-1985
though in proportion to overall Africa Bureau spending it has declined. The
major:shift over that period has been the growing importance of policy reform
& economic stabilization support which rose from 6.6% of the Africa Bureau's
agricultural portfolio to 32% in 1985. Research and development was the only
other area to increase its percentage of total funding over that time. Due to
total increases in overall funding, other areas increased'their levels of
funding but declined in proportional importance. With declines in overall
funding levels, increased levels of policy reform funding cannot be maintained
without major cuts in the other areas.
Specific Implementation Approaches. How a low-resource agriculture
strategy is translated into action will depend on both Congress and AID. At
one Level, the way in which Congress carries out its functions of
authorization, appropriation, and oversight will affect the implementation of
a low-resource agriculture approach. Some hindering factors cannot be
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mitigated, such as that seven committees, and many more subcommittees, have
direct jurisdiction over U.S. agricu.Lural assistance while still others have
oversight authority, or the very real time constraints felt by.both Members
and staff. In addition, supporting a needed long-term focus for Low-resource
agriculture development assistance is a serious challenge because of
Congress's focus on innediate needs and fast answers.
Still, Congress has important powers the power to legislate, the power
to authorize funding, and the power of oversight that could be used to
foster support for low-resource agriculture. In general, no major new
legislation is needed because current congressional direction is adequate to
encompass a low-rescurce agriculture approach although certain changes could
better support such an approach. Funding, while a more complicated issue,
also alreadypays some attention to an low-resource agriculture approach. .
Perhaps the most crucial responsibility, however, is oversight to assure that
low-resource agriculture funds are actually being put to work effectively.
Effective oversight will take a long-term commitment by Cohgress. In
addition, certain inherent constraints would need to be overcome.
At the AID level, implementation should be seen in light of current
trends. AID recently has promoted a decentralized approach to giving field
missions increased authority for implementing policy. AID-hopes
decentralization will cut paperwork and increase responsiveness to Local
conditions. However, because the missions are geographically removed from
Congress and Washington, and because of their increased authority, oversight
should be a mixture of mandate and cooperation.
Other changes at AID also have a strong bearing on developing a
successful low-resource agriculture strategy. Reductions in budget and
personnel, combined with a strong emphasis on program assistance not linked to
LRA development (which transfers cash or commodities, rather than supports:
projects) all could act to hinder implementation. Problems with AID's -
planning process, length of activities, contracting.procedures, and the
sustainability of the projects also interfere with implementation.
Current Development Strategy. Existing congressional direction for U.S.
foreign policy already contains many of the factors necessary for an low-
resource agriculture approach to agricultural development in Africa. However,
our capacity to carry out this strategy could be enhanced by changes in
Congress, AID, and other U.S.-supported organizations, as well as in African
governments and among low-resource agriculturalists. At the same time, some
elements could make it difficult to pursue a low resource approach. so these
elements might need attention if the Unites States decides to more actively
focus on the low-resource agriculture elements of its development commitments.
AID's overall strategic approach for African development does' not prevent
carrying out a low-resource agriculture approach, but neither does it strongly
support it. For instance, AID's emphasis on policy reform and economic
stabilization, while not in conflict with the needs of a low-resource
agriculture approach, may pre-empt resources that could be devoted to LRA. In
addition, AID's approach to development needs to be balanced differently and
give more focus to low-resource agriculture. They need to be more concerned
with the proper mix of approaches for each locale instead of searching for a
theoretical mix to suit all Africa. Plus AID's agricultural research needs a
stronger low-resource emphasis.
- THE. ROLE OF CONGRESS: FINDINGS AND OPTIONS
Given the implications and importance of lov-resource agriculture,
policymakers must continue to address issues related to U.S. development
assistance for African farmers and herders. Enough information exists to
reshape strategic approaches, although further research and data collection
are warranted also.
OTA has identified options available to Congress. These options are
addressed under three major headings:
the importance of low-resource agriculture for food security
a strategic approach to supporting LRA'. food security potential
U.S. implementation of a strategic approach to support LRA.
In each area, OTA presents the major findings of this analysis and
options that reflect high priority actions. These range from legislative
initiatives to programmatic changes within Federal agencies. Table 3 provides
a summary of findings and options.
A. The Importance of Low-Resource Agriculture for Food Security
Low-resource agriculture is the predominant form of agriculture in Sub-
Saharan Africa, and the major source of rural food production,
employment, and income. No replacement for it exists now; therefore it
is the logical starting point for a strategy to promote food security in
Table 3. Summary of Findings and Options
Issue Finding '
A. LRA and Food Security LRA is starting point
Mandate food security focus
in Foreign Assistance Act
Direct AID to synthesize
and integrate evaluations
B. Strategic Approaches
C. US Implementation
Base on increased
understanding of LRA
Principles can guide
are long-term, flex-
ible, diversified and
rely on Africans
Technology can contri-
is in US interest but
Shifts needed in atti-
practices of aid
AID must change
Adaptive trials and
on-farm research key
to generate technology
Designate AID to lead development
of interagency strategy and action
Direct AID to incorporate LRA
focus in planning documents
Develop systematic approach to data
collection, use, dissemination
Provide legislative support
for use of principles
Increase oversight substantially
Examine World Bank agricultural work
Evaluate use of technology
in Federal agencies
Develop LRA clearinghouse
Create African centers of excellence
Increase U.S. support for
Direct USDA to develop educational
Ensure long-term approach via reauth-
Adjust balance between political and
Direct AID to identify and make
Use oversight to ensure technology -
Option 1: .
Congress could mandate that ensuring food security is a primary goal of
U.S. development assistance overall and/or U.S. agricultural development
Food security has long been considered a goal of development assistance
but it has not been included in the appropriate legislation. Its inclusion
(both in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Agricultural Trade
Development and Assistance Act of 1954) would unify current congressional
development direction for increasing rural productivity and increasing rural
income. The degree of increased food security could bemused as a
congressional measurement of the effectiveness of agricultural assistance and -
Secondly, a congressional mandate on food security would direct AID to
take a broader view of the farmers, fishers, and herders' situation. In areas
where there may be an inordinate emphasis on increasing agricultural yields at
the expense of other objectives such as risk reduction, a food security
mandate might Lead to more appropriate balance of activities (e.g. increasing
off-farm income, or ensuring stable or minimum levels of production).
i Congressional acceptance of food security as a primary goal of development
assistance would also give greater flexibility to AID to address local
conditions. In some areas, for example, activities to increase export-crop
production could be used to support LRA development because of strong markets
or the availability of marketed food supplies.
Finally, such a mandate could clear up confusion caused by AID
terminology. Currently, AID uses the terms "food security" and "food self-
.reliance" in a similar fashion .AID: Plan for Research 1985, U.S. Assistance
Strategy for Africa, 1986) leading to confusion concerning what AID means.
Congress could direct AID to catalogue and synthesize the lessons learned
from donor evaluation work in Sub-Saharan Africa and to integrate the
SLessons into AID's overall development strategy and operational activity.
OTA has found that many of the actions necessary to support the
development of LRA have already been identified in past evaluation work
carried out by AID and other donors (e.g. The World Bank). Two factors have
consistently constrained their implementation:
., A failure to catalogue and synthesize the evaluation findings
A failure to integrate these findings into AID's development work
due to a lack of a mechanism to do so, a lack of incentives, and the
S low priority given to LRA generally.
S-Donor evaluations are primarily organized on a project, country or sector
basis. Syntheses of these evaluations may not address the overall
* agricultural and LRAist development, and lessons learned may remain
unorganized. A strategy for addressing LRA could be grounded in the synthesis
of this unorganized information and supplemented with field knowledge. This
synthesis could be done within a year by a review of AID ev?!uations, 3ther
donor evaluations, interviews with field staff and interviews with African
counterparts. Because the synthesis would be a basis for future work, AID
personnel should carry out the work to ensure their familiarity with the
--23- -- -
results. A further step to ensure such familiarity among operational.staff
would be to" give the Africa Bureau -primary responsibility for the work because
of their lead role if the Agency's African development work.
The existence of this evaluation knowledge and AID's current difficulties
in addressing LRA point to the need for a better way to integrate the
knowledge into future development action. Congressional direction for the
establishment of a formal means (e.g. building the evaluation synthesis into
each Country Development Strategy Statement or ensuring that each
project/program addresses the synthesis) could also include direction for the
upkeep of this system (possibly a review of the synthesis every 5 years by the
same Bureaus and the adoption of its results) to ensure a continuing process
of integrating results from future evaluations. In conjunction with such
mechanisms, AID could address the need to reward the use of synthesis
knowledge (e.g. creating career tracks for personnel).
Existing U.S. legislation identifies low resource agriculturalists in
developing countries as priority recipients for development assistance.
U.S. development assistance agencies with responsibilities for
implementing this legislation, however, lack a defined strategy
necessary to promote development in the LBA sector.
Direct AID to act as lead agency in developing an interagency strategy in
support of LRA in Africa, that can then serve as a basis from which to
develop Agency action plans.
A number of U1S. executive branch agencies can make important
contributions in providing development assistance to LRA in Africa. Realizing
the full potential of these various sources of support would benefit from a
more strategic and coordinated implementation. Developing a formal U.S.
government strategy would be useful in defining appropriate roles and
responsibilities for U.S. support for LRA development in Africa, identifying
and avoiding interventions with adverse effects on the LRA sector, defining
priority undertakings, areas of possible collaboration among federal agencies
and between federal agencies and NGOs and other private sector groups, develop
channels for more effective. interagency sharing of information and expertise,
and developing proper and convenient access to expertise when not available
AID has served in the capacity of lead agency in developing U.S.
strategies in support of U.S. interests in developing countries before.
Efforts to establish a U.S. strategy on the world's tropical forests and
subsequently on maintaining biological diversity, illustrate the process. In
both cases AID, with support from other agencies, organized strategy
conferences. These conferences served to highlight the importance of various
issues, outline major areas of concern and avenues to address these concerns,
and.bring together various experts in the field with agencies with
responsibilities for addressing these concerns. Also in both cases,
interagency task forces were developed that built on conference results and
defined specific areas where U.S. government support should b. directed; The
most difficult step in the pr.-cess has betn get.ing ;idI,'iual agencies co
develop action plans to actually implement the strategies, although progress
has been made in both examples cited.
-- -25- -" "t
SSeveral factors would need to be resolved in defining the desired
parameter of a strategy conference in support of LRA. For example, would the
purpose be to focus on Africa or developing countries generally? Irrespective
of this -decision, consideration should be given to establishing broad
participation among scientists, development agency personnel, non-governmental
and private organizations. The biological diversity conference also included
participation of House and Senate staff who were able to contribute a
Congressional perspective on the proceedings. Particularly important in
addressing the LRA issue would be a strong representation of developing
country nationals, perhaps comprising 50 percent of participants. This may
point to the desirability of supporting separate regionally based conferences
in an effort to facilitate Logistical requirements. Also important,
particularly in the African context, is need for including participation of -
women to the maximum extent practicable, with perhaps 25 percent as a minimum.
Building on Conference proceedings, Congress could then direct the
interagency task force to develop a U.S. government strategy document
outlining basic elements of a U.S. strategy in support of LRA. In the past,
however, these strategy documents have been criticized for being too broad and
lacking in specific implementation guidelines. To overcome these constraints
it may be useful for individual agencies to then develop Action Plans, that
define specific responsibilities and priorities for each agency and mechanisms
for interagency cooperation. Such documents could provide Congress useful
information on how best to support such initiaves, including funding
-26- -" -
Direct AID to:establish mechanisms to incorporate bottom-up input into
the development of all strategic planning document plans in support of
The disappointing track record for development assistance projects
focused on low resource farmers and herders in Africa is attributed in large
part to the failure to incorporate more grassroots participation in project
planning, design, implementation, and monitoring. A successful U.S. program
to promote development of LRA in Africa should therefore stress greater
involvement of grassroots groups. These include those individuals working at -
the field level, familiar with particular needs, opportunities and constraints
in particular areas. These groups include the farming communities themselves,
and individual local organizations such as cooperatives and women
organizations. Input from Local and national government officials working in
the area, as well as expatriots and non-African NGOs working directly with
LRAists are ,also important sources of information.
The highly diversified character of LRA in Africa necessitates
incorporating this sort of bottom-up channel of communication in order to
identify and tailor LRA development planning documents suited to various
regions. Country Development Strategy Statements (CDSS) are an important
examples of country Level strategy documents that should incorporate greater
participation of in-country groups. U.S. financial support rfor national
strategic documents, such resource development plaits, shtruid aiso stress the
need for bottom-up participation.
S- =27- ." -
Creating or enhancing the capacity of appropriate mission Level personnel
to develop this sort of participatory planning could benefit not only in-
country planning but could be incorporated, through a filter-up mechanism to
regional planning documents. For example, specific programs developed and
administered at the regional bureau level at AID, could use this in-country
developed material to define regional priorities.
B. A Strategic Approach to Supporting LRA's Food Security Potential
A fundamental understanding of low-renource agriculture is the base upon
which strategic approaches to increasing LBA's contribution to food
security must be built.
Because of lack of reliable information and gaps in.knowledge about low-
resource agriculture in Africa, Congress could request that all relevant
U.S. Government-funded agencies establish and implement a strategy to
.support development and application of Africa's national and regional
capabilities. Congress could direct AID to develop a program to assist
Africans in the systematic collection, use, and dissemination of
ecological, economic, household level, gender-related, and other data on
The lack of reliable data impedes a real understanding of the nature and
magnitude of.low-resource agriculture in Africa. It also impedes the
development of appropriate responses. In order to overcome this obstacle,
Congress could request that the various U.S. agencies that are involved in
data collection or the development of databases develop a program to support
information management in Africa. The U.S. Department of Agriculture. Economic
Research Service (USDA/ERS) could provide more active leadership among other
U.S. agencies in developing African capabilities to collect, manage and use
economic data, with special emphasis on household Level and gender-related
data. USDA/Agricultural Research Service (ARS) could provide more active
leadership in developing minimum datasets to ensure the comparability of a
minimum set of variables across all countries or specific zones, especially in
arid and semi-arid zones where ARS works under a Participating Agency Services
Agreement (PASA) with the Agency for International Development. The Census
Bureau could be asked especially to ensure that ways to collect gender-related
and disaggregated data are included in their technical assistance efforts to
-countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) could be encouraged to increase its efforts in working
with i drought and famine warning system in.Sub-Saharan Africa.
AID could support research, especially by African scientists, on issues
related to the contribution of low-resource to national economies, on ways to
improve productivity that follow the guidelines of the U.S. Strategy for
Development Assistance to Low-Resource Agriculture in Africa, etc. AID could
also fund the collection and synthesis of data from microstudies in areas
where the Agency has on-going programs or in areas where it anticipates the
development of new projects. These studies should especially incorporate
local knowledge and oral hisfor.t~s b.-cause much knowledge is being Lost.
Agencies of the U.S..government could Look at the potential of developing
data sets in African institutions that focus more directly on agroecological
-. 29- __ -'
zones. OTA recognizes the problems of this kind of approach bit feels that
more systematic collection of certain information by agroecological zone can
and should be done and that African capabilities should be developed and
applied to doing this.
Existing African national and regional institutions should be used where
possible. The intent is not to develop large hardware systems but to develop
capabilities that could use Less expensive equipment in well-managed African
information management system. Regional institutions of Africa could be
developed to serve as clearinghouses of a decentralized system, capable of
identifying where information is stored across the region, facilitating the
sharing of information across the region, providing support to countries-
developing their own systems, and serving as a catalyst for the periodic
synthesis of regional or zonal data to determine lessons learned across
'* broader areas and issues. A major constraint to development of these
capabilities is that of recurrent costs. -These can be reduced if each AID
project has an information management component which is consistent with that
of the region and if AID works with other donors, including the International
Agricultural Research Centers to ensure compatibibility and avoid redunancy.
Certain principles can guide a strategic approach to improve LEA: begin
with local resources, use flexible approaches, strengthen connections
within agricultural systems and their external links to other systems,
and ensure future sustainability.
Congress could take an active role in looking at the implications of the
principles outlined in this assessment and provide more consistent
legislative support to their implementation.
I While the Foreign Assistance Act does recognize the vulnerability of the
poor in developing countries, it does not directly address the issue of
reducing their vulnerability. While the Foreign Assistance Act does mention
indigenous resources, principally human and institutional ones, it could
expand the meaning to include indigenous knowledge, local species, and the
like. The emphasis in the Foreign Assistance Act on the role of women is
warranted, especially considering the role of women in food production in Sub-
Saharan Africa.. This emphasis should be continued. And while the Foreign
Assistance Act does mention the existence of marketing and service systems, it
does not link them with farming systems.
Also, the Foreign Assistance Act states that "Special efforts shall be
made to maintain and where possible to restore the land, vegetation, water and
wildlife, and other resources upon which depend economic growth and human
well-being, especially of the poor", the FAA does not integrate the concept of
sustainability adequately.' The issue of sustainability is not integral to
discussion on the need to increase production. And, where it is stated in the
current legislation, it is not broadly enough defined to include the need for
social, economic and institutional sustainability alone with ecological
Sustainability. Congress coulu require .Li U.S. funded activities to monitor
their activities for their sustainability and report back to the Congress on
their progress toward implementing activities that are more Likely to be
The.most promising strategic approaches to supporting LRA with
development assistance share common features: long-term planning and
programming, increasing reliance on African capability, ability to shift
approaches both in different regions and as low-resource agriculture
develops, and capacity to include a mix of approaches, such as activities
to develop off-farm income.
Congress could play a greater and more coordinated role in oversight of
the implementation of strategic approaches to low-resource agriculture in
OTA sees that a greater proportion of effort could be spent by the
Congress in oversight of the implementation strategic approaches.to low-
resource agriculture in Africa. Congress could develop strategic use of the
.oversight process to provide for a coherent and systematic review of U.S.
agency implementation. A task force of relevant committee staff could
designate lead responsibility to specific subcommittees to address specific
.substantive issues that might be of interest to several committees.
Subcommittees could designate starl time to coordinate with other
subcommittees and with AID and other U.S. agencies on addressing specific
issues to reduce excessive overlap and redundancy which takes up both
Congressional and Executive Branch time. Congress could also consider the
possibilityof establishing a new Development Assistance Study Institute, or
using a.current one such as the Energy and Environment Study Institute, that
would provide a liaison for focusing on issues related to development
assistance and coordinating a program of oversight. The intent of this would
be to have agencies of the Executive Branch work with a Congressional Task
Force or Study Institute on oversight of the implementation of a U.S.
strategy. The Task Force would include primarily representatives of
Congressional committees, AID, but ARS, ERS, Census Bureau, Forest Service,
Soil Conservation Service and other agencies should.be involved. This forum
could provide an opportunity to improve relations between Congress and the
Executive Agencies and more input by technical personnel of these agencies
into the oversight process.
More specifically, the oversight requirements of specific Cotmittees and
Subcommittees could be outlined in an Oversight Plan in addition to the the
following areas: What needs to be looked at? What committees might be
involved? How might committee activities be linked? What schedule should be
followed? The Oversight Plan could identify more' specifically those topics
for which extensive hearings records exist, such as Women in Development. For
these topics, Congress could request that AID and other U.S. agencies provide
brief summaries of their earlier testimony and updates on their progress in
these areas rather than repeat information that is already in the record.
Both Congress and the Executive Branch agencies could be served by more
focused and less redundant oversieht.
SIDEBAR: POTENTIAL OVERSIGHT ISSUES
OTA has identified a number of areas in which the performance of AID and
other Executive Branch agencies could be improved. Through oversight,
Congress could focus on general themes and specific topics. Congress.could
seek African perspectives on many of these.
1. Operations-The objective of this oversight theme would be to determine
the extent to which AID and other agencies are implementing a strategic
approach through changes in the way they do business, or operate. Topics
Building staff and program continuity in the field
Training programs and their role in developing staff skills
Performance evaluation incentives for personnel to focus on key
issues such as sustainability and local participation
Programs to develop better relations between Congress and the
Executive Agencies (e.g.,. tours of duty of AID personnel to work on
committee and subcommittee staffs)
Experimental and flexible operations, such as using rolling project
design, longer-term financial commitments and more monitoring,and
re-evaluations, to enhance agency ability to mee objectives
2. Research. Technology Development and Dissemination-The objective of this
oversight would be to determine how closely current research, technology
development and dissemination matches an LRA approach.
Research focused on such areas as drought-resistant varieties,
short-growing season varieties, African crops, socioeconomic issues,
food processing, "high" technology that relates to low-resource
farming systems, administrative systems research (e.g., bureaucratic
system incentives, intermediate.organizations), and research on
mixtures of crops and products rather than single commodities.
3. Sustainability-The objective of this oversight would be to provide
constant monitoring of what AID and others are doing to ensure the
sustainability of development. The topics might include:
Operationalizing and measuring ecologically, socially, economically,
technologically and institutionally sustainable practices and
S Role of Support Activities in ensuring sustainable development:
Monitoring and evaluation of sustainability-so that AID creates
some formal mechanism/process to rank its own work on a scale of
sustainability and so that it can be seen how AID really effects
LRA. It should not be boilerplate.
4. Local Participation--The objective here would be to provide oversight
over development assistance activities as they try to develop more local"
participation. This might require long-term monitoring of the results of
efforts. Some of the topics might include:
Women in development, agency progress in integrating and using the
skills, knowledge .and other resources of women
Institutionalizing participatory practices in the operations of
5. Donor Partnership--The objective here would be to look at the roles,
activities and coordination of donors. Topics might include:
International institutions--cooperation in a strategy for Low-
resource agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using the comparative
advantages of all agencies in the donor community, i.e., IFAD, IBRD,
FAO, NGOs, PVOs, etc.
S Removing constraints to productivity without making low-resource
agriculturalists more vulnerable
6. U.S. Interests in Development Assistance-The objective would be to look
at what U.S. interests are and to determine the areas of divergence and
convergence of opinion as well.as possible means to resolve conflict.
Potential topics might be:
Development education for Congress and the American public.
** Competition between U.S. and African farmers for world markets
S Food AID: Its positive and negative impacts and how it can most
effectively be used
Problems and Potentials of U.S. institutions in providing
development assistance to low-resource agriculture in Sub-Saharan
Africa (including Title XII universities, private sector, private
voluntary and non-governmental organizations)
Congress could oversee the,agricultural abilities of the World Bank.
This oversight could begin with.a evaluation of Bank agricultural work in
Africa and its ability to make use of the lessons it has learned there.
The evaluation could Lead into congressional efforts to get the Bank to
make use of its own evaluations and reform its operations in a way that
would support the development of LRA.
World Bank agricultural project activities in Africa have had a poor
record of success. According to 1986 World Bank evaluations, 75 percent of
World Bank African agricultural projects failed. *At the same time, the Bank's
evaluations department has outlined the needs of successful development and
documented the failure of the Bank to address them.
In order to make the best use of limited development. funds, Congress
could first make itself aware of the situation (Bank evaluations are available
from the Treasury Department) and then begin working with the Bank to address
the issues. Through hearings, legislation directed to the U.S. Treasury
(which represents the U.S. at the Bank) and U.S. embassies, and funding
changes, Congress is already working with the Bankon environmental issues.
Agricultural reforms could be addressed in the same way.
-Technology can contribute significantly to the process of low-resource
agriculture development by expanding the technical repertoire of
LRAiscs. Successful technical support will vary from region to region,
change with time, and depend on both technical and non-technical
factors. -Promising technologies share several common characteristics:
technically and environmentally sound
Congress could request a study to evaluate past efforts and future
capabilities of AID, USDA, and other development assistance agencies to
to develop and disseminate technologies suitable for LRAists.
The failure of attempts to transfer technologies used in developed
'countries to the developing world is widely recognized. Remedies have called
for more attention to be paid to the conditions facing the poor
farme/herder/fisher. Technologies proposed to bridge the gap have gone under
various:.labels -- e.g. appropriate, alternative, soft, intermediate, low-cost
- and have meant different things to different people. OTA has identified
technologies that have the potential to substantially improve food security as
African agriculture undergoes a transformation from extensive shifting
cultivation to increasingly intensive permanent cultivation. Any particular
technology, such as improved varieties, may not yet be readily available to
some farmers; other technologies, such as intercroppina. are already the
prevalent practice. Hybricdied tradi: ..';ai-modern technologies should
facilitate the process of agricultural intensification. These promising
technologies share several common characteristics:
S Technically and environmentally sound: Technologies should address
farmer-identified problems. where possible, they build on existing
practices for coping with the problem, encouraging farmer participation
in developing and testing technologies. The technologies discussed in
this report have shown significant improvements in field trials and now
require adaptation to local conditions.
S Socially desirable: Increases in Labor are acceptable only if drudgery is
reduced and/or demand on labor becomes more timely and equitable. This
is particularly important in regard to the impact of the technology on
women, because they already have responsibility for much of the labor yet
they are so poorly represented in the process of technology development
* Economically affordable: There is almost always some risk associated with
the introduction of a technology. This can be offset to some extent by
focussing on technologies that are risk averse,.e.g. stabilize production
in bad years. Possible increases in risk should be anticipated and
negative impacts minimized.
* Broadly sustainable: From an environmental standpoint, priority should be
given to technologies that emphasize conservation of natural resources.
They should give a high priority to the use of resources internal to the
farm, which are often inexpensive and renewable, rather than externally
Congress could support the development of an information network to be a
clearinghouse for information on technologies to benefit LRA.
One of the most unfortunate'wastes of resources results from the lack of
an information network on low-resource agriculture. Research is often
duplicated while valuable information misses its intended target. For
example, United States research on agroforestry has spent time and money,
adding Little to the information already available from French agronomists and
foresters. The French efforts largely ignored the indigenous knowledge base
represented by farmers who collectively still know more about native plants
than any outside "expert". An information network is needed to better
integrate this information into the more established development circles.
Ongoing efforts of Rodale-International, Winrock-International, the Institute
of Alternative Agriculture, the International Alliance of Sustainable
Agriculture, among other U.S. based organizations should be evaluated and
Equally important is the need for this information to be affordable and
accessible to the thousands of practioners located across the African
continent. No single information center or network can possibly service the
numerous and varied needs of these practioners, but there is room for enormous
improvement. Two recent proposals, DEVECOL (Development Ecology Information
Service for Field Workers) and an initiative proposed by Rodale-International
could be examined for feasibility and support. Of primary concern will ibe how
to develop a system that is sufficiently decentralized to be relevant and
accessible, yet provide information in an affordable manner.
Africa's development will have to be driven by agriculture, and realizing
agricultural potential is directly tied to agricultural research.
Congress could support the development of African centers of excellence
capable of promoting development of LRA.
AID's agricultural research strategy (Plan for Supporting Agricultural
Research and Faculties of Agriculture in Africa, 1985) attempts to increase
African capability by calling for long-term support (20-25 years minimum) to
(1) strengthen national research systems in 8 countries, (2) strengthen
faculties of agriculture in 4-6 of these 8 countries, and (3) develop research
networks on food crops, forages in mixed farms, and on-farm research with a
farming systems perspective. -The countries have been selected because of
their commitment to agricultural development, cheir existing capability and
potential for improvement, and their geographic distribution. OTA has
identified criteria that highlight and supplement those listed by USAID for
the development of these centers:
.Emphasis on farming systems research that has a strong institutional
. Better integration of all disciplines: natural and social sciences;
Between the natural sciences, e.g. agroforestry requires agriculture
and forestry skills, integration of animals into farms requires
* Links between researchers, extensionists and farmers ensuring
Dialogue in all phases of problem identification, research.
development and dissemination of technologies
Emphasis on training more women
Expertise on low-resource agriculture, including technologies that
Emphasize internal resources-as.well as externally purchased inputs
Coverage of Africa's full range of agroecological zones
Links between agriculturalists and other nationals involved in
development; e.g, Ministry of Finance staff
Also, other issues must be considered in creating such centers of
excellence: who will bear recurrent costs? How will other institutions gain
access to information? What role might the existing network of international
agricultural research centers play?
Congress could enhance the use of United States technical expertise to
In addition to the Africans trained to staff the "centers of excellence",
there is an urgent need to increase the number of African agricultural
scientists. The African centers.will be a valuable resource in the-fuoure,
but in.the short term much of this training will have to occur outside Africa,
including in the United States. Avenues for doing this include AID's
participant training, bilateral projects, and CRSPs; NSF and a variety of
other public and private fellowships. More effective training can be
Establishing permanent ties with U.S. universities and research
centers that have expertise in LRA: e.g. University ot Nebraska has
a well-advanced low-input research and extension center; University
of California-Davis has a plant breeding center with the interest-
and expertise to work on breeding to increase stability and
durability of resistance; the University of California-:Santa Cruz,
the recently established sustainable agriculture department of the
University of Maine, and: other "alternative" agriculture programs.
Establishing permanent ties with institutions in other developing
Enabling African students to work on African problems by providing
travel grants and other support for field work in their own
Providing sufficient "start-up" funds. A few thousand dollars a
year could be the difference between success and failure to a young
scientist in Africa. Sources for these funds include competitive "
small grants programs through USAID Missions.
Supporting twinning efforts between US and African scientists.
Supporting training in conjunction with long-term projects, thereby
training a generation of African senior scientists who would train
the next generation, etc, thus starting the chain reaction that has
been conspicuous by its absence in most of Africa's research
Providing short-term, modest support enabling junior researchers to
S collaborate with senior scientists. .
C. US Implementation of a Strategic Approach to Support Lov-Resource Agriculture
A long-term commitment to promoting food security among low resource
agriculturalists in developing countries is in the.U.S. interest, as well
as in the interest of African governments and the African people.
However, strong constituency support for assistance to LRAist in Africa
seem to emerge only in periods of crisis.
Congress could direct USDA to develop a educational campaign with the
purpose of informing the general-public, and particularly farming
interests and lobbies, of benefits to U.S. agriculture resulting from
U.S. agricultural development assistance to LDCs.
Despite well documented evidence that promoting agricultural productivity
of the poor in developing countries is in the economic self-interest of the
United.States, a strong perception to the contrary exists among the general
public. -Providing for a more informed constituency represents an important
step in ensuring development assistance policies consistent with broad U.S.
interests. This is particularly important among agricultural interests in the
United States. Studies show, for example that developing countries with the
fastest growth in agricultural productivity are also countries with greatest
demand for foreign agricultural products. Despite this, agricultural
interests, particularly individual commodity groups, have in recent years
directed campaigns against U.S. agricultural development assistance programs,
supported through AID and U.S. Land Grant Universities. Campaigns have been
pointed and impassioned, though a!leat.~rns have been largely unsubstantiated.
AID and University groups have responded Lo cnarzes LnaC they ire engased
in activities contrary to the interest of U.S. farmers by illustrating how
their-activities, rather than being detrimental to U.S. interests are actually
providing substantial positive benefits. Notwithstanding the benefits
identified, however, concerns exist that particular interest groups have been
able to adversely undermine the ability of federally funded institutions from
supporting or participating in international or bilateral agricultural
; research. Restrictions stem from concerns over impacts against particular
commodity interest groups in the United States, however they are broadly
Directed and consequently have much broader impacts. For example, concerns
exist that legislation developed largely as a result of poorly substantiated
charges by particular commodity groups, may in fact undermine broader U.S.
economic and security interests. These broader benefits range from expanding
markets in developing riuntries for U.S. products, including agricultural
products, to conserving and providing access to foreign germplasm important to ,~
Encouraging a more informed and involved constituency among American
farmers would help ensure that U.S. agricultural development assistance is
consistent with these broad U.S. interests. In support of this, Congress
could direct USDA to develop a public information program directed at
promoting greater understanding of linkages between improvements in the
agricultural sector in LDCs and that of the United States.- Perhaps a joint
program developed through the Cooperative State Research Service (CSRS) and
the Office of International Cooperation and Development (OICD1 could draw
together a program focusing state and local level interests in international
programs. A number of private sector initiatives and educational material
could be drawn upon in such a program. For example, the Consortium for
International Cooperation in Higher Education, in an AID supported project
entitled "Understanding World Agriculture," has developed useful educational
material along these-lines. The University of Minnesota has also carried out
analysis of U.S. Interests in alleviating hunger in poor countries. Private
company support can also be solicited. For example, Pioneer Hi-Bred
International, a major corn seed company in the United States, has supported a
number of fora defining U.S. interests in this area. Developing a program
through USDA that could consolidate and promote public information on U.S.
interest in developing country agriculture could only serve to promote a more
informed constituency, facilitating the process of establishing U.S.
development assistance in line with U.S. interest.
A strategic approach that focuses on LRA's transformation, using
principles such as those described here, will require shifts in the
attitudes, operations, and practices of development assistance.
To help ensure the long-term work necessary to transform LRA, Congress
could take a series of actions that support a long-term approach:
1. Increase the time between reauthorizations of the Foreign Assistance
Act of 1961
2. Increase the time between foreign assistance appropriations
3. Maintain a stable level of funding for African development and
protect it from Executive and congressional diversion of
appropriated funds for non-African political objectives
4. Make Development Assistance the primary form of development aid.
Currently the direction for and funding of foreign assistance'suffers
from shifts in emphases and support. Donor agencies, especially AID, need
long-term constant goals and a stable level of funding under which they can do
long-term planning for and implementation of the activities .necessary for
development. Increasing the life of authorizations and appropriations
(possibly up to 5 years) could provide such a stability. Time gained from
ending the annual or every two year congressional consideration of these
bills, could be spent on in-depth oversight leading to well-grounded
adjustments of the bills. For example, the last authorization of the FAA was
for two years, which allowed the involved committees/subcommittees more time
to investigate development issues rather than focus on reauthorizing the
legislation and addresses immediate concerns.
The level of funding for African development could be stabilized within
the law. In times of budget cutting, African development:funds need to be
protected from unequal cuts (as Congress did for Development Assistance in the
S FY 87 Appropriations Act) and if foreign assistance budgets increase African
funds may deserve proportionately greater increases. The major need is to
maintain stable levels over the long-term so that planning and activities can
be carried out. Reducing the diversion of funds for short-term political
needs will promote more stability. Additionally, so will making DA the
primary form of development aid, partly because it is focused on development
activities and partly because the other types of aid (ESF and food aid) are
more subject to radical shifts in their levels for Africa. ESF levels shift
because of changing U.S. political interests. Current high Levels of
earmarking plus reduced overall Levels of ESF make it an unreliable source of
development aid for Africa.. Food aid levels are subject to shifts because of
changingirecipient needs and changing levels of U.S. excess.
Congress could adjust both the current balance of funding mechanisms used
for development aid and the way in which those funds are used in order to
better support the transformation of LRA. These adjustments include:
1. Making DA the primary source of development assistance to Africa
while ensuring its use for that purpose
2. Making food aid more supportive of development and reducing any
adverse effects it may have on development
3. Ensuring that ESF funds used for development activities are carrying
out U.S. development mandates for Africa
U.S. bilateral assistance for development activities in Africa is funded
through a variety of sources the most important of which are DA, ESF and
PL480. As discussed above, DA is the most applicable form of funding to
support the transformation of LRA partly because Congress has already mandated
that as one of its purposes and partly because the other funding sources are
less reliable over the long-term. In its overall consideration of funding for
Africa, Congress could make DA the primary funding mechanism. Reductions in
the other sources should be offset by increases in DA to maintain stable
funding levels. Additionally, if Congress makes DA the primary source of
funding to Africa, it may neeo to ensur. -hat the increased DA funding is used
to carry out congressional development mandates and not to carry out past ESF
While food aid's importance shifts due to African need and U.S. ability
to respond, there are several ways of making it more supportive-of
development. Congress could have AID address means of increasing the
timeliness of its delivery and compatibility with local foods (in order to
reduce displacement of local harvests and food tastes with imported food).
Congress could have USDA and AID increase the use of trilateral food aid or
increase the U.S. contribution to the World Food Program, a major promoter of
trilateral food aid. Thirdly, the Congress could instruct AID to increase the
direct use of local currencies derived from food aid loans for development
activities supportive of LRA.
If ESF funds remain an important source of development funding then
Congress may wish to have those ESF funds used for development conform to its
mandates for DA. Addiconally, Congress could direct AID to provide ESF for
political and economic purposes in a manner that does not hurt development.
The Agency for International Development is among the groups that must
make such shifts. AID has been constrained in the past by its reward
system, planning process, and organizational structure, for example.
Congress could direct AID to carry out an evaluation on the effects of
AID's operational structure and implementation process on its abilities
to assist LRA development in Africa. Additionally, AID could be directed
to establish a means to implement reL-rms identified by this review. In
support of this reform, Congress could carry out reforms concerning its
own interactions with AID that contribute to AID constraints.
Past OTA work has identified a set of well-known constraints inherent in
AID's.institutional structure. These constraints include:
1. The numbers and skill levels of AID's Africa staff are not
commensurate with the U.S. commitment to Africa. Technical, local
language and cultural skills are lacking and high rates of turnover
interrupt program continuity and make accountability difficult.
2. Program and project design systems are slow and inflexible and
reward the designer and obligator of funds rather the successful
implementor. Paper requirements and procurement bottlenecks hold up
3. Monitoring of programs and projects if constrained by limited staff
and evaluation results may be narrowly focused and ineffectively fed
back into the design process.
These constraints and others are familiar to AID. What is needed is a
congressional impetus for AID to address them all and design/implement the
means to reduce their negative effects. AID is already strongly concerned
about its institutional efficiency and Congress may need to ensure that
increased efficiency alone does not become focus of these reforms in place of
increasing AID's ability to support LRA development.
In support of AID reforms, Congress can modify its own actions that
contribute to AID's constraints.. Certain congressional actions cause AID to
spend time in an unproductive manner for development. These actions include:
1. A lack of muttiyear funding wnirh forces AID to choose between
hastily obligating money or losing it.
2. The need for notifications of low-level funding changes
3. A failure to prioritize mandates
4. Translating domestic pressures into demands on AID that may not best
support development (e.g. tied aid).
Implementing a strategic approach in technical areas will require greater
support for adaptive research and on-farm trials with a farming systems
perspective, in order to generate technologies suited to LRAists.
Congress could use its oversight role to ensure that technical assistance
to Africa is effective in benefiting LRAists.
The most effective tool available to Congress to ensure that technical
assistance benefits the LRAists, and to promote an LRA-Strategy, is
oversight. in its oversight of AID, Congress should: (See point "2" of my
first paragraph of p 1; and the more specific suggestions below:]
S Ensure that AID has balanced staff especially between economists
and social and natural scientists. Multidisciplinary perspectives
are necessary to ensure that technical interventions are driven by
farmer-identified problems and are suited to the farmer's social and
economic conditions. More emphasis:is needed for adaptive on-farm
Ensure that contractors have expertise in Low-resource approaches.
Currently, contractors are technically qualified based on Western
disciplines, but do not necessarily have expertise in-low-resource
agriculture. Rodale-International has prepared a roster of
professionals with expertise in sustainable agriculture -- does
USAID use this or have an equivalent?
Ensure that adequate funding is allocated to low-resource
agriculture in the research and technical components of projects.
Oversight is applicable for the World Bank and other development
.agencies, as.well as AID.