Front Cover
 Table of Contents
 List of tables and figures
 The nature and extent of pover...
 How agricultural research can help...
 Targeting agricultural research...
 Strategies for pro-poor agricultural...
 The role of public research and...
 Reprint permission notice

Group Title: Food, agriculture, and the environment discussion paper - International Food Policy Research Institute ; no. 34
Title: Agricultural research and poverty reduction
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00085353/00001
 Material Information
Title: Agricultural research and poverty reduction
Series Title: Food, agriculture, and the environment discussion paper
Physical Description: vi, 41 p. : ill. ; 28 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Hazell, Peter
Haddad, Lawrence James
International Food Policy Research Institute
Publisher: International Food Policy Research Institute
Place of Publication: Washington D.C
Publication Date: 2001
Subject: Agriculture -- Research   ( lcsh )
Poverty   ( lcsh )
Food supply   ( lcsh )
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non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references (p. 37-41).
Statement of Responsibility: Peter Hazell and Lawrence Haddad.
General Note: On cover: Technical Advisory Committee of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.
General Note: "20 20 vision"--Cover.
General Note: "This paper has been prepared for the IFPRI 2020 conference on "Sustainable Food Security For all By 2020," Bonn, Germany, September 4-6, 2001 ..."--P. 2 of cover.
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isbn - 0896296393

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Page i
        Page ii
    Table of Contents
        Page iii
    List of tables and figures
        Page iv
        Page v
        Page vi
        Page 1
        Page 2
    The nature and extent of poverty
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
    How agricultural research can help the poor
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
    Targeting agricultural research to benefit the poor
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
        Page 24
        Page 25
    Strategies for pro-poor agricultural research
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
    The role of public research and extension systems
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
    Reprint permission notice
        Page 42
Full Text

Food, Agriculture, and the Environment Discussion Paper 34


Agricultural Research

and Poverty Reduction

Peter Hazell and Lawrence Haddad

International Food Policy Research Institute
2033 K Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20006 U.S.A.
September 2001

Copyright 2001 International Food Policy
Research Institute

All rights reserved. Sections of this report may be
reproduced without the express permission of but
with acknowledgment to the International Food
Policy Research Institute.

ISBN 0-89629-639-3


Foreword v
Acknowledgments vi
1. Introduction 1
2. The Nature and Extent of Poverty 3
3. How Agricultural Research Can Help the Poor 9
4. Targeting Agricultural Research to Benefit the Poor 18
5. Strategies for Pro-Poor Agricultural Research 26
6. The Role of Public Research and Extension Systems 35
References 37


1. Trends in child malnutrition in developing countries, by region, 1970-95 6
2. Distribution of land types by region 6
3. Distribution of malnourished children by agroecological zone, 1990 7
4. Comparison of low- and middle-income countries 21
5. Priorities for agricultural research to reduce national poverty by type of adopting region 24


1. Number of people living on less than $1 a day, 1987 and 1998 4
2. Those living with HIV/AIDS and those newly infected: Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa 5
3. Food price trends in Bangladesh, 1973-96 15
4. Relationships between GNP per capital and population growth, agriculture's share
in GNP, and urbanization in low- and middle-income countries 22
5. Links between property rights, collective action, and technology adoption 28


International agricultural research has contributed enormously to increasing world food supplies to their
current state of plenty. Yet poverty remains a major problem and the challenge for agricultural research
now lies in developing strategies that more explicitly address the needs of the poor. This paper, based
on the study commissioned by the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) of the CGIAR system, addresses
this issue.
Based on an analysis of the links between agricultural research and poverty alleviation in different
types of countries and rural regions, Peter Hazell and Lawrence Haddad identify six key priorities for a
pro-poor agricultural research agenda: (1) increasing production of staple foods in countries where food
price effects are still important and/or that have a comparative advantage in growing these crops; (2)
increasing agricultural productivity in many less-favored lands, especially heavily populated low-poten-
tial areas; (3) helping smallholder farms across the board diversify into higher value products, including
livestock products, especially in countries with rapidly growing domestic markets for such products
and/or access to suitable export markets; (4) increasing employment and income-earning opportunities
for landless and near-landless workers in labor surplus regions; (5) developing more nutritious and safer
foods to enhance the diets of poor people; and (6) undertaking agricultural research in ways that are
more empowering to the poor.
Hazell and Haddad discuss strategies for achieving each of these goals with the least trade-off in
national agricultural growth. In short, Hazell and Haddad suggest strategies to target agricultural
research on poor peoples' problems in ways that are "win-win" for growth and poverty reduction.
Although the rates of return to public agricultural research are known to be high, public funding for
agricultural research has nevertheless declined, especially in developing countries. Yet more is being
asked of agricultural research and extension systems. If new technologies and research paradigms are
to be developed that specifically address the needs of the poor, then funding for international and nation-
al agricultural research must be increased.

Per Pinstrup-Andersen
Director General

Emil Javier
Technical Advisory Committee/CGIAR


The authors wish to thank Derek Byerlee, Dana Dalrymple, Alain de Janvry, Michael Lipton, and members
of the Technical Advisory Committee of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
(CGIAR) for their valuable comments received on an earlier draft.

1. Introduction*

Until recently, researchers and policymakers saw
poverty alleviation as a subsidiary goal of agri-
cultural research. The primary goal was to
increase Food supplies through cost-reducing tech-
nological changes that would lead to lower food
prices. Research focused on increasing the yields
of important food staples in irrigated and high-
potential rainfed areas, where researchers per-
ceived the productivity returns to agricultural
research to be highest. This strategy was enor-
mously successful and led to real benefits for the
poor as well as for societies in general. But it was
not sufficient to eliminate rural poverty, which
abounds even in countries that now have national
food surpluses.
Plentiful global food supplies and declining
trade barriers have created the opportunity to
develop explicitly pro-poor research strategies for
the public sector. The opportunity is enlarged to by
the private sector's increasing role in addressing
mainstream productivity challenges. Private-sector
involvement seems likely to grow as the evolution
of biotechnology and intellectual property regimes
redefine the traditional public-goods nature of
much agricultural research. Although food sup-
plies must double over the next 20 years, increas-
ing productivity alone will not be enough. The
public sector will also need to focus sharply on the
changing nature of market failures that it has tra-
ditionally sought to correct and on the growing
importance of countries' other social and environ-
Smental goals. This shift will require the public sec-
tor to invest in ways that offset the private sector's

chronic underinvestment in research for poor farm-
ers and regions and for containment of environ-
mental problems.
Against this backdrop, what can public agri-
cultural research systems that serve developing
countries do to increase the poverty-reducing
impact of their investments? This paper addresses
that question generally in the Introduction. Chapter
2 examines the changing nature and extent of
poverty, and its implications for agricultural
research. It notes the evolution in thinking about
poverty beyond measures of physiological depri-
vation (an inability to meet basic material needs) to
incorporate measures of social deprivation (poor
access to the components of power such as deci-
sionmaking processes, information, and authority).
Chapter 2 also shows the shifts in poverty rates
and numbers from a spatial point of view.
Chapter 3 reviews how agricultural research
can reduce poverty not only through traditional
pathways (such as own-farm productivity increas-
es, greater employment, general equilibrium
effects, and the lowering of food prices), but also
through newer pathways (such as community
empowerment through collective action for natu-
ral-resource management). Chapters 2 and 3 sug-
gest the need to tightly target agricultural
Chapter 4 outlines one possible typology to
help do so. The typology was developed for
potential technology-adopting regions within
countries and is based on two country criteria
(low- versus middle-income country and liberal-

*This paper is based on the TAC-commissioned study, which is still under review by TAC. Consequently, the paper rep-
resents a work that is in progress.

ized versus unliberalized market and trade poli-
cies) and four region-specific characteristics (high
versus low agricultural potential; good versus poor
infrastructure, service provision, and market
access; low wages and abundant labor supply
versus high wages and scarce labor supply; and
whether the region's poor are empowered or dis-
empowered in terms of access to land, other
resources, and public services).
Chapter 5 describes the six pro-poor research
priorities that emerge from the typology and con-
siders research strategies for achieving them,
emphasizing strategies to minimize trade-offs
against sectorwide agricultural growth, which is

key to long-term poverty reduction. The six priority
areas for pro-poor research are: (1) maintaining
growth in staple food production, particularly in
countries where food-price effects are still strong;
(2) intensifying less-favored lands; (3) helping
smallholders to diversify into higher value prod-
ucts; (4) increasing employment and income
opportunities for landless workers; (5) increasing
the access of the poor (especially poor women) to
foods rich in crucial micronutrients; and (6) under-
taking agricultural research in ways that are more
empowering to the poor.
Chapter 6 concludes with recommendations
for the public sector's future research agenda.

2. The Nature and Extent of Poverty

Defining Poverty

A consensus is emerging around the view that
poverty consists of two interacting deprivations-
physiological and social. Physiological depriva-
tion describes an inability to meet or achieve
basic material and physiological needs and can
be measured either as a lack of income, which
limits access to food and to education, health,
housing, water, and sanitation services, or by the
failure to achieve desired outcomes, such as a
high-quality diet rich in micronutrients, health sta-
tus, educational attainment, and the quality of
health, water, and sanitation services received.
Diet quality is crucial to individual well-being, par-
ticularly for girls, women, and infants.
Although income and achievements correlate,
they do not do so perfectly. For example, house-
holds with relatively high-income consumption lev-
els often contain individuals who do not get
enough of the right type of food to stave off
hunger, anemia, goiter, or death. This can occur
because of lack of information (for example,
household leaders do not realize the value of girls'
education or do not know that their daughters'
diets are low in iron), preferences (there may be a
deliberate bias toward education for boys at the
expense of girls), or an inability to use income to
purchase inputs required for well-being (for exam-
ple, sanitation services that cannot be purchased
in the market).
Measures of physiological deprivation are rel-
atively easy to quantify at the household level in
ways that are consistent over time and across
space. For this reason, usable data series have
been constructed for most countries to form the

basis for international comparisons and trends
analysis. Income and consumption measures are
usually preferred, but nutrition indicators based on
the height and weight of young children are often
used as simpler measures of physiological depri-
Social deprivation typically is assessed at the
individual or community level; it refers to an
absence of elements that are empowering--auton-
omy, time, information, dignity, and self-esteem.
Lack of empowerment is reflected in exclusion
from important decision-making processes, even
when the outcomes are of considerable impor-
tance to the poor-for example, decisions about
public investments in the local community, man-
agement of common properties, and priorities for
agricultural research and extension. Physiological
and social deprivations interact in a vicious/virtu-
ous cycle, with increased empowerment leading
to greater income-earning ability, which leads to
greater power, and so on. This more comprehen-
sive social definition of poverty provides richer
insights into the process of becoming poor, stay-
ing poor, or becoming less poor. It also provides
an opportunity for input from the poor themselves,
in terms of the dimensions of deprivation identified
and the way in which severity is assessed. This
input can be gained through participatory
research methods.
Because measures of social deprivation are
in their infancy and are based largely on quali-
tative analysis, quantitative indicators that are
consistent over time and comparable across
regions and countries are not available to
describe the extent and location of poverty
around the world, which this report attempts to

Figure 1-Number of people living on less than $1 a day, 1987 and 1998
Millions of people
550 522
0 1987
D 1998
303 291

250 213 217

150 114
65 64 78
50 24 9 6

East Asia China Europe and LAC MENA South Asia Sub-Saharan
(excluding Central Asia Africa
Source: World Bank 2000.
Note: LAC = Latin America and the Caribbean; MENA = Middle East and North Africa.

do. But where qualitative assessments have been
undertaken, they provide a richer understanding
of the nature of poverty and of poor peoples'
livelihood strategies. Such information can be
crucial to guide decisions about the design and
targeting of agricultural research that meshes
with the livelihood strategies of the poor. Public
agricultural research systems may need to invest
in collecting this kind of information in important
target regions.

Poverty Trends

Poverty continues to be a major problem in many
parts of the developing world. Approximately 1.2
billion rural people live in poverty (defined as liv-
ing on less than $1 per day), and about 160 mil-
lion preschool children are malnourished (World
Bank 2000; Pinstrup-Andersen, Pandya-Lorch,
and Rosegrant 1997). Infant malnutrition rates reli-
ably measure deprivation, given their comparabil-

ity across space and time. These rates also are
reliable lead indicators of poverty because malnu-
trition at a young age leads to the early onset of
poor physical and cognitive productivity and to
higher rates of noncommunicable diseases such
as diabetes and heart disease later in life
(ACC/SCN 2000).
Globally, about 90 percent of the developing
world's poor live in either Asia or Sub-Saharan
Africa (Figure 1). Asia dominates, with two-thirds
of the total poor, who are concentrated in South
Asia (43 percent). Less than 1 percent of the poor
live in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA),
and about 7 percent live in Latin America and the
Caribbean (LAC).
The total number of poor has changed little
since 987e regional distribution has
changed with poverty declining in China, East
Asia, and MENA but increasing in South Asia and
Sub-Saharan Africa. Poverty is growing the fastest
in Sub-Saharan Africa, where it is aggravated by a
higher incidence of HIV/AIDS infection (Figure 2).

Figure 2-Those living with HIV/AIDS and those newly infected:
Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, 1999
Millions of people

0 Adults and children living with HIV/AIDS
0 Adults and children newly infected with HIV/AIDS



Sub-Saharan Africa


South and
Southeast Asia

East Asia
and Pacific

Source: www.unaids.org/hivaidsinfo/index.html

The incidence and distribution of malnour-
ished (underweight) children of preschool age
shows a similar pattern (Table 1). Most of the
developing world's malnourished children live in
South Asia or Sub-Saharan Africa (together
accounting for 70 percent), again with the
majority concentrated in South Asia (51 per-
cent). About 49 percent of all preschool children
in South Asia are malnourished, compared with
31 percent in Sub-Saharan Africa and 23 per-
cent in East Asia (including China). Trends in the
number of malnourished preschool children also
show similar patterns to monetary measures of
poverty. While the number of underweight chil-
dren in South Asia has slowly declined, the num-
ber in Sub-Saharan Africa increased from 25.7
million in 1990 to 31.4 million in 1995. In the
past five years, the situation in Eastern and
Southern Africa has continued to deteriorate,
spurred in part by the HIV/AIDS epidemic
(ACC/SCN 2000).
Of the total number of poor people living
below $1 per day, 75 percent, or 0.9 billion, live
and work in rural areas (IFAD 2001). The rural
poor are distributed across regions in much the

same pattern as the total poor. A significant per-
centage of the rural poor live in less-tavored areas
ithui re challenged by dicult agroclimatic con-
ditions, such as poor soil, low and unstable rain-
all, steep slopes, and short growing seasons
and/or inadequate infrastructure and support
services (roads, irrigation, markets, research and
extension, credit, schools, and health centers).
accordingg to a report by the Technical Advisory
Committee (TAC) of the Consultative Group on
International Agricultural Research (CGIAR/TAC
2000), "favored" agricultural lands account for
only 10.7 percent of the agricultural area in the
developing world and for 8.5 and 16.6 percent,
respectively, in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia
(Table 2). Moreover, only about one third of the
rural population live in favored lands (Table 2).
The vast majority of rural people live outside these
favored lands, which in the TAC study comprise
"marginal" lands (24 percent of the total agricul-
tural area), sparsely populated arid lands (26 per-
cent), and forest and woodlands (40 percent).
Some of these less-favored lands have good agri-
cultural potential, particularly where roads and
irrigation are available, so it cannot be concluded


25 -


15 -

10 -



0 12

Table 1-Trends in child malnutrition in developing countries, by region, 1970-95

Percent of children malnourished
South Asia
Sub-Saharan Africa
East Asia
Near East and North Africa
Latin America and the Caribbean
All regions

Number of children malnourished

1970 1975 1980 1985 1990 1995 1970 to 1995
Percent Percentage points
72.3 67.7 63.7 61.1 53.4 49.3 -23.0
35.0 31.4 28.9 29.9 28.8 31.1 -3.9
39.5 33.3 30.0 26.5 23.5 22.9 -16.6
20.7 19.8 17.2 15.1 n.a. 14.6 -6.1
21.0 17.0 12.2 10.6 11.4 9.5 -11.5
46.5 41.6 37.8 36.1 32.3 31.0 -15.5


South Asia 92.2 90.6 89.9 100.1 95.4 86.0 -6.2
SubSaharan Africa 18.5 18.5 19.9 24.1 25.7 31.4 +12.9
East Asia 77.6 45.1 43.3 42.8 42.5 38.2 -39.4
Near East and North Africa 5.9 5.2 5.0 5.0 n.a. 6.3 +0.4
Latin America and the Caribbean 9.5 8.2 6.2 5.7 6.2 5.2 -4.3
All regions 203.8 167.6 164.3 177.7 176.7 167.1 -36.7
Source: Smith and Haddad 2000.
Notes: A child under five (0-59 months) is considered malnourished if the child falls below an anthropometric cut-off of -2 stan-
dard deviations below the median weight-for-age Z-score of the National Center for Health Statistics/World Health Organization
international reference. n.a. is not available.

that the remaining two-thirds of the rural popula-
tion all live in low-potential areas.
Although reliable poverty data by land type
do not exist for most countries, more precise data
do exist for India and China. A recent IFPRI study
reports that for India in 1993, 42 percent of the
rural poor lived in low-potential rainfed areas,
while 16 percent lived in irrigated areas and 42
percent lived in high-potential rainfed areas (Fan
and Hazell 2000). A similar share of China's rural
poor lives in low-potential areas (Fan et al. 2000).
Additional insights into the distribution of rural
poverty by land type are available from data on

child malnutrition. Sharma et al. (1996) have
mapped the incidence of malnutrition among
preschoolers by the agroecological zones defined
by CGIAR (Table 3). Their analysis shows that the
incidence of child malnutrition is highest in warm,
semi-arid tropical and subtropical areas (zones 1
and 5) and that 43 percent of all malnourished
preschool children live in these areas. Food pro-
duction per hectare is also relatively low in these
zones despite average or above-average levels of
The rural poor are predominantly smallholder
farmers and landless agricultural workers. For the

Table 2-Distribution of land types by region

Sub-Saharan Africa
Latin America and Caribbean
Near East and North Africa
Total (105 countries)
Source: CGIAR/TAC 2000.


Land type (% of total land)
Sparsely populated
Marginal arid lands
23.1 24.6
30.0 18.5
20.3 8.1
22.6 65.8
24.0 25.9

Forest and

Rural population
living in
favored lands (%)

Table 3-Distribution of malnourished children by agroecological zone, 1990

Malnourished children
Food production/
% of hectare of % of arable
Agroecological zone Millions total children arable land (TGE) land irrigated
1. Warm, semiarid tropics 47.9 49.0 0.98 17.2
2. Warm, sublhumid tropics 20.6 36.4 1.03 9.3
3. Warm, humid tropics 38.0 37.0 1.92 18.2
4. Cool tropics 8.1 26.0 1.50 8.3
5. Warm, semi-arid subtropics (summer rainfall) 31.7 44.0 1.07 40.0
6. Warm, sub-humid subtropics (summer rainfall) 7.4 38.0 1.44 26.8
7. Warm/cool humid subtropics (summer rainfall) 10.4 19.0 1.41 21.3
8. Cool subtropics (summer rainfall) 10.6 23.0 1.28 14.6
9. Cool subtropics (winter rainfall) 8.2 17.4 0.78 23.2
Total 183.4 33.7 1.20 20.0
Source: Sharma et al. 1996 (Table 2).
Note: TGE = total grain equivalent.

developing countries as a whole, about half the
rural population lived in smallholder farm house-
holds in ai y, and one-quarter lived in landless
labor households (Jazairy et al. 1992). The ratio
of landless to smallholder farmers was much lower
in Sub-Saharan Africa (0.15) than in Latin
America (0.82) or Asia (0.53).
Smallholder farms are getting smaller and
more numerous in most parts ot the developing
S world Hozell, Jogger, and Knox ZU0). This con-
trasts sharply with changes in the industrialized
countries where farms are getting larger and there
has been an exodus of small-scale farmers from
Smallholder households are also diversifying
their livelihood strategies and increasing their
share of nonfarm income (Reardon et al. 1998;
Carney 1998). Smallholders and landless workers
typically earn more than half their total household
income from nonagricultural sources. Such diversi-
fication could reflect worsening impoverishment
and desperation as land becomes increasingly
scarce, or it could reflect increasing prosperity, as
rural workers are attracted to higher-paying non-
farm jobs. The Southeast Asian experience has
been largely of the latter variety, with rapid
growth in rural nonfarm employment and income
as a result of dynamic national economies
(Rosegrant and Hazell 2000). Many Southeast

Asian countries seem to be following the Japanese
experience, retaining large numbers of smallhold-
er farms that are becoming part-time enterprises.
Diversification is more likely to be associated with
greater impoverisment when increasing land
scarcity occurs in conjunction with slow agricultur-
al growth, stagnant national and regional
economies, and falling wages (Hazell and
Reardon 1998). Such situations are not uncom-
mon in many of the poorer countries in South Asia
and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Although there are many explanations for cur-
rent levels and trends in poverty around the
world, agricultural growth is an important con-
tributing factor. Its influence has been most stud-
led for India. Prior to the Green Revolution in the
late 1960s, the incidence of rural poverty in India
fluctuated widely. Researchers obtained different
results on the relationship between poverty and
agricultural growth, depending on the period
they chose for their analysis (Bardhan 1973;
Ahluwalia 1978; Gaiha 1989; Ghose 1989;
Griffin and Ghose 1979; Saith 1981). But after
the Green Revolution began in the mid-1960s,
the incidence of rural poverty began a definite
downward trend (from about two-thirds to one-
third of the rural population by the early1990s).
A greater consensus began to emerge in the liter-
ature on the poverty-reducing impact of agricul-

tural growth (Ghose 1989; Fan, Hazell, and
Thorat 1999; Datt and Ravallion 1997). Rural
poverty also declined dramatically in China after
policy reforms launched rapid increases in agri-
cultural growth and in the purchasing power of
rural households (Fan, Zhang, and Zhang 2000).
Rosegrant and Hazell (2000) report similar
broad relationships across much of Asia during
the Green Revolution era. Whereas 60 percent of
Asians lived in poverty in 1975, this ratio had
fallen to less than one in three by 1995, and the
total number of poor declined from about 1.2 bil-
lion to about 0.8 billion despite a 1 billion
increase in the total population.
Agricultural growth has not always improved
income distribution, but by raising per capital

incomes across the board, it has significantly con-
tributed to reducing the number of people living
below the poverty line. In contrast, in Sub-Saharan
Africa, where poverty is increasing and food inse-
curity is deteriorating, agricultural growth has
been very disappointing, often struggling just to
keep pace with population growth.
It would be dangerous to conclude too much
from these patterns of association without more
micro-based evidence on cause-and-effect rela-
tionships. Nor should it be concluded that agri-
cultural growth necessarily reduces poverty. But
the data do provide an optimistic backdrop that
justifies more careful analysis of how technologi-
cally driven agricultural growth can benefit poor

3. How Agricultural Research Can Help the Poor

Agricultural research that leads to improved tech-
nologies can benefit the poor in a number of

1. Research can help poor farmers directly
through increased own-farm production, pro-
viding more food and nutrients for their own
consumption and increasing the output of mar-
keted products for greater farm income.

2. Small farmers and landless laborers can gain
greater agricultural employment opportunities
and higher wages within the adopting

3. The poor can have opportunities to migrate to
other agricultural regions.

4. Growth in the rural and urban nonfarm econ-
omy induced by more rapid agricultural
growth can benefit a wide range of rural and
urban poor people.

5. Research can lead to lower food prices for all
consumers, whether from rural or urban areas.

6. Research can lead to greater physical and
economic access to crops that are high in
nutrients and crucial to the well-being of the
poor-particularly poor women.

7. Research can empower the poor by increasing
their access to decisionmaking processes,
enhancing their capacity for collective action
and reducing their vulnerability to economic
shocks via asset accumulation.

These benefits do not necessarily materialize
for the poor. Many conditioning factors determine
who benefits from technological change. Nor do
the benefits of research all necessarily work in the
same direction. For example, while many of the
poor may benefit from less costly food and greater
opportunities for nonfarm income, production and
employment benefits in the adopting regions may
be disappointing or even perverse. Net outcomes,
both for individual poor people and for entire
poor populations, can be difficult to determine

On-Farm Productivity Impacts

Poor farmers will obtain own-farm benefits from
new technologies only if they adopt them. This
means that the new technologies must be appro-
priate and profitable for farming conditions, and
that poor farmers must have access to the knowl-
edge and inputs necessary to adopt the technolo-
gy. In principle, improved crop varieties are
scale-neutral and can be adopted by farms of all
sizes, but the same is not always true of other
technologies or of complementary inputs like irri-
gation and machines, and access to fertilizers and
credit. If institutions that provide these services
and inputs are biased in favor of large farms, the
poor may not be able to adopt new technologies.
To invest in new technologies whose returns
occur over a number of years (for example,
improved tree crops or better soil-management
techniques) and to obtain credit to finance such
long-term investments, poor farmers need secure
ownership or tenancy rights. Insecure rights to

land may increase poor farmers' vulnerability to
eviction should larger farmers and landlords want
to expand their own cropped area as the result of
more profitable technologies.
Under risky agroclimatic conditions, poor
farmers may be reluctant to adopt profitable
new technologies because they require input
investments that could be lost in an unfavorable
year. On the other hand, larger farmers are
more likely to assume such risks because they
have larger reserves and better access to credit
and insurance.
Farmers who adopt new technologies often
succeed in lowering their production costs per
unit of output (though not usually per hectare),
and therefore can better compete in the market.
Moreover, if the technology is widely adopted
and market prices fall as a result, the decline in
unit cost may be essential for maintaining farm
income. In this case, farmers who do not adopt
the technology will be disadvantaged not only
by stagnant production but also by declining
prices and tighter profit margins. This profit
squeeze can be detrimental to nonadopters with-
in technology-adopting regions and to farmers
who live in regions that are inappropriate for the
new technology.
Even when poor farmers do benefit from sig-
nificant productivity gains, these benefits are not
always shared equitably among household mem-
bers. In many societies, men and women have
responsibility for growing different crops.
Therefore, which crops benefit from technological
change determines who controls the increased
production within the household. Technological
change for women's food crops may translate into
better nutrition and well-being for women and chil-
dren than technological change for men's cash
crops (Haddad, Hoddinott, and Alderman 1997).
The initial experience with the Green
Revolution in Asia stimulated a large body of
empirical literature on how agricultural techno-
logical change affects poor farmers (see Kerr
and Kolavalli 1999 for a recent review). Critics
of the Green Revolution argued that because of

their better access to irrigation water, fertilizers,
seeds, and credit, owners of large farms were
the main adopters of the new technologies, and
smallholders were either unaffected or harmed
because the Green Revolution resulted in lower
product prices, higher input prices, and owners'
efforts to increase rents or force tenants off the
land. Critics also argued that the Green
Revolution encouraged unnecessary mechaniza-
tion, with a resulting reduction in rural wages
and employment. The net result, critics said, was
an increase in inequality of income and asset dis-
tribution and a worsening of absolute poverty
(see Griffin 1974; Frankel 1976; Farmer 1977;
ILO 1977; Pearse 1980).
Although a number of village and household
studies conducted soon after the release of
Green Revolution technologies lent some support
to early critics, more recent evidence shows
mixed outcomes (Blyn 1983; Pinstrup-Andersen
and Hazell 1985; Lipton and Longhurst 1989;
Hazell and Ramasamy 1991; David and Otsuka
1994). Although small farmers did lag behind
large farmers in adopting Green Revolution tech-
nologies, many of them eventually did so. Many
of these small-farm adopters benefited from
increased production, greater employment
opportunities, and higher wages in the agricul-
tural and nonfarm sectors. Moreover, most small
farmers were able to hold onto their land and
captured significant total production increases
from their holdings (Westley 1986; Hazell and
Ramasamy 1991; Rosegrant and Hazell 2000).
In some cases, small farmers and landless labor-
ers actually ended up gaining proportionally
more income than larger farmers, with a net
improvement in the distribution of village income
(Hazell and Ramasamy, 1991).
This is not to say that the Green Revolution
was equitable everywhere (Freebairn 1995). But
the conditions under which it and similar yield-
enhancing technologies are likely to have equi-
table on-form benefits are now reasonably well
understood. These include: (1) a scale-neutral tech-
nology package that can be profitably adopted

on farms of all sizes; (2) an equitable distribution
of land with secure ownership or tenancy rights;
(3) efficient input, credit, and product markets so
that farms of all sizes have access to needed mod-
ern farm inputs and information and are able to
receive similar prices for their products; and (4)
policies that do not discriminate against small
farms and landless laborers (for instance, no sub-
sidies on mechanization and no scale-biases in
agricultural research and extension). These condi-
tions are not easy to meet. Typically, government
must make a concerted effort to ensure that small
farmers have fair access to land, knowledge, and
modern inputs.

Agricultural Employment
and Wages

Many yield-enhancing technologies increase total
on-farm employment, particularly if they expand
the gross cropped area, for example, by growing
more crops per year with irrigation and short-sea-
son crop varieties. This can lead to less seasonal
fluctuation in employment earnings. But whether
all this translates into higher wage earnings for the
poor depends in large part on the elasticity of the
labor supply. If labor is abundant in the adopting
region, then additional employment will have little
effect on wages, workers will gain, and farmers
will have limited incentive to invest in labor-dis-
placing machines. But if the labor supply is inelas-
tic, wages will rise sharply and labor-displacing
machines may become attractive. Initial mecha-
nization may be targeted on labor-intensive tasks
like plowing and threshing, but once farmers
invest in tractors the incremental costs of mecha-
nizing other tasks may become quite low, causing
more widespread displacement of labor.
Mechanization may also occur prematurely if gov-
ernment policies such as cheap credit for large
farms make mechanization less costly.
Population growth increases the supply elas-
ticity of labor and therefore acts to dampen wage

increases. This may lead to greater agricultural
employment, but lower living standards for work-
ers. The decline in living standards can be partic-
ularly sharp if rapid population growth coincides
with adoption of agricultural technologies with
low employment elasticities.

Impact on Inter-regional

Technological change in agriculture is usually site-
specific and does not benefit all regions equally.
The Green Revolution was initially concentrated in
irrigated regions and only later spread to more
favorable rainfed areas. Technological change,
therefore, can contribute to widening disparities
between regions. Worse, if the technology leads
to lower production costs per unit of output in the
adopting regions, producer prices may fall, leav-
ing non-adopting regions with lower prices as well
as stagnant yields, so that their incomes could
actually decline. But inter-regional migration acts
to buffer these gaps and provides an efficient way
of spreading the benefits to poorer regions with
more limited agricultural growth potential.
In India, the Green Revolution led to the sea-
sonal migration of more than a million agricultur-
al workers each year from the eastern states to
Punjab and Haryana (Westley 1986). Moreover,
in a study of the impact of the Green Revolution in
a sample of Asian villages, David and Otsuka
(1994) found that seasonal migration played an
important role in spreading the benefits between
technology-adopting and -nonadopting regions.
But even though migration can buffer widening
income differentials between regions, it is rarely
sufficient to avoid it. In India, poverty in many low-
potential rainfall areas has changed little even
while irrigated and high-potential rainfall areas
have progressed (Fan and Hazell 2000).
Regional inequalities have also worsened in
China in recent years (Knight and Song 1992;
Zhang and Fan 2001).

Impact on the Nonfarm

Agricultural growth generates important rounds of
income and employment growth within the non-
farm economy. These are driven by (1) increased
demands for additional farm inputs, investment
goods, and marketing services (demands that
often increase per hectare with technological
change); (2) increased rural household demands
for consumer goods and services as farm and
wage incomes rise; and (3) generation of farm
savings, foreign exchange earnings, and lower
prices for foods and other primary commodities.
This paper distinguishes between the rural
nonfarm economy, including its market towns, and
the broader urban-based national economy. The
rural nonfarm economy has more transparent links
to agriculture and is especially important to the
rural poor. However, there are also powerful links
between agricultural and national economic
growth that benefit society at large, including the
rural and urban poor.

The Rural Nonfarm Economy
The rural nonfarm economy is of special impor-
tance to the rural poor and to the urban poor liv-
ing in rural towns. Landless and near-landless
households everywhere depend on nonfarm earn-
ings. Those with less than half a hectare earn
between 30 and 9 percent of their income m
.nonarm sources (Haggblade, Hazell, and Brown
1989; Rosegrant and Hazell 2000). Nonfarm
shares are strongly and negatively related to farm
size. Low-investment manufacturing and servic-
es-including weaving, pottery, gathering, food
preparation and processing, domestic and per-
sonal services, and unskilled nonfarm wage
labor--account for a greater share of income for
the rural poor than for the wealthy (Hazell and
Haggblade 1993). The reverse is true of trans-
port, commerce, and such manufacturing activities
as milling and metal fabrication, which require
sizable investments.

Nonfarm income is also important to the poor
as a means to help stabilize household income in
drought years (Reardon et al. 1998). In a study of
several villages in the semi-arid tropics of India, for
example, Walker and Ryan (1990) found that
nonagricultural self-employment and labor market
earnings became increasingly important sources of
income during the 1980s, increasing mean income
and dampening household income variability.
Numerous studies have shown that agricultural
growth generates important income and employ-
ment multipliers within the surrounding nonfarm
economy. The multipliers are particularly large in
Asia, with $0.5 to $1.0 of additional income cre-
ated in the local nonfarm economy for each dollar
of additional income created in agriculture (Bell,
Hazell, and Slade 1982; Hazell and Ramasamy
1991; Haggblade and Hazell 1989). The multipli-
ers are about half as large in Africa and Latin
America (Haggblade and Hazell 1989).
The multipliers are predominantly driven by
increased rural household demands for consumer
goods and services as farm incomes rise. Small,
informal, and labor-intensive rural nonfarm firms
supply many of these goods and services. This
leads to high nonfarm employment elasticities
within rural regions. Often, each 1 percent
increase in agricultural output is associated with a
1 percent increase in rural nonfarm employment
(Gibb 1974; Hazell and Haggblade 1991).
The strength of the regional growth linkages is
higher in labor-abundant regions and increases
with regional development and per capital
incomes. Irrigated regions dominated by medium-
sized farms and modern input-intensive farming
systems generate the largest multipliers. The multi-
pliers are smaller in rainfed farming systems and
in regions dominated by very small farms or large
estates (Haggblade and Hazell 1989). In India,
for example, the multipliers are largest in Green
Revolution states like Punjab and Haryana and
smallest in less developed states like Bihar and
Madhya Pradesh (Hazell and Haggblade 1991).
As regions develop and labor markets tighten,

employment impacts become less important. The
lower multipliers in Africa are attributable to low
per capital incomes (which are mostly spent on
food), poor infrastructure, and farming technolo-
gies that require few purchased inputs
(Haggblade and Hazell 1989). In Latin America,
higher per capital rural incomes ought to lead to
larger multipliers, but often fail to do so because
the distribution of income is highly inequitable and
the richer households have much stronger con-
sumption linkages to cities than the rural nonfarm
Rural income multipliers and employment elas-
ticities of the sizes observed in Asia mean that
technological change in agriculture has the poten-
tial to generate significant new nonfarm income-
earning opportunities for the poor. These may
arise in the form of greater nonfarm employment,
higher wages, and opportunities for the poor to
start or expand nonfarm businesses of their own.
Increasing competition for labor between agricul-
ture and the local nonfarm economy can also con-
tribute to higher agricultural wages for the poor.
The benefits of growth in the rural nonfarm
economy are concentrated in towns more than vil-
lages, affecting an important segment of the non-
farm poor residing in towns. Distribution of
benefits between rural farm areas and towns
depends on the state of infrastructure connecting
the two, on population density, on government
policies, and on average per capital income levels
(Haggblade, Hazell, and Brown 1989).

The National Economy
Agricultural growth has broad general equilibrium
(GE) impacts on the national economy that vary
according to stage of economic development. In
poorer countries, agriculture accounts for the lion's
share of national income, employment, and
export earnings. Under these conditions, even a
modest growth rate for agriculture can have sig-
nificant leverage on the national economy. Rapid
agricultural growth contributes to the economic
transformation of a country in a number of impor-
tant ways. It:

* supplies basic foods, raw materials for agroin-
dustry, and exports, and frees up foreign
exchange for the importation of strategic
industrial and capital goods.

releases labor and capital (in the form of rural
savings and taxes) to the nonfarm sector.
Generates purchasing power among the rural
population for nonfood consumer goods and
services, supporting growth in services and

provides a nascent market for an emerging
manufacturing sector.

* reduces poverty by increasing labor productiv-
ity and employment and by lowering food
prices for all.
As the transformation of an economy
advances, agriculture's share in national income
falls and its importance for national economic
growth diminishes. The nonagricultural sector
becomes the primary engine of growth and is no
longer as dependent on resource flows from agri-
culture or on agriculture's demand linkages.
However, agriculture's share of total employment
falls more slowly than its share of national income,
with the inevitable result that agricultural labor
productivity, and hence per capital farm incomes,
lag behind the nonagricultural sector. The problem
is then to absorb workers out of agriculture at a
sufficiently rapid rate to stop their average pro-
ductivity (and hence their incomes) from lagging
too far behind the levels achieved in the nonagri-
cultural sector. Few countries have been able to
manage this transition successfully. Either rural
poverty has persisted until late in the development
process or governments have engaged in expen-
sive farm-income support policies.
Empirical studies confirm the importance of
these GE effects in developing countries. In India,
the fact that the nonfarm share of total national
employment did not change for over a century
until the full force of the Green Revolution was
underway in the 1970s provides strong circum-

stantial evidence of the importance of agricultural
growth as a motor for India's nonfarm economy.
Rangarajan (1982) confirmed this, estimating that
a 1 percent increase in the agricultural growth
rate stimulated a 0.5 percent rise in the growth
rate of industrial output and a 0.7 percent rise in
the growth rate of national income.
Computable general equilibrium (CGE) mod-
eling studies show that these GE effects are
stronger in economies that have more liberalized
trade and that invest in adequate levels of rural
infrastructure and service provision (Robinson,
Roe, and Yelden 1998). Modeling results also
confirm that agriculture-led growth strategies are
more beneficial for overall economic growth than
industry-led strategies, particularly in agrarian
economies (Adelman 1984; De Franco and
Godoy 1993).

Impact on Food Prices
and Diet Quality

Technological change contributes to increases in
the aggregate output of affected commodities and
often lower unit costs. This has proved to be one
of the most important ways through which poor
people have benefited from technological change
in agriculture (Scobie and Posado 1978;
Rosegrant and Hazell 2000; Fan, Hazell, and
Thorat 1999).
If the demand for these products is downward
sloping (that is, export opportunities are con-
strained by trade policy or by high transport
costs), the output price will fall. The more elastic
the supply relative to demand, the greater the
price decline will be (Alston, Norton, and Pardey
1995). Lower food prices benefit rural and urban
poor alike. Because food accounts for a large
share of their total expenditures, the poor gain
proportionally more than the nonpoor from a
decline in food prices (Pinstrup-Andersen and
Hazell 1985). These price effects may be muted in
open economies with low transport costs. More
countries now fall into this category than before

because of recent rounds of market liberalization
policies. But many poor countries still face high
transport costs because of poor infrastructure,
remoteness from world markets, or inefficient mar-
keting institutions. Hence, domestic prices are still
responsive to local supply even after market liber-
alization. In many landlocked African countries,
for example, domestic prices still fall sharply when
domestic food production increases suddenly.
Some traditional food crops are not traded in
world markets, and therefore yam, millet, taro,
and teff prices continue to be endogenously deter-
mined within the countries that grow them.
Food-price benefits may be enhanced if tech-
nological change leads to lower production costs
per unit of output. Farmers can then maintain or
increase profits even selling at lower prices. But
whether consumers benefit from these lower costs
depends on the food marketing and distribution
system being sufficiently competitive so that cost
savings at the farm gate are passed up through
the marketing chain. In some cases, the cost sav-
ings are simply captured as additional profits in
the marketing chain.
Technological changes that smooth seasonal
food supplies, such as irrigation and short-season
rice varieties, can help smooth seasonal price vari-
ation. This can be of considerable benefit to the
poor. The rural poor may become more food-
secure from increased local production by reduc-
ing the need to purchase food from outside the
region. Locally grown produce is cheaper
because there is no need to cover high trans-
portation costs.
Food-price declines amount to an increase in
real income for net food-purchasing households.
Real-income increases can be used to increase
consumption of important staples and to purchase
more diverse, nutritionally rich diets. What is the
best way to improve the nutrient content of the
poor people's diets through agricultural research?
By concentrating on increasing incomes through
productivity-enhancing investments in staple foods
or by concentrating on decreasing the relative
prices of micronutrient-rich foods?

Figure 3-Food price trends in Bangladesh, 1973-96

Index (1973-75 1.0)




7 ...,..-.* '"

1.0 -
0.--------------i---- --
1973-75 1976-78 1979-81 1982-84

Source: Bouis 2000.

Figure 3 shows a downward trend in the price
of rice in Bangladesh. However, it also shows
upward trends in the real prices of other foods that
are richer in micronutrients. This may reflect under-
investment in technologies for the production of
nutrient-rich Foods such as fruits, vegetables, and
nonruminant livestock. Areas that are more remote
tend to have less access to perishable foods via
the marketplace, so investment in these crops may
well deliver the highest return in terms of micronu-
trients delivered per dollar of research resources
spent. In areas with good market access, the ques-
tion is more complicated, since access to micronu-
trient-rich foods is dependent on food-price
elasticities, the extent to which women control of
household income, and the quality of information
and education programs related to diet.

Enhancing the Nutrients in
Staple Food Crops

Agricultural research that enhances the nutrient
quality of foods poor people eat can directly
improve their diets. Breeding maize for higher
quality proteins is an early example. Unfortunately,

,... Tomatoes

^ Pumpkin

S- Chicken
...--- Lentils
S Spinach

Rice paddy

1985-87 1988-90 1991-93 1994-96

the rapidly changing consensus in the nutrition
community as to the limiting factors in the diet (from
protein to calories and micronutrients) made the
quality-protein maize (QPM) experience somewhat
demoralizing for the plant-breeding community
(Tripp 1990).
Despite this recent history, a new generation
of plant-breeding efforts is underway (see Graham
and Welch 1996 for a good summary). The focus
this time is not on protein, but on micronutrients.
There are three broad goals: (1) increase the
micronutrient concentration in the crop, (2)
decrease the concentration of absorption
inhibitors such as phytic acid, and (3) increase the
concentration of promoter compounds (for iron
and zinc in particular) such as sulphur-containing
amino acids (Ruel and Bouis 1998). The two
broad technologies are traditional breeding (look-
ing for naturally occurring genetic variation in
micronutrient content) and biotechnology (genetic
modification of foods and the creation of new
The breeding approaches face many chal-
lenges. Can high nutrient-density cultivars be
found with (1) little or no yield trade-off so that
farmers will be interested in adopting them, (2) lit-

tie impact on consumer acceptance (storage,
cooking, appearance, and taste), and (3) no neg-
ative impact on bioavailability (for the strategies
that increase micronutrient density)? These chal-
lenges are similar to those faced by other food-
based interventions, but with the added baggage
of the QPM experience.
Compared to the traditional breeding
approach, the biotechnology work is at a much
earlier stage. But it is yielding promising results.
The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology's Institute
for Plant Sciences has demonstrated some success
in introducing genes that increase iron and vita-
min A concentrations in rice (the so-called "gold-
en" rice). The Swiss team plans to collaborate with
the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) to
test the health and environmental consequences of
the technology and to evaluate the acceptability of
the rice to farmers in terms of yield impacts.

Impact on the Vulnerability, Assets,
and Empowerment of the Poor
Poverty is more than a lack of sufficient income or
food to meet basic material needs. It is also a state
of social deprivation, involving vulnerability and
lack of participation in decisionmaking and in
civil, social, and cultural life. It places a wide
array of limitations on the capacity of the poor to
substantially improve their lives. The lack of capac-
ity or power is itself a fundamental characteristic
of being poor (Carney 1998).
The assets that individuals, households, and
communities control are critical for their capacity
to cope with vulnerability and to establish secure
livelihoods. In many developing countries, the
poor are highly dependent on natural resources
within their local environments. Poverty therefore
can be exacerbated by not having access to those
resources. The cycle is self-perpetuating when
poor people have no access to technologies and
inputs that enable better use of resources, or when
the poor do not participate in the design and eval-
uation of those technologies. In addition, lack of
access to financial and human capital, social net-
works, and political power compound conditions

of poverty and vulnerability. Access to assets is
important, but so is the ability to use them in com-
bination to create secure livelihoods. Assets can
be seen as a base of power, enabling people "to
act and to reproduce, challenge, or change the
rules that govern the control, use, and transforma-
tion of resources" (Bebbington 1999).
Recognizing that the lack of capacity is a com-
ponent of poverty, development practitioners are
focusing on empowerment. Kerr and Kolavalli
(1999) define empowerment as "a development
strategy that seeks to bring about change through
modifications in the power structure, changing the
social order in which the poor live." They distin-
guish between two types of empowerment: moti-
vational, which involves enhancing peoples'
abilities thereby contributing to greater confidence
and self-reliance, and relational, which implies
changing power structures and gaining access to
political decisionmaking. The objectives of
empowerment are increased self-reliance and self-
determination-essential tools for breaking out of
the poverty trap as well as pursuing a prosperous,
fulfilling life.
Empowerment tools can offer users of local
resources better access to and control over the
local environment as well as associated produc-
tion and conservation technologies. Some of the
most fundamental empowerment tools include
property rights (which strengthen the asset base),
local collective action and organizations (such as
cooperatives and microcredit groups), and politi-
cal organization and advocacy. But agricultural
technology can also contribute to empowerment,
particularly if the poor participate in technology
development. Who decides research priorities
and technology development approaches are two
important aspects of how research systems oper-
ate. In most countries, resource-poor farmers in
unfavorable regions are passive recipients of tech-
nologies; they have no control over the priorities
of the research systems that serve them. The
research process ignores farmers' knowledge and
experience even though they may offer insights
that could help develop effective technologies for

unfavorable areas. Such systems may perpetuate
a sense of helplessness among resource-poor
farmers who wait in vain for effective technologi-
cal solutions to come from outside.
Participatory research and dissemination
strategies offer an alternate approach based on
empowerment, building farmers' own capability
to innovate and giving them greater influence over
decisions in agricultural research. Participatory
research involving women farmers can also con-
tribute to their empowerment. Participatory
research and dissemination approaches where
farmers communicate results within and between
communities can enhance the asset base of peo-
ple and communities by building social capital
and organizational capacity.

Net Impacts on the Poor

SPoor people have complex livelihood strategies.
The rural poor, for example, are often part farm-
ers, part laborers, and part nonfarmers-and
always consumers. As such, they may gain or lose
in different dimensions at the same time, so that
the net impact of technological change on poor
households can remain ambiguous. A poor farmer
might be able to gain from increased on-farm pro-
duction as a technology adopter, but may lose or
gain from increased agricultural wages or
reduced food prices depending on whether he or
she is a net buyer or seller of labor or food. A
small, nonfarm, business entrepreneur might gain
from cheaper food, but business profits might fall
or rise depending on whether or not hired labor
costs rise faster than sales. There is also a tempo-
ral dimension to these outcomes, with some costs
and benefits being realized before others have
had time to work through (for example, GE
impacts take longer to materialize than on-farm
S benefits). Understanding household livelihood

strategies and the dynamics of change is therefore
fundamental for assessing the impact of techno-
logical change at the household level.
Assessing how technological change affects
the poor in aggregate is even more complex and
uncertain. Not only is there complexity in assess-
ing the net impacts on different types of poor
households, but the various direct and indirect
impacts also affect different types of poor house-
holds in different ways. Some poor households
may be net gainers while others are net losers. It
is possible, for example, that the indirect growth
and food-price benefits are strong and generally
favorable for the urban poor, but that they are
weaker in rural areas and perhaps are even offset
by adverse direct impacts because of inequitable
land distribution or poor service support for small
farmers. Whether there is a net gain or loss to the
poor in aggregate will then depend on how many
of them are rural and the relative size of the gains
and losses that different groups experience.
It is also necessary to distinguish between
long- and short-term impacts on the poor. Direct
benefits within technology-adopting regions are
appealing because they can almost immediately
and transparently affect the rural poor. Indirect
growth and food-price benefits take longer to
materialize, and their links to agricultural technol-
ogy are less apparent. However, the indirect ben-
efits can be much more important in the long term
for reducing both urban and rural poverty. In Asia,
for example, although the Green Revolution had
mixed direct impacts on the rural poor, its contri-
butions to productivity enhancement were a major
factor in reducing food prices and in launching
the rapid economic growth of the region. This
growth led to significant increases in per capital
incomes (especially in Southeast Asia) and a
decline in the number of people living in poverty
(Asian Development Bank 2000; Rosegrant and
Hazell 2000).

4. Targeting Agricultural Research

to Benefit the Poor

Chapter 3 highlights the important role that a num-
ber of national and local characteristics play in
conditioning the ways in which agricultural tech-
nologies affect the poor and the difficulty of gen-
eralizing about when technological change will
benefit the poor. To target pro-poor agricultural
research more effectively, the types of research
undertaken need to be tailored to specific country
and region conditions. A key question is whether
one can go beyond pure site specificity and iden-
tify sufficient commonalities across sites to con-
struct a typology that can serve as a filtering
device for selecting appropriate types of agricul-
tural research for different socioeconomic con-

A Typology

This chapter develops a typology of agricultural
regionsbased on agroclimatic and socioeconom-
ic factors that condition the size and distribution
of the benefits that might be obtained from tech-
nological change. Although such a typology
would seem essential for helping to target pro-
poor agricultural research, its construction does
not seem to have been attempted before. This
attempt is largely exploratory even speculative)
but it is hoped that it lays a useful foundation for
future work. To construct the typology, the more
important conditioning factors of the size of the
direct and indirect benefits identified in the previ-
ous chapter are used as classification criteria,
with differentiation between national and local or
region-specific factors.

National Characteristics
1. Market liberalization policies and nation-
al rural infrastructure development. Countries that
pursue liberal trade policies and liberalize their
domestic markets typically grow faster than other
countries and this contributes to greater long-term
reductions in poverty (World Bank 2000). These
growth effects can be even stronger in agrarian-
based economies (for example, much of Africa
and South Asia) when trade liberalization is com-
plemented by increased investment in rural infra-
structure (Robinson, Roe, and Yelden 1998).
National investments in agricultural research and
rural infrastructure also contribute to agricultural
and rural nonfarm economic growth and to rural
poverty reduction in their own right, even when
markets are not widely liberalized (Fan, Hazell,
and Thorat 1999; Fan, Zhang, and Zhang 2000).
Agricultural research can be expected to con-
tribute more to growth and therefore to long-term
poverty reduction in countries with liberalized
markets and good levels of rural infrastructure. By
connecting farmers to larger markets, both domes-
tic and international, and enhancing economic
growth, farmers may benefit from greater oppor-
tunities to diversify into higher-value products.
These are typically employment-intensive and can
benefit smallholder farms and landless workers.
Moreover, the prices farmers receive for staples
are less likely to fall as production increases,
enabling food-surplus farmers to capture larger
shares of the productivity increases arising from
technological change. The downside to this is that
consumers and food-deficit farmers are less likely
to benefit from price reductions for staple foods as

production increases, though they may benefit
from more plentiful supplies of higher value and
more nutritious foods, such as vegetables, fruits,
and livestock products. Farmers living in remote
regions also face potential hardships if they are
unable to compete in more liberalized markets
because of higher transport and marketing costs.
Smallholder farms everywhere may also be
unable to compete in markets for higher-value
products if they are unable to organize and mar-
ket their smaller volumes of output competitively
with large farms.
2. National per capital income level. As
countries grow and national per capital incomes
rise, agriculture's share in national income dimin-
ishes. This has a number of important implications
for growth-poverty relationships. First, because
households allocate increasing shares of their
income to nonfoods as they get richer, rising per
capital incomes have a powerful impact on both
the level and composition of demand for foods
and nonfoods. Rural nonfarm income multipliers
tend to be larger with higher per capital incomes,
a situation that benefits the rural poor, but broad-
er general equilibrium effects on the national
economy get smaller as the agricultural sector
becomes relatively less important. Second, the
structure of poverty also changes with increases in
average per capital incomes, with clearer demar-
cation of hard-core poor poverty groups that do
not easily benefit from agricultural and national
economic growth. These poverty groups tend to
concentrate in urban areas and less-favored or
marginal regions. Third, since agriculture's
employment share typically diminishes at a slower
rate than its income share as per capital incomes
rise, labor productivity lags behind that of other
sectors. This can lead to worsening inequality
between farm and nonfarm incomes, though not
necessarily to worsening poverty. Technologies
and policies to increase average labor productivi-
ty therefore become more important as countries
3. The share of poor who are urban. The
direct benefits of agricultural technology for the

poor will be smaller if the poor are predominantly
urban-based. In these cases, indirect effects such
as food price changes and growth of the nonfarm
economy will be much more important, especially
in countries that are not well integrated with glob-
al food markets. It is then appropriate to give
greater attention to pure productivity gains in
domestic agriculture (with an eye to the relative
prices of foods that are key for the eradication of
diet-quality problems of the urban poor) rather
than worrying about their social distribution with-
in the rural sector. The opposite holds when the
poor are predominantly engaged in agriculture.
4. Population growth. Population growth
adds to the rural labor supply in agrarian coun-
tries and, other things being equal, acts to reduce
wages. Rapid population growth can lead to stag-
nant living standards and can mask gains from
technological change. Population growth typically
declines as per capital incomes rise, but where this
is not true, then agricultural growth should contin-
ue to be labor intensive until late in the develop-
ment process.

Regional or Local Characteristics
1. Agroclimatic conditions. The agroclimatic
conditions of a region determine whether it has
high or low potential for agriculture. The use of
modern inputs and the potential to achieve higher
levels of output per hectare and per worker are
typically greater in high potential areas (HPAs),
creating greater growth opportunities for reducing
local poverty. But even many low-potential areas
(LPAs) can achieve high levels of output per
hectare if they have good infrastructure and
access to markets (through livestock and tree crop
production, for example, rather than staple foods).
Unfortunately, many LPAs have also been neglect-
ed through past patterns of public investment and
have weak infrastructure and market access,
which greatly restricts their ability to improve agri-
cultural productivity and reduce poverty. Because
the development of the local nonfarm economy
also hinges crucially on agricultural growth to gen-
erate markets for most of its products, there are

typically fewer opportunities for farmers and land-
less workers to diversify into productive nonfarm
activities in LPAs. In short, the rural nonfarm econ-
omy tends to be much weaker in LPAs and
stronger in HPAs, reinforcing the initial inequities
in agroclimatic conditions (Hazell and Reardon,
2. Labor market situation. Agricultural wage
earnings for the poor tend to be greater when
agriculture has a high employment elasticity. In
South Asia, employment elasticities of around
0.7-0.8 were observed during the peak of the
Green Revolution (that is, each 1 percent increase
in agricultural output led to a 0.7-0.8 percent
increase in agricultural employment), but employ-
ment elasticities are probably about half that level
today. The rural nonfarm economy also has a high
employment elasticity (often around 1.0), so that
the combination of an employment-elastic agricul-
ture and a vibrant rural nonfarm economy can
lead to strong growth in demand for rural labor,
which can be very beneficial for the poor. On the
other hand, an abundant or elastic supply of labor
(such as occurs with rapid population growth but
slow agricultural growth) keeps wages down,
thereby diluting the benefits of growth in employ-
ment opportunities for the poor. Promotion of
labor-intensive crop and livestock technologies are
particularly important in labor-abundant regions,
as is the need to avoid policies and investments
that lead to premature mechanization of farming.
3. Land distribution and the incidence of
landlessness. An unequal distribution of land
reduces the percentage of the rural poor who can
gain from own-farm productivity increases and
typically contributes to excessive mechanization
and low employment elasticities in agriculture. It
also leads to weaker demand for local nonfood
goods and services, and hence to smaller rural
income and employment multipliers. Technological
change rarely contributes to rural poverty reduc-
tion in technology-adopting regions when the dis-
tribution of land is badly skewed, as amply
demonstrated by some experiences with the
Green Revolution.

4. Infrastructure and the provision of key
agricultural services. These are essential for ensur-
ing that poor farmers can adopt new technologies
and take advantage of new income-earning
opportunities such as diversification into higher
value products. They also affect the size of the
nonfarm income multipliers within an adopting
region. Regions with poor infrastructure and serv-
ice support are not only likely to be poorer, but
poor farmers living within those regions are less
likely to be able to adopt improved technologies.
5. Local institutions and empowerment.
Cultural and institutional factors that work against
the poor are not easily overcome by economic
changes alone. These factors can include racial,
tribal, and religious discrimination, gender biases,
exclusive property rights arrangements, local
power structures that favor the rich, and poor
delivery of public services to needy groups and
less developed regions. In regions where such
biases are strong, technological change in agri-
culture may sometimes work against the interests
of the poor. Improved governance arrangements
and greater empowerment of the poor may then
need to be a prerequisite for successful pro-poor
agricultural growth.
The list of criteria is too long for a practical
typology, and it is necessary to cluster some of
these criteria to obtain a more manageable num-
ber. Fortunately, some important national charac-
teristics are strongly correlated. The World Bank
classifies countries by per capital income level,
and two groups of countries are important for this
study: low-income countries (UCs) that had 1999
per capital incomes below $755 and middle-
income countries (MICs) that had 1999 per capi-
ta incomes of between $756 and $9,265. As
Table 4 shows, this classification reveals that LICs
not only have lower per capital incomes than MICs
($410 versus $2,000) but they also have smaller
urban population shares, higher population
growth rates, and larger agricultural sector shares
in national output. The income classification of a
country therefore is used as a proxy For these three
variables. But Figure 4 provides a cautionary

Table 4-Comparison of low- and middle-income countries

Indicator Low-income countries Middle-income countries
GNP per capital (1999 US$) 410 2,000
Urban population (% total in 1999) 31 50
Annual population growth rate (%), 1990-99 2.0 1.2
Agriculture's share in GDP (% in 1999) 27 10
Population density (people/square kilometer in 1999) 73 40
Arable land per capital (hectares in 1995-97) 0.19 0.23
Source: World Bank 2000.

reminder that there is still considerable variation in
these relationships within the two country groups
and that one must be careful in practice not to
assume too much for a particular country situation.
It is also reasonable to merge concern for the
level of national investment in rural areas and
local or regional development of infrastructure
and agricultural services and to define this vari-
able at the regional level. Finally, a strong and
positive association between an inequitable distri-
bution of land and a high incidence of landless-
ness with institutional and cultural biases against
the poor is hypothesized. Taken together, these
factors can be considered an index of empower-
ment of the poor at the regional level, defined in
terms of their access to land and other resources,
and to public services.
With these changes, a regional typology can
be defined based on two country characteristics
and four local characteristics:

region located in a low- versus middle-income

region located in a country with liberalized
versus unliberalized market and trade policies;

region has high versus low agroclimatic poten-
tial for agricultural growth;

region has good vs. poor rural infrastructure,
service provision, and market access;

* region has low wages and abundant labor
supply versus high wages and scarce labor
supply; and

* region has favorable versus unfavorable
empowerment of the poor.

Implications for Agricultural
Research Priorities

Table 5 shows how the typology can be used to
set priorities for agricultural research that will be
most appropriate for reducing poverty in different
types of regions and country situations. Two types
of priorities are captured in this summary: (1) inter-
regional allocation of research resources to
achieve the largest reduction in poverty at the
national level and (2) the kinds of research that
are most appropriate within individual types of
regions. Reading across a row (corresponding to
a type of country) in Table 5, the shaded cells
depict the types of regions that should receive
highest research priority within such countries. The
digital codes in the cells depict priority research
activities within each type of region. Of course,
not all countries have all the types of regions
shown in the table, in which case there are fewer
interregional choices to be made. The unshaded
cells in the table depict regions where research is
more likely to lead to smaller net reductions in
national poverty than if the same resources were

Figure 4-Relationships between GNP per capital and population growth,

agriculture's share in GNP, and urbanization in low- and middle-income countries

Population growth (%)









00 ......... ......

1000 2000 30

Agricultural share in GNP (%)


40.0j -


30.0 o.

20.0 ,*
a "t,.
a aa* *
10.0 a

00 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000
GNP per capital (US$)

a a

1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000
GNP per capital (US$)

% of population in urban areas




30.0 -


0 0 ..............................


1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 9000
GNP per capital (US$)

Source: World Bank 2000.

allocated to shaded regions. But research in these
regions may still benefit important poverty groups.
Although empowerment of the poor was iden-
tified as a classification criterion in constructing
the typology, the cells in Table 5 are not disag-
gregated by this criterion. This is because the
types of research considered in the table are
defined at a high level of generality, and the
appropriate choice at this level is less one of
selecting the type of research or technology need-
ed to empower poor people than of choosing the
way in which agricultural research and extension
is conducted. Agricultural research can contribute
to the empowerment of the poor if conducted in
participatory ways, but on its own it has limited
capacity beyond labor market impacts to directly
overcome the problems of seriously disempow-
ered people who are denied access to land and
other key resources and public services.
In these cases, new technologies may bring
significant changes for the poor only if comple-
mentary social and political changes are under-
taken. Appropriate actions might need to include
land redistribution programs, rental market
reforms, microfinance to increase the assets of the
poor, and improved delivery of public services to
the poor. In some cases, social action may be
required to organize poor people for greater polit-
ical voice in local decisions that affect them, or for
better access to and management of common
property like communal grazing and woodlot
areas. This often requires direct interventions by
grassroots organizations such as NGOs or the
reform of local government. Agricultural research
systems have little capacity or mandate to under-
take this kind of work, but they may need to devel-
op new kinds of partnerships with other types of
development agencies if their technologies are to
benefit the disempowered poor.
In LICs, the importance of staple foods in rural
livelihoods and the national diet requires that high
national priority be given to agricultural research
that increases staple food production in high-
potential areas. This will create larger marketed
surpluses and benefit large numbers of poor peo-

ple. But where national staple food surpluses have
already been achieved, or where infrastructure
and markets are weak, production increases will
need to be spread more broadly across regions
(including some LPAs) to achieve widespread food
security. Because national demands for higher-
value crop and livestock products are limited at
low per capital income levels, significant research
on these products may be relevant only where
there are major export opportunities. These are
more likely to occur in countries that have liberal
market and trade policies. However, attempts to
improve the nutrient quality of food staples may
have high payoffs for improving the nutritional
well-being of the poor, especially in regions with
inadequate infrastructure and market access.
Research priorities for different types of
regions within LICs need to be adjusted to their
key characteristics if they are to be most helpful to
the local poor. In labor surplus regions, emphasis
should be placed on the development of staple
food technologies that are labor-intensive and are
attractive to smallholder farms. In labor-scare
regions, technologies should enhance labor pro-
ductivity, and this may require focus on some
forms of mechanization. Technologies that require
intensive use of fertilizers, purchased seeds, and
pesticides will be more relevant for regions that
have high agricultural potential and good infra-
structure and market access, while improved natu-
ral resource management and low external-input
farming technologies will be more relevant for
LPAs and/or regions with weak infrastructure and
inadequate market access. Poor farmers are least
likely to be able to afford modern inputs in LPAs,
a pattern that is reinforced when they are disem-
powered in their access to land, other resources,
and public services.
In MICs, high priority should be given to
increasing agricultural productivity through diver-
sification into higher-value crops and livestock in
most kinds of regions with reasonable infrastruc-
ture and market access. Staple foods are still
important, but except in MICs that have not liber-
alized their trade and markets, staple food

Table 5-Priorities for agricultural research to reduce national poverty by type of adopting region

Regional characteristics

Good infrastructure

Poor infrastructure

Surplus labor
Low High

Scarce labor
Low High

Surplus labor
Low High

Scarce labor
Low High

Country setting potential potential potential potential potential potential potential potential
Middle-income country
Markets liberalized I. 2, 3. 5 2. 3. 5, 8 1,4,6 4,6, 8 1,3, 5,7 3,5, 8 1,4,6,7 4,6,8
Markets not liberalized 1, 2, 3, 5 1. 2, 3 5, 8 1,4,6 1, 4, 6, 8 1. 3,5, 7, 9 1, 3,5, 8 1,4,6,7,9 1,4,6,8

Low-income country
Markets liberalized 3,5 1. 2, 3 5, 8 2,4,5,8 1, 2,4, 5,6, 8 1,3,5,7,9 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 1,4,5,7,9 1,4,5,7,9
Markets not liberalized 1, 3,5, 9 1, 3 5,8, 9 1,4,5, 8, 9 1,4, 5, 8, 9 1,3,5, 7, 9 1,3, 5, 7, 9 1, 4, 5, 7,9 1,4,5, 7,9
Priorities for agricultural research:
1. Staple food production
2. High-value crops, trees and livestock
3. Employment intensive growth
4. Increased labor productivity
5. Smallholder farms
6. Medium and large farms
7. Low external-input farming
8. High external-input farming
9. Nutritional content of food staples

research should receive greatest priority in LPAs
that have poor infrastructure and their own food
security problems, and in HPAs that have contin-
uing comparative advantage in growing these
crops. Smallholders continue to deserve priority
in all labor-surplus areas, but research priorities
in labor-scarce regions should be consistent with
the need to increase holding sizes, particularly in
regions that have good infrastructure and vibrant
local nonfarm economies and that are well con-
nected to urban areas. Labor-intensive technolo-
gies remain important in labor-surplus regions,
but diversification into higher-value crops and
livestock can also add significantly to local
employment. High external-input farming is more
widely applicable in MICs, except perhaps in

LPAs that have poor infrastructure and market
National labor markets typically become
tighter and wages rise as MICs develop, and farm
incomes generally grow more slowly than non-
farm incomes. Maintaining reasonable parity
between farm and nonfarm incomes requires that
research shift toward the development of tech-
nologies that increase labor productivity. Less
favored areas also tend to get left behind and
require targeted research and other public invest-
ments to reduce poverty and food insecurity
among their populations. Investments that are win-
win for growth and poverty reduction are needed
to avoid significant tradeoffs against the interests
of the poor outside targeted LPAs.

5. Strategies for Pro-Poor Agricultural Research

Chapter 4 identified several key topics for a pro-
poor agricultural research agenda. These include:

1. Increasing production of pl ds in coun-
tries where food price effects are still important
and/or that have comparative advantage in
growing these crops. This includes most LICs,
but also many MICs that have not liberalized
their trade and markets.

2. Increasing agricultural productivity in many
less-favored lands. Special attention is needed
for heavily populated LPAs, but also some
HPAs that are constrained by poor infrastruc-
ture and market access. Appropriate technolo-
gies for these areas will often have to be
based on low use of external inputs.

3. Helping smallholder farms in all kinds of areas
to diversify into higher value products, includ-
ing livestock products, especially in countries
with rapidly growing domestic markets for
such products (most MICs) and/or access to
suitable export markets.

4. Increasing employment and income-earning
opportunities for landless and near-landless
workers in labor-surplus regions. This is espe-
cially important in LICs with growing popula-
tions and land scarcity.

5. Developing more nutritious and safer foods to
enhance the diets of poor people by investing
in agricultural technology that reduces the
price of micronutrient-rich foods in urban and

well-integrated rural areas, increases physical
access in remote rural areas, or increases the
nutrient content of food staple crops via tradi-
tional or transgenic technologies. This is espe-
cially important for LICs where poor diet
quality generates micronutrient deficiencies
that impair the health of current and future gen-

6. Undertaking agricultural research in ways that
are more empowering to the poor.

If these objectives could be achieved without
having to trade off much agricultural growth at the
sector level, this would lead to larger indirect ben-
efits in the nonfarm economy that would contribute
to further rounds of longer-term poverty reduction.
In short, agricultural research must target poor
peoples' problems in ways that are win-win for
growth and poverty reduction. The following is a
discussion of appropriate research strategies for
achieving each of these objectives.

Research Strategies for Staple
Food Production

Irrigated and high-potential rainfed areas will
continue to be the major producers of staple
foods in most countries, and improved technolo-
gies and natural resource management (NRM)
practices for these areas will be critical for main-
taining ample and affordable food supplies.
Growth in staple food production will also be
important in many less-favored lands as a way of

targeting poverty and food security (see below).
In high-potential areas with abundant labor in the
form of landless workers or small farms, tech-
nologies and NRM practices are needed that are
employment intensive (Lipton with Longhurst
1989; IFAD 2001). On the other hand, in high-
potential areas that must compete for labor in
tightening labor markets, technologies that
increase both labor and land productivity are
required. Technologies also need to reduce pro-
duction costs per unit of output so that farmers
can better compete in world markets (including
competing with imports) and consumers can ben-
efit from cheaper foods and raw materials.
The Green Revolution technologies achieved
many of these goals, but they have now largely
run their course. There is a need for more
upstream germplasm improvement work, includ-
ing biotechnology. Yet at the same time,
germplasm improvement needs to be integrated
with better natural resource management prac-
tices to contain environmental problems that are
now common in many intensively farmed areas.
The more efficient use and better management of
external inputs such as chemical fertilizer, irriga-
tion water, and/or land-use diversification may
lead to higher productivity and reduced environ-
mental degradation. Such knowledge-intensive
Farming will require improved extension systems
and greater investment in farmer education.
Focusing on staple foods production can be
win-win for growth and poverty reduction when
the research benefits regions that have a compar-
ative advantage in these crops. Countries that lack
comparative advantage in foodgrains but that
nevertheless pursue self-sufficiency in their produc-
tion may achieve greater national immunity from
the vagaries of world food markets, but at the cost
of economic growth opportunities. Such opportu-
nity costs are smaller when the foodgrains are
grown in LPAs rather than HPAs, and the trade-off
may be worthwhile if this leads to significant gains
in food security in those regions.

Research Strategies for Less-
Favored Areas

While some types of commodity improvement
work seem vital for less-favored areas-improving
drought tolerance, yield response to scarce plant
nutrients, food nutrient content, pest and disease
resistance, and livestock health and productivity-
there is a growing consensus that major produc-
tivity improvements will first come from improved
natural resource management (NRM) practices
and technologies. In areas of poor soils and harsh
climate, NRM can lead the way in improving soil
depth, organic matter, fertility, and moisture con-
tent, and eventually higher yields from fertilizers
and improved varieties.
The poor infrastructure and market access that
characterize many less-favored areas make the
use of high levels of external inputs uneconomic,
placing a premium on low external input (LEI) tech-
nologies. LEI technologies are typically labor inten-
sive, both seasonally and in total, and this can
constrain their use. Fellows and green manures
also keep land out of crop production, and com-
posting and manuring compete with household
energy use for scarce organic matter. The chal-
lenge is to develop LEI technologies that boost
both labor and land productivity.
Although poorer LFAs need improved tech-
nologies for food crops for subsistence and local
needs, sustained increases in per capital income
will hinge on diversification into higher-value agri-
cultural products and nonfarm activities.
Successful examples include dairying in India,
growing olives in North Africa, and raising horti-
cultural crops in parts of Central America (Hazell,
Jagger, and Knox 2000).
A key lesson from many past research invest-
ments in LFAs is the importance of social and insti-
tutional constraints, particularly the effectiveness
of indigenous property rights systems and local
capacity for organizing and sustaining collective
action for managing natural resources. Figure 5

Figure 5-Links between property rights, collective action, and technology adoption

* Social forestry

Watershed development

0 Integrated pest management

* Soil erosion

Farm trees

High-yielding varieties

Security of property rights
Source: Knox, Meinzen-Dick, and Hazell 1998.

(taken from Knox, Meinzen-Dick, and Hazell
1998) plots increasingly secure property rights on
the horizontal axis and increasing levels of collec-
tive action on the vertical axis. Some of the most
successful agricultural technologies lie close to the
origin in this figure. For example, the benefits of
high-yielding cereal varieties (HYVs)-the lynch-
pin of the Green Revolution-could be captured
within a single agricultural season and hence did
not require secure property rights. Even share-
cropping tenants with single-season leases were
able to adopt these technologies. Moreover, since
individual farmers could adopt regardless of what
their neighbors decided to do, collective action
was not necessary. These features made adoption
decisions relatively simple, and they help explain
why Green Revolution technologies spread so
quickly and widely despite considerable diversity
in local socioeconomic conditions.
But where research agendas must focus on
the sustainable use of natural resources, local
institutional issues become much more prominent.

Integrated pest management, for example,
requires that all farmers in an area work togeth-
er; the technology is not effective if some farmers
spray indiscriminately or if planting dates are not
synchronized. However, the returns are relatively
quick, so secure property rights are less of an
issue. For these reasons, IPM appears in the
upper left corner of Figure 5. In contrast, planting
trees on farms (agroforestry) is a long-term invest-
ment that requires secure property rights. But
since trees can be planted by individual farmers
regardless of what their neighbors do, "farm
trees" appears in the lower right-hand corner. But
many other technologies for improved NRM
require both secure property rights and effective
collective action and therefore appear in the
upper right-hand quadrant. Watershed develop-
ment, for example, requires secure property rights
because it involves long-term investments in check
dams, land contouring, and tree planting in water
catchment areas, and it can be successfully done
only if the entire community living within the rele-

vant landscape is mobilized to support collective
action. If these institutional conditions are not met,
the technology is not likely to be adopted and
maintained, regardless of its profitability and sci-
entific soundness.
Difficulties arise because institutions for prop-
erty rights and collective action are rarely formal-
ized in developing countries, and communities
vary widely in their ability to organize and sustain
such institutions on their own. Socioeconomic
research has much to contribute toward our
understanding of local institutions and the condi-
tions under which they are likely to be effective.
Without such knowledge, and a corresponding
ability on the part of policymakers to intervene
and to strengthen local institutions when neces-
sary, many promising NRM technologies are not
likely to be adopted.
NRM research for less-favored lands should
build on farmers' own indigenous knowledge and
practical innovations. Some NGOs have been
successful in pursuing this agenda and in working
with local communities to overcome social and
institutional constraints. The more effective linking
of formal research to these kinds of grassroots
development activities could lead to real improve-
ments in the relevance and uptake of much NRM
research. But sustained growth in on-farm produc-
tivity will also require improvements in crop
germplasm and disease and pest control. Without
continuing improvements in knowledge and genet-
ic resources in less-favored areas, productivity will
quickly stagnate again. The potential to breed
higher-yielding varieties in many less-favored
lands may be constrained by the low-yield poten-
tial of the existing range of genetic material.
Existing material has often been selected by man
and nature for robustness under harsh and risky
growing conditions. Transgenic biotechnology
may prove an essential tool for achieving the
wider crosses that will be needed (IFAD 2000).
Many agricultural researchers are skeptical
about the efficiency of research in less-favored
areas, arguing that it is better to invest in HPAs
because these give higher returns to research and

contribute more to agricultural growth per
research dollar. Growing conditions are seen as
diverse in LFAs, and so improved technologies
may not have widespread application (in contrast
to Green Revolution technologies that spread over
tens of millions of hectares of irrigated land).
Technologies are also perceived to be more diffi-
cult and perhaps more costly to develop. There is
undoubtedly some basis for these concerns, espe-
cially for commodity improvement research. On
the other hand, recent evidence from India and
China shows that, dollar for dollar, agricultural
research investments in LFAs can outperform
investments in HPAs in productivity growth and
poverty reduction in some types of less-favored
areas (Fan, Hazell, and Haque 2000; Fan,
Zhang, and Zhang 2000).
As should be expected, the returns to addi-
tional research investments vary by agroclimatic
zone and are very low for both growth and pover-
ty in some of the most marginal zones. But the
range of conditions under which research invest-
ments have significant impact is impressive (Fan,
Hazell and Haque, 2000). One reason For these
results is that India and China have already invest-
ed heavily in their irrigated and high-potential
rainfed areas, and productivity growth has slowed
in many of these regions. With diminishing returns
in HPAs and relatively little research investment in
many LFAs, it is not surprising that the latter should
now give higher returns to research investments on
the margin. But care must be taken in extrapolat-
ing these results to other countries that have invest-
ed a great deal less in both HPAs and LFAs, for
example, much of Sub-Saharan Africa. In these
cases there could well be some important trade-
offs between sectorwide growth and regional
poverty reduction from targeting research
resources on the problems of LFAs.
One way to reduce the cost of research in
LFAs is to focus on NRM problems that are com-
mon to a significant number of poor people-but
only problems that can be scaled up from bench-
mark sites. The scaling up need not mean that all
sites have to be homogenous, just that improved

NRM practices can be easily adapted by local
people and institutions to different site-specific cir-
cumstances. The research also should involve rele-
vant socioeconomic work to understand the social
and economic constraints on adopting improved
NRM practices, and partnerships need to be
formed with institutions with the capacity to over-
come these constraints at the grassroots level.

Research Strategies for
Smallholder Farmers

As farms get smaller, it becomes increasingly
important to develop technologies that increase
their labor as well as their land productivity.
Otherwise, they will simply be working harder
and harder to achieve the same level of per capi-
ta income.
In order to maintain their incomes, smallhold-
er farms will need to diversify beyond traditional
crop production into profitable activities that are
compatible with their diminishing land/labor
ratios. Countries with rising per capital incomes
offer expanding opportunities to diversify into live-
stock and horticultural production to meet rapidly
growing domestic demands. These activities typi-
cally give high returns per unit of land and are
labor-intensive, and hence well suited to small-
farm conditions. Such diversification is already
happening in many countries, especially in Asia
and Latin America. Rising per capital incomes are
also associated with expanding rural nonfarm
economies, which offer opportunities for small-
holder farm families to diversify into nonfarm
employment or into nonfarm businesses. In
Southeast Asia, small farmers seem to be follow-
ing the development pattern that occurred in
Japan: becoming part-time farmers with regular
employment in nonfarm, often industrial, occupa-
tions (Rosegrant and Hazell 2000).
The opportunities for income-enhancing diver-
sification are much more constrained in countries
with low and stagnant per capital incomes. In
these cases, attention needs to be given to devel-

hoping cash crops for export or expanding oppor-
tunities for seasonal migration to cities. Other
income-augmenting measures include creation of
rural processing facilities to enable higher-value-
added from agricultural output.
Targeting small rather than large farms will
complement agricultural sector growth if small
farms are at least as economically efficient as
large farms. An impressive body of empirical evi-
dence confirms that land productivity is inversely
related to farm size in many developing countries
(see Heltberg 1998 for a recent review). One rea-
son for this is that hired labor is less efficient and
more costly to manage than family labor, giving
smaller farms a competitive advantage. Another
reason may be the higher management intensity
that is possible on smaller farms. But because
small farms use more labor-intensive technologies,
their average labor productivity is also lower. As
countries develop and agriculture must compete
with higher-paying nonfarm employment, mecha-
nization and more capital-intensive farming meth-
ods become important to increase labor
productivity. This requires that farms become big-
ger. There is little hard information about when
this crossover occurs, and it is likely to vary with
the rate of rural population growth (which slows
the transition), with credit subsidies and other agri-
cultural support policies (which often encourage
premature mechanization), and with opportunities
for income diversification into nonfarm activities in
rural areas (which can have mixed effects
because greater opportunities encourage contin-
ued part-time farming by small farmers but also
raise wage rates). Nor does a crossover neces-
sarily occur for some employmentintensive types
of farming-for example, high-value horticultural
crops and intensive livestock production. It seems
likely that the crossover is important for foodgrain
production by the time countries reach middle-
income status, but small farms may retain their
competitive edge indefinitely for some types of
horticultural and livestock farming.
Another concern is that, with increasing rural
populations but scarce land, small farms may

eventually become too small and fragmented to be
efficient. Carter and Wiebe (1990) have provided
evidence from Kenya showing that profits per
hectare decline when forms get too small. It is
premature to draw any definite conclusions about
this concern, and, even if true, it is likely that small
farms first lose their competitive advantage for
growing foodgrains rather than labor-intensive
livestock and horticultural products.
Even though small farms are generally the
more efficient producers, this advantage may be
offset by problems in reaching markets. Because
small farms typically trade only in small quantities,
both inputs and outputs, they cannot command the
same price advantages as larger farms dealing in
greater bulk. They are also less likely to have the
same access to market information and contacts.
Such disadvantages can be offset by coopera-
tives, contract farming, and other marketing
arrangements, but these often introduce addition-
al costs and challenges. Resolving such marketing
problems--once the mandate of now-disbanded
marketing parastatals-may be critical to achiev-
ing greater complementarity between targeting
smallholder farms and agricultural productivity

Research Strategies for
Landless Laborers

Landless laborers are difficult to reach through agri-
cultural growth except through the labor market
(both locally and through inter-regional migration)
and the rural nonfarm economy. In irrigated and
high-potential areas, agriculture's employment elas-
ticity has shrunk in the post-Green Revolution era in
many countries. In India, for example, the employ-
ment elasticity has fallen from about 0.7 in the
1970s to about half that level today. This means
that a 1 percent increase in agricultural output
generates a much smaller percentage of addition-
al employment than before. The recent removal of
credit subsidies and policy distortions as part of
structural adjustment and market liberalization

reforms in many countries may discourage inap-
propriate investments in mechanization and help
shift agriculture toward more employment-intensive
patterns of growth, helping landless and near-land-
less farmers. Increased investments in improved
natural resource management in less-favored areas
should also help create additional employment
because many of these investments are labor inten-
sive. In countries where rising per capital incomes
are spurring demand for livestock and horticultural
products, agricultural employment is likely to grow
as forms diversify into these activities.
The landless also can benefit from types of
livestock production where animals are kept in
stalls or cages or fed from common property
grazing resources and purchased feeds (for
example, poultry, rabbits, goats, and dairy
cows). Rehabilitation and better management of
common property resources in general can also
help the landless, since the use of these resources
is often an important element in their livelihood
Increasing employment and labor productivity
through improvements in labor and capital mar-
kets is also good for economic efficiency and
offers win-win opportunities. Targeting research
on the own-agricultural activities of landless work-
ers probably adds little to overall agricultural
growth rates in the short term, but it could lead to
longer-term growth by increasing worker produc-
tivity and the economic contributions of their chil-
dren (see next section).

Research Strategies for More
Nutritious Foods

Conventional research approaches can help
improve productivity and lower the price of non-
staple crops that are rich in micronutrients. This
potentially powerful indirect effect should be seri-
ously considered in regions that experience high
micronutrient deficiency and are poorly linked to
international or domestic markets. The following
approaches should be considered.

New Technology for Small-Scale
Home Gardening of Micronutrient-
Rich Food
A recent review of food-based interventions to
combat vitamin A deficiency points to the potential
of home gardening combined with promotional
and education interventions. With regard to iron,
production and education interventions to
increase the supply and intake of iron from plant
foods have not been as popular as those for vita-
min A. Experience with food-based approaches to
increase production and/or consumption of heme
or non-heme iron-rich foods is limited, but some
lessons are clear. In addition to the well-known
problems of bioavailability with iron from plant
sources, the experience with animal production
suggests trade-offs between increased income
from selling home-produced animal products and
increasing one's own consumption of these prod-
ucts to improve dietary quality. Similar to home
gardening interventions, a strong nutrition educa-
tion component is critical to achieving improved
dietary diversity through animal production inter-

Postharvest Technologies
Postharvest activities can affect nutrient availabili-
ty by increasing the general use of nutrient-rich
foods (for instance, beta-carotene-rich varieties of
sweet potatoes), increasing the nutrient density of
foods consumed by infants, and decreasing nutri-
ent losses from the processing of widely available
foods. Postharvest activities include storage, com-
mercial processing, in-home processing, and
preparation. Food processing includes physical
processes (heat/cold treatment, mechanical sepa-
ration such as milling, and reduction of water
activity), chemical processes (addition of acid,
alkaline, oxidizing, and reducing agents), enzy-
matic processes hydrolysiss of proteins and inacti-
vation of toxins), and biological processes
(fermentation and germination) (WHO 1998). A
good example of work that has the potential to
increase the general use of nutrient-rich foods via
processing is provided by the work of the

International Potato Center (CIP) with sweet pota-
toes. A series of papers have been written that
describe the technical and economic feasibility of
deriving and using sweet potato chips and flours
in chapati and bread processing, as well as con-
sumer acceptance (Hagenimana and Owori
1997a and 1997b). The goal of this work is main-
ly to reduce the costs of production and the cost to
the consumer. Sweet potatoes performed well in
every area. The successful application of such
techniques to orange- and yellow-flesh varieties
that are richer in beta-carotene has directly helped
improve nutrition in Kenya (Hagenimana and
Oyunga 1999).

Breeding Techniques to Improve the
Nutrient Content of Staples
There are several ways to improve the nutrient
availability of food staples: (1) increase the densi-
ty of micronutrients in the grain, (2) decrease the
density of factors that inhibit human absorption of
micronutrients already in the grain, and (3)
increase the level of promoters of human absorp-
tion. Breeding methods can be conventional or
The CGIAR micronutrients project involving
the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the
International Center for Tropical Agriculture
(CIAT), CIP, and IFPRI is beginning to produce
some promising results (Bouis, Graham, and
Welch 2000). First, two high-yielding, high-iron
rices were identified among improved lines
already being tested by IRRI and now being sub-
jected to human feeding trials. Second, 24 select-
ed genotypes of beans from CIAT were found to
have substantial variation in iron concentration
and a constant level of bioavailability. The devel-
opment of low phytic acid mutants of maize and
other cereals for use in food and feed is another
approach to improving the micronutrient content
of staples. An important advantage of low phytic
acid mutants is that the bioavailability of a range
of minerals may be improved. Yields of the best
low phytic acid lines, first developed in the mid-
1990s, now range between 5 and 15 percent

below those of the highest-yielding commercial
varieties. Because of the benefits for nutrition, low
phytic acid crops may have higher total benefits to
the poor, although the rate of adoption will remain
a drawback as long as yields are compromised
(Raboy 2000).
Enhancing the nutrition status of the poor will
lead to additional productivity growth (both in
agriculture and other activities) today and in future
generations. Undernutrition involves serious eco-
nomic costs. Both stunting and anemia are known
to lower productivity in physical labor. Adults who
are moderately stunted are 2 to 6 percent less pro-
ductive, and those who are severely stunted are 2
to 9 percent less productive, than those of normal
stature (Horton 1999, using estimates in Haddad
and Bouis 1991 and Alderman et al. 1997). Iron
deficiency anemia is associated with a loss of pro-
ductivity of 5 percent in light blue-collar work and
17 percent in heavy manual labor (Ross and
Horton 1998).
Evidence suggests that childhood stunting and
iron deficiency, as well as maternal iodine defi-
ciency, are also associated with lower cognitive
outcomes in children and hence lower adult pro-
ductivity in the next generation. The effects on
adult earnings and productivity is estimated at 10
percent for low-height-for-age (from an older study
by Selowsky and Taylor 1973), 4 percent for
childhood anemia (Ross and Horton 1998), and
10 percent per child born to a mother with goiter
(Ross 1997). These losses are conservatively 2 to
3 percent of GDP in low-income countries. In
South Asia, the estimated losses associated with
iron deficiency alone are estimated to be $5 bil-
lion per year (Ross and Horton 1998).
Technologies that improve the nutritional con-
tent of the foods that poor people eat need not
involve trade-offs with other desirable traits.
Researchers at the International Crops Research
Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), for
example, concluded some years ago that breed-
ing for high protein and lysine content in food
grains was not a priority because calorie con-
sumption was a more severe problem for the poor

than low protein or lysine consumption in South
Asia's semi-arid tropical areas. As a result, breed-
ing for high yield was the best way to help poor
people and there was no trade-off between effi-
ciency and poverty alleviation goals.
However, this is not so clearly the case in
breeding for greater micronutrient content, such as
iron and zinc, for regions where poor people suf-
fer from serious deficiencies. Such breeding work
runs the risk of drawing resources away from
other objectives such as strengthening tolerance to
various stresses. Even so, the cost is likely to be
much lower (at least for iron and zinc) than for a
capsule program that has to be sustained on a
long-term basis (Ruel and Bouis 1998).

Research Methods that
Empower the Poor

Participatory research, in which poor people play
a role in setting the research agenda and carrying
it out, has potential to make agricultural research
more effective in empowering poor people. It can
give them more influence over the research system
to address their needs and provide them with the
skills needed to solve many of their own problems.
Participatory research is still new, and there
has been little attempt to assess its impact on agri-
cultural productivity or poverty reduction. Initial
attempts at participatory research have given
greater priority to involving poor people in evalu-
ating new technologies (such as specific traits of
improved varieties) than in setting priorities for
research itself (such as which kinds of varieties to
develop, and for what types of crops, regions,
and farmers). Involving farmers in problem diag-
nosis and field-testing of technologies can provide
useful information to researchers and result in
more useful products for farmers (Farrington and
Martin 1988). Using participatory research to
promote empowerment as a direct goal requires
working with communities that are organized and
skilled in working together, solving problems, and
resolving conflicts. Kerr and Kolavalli (1999)

argue that "participatory research should go
hand-in-hand with participatory community devel-
opment that can help improve access to credit and
markets and can teach local people the skills they
need to organize themselves, analyze and solve
problems as a group, and resolve conflicts."
Increasing pressures on research organiza-
tions to improve their effectiveness in reaching the
poor will lead to increasing collaboration with
farmers. But Kerr and Kolavalli (1999, p. 137-
138) identify several constraints:

More participatory research requires mul-
tidisciplinary work that may be difficult to
organize; this was a constraint in earlier
farming systems research (Farrington and
Martin 1988). Some scientists are reluc-
tant to learn from indigenous knowledge,
and economists shy away from participa-
tory methods because they do not always
yield quantitative data. Scientific journals
are less receptive to research based on
participatory than traditional methods. As
a result, major changes are still needed in

both researchers' perceptions and the
incentives that guide them. Another con-
straint is that initial costs of participatory
research can be high because travel and
training budgets rise. In a project to devel-
op pest control measures in Ghana,
farmer participation increased project
costs by 66 percent and accounted for 80
percent of researchers' time (Magrath et
al. 1997). However, the Rwanda case
shows that the extra cost can lead to high-
er returns by reducing the time needed to
identify promising technologies. The cost
per variety released actually fell in the
Rwanda case (Sperling et al. 1993). Also,
developing the farmers' own capabilities
in developing improved pest management
systems, or conducting field trials, or even
breeding can be a cost-effective way to
adapt technology to local needs where
conditions are spatially diverse. Where
participation may mean the difference
between success and failure in developing
technologies, there are no cost trade-offs.

6. The Role of Public Research
and Extension Systems

Public research and extension systems will have a
key role in implementing the pro-poor agricultural
research strategy described in the previous chap-
ter. Because targeting the poor is not always win-
win for growth and poverty alleviation, countries
that can afford large research budgets, or enjoy
significant private-sector investment in productivity
enhancing research, will be best placed to under-
take this agenda. Where the trade-offs are high, it
is appropriate to consider alternative policies For
poverty alleviation. Technology is only one instru-
ment for helping the poor, and it is not always the
most effective one. Its role must be seen within the
broader context of rural development and grass-
roots development efforts.
Where productivity trade-offs exist but are not
overwhelming, targeting research can sometimes
offer more cost-effective and long-term solutions to
poverty than alternative interventions. For exam-
ple, research to improve soil nutrient and water
management practices or to develop more
drought-tolerant cereal varieties might lead to sub-
stantial long-term savings in relief aid in many
poor, drought-prone areas. In these cases, the
trade-off against agricultural productivity growth
may be less important than the cost savings
achieved in alternative relief programs, especially
if government and donors can be persuaded to
allocate some of those savings to additional agri-
cultural research investments.
If public research and extension systems are to
be effective in undertaking targeted pro-poor
research, they will also have to make some insti-
tutional adjustments. Their past successes lay in
developing and spreading Green Revolution tech-
nologies in high-potential areas. Because yield

ceilings had already been reached and were in
need of basic biological breakthroughs, and
because crops were grown in monoculture sys-
tems under homogenous conditions with good
access to markets, the new technologies could be
widely adopted with little if any local adaptation.
But as discussed in previous chapters, the
challenges facing public research and extension
systems today are rather different. In irrigated and
high-potential areas, crop diversification and
improved environmental management have
become key challenges for small and large farms
alike, and the problems facing less-favored lands
are much more diverse and location-s and
involve changes in complex natural resource man-
agement systems that have been developed over
generations to cope with uncertain rainfall and
weather conditions, poor and often fragile soils,
and the high costs of external inputs, given poor
market access. Moreover, research needs to be
undertaken in more participatory ways if it is to
become more effective in empowering the poor.
At the same time, public research systems also
need to become more engaged in biotechnology
research to ensure that at least part of its potential
is used to enhance agricultural growth and to help
poor farmers.
To meet these challenges, there is a need for
a more client-oriented, problem-solvina approach
throughout the agricultural research system, an
approach not limited to a particular kind of tech-
nology or a particular type of agriculture or zone.
This approach will often translate into a need for
more on-farm research under conditions that are
difficult and diverse. Not all of the technological
challenges facing poor people will be solved by

more on-farm work; biotechnology conducted in a
strict laboratory environment may be critical, for
example, in raising yield ceilings or for improving
drought tolerance. However, even biotechnology
will be more effective if it addresses priorities
based on a client-oriented, problem-solving
approach that draws many of its insights from
interaction with farmers.
Institutional reforms are necessary to change
incentive structures within public research and
extension systems so that scientists and extension
officers are responsive to the needs of their clients.
But to be effective, these changes will need to
extend to all levels of management (Byerlee and
Alex 1998). The kinds of changes needed in pub-
lic agricultural research and extension systems will
also require the forging of new partnerships
between the public system and NGOs, private-
sector firms, and farmers.
Private seed companies and input suppliers
are playing a larger role as many countries liber-
alize and privatize their agricultural input mar-
kets. Many of these companies not only develop
improved products of their own (including under-
taking agricultural research), but also advise
farmers about the use of products they sell.
NGOs have also become important actors in
spreading natural resource management prac-
tices regarding soil and water management,
watershed development, and social forestry. They
have a particular advantage in helping commu-
nities take collective action to implement
improved natural resource management practices
at the landscape level (Kerr et al. 2000).
Farmers, including smallholder and women farm-
ers, also need to be actively involved in the
design and evaluation of research intended-for

their farming conditions. Participatory research
methods are proving to be a fruitful way of
achieving this goal (Kerr et al. 2000).
Because of the public-goods nature of much
agricultural research and extension, market forces
alone will be insufficient to integrate the roles of
the public and private sectors and NGOs and
make them fully accountable to their clients. New
institutional mechanisms will also be required.
Competitive research grants offer one interesting
approach, particularly if they are open to all rele-
vant public, private, and NGO agencies, and if
farmers (including poor farmers and women) are
represented in the decisionmaking process
(Farrington and Martin 1998). Local research
committees composed of relevant stakeholders
show some promise as a device for setting
research priorities for the public sector (Alsop
Even as agricultural research and extension
systems are being asked to take on more diverse
and difficult challenges, their budgets are being
cut in many countries (Pardey and Beintema
2001). National agricultural research systems
(NARS) in Africa have been particularly affected,
and the availability of resources per scientist has
fallen sharply. On average, developing countries
spend about one half of 1 percent of their agri-
cultural GDP on public research, which is much
less than the 2 percent averaged by the industri-
alized countries. If new technologies are to be
developed to address the poverty and environ-
mental problems of developing countries, and to
enable them to capture some of the potential ben-
efits of biotechnology, then there is an urgent need
to increase available funding and to implement
needed institutional reforms.


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Peter Hazell is director of the Environment and Production Technology Division of the International Food Policy Research
Institute (IFPRI). Lawrence Haddad is director of the Food Consumption and Nutrition Division of IFPRI.

with permission from the
International Food Policy
Research Institute

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