Front Cover
 Title Page
 Advisory panel
 OTA project staff
 Table of Contents
 Summary and options
 Part I: Low-resource agriculture...
 Part II: Promising technologie...
 Back Cover

Group Title: Enhancing agriculture in Africa: a role for U.S. development assistance
Title: Enhancing agriculture in Africa
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00053810/00001
 Material Information
Title: Enhancing agriculture in Africa a role for U.S. development assistance
Physical Description: vii, 328 p. : ill., 1 map ; 26 cm.
Language: English
Creator: United States -- Congress. -- Office of Technology Assessment
Publisher: Congress of the U.S., Office of Technology Assessment :
For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O.
Place of Publication: Washington DC
Publication Date: [1988]
Subject: Agriculture -- Technology transfer -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Agricultural assistance, American -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Technical assistance, American -- Africa   ( lcsh )
Genre: federal government publication   ( marcgt )
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Bibliography: Includes bibliographies and index.
General Note: Shipping list no.: 88-574-P.
General Note: "September 1988"--P. 4 of cover.
General Note: "OTA-F-356"--P. 4 of cover.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00053810
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: African Studies Collections in the Department of Special Collections and Area Studies, George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001347892
oclc - 18568854
notis - AGK9032

Table of Contents
    Front Cover
        Front Cover 1
        Front Cover 2
    Title Page
        Page i
        Page ii
        Page iii
    Advisory panel
        Page iv
    OTA project staff
        Page v
        Page vi
    Table of Contents
        Page vii
    Summary and options
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
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        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
    Part I: Low-resource agriculture and development assistance
        Page 41
        Page 42
        The status of low-resource agriculture
            Page 43
            Page 44
            Page 45
            Page 46
            Page 47
            Page 48
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            Page 70
            Page 71
            Page 72
            Page 73
            Page 74
        A resource-enhancing approach to African agriculture
            Page 75
            Page 76
            Page 77
            Page 78
            Page 79
            Page 80
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            Page 91
            Page 92
            Page 93
            Page 94
            Page 95
            Page 96
        The role of technology in enhancing low-resource agriculture
            Page 97
            Page 98
            Page 99
            Page 100
            Page 101
            Page 102
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            Page 116
            Page 117
            Page 118
            Page 119
            Page 120
        The role of foreign assistance in a resource-enhancing approach
            Page 121
            Page 122
            Page 123
            Page 124
            Page 125
            Page 126
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            Page 153
            Page 154
            Page 155
            Page 156
    Part II: Promising technologies
        Page 157
        Page 158
        Improved use of soil and water resources
            Page 159
            Page 160
            Soil and water management
                Page 161
                Page 162
                Page 163
                Page 164
                Page 165
                Page 166
                Page 167
                Page 168
                Page 169
            Improving soil fertility
                Page 170
                Page 171
                Page 172
                Page 173
                Page 174
                Page 175
                Page 176
                Page 177
            Small-scale irrigation
                Page 178
                Page 179
                Page 180
                Page 181
                Page 182
                Page 183
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                Page 187
                Page 188
                Page 189
                Page 190
                Page 191
                Page 192
        Improved cropping practices
            Page 193
            Page 194
                Page 195
                Page 196
                Page 197
                Page 198
                Page 199
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                Page 206
                Page 207
                Page 208
                Page 209
                Page 210
        Crop and livestock genetic improvement
            Page 211
            Page 212
            Page 213
            Page 214
            Crop breeding
                Page 215
                Page 216
                Page 217
                Page 218
                Page 219
                Page 220
                Page 221
                Page 222
                Page 223
                Page 224
                Page 225
            Animal breeding
                Page 226
                Page 227
                Page 228
                Page 229
                Page 230
                Page 231
                Page 232
                Page 233
                Page 234
        Improved use of animals
            Page 235
            Page 236
            Page 237
            Page 238
            Page 239
            Page 240
            Page 241
            Page 242
            Mixed crop/livestock systems using small ruminants
                Page 243
                Page 244
            Animal traction
                Page 245
                Page 246
                Page 247
                Page 248
                Page 249
                Page 250
                Page 251
                Page 252
                Page 253
                Page 254
        Improved systems to reduce losses
            Page 255
            Page 256
            Integrated pest management
                Page 257
                Page 258
                Page 259
                Page 260
                Page 261
                Page 262
                Page 263
            Improving animal health
                Page 264
                Page 265
                Page 266
                Page 267
                Page 268
                Page 269
                Page 270
                Page 271
                Page 272
            Post-harvest technologies
                Page 273
                Page 274
                Page 275
                Page 276
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        Appendix A: The assessment's contractor reports
            Page 297
            Page 298
            Page 299
            Page 300
            Page 301
            Page 302
        Appendix B: Participants in assessment workshops
            Page 303
            Page 304
        Appendix C: African correspondents
            Page 305
            Page 306
            Page 307
        Appendix D: External reviewers
            Page 308
            Page 309
        Appendix E: The U.S. department of agriculture's database on low-resource agriculture
            Page 310
            Page 311
            Page 312
            Page 313
            Page 314
            Page 315
            Page 316
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    Back Cover
        Back Cover 1
        Back Cover 2
Full Text

Office of Teehnology Assssment

eongreionoal Board of the 100th Cogress

MORRIS K. UDALL, Arizona, Chairman

TED STEVENS, Alaska, Vice Chairman

South Carolina
Rhode Island

H&Q Technology Partners
DAVID S. POTTER, Vice Chairman
General Motors Corp. (Ret.)
General Accounting Office


Advisory Councll

Lower Colorado River Authority
Michel T. Halbouty Energy Co.
Iowa State University
University of Tennessee

New York

Rockefeller University
University of Utah
Stanford University
Congressional Research Service



The Technology Assessment Board approves the release of this report. The views expressed in this report are not necessarily those
of the Board, OTA Advisory Council, or individual members thereof.

Cover design by John Bergling





Recommended Citation:
U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, Enhancing Agriculture in Africa:
A Role for U.S. Development Assistance, OTA-F-356 (Washington, DC: U.S. Govern-
ment Printing Office, September 1988).

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 87-619896

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents
U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC 20402-9325
(order form can be found in the back of this report)


Few African farmers, herders, and fishers have adequate resources to assure con-
tinuous food supplies. For them, access to additional resources is vital, along with mak-
ing the best use of existing capital, information, labor, equipment, etc. On the other
hand, most U.S. farmers and ranchers have a larger endowment of resources, including
the natural ones upon which agriculture depends ultimately. Nevertheless, increasing
numbers of U.S. farmers are choosing to reduce resource use to cut input costs and
increase profits. Now, broad interests worldwide seem to be converging on making the
most of modest resources. This report examines the situation of African agriculturalists
specifically. We anticipate, though, that many of the important lessons learned in Africa
will become increasingly relevant to U.S. agriculture.
OTA's Technology Assessment Board, in June 1985, approved requests of three con-
gressional committees and five Board members that OTA examine low-resource agri-
culture in Africa. OTA published its first results in a 1986 special report' that focused
on development in the West African Sahel. OTA's first report examined the record of
U.S. assistance to nine African nations, explored the lessons learned in a decade of
efforts, and suggested policy alternatives to improve the effectiveness of U.S. assistance.
This second report is cast more broadly. OTA has gathered information on agricul-
tural production throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, looked closely at specific, promising
technologies such as agroforestry, small-scale irrigation, soil and water management,
and the improved use of animals. As a result, it seems clear that low-resource agricul-
ture has a sizable potential to contribute to increased African food security. Also, it
is clear that low-resource agriculture must be enhanced in order to reach its full poten-
tial. This report identifies ways that U.S. development assistance can aid this process.
The committees that requested this study are: the House Select Committee on Hun-
ger, the House Science and Technology Committee (the Subcommittee on Natural Re-
sources, Agriculture Research, and Environment), and the House Agriculture Commit-
tee. Of OTA's 1985 Technology Assessment Board, Senators Hatch, Kennedy, and Pell
and Representatives Evans and Udall requested this work. Also, the House Foreign Af-
fairs Committee supported OTA's assessment.
The report draws on the expertise of a large number of people. We appreciate the
assistance of our Advisory Panel, the authors of contractor reports, workshop partici-
pants, and additional reviewers. Also, we owe a special debt to the Africans who re-
sponded to our request for their thoughts and advice on U.S. technical assistance and
development policy. Of course, OTA remains responsible for the analysis and the report
does not necessarily represent the views of individuals who participated in the study.


'Continuing the Commitment: Agricultural Development in the Sahel, OTA-F-308 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government
Printing Office, August 1986).

Advisory Panml- Ebanmcig Agriculture in Afria:
A Role for U.S. Developmeo Assistacs

Mary B. Anderson, Chair
Consultant in International Economic Development
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA

Eugene Adams
Office of International Programs
Tuskegee University
Tuskegee, AL
Haidari Amani
Department of Economics
University of Dar-es-Salaam
Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
Leonard Berry
Provost Office
Clark University
Worcester, MA
David Brokensha
Department of Anthropology
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA
Cornelia Flora
Department of Sociology,
and Social Work
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS
Jake Halliday
Battelle-Kettering Laboratory
Columbus, OH
The Rev. Thomas Hayden'
Society for African Missions
Washington, DC
Michael Horowitz
Institute for Development
Binghamton, NY
Goran Hyden2
Department of Political Science
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL

Joseph Kennedy
Washington, DC
David Leonard
Department of Political Science
University of California
Berkeley, CA
Shem Migot-Adholla
Department of Sociology
University of Nairobi
Nairobi, KENYA
Elliot Morss2
Center for Asian Development
Boston University
Boston, MA
Bede Okigbo
International Institute
of Tropical Agriculture
Robert Rodale
Rodale Press, Inc.
Emmaus, PA
John Scheuring4
International Crops Research
Institute for the Semi-Arid
Bamako, Mali
Anita Spring
College of Liberal Arts
and Sciences
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL
Helen Vukasins
Environment and Development
New York, NY

Aart van Wingerden
Double Harvest, Inc.
Fletcher, NC
Garth Youngberg
Institute for Alternative
Greenbelt, MD

Executive Branch Liaisons
Cheryl Christensen6
Economic Research Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, DC
Brian D'Silva7
Economic Research Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Washington, DC
Howard L. Hill
National Climate Program
U.S. National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
Rockville, MD
Marcus Winter
Africa Bureau
U.S. Agency for International
Washington, DC
John Zarafonetis
U.S. Peace Corps
Washington, DC

'Resigned as of June 24, 1986.
2Appointed as of May 19, 1986.
'Resigned as of Apr. 24, 1986.
4Appointed as of Feb. 12, 1986.
SAppointed as of July 16, 1986.
6Resigned as of Sept. 26, 1986.
7Appointed as of Sept. 27, 1986.

NOTE: OTA gratefully acknowledges the members of this advisory panel for their valuable assistance and thoughtful
advice. The panel does not, however, necessarily approve, disapprove, or endorse this report. OTA assumes
full responsibility for the report and the accuracy of it contents.

OTA Project Staff --beu iceg Agriehture I Afrikc
A Role for U.L Developme t Assistmc

Roger C. Herdman, Assistant Director, OTA
Health and Life Sciences Division

Walter E. Parham, Food and Renewable Resources Program Manager

Phyllis N. Windle, Project Director

Amlytical Stff
Bruce J. Horwith, Analyst
Edward F. MacDonald, Analyst
J. Kathy Parker, Analyst
Allen M. Ruby, Research Analyst
Chris Elfring, Editor
Gregory Booth', Contractor

Additleml A lytIel Stff for ipeldel mepere
George Scharffenberger, Contractor
Kathy Desmond, Contractor

Admiuisenlve Ssea"
Beckie Erickson,2 Sally Shafroth,3 Administrative Assistants
N. Ellis Lewis, Administrative Assistant
Nellie Hammond, Secretary
Carolyn Swann, Secretary

'From March to August, 1986.
2Until December 1986.
3Until May 1987.


Foreword ............................................. iii
Chapter 1. Summary and Options ...................................... 3
Chapter 2. Prologue .............................................. 35
Part I: Low-Resource Agriculture and Development Assistance
Chapter 3. The Status of Low-Resource Agriculture ........................ 45
Chapter 4. A Resource-Enhancing Approach to African Agriculture ......... 77
Chapter 5. The Role of Technology in Enhancing Low-Resource Agriculture.. 99
Chapter 6. The Role of Foreign Assistance in a
Resource-Enhancing Approach ................... ........ .123
Part II: Promising Technologies
Chapter 7. Improved Use of Soil and Water Resources ..................... 161
Soil and Water Management ............................... 161
Improving Soil Fertility .................................... 170
Small-Scale Irrigation ..................................... 178
Chapter 8. Improved Cropping Practices .............................. 195
Intercropping .......................................... 195
Agroforestry ............................................. 200
Chapter 9. Crop and Livestock Genetic Improvement ......................213
Crop Breeding ........................................... 215
Animal Breeding ......................................... 226
Chapter 10. Improved Use of Animals ................................... 237
Mixed CroplLivestock Systems Using Small Ruminants ......... 243
Animal Traction .......................................... 245
Chapter 11. Improved Systems To Reduce Losses .......................... 257
Integrated Pest Management ...............................257
Improving Animal Health .................................. 264
Post-Harvest Technologies ................................. 273
Chapter 12. Epilogue .................................................. 287

Appendix A. The Assessment's Contractor Reports ......................... 297
Appendix B. Workshop Participants ..................................... 303
Appendix C. African Correspondents ................ ................... 305
Appendix D. External Reviewers ........................................ 308
Appendix E. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Database on
Low-Resource Agriculture ................................ 310
Index ................ ............................................... 319

Chapter I
Summary and Options


Why Focus on Low-Resource Agriculture? ............................ 3
The Status of Low-Resource Agriculture ..................... ......... 3
Problems in the Face of Mounting Pressure .......................... 9
A Resource-Enhancing Approach to African Agriculture ................ 10
The Role of Technology ............................................ 13
A Promising Technological Framework............................... 13
Promising Technologies ....................... ................ .. 14
The Role of Foreign Assistance .................................... 17
Congress and a Resource-Enhancing Approach ....................... 17
Three Categories of Assistance ............................. ..... 18
AID and a Resource-Enhancing Approach ........................... 20
The Road Ahead ................................................ 20
Findings and Options .............................................. 21

Box Page
1-1. Faces of Low-Resource Agriculture ............................... 4
1-2. African Agroecological Zones and Primary Food Commodities........ 6
1-3. Building on Low-Resource Agriculture ............................. 10

TeMr s
Table Page
1-1. Low-Resource Agriculture and African Staple Food Production ....... 8
1-2. Promising Technologies and Practices by Agroecological Zone........ 14
1-3. Findings and Congressional Options for Enhancing
Low-Resource Agriculture in Africa .............................. 22

Chapter 1

Summary and Options


Low-resource agriculture is a form of agricul-
ture practiced by a diverse group of farmers,
herders, and fishers that is based primarily on
the use of local resources but that may make mod-
est use of external inputs, including information
and technology. It is the predominant form of
agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it is the
major source of food production, employment,
and rural income. Although low-resource agri-
culture has been the basis for the region's food
security' in the past, it can no longer meet the
continent's increasing needs. Nevertheless, low-
resource agriculture has the potential to be im-

'Food security is a critical goal in Africa. It is "access by all
people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. Its
essential elements are availability of food and ability to acquire
it" (Poverty and Hunger: Issues and Options for Food Security

proved substantially, and technology and U.S. de-
velopment assistance can contribute to these
The purpose of this assessment is to examine
technologies that show promise to help the het-
erogeneous group of Africans who practice low-
resource agriculture. Also, OTA's goal is to pro-
vide Congress with a range of options which, if
pursued, would help Africans increase their abil-
ity to assure, on a long-term basis, timely, relia-
ble, and nutritionally adequate food supplies.

in Developing Countries, Washington, DC: The World Bank,
1986). This can include dependable, long-term access to food
through local production, or through the power to purchase food
via local, national, regional, or international markets.


Africa is larger than the United States, west-
ern Europe, and China combined, and it is a
continent of varied cultures and environments.
This diversity is reflected in how agriculture
is practiced, so the specific nature of how peo-
ple farm, herd, or fish varies greatly from place
to place and there is no such thing as a "typi-
cal" African farm.
Nevertheless, some common elements can be
seen in African agriculture. One consistent
aspect is its prominent place in African econ-
omies. Agriculture employs about three-quar-
ters of Sub-Saharan Africa's labor force and ac-
counts for about one-third the region's gross
domestic product. Also, about one-half of the
countries in the region derive at least 40 per-
cent of their export earnings from agricultural
products. Further, despite major increases in
food imports in the last two decades, the re-
gion produces a high proportion of its own
food-at least 80 percent of cereals, 95 percent

of meat, 75 percent of dairy products, and
almost all roots and tubers.
More specific similarities in African agricul-
ture can also be found among the large majority
of African farming systems that can be termed
"low-resource agriculture." Low-resource agri-
culture is difficult to quantify because use of
modern inputs (e.g., commercial fertilizers and
hybrid seeds), scale of operation, proportion of
crops sold, and income vary widely (box 1-1).
The majority of resource-poor farmers and
herders are on the lower-to-middle end in the
use of these inputs, size of holdings, and cash
income, however. Some use virtually no exter-
nal inputs, earn little money, and produce goods
primarily for their own family's consumption.
Large-scale commercial ranches and farms that
rely up greater amounts of inputs are not con-
sidered "low-resource"; such operations prob-
ably contribute no more than 5 percent of
Africa's food production.

Box 1-1.-Faces of Low-Resource Agriculture
Definitions sometimes do not capture the essence of the activity being defined. Perhaps the best
way to understand low-resource agriculture is to imagine how a resource-poor farmer or herder actu-
ally lives.*
A Farmer: Sindima is a farmer in Malawi. She is in her late thirties and lives with her five children
in an area with relatively good soils and dependable rainfall. Her husband left to find work in the
city and she sees him infrequently, so she heads the household, manages the farm, and does almost
all the work. She farms about 2% hectares and is able to feed her family and produce some crops
to sell. By local standards, Sindima is affluent. A development assistance program has been active
in her village, so she belongs to a farmers' club and has access to the extension agent for information
and credit for some fertilizer and improved seeds. With this help, she plants a fairly complicated
mix of crops: hybrid and local maize, groundnuts, beans, a little tobacco, and a variety of local vegeta-
bles. She uses the hybrid maize and fertilizer on about one-half hectare, but she continues to plant
local maize even though it it less productive because it tastes better and is less susceptible to insect
damage in storage.
Sindima's fields require heavy labor-with preparation, planting, weeding, and harvesting all timed
to keep the land in production as long as the rains last. She also has household responsibilities: caring
for the children, grinding maize, gathering firewood, cooking; she even brews a little beer to sell at
the market. Her children help-the older girls walk to the well twice each day to get water and help
search for firewood-but she can afford to pay their school fees so she encourages them to get an
A Nomadic Herder: Mossa is in his forties and has always lived north of Timbukto, Mali, in the
vast, dry area of West Africa known as the Sahel. Mossa's nomadic community consists of about
10 related families who move together with their livestock seeking pasture and water. Animals are
the core of life for Mossa, his wife, and their seven children. Cattle, sheep, and goats provide milk,
butter, cheese, and, for special occasions, meat. Their heavy tents-strong enough to withstand high
winds, sand storms, and the driving rain of the wet season-are made of hides, as are their sandals
and many household goods. When the family needs grain or other goods, Mossa trades what he must
from the herd. Mossa learned to manage his herd from his father, and through trial and error. He
has a good understanding of breeding and, while Western veterinary medicine is not generally avail-
able, he has a variety of traditional, and often effective, methods to treat his animals. To Mossa and
his family the herd is more than a source of income. It is a measure of their status and security. Live-
stock are their "bank account," their way of saving resources for bad times in a land that has unpre-
dictable but frequent droughts.
Life has changed dramatically for Mossa over the past few years. He has far more contact with
other people, and he buys more goods and food. His access to the land is changing, too. Some of
the productive lands he once grazed have deteriorated, like in the place where the government dug
a deep well and too many animals stripped the land of all vegetation when they came to drink. Crop
farmers have taken over other of his traditional lands. During the last drought, Mossa was unable
to feed his family and, for the first time had to turn to international organizations for food aid. Mossa
has not recovered from that drought, when he lost more than half of his herd. He is uncertain how
he will fare if another drought strikes soon.
*Sindima and Mossa are fictional, but these profiles are composites drawn from the lives of real African people.
SOURCES: American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Tin Aicha Nomad Village (Philadelphia, PA: AFSC. 1982); Michael Horowitz.
The Sociology of Pastoralism and African Livestock Projects, AID Program Evaluation Discussion Paper No. 6 (Washington.
DC: Bureau for Program and Policy Coordination. AID. May 1979); George Scharffenburger. Consultant. Washington, DC. per-
sonal communication, 1987; Anita Spring, Associate Dean. College of Liberal Arts, University of Florida. Gainesville. personal
communication, 1987; and "Profiles of Men and Women Smallholder Farmers in the Lilongwe Rural Development Project.
Malawri," report to Office of Women in Development, U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington, DC, March 1984.

Although the agricultural systems that com-
prise low-resource agriculture are typically
complex, diverse, and changing, they generally
share these characteristics:
they strive to minimize risk, even if this
means they obtain less than maximum
they depend on local knowledge;
they depend on biological processes and
renewable resources;
they involve low cash costs but often re-
quire relatively high amounts of labor; and
they are adapted to local cultures and envi-
ronments, although social and ecological
systems are showing increasing strains un-
der growing pressures.
Agroecological factors, e.g., rainfall patterns,
soil types, and animal diseases, also help de-
fine low-resource agriculture (box 1-2). Differ-
ent crops and types of livestock have different
relative importance in the Arid and Semi-Arid
Tropics, the Subhumid Tropical Uplands, the
Humid Lowlands, and the Tropical and Sub-
tropical Highlands. For example, millet and sor-
ghum are the predominant crops in arid and
semi-arid regions, largely because of their
greater drought tolerance. Maize is grown more
commonly in areas with increased rainfall.
Roots, tubers, and plantains are the major
source of calories in the Humid Lowlands. Sim-
ilarly, cattle are the dominant livestock in arid
and semi-arid, sub-humid, and highland re-
gions, whereas small ruminants-sheep and
goats-dominate in humid lowlands because
of their greater tolerance to trypanosomiasis.
Notwithstanding these general crop and live-
stock production patterns, descriptions based
on a single commodity create an inaccurate pic-
ture of low-resource agriculture. African farm-
ing systems tend to be highly diversified, pro-
ducing a wide array of crops and several types
of livestock. Diversified agricultural systems
help provide food throughout the year, reduce
the risk of crop failure, and modulate peak la-
bor demands.
Low-resource agriculture can be further de-
scribed by the importance of non-farm activi-
ties such as soap-making, crafts, and non-farm

wage employment. An estimated 25 to 40 per-
cent of all household labor is devoted to non-
farm income producing activities. Farm and
non-farm tasks are commonly divided by gen-
der and age, with certain tasks allocated to chil-
dren and the elderly. Women are the major food
producers in most African countries and ac-
count for almost half of the agricultural labor
force that produces food and non-food crops.
In general, then, low-resource agriculture
meets multiple needs for families and requires
balancing scarce endowments of land, labor,
capital, and other resources. This calls for com-
plex decisionmaking and facing difficult trade-
offs. A greater appreciation exists now of the
efficiency and skill of resource-poor farmers
and herders, although their agricultural systems
were once perceived to be inefficient and
In a broader picture, low-resource agricul-
ture is the predominant type of agriculture prac-
ticed throughout Africa and it makes a crucial
contribution to food security-both the avail-
ability of food and the ability to buy it. It is the
source of most of Africa's food, a primary in-
come and employment source for the majority
of Africans, a source of foreign exchange, and
a means used to buffer against food shortfalls
and famine by many of Africa's people most
vulnerable to poverty.
Low-resource agriculture produces the ma-
jority of grain; almost all root, tuber, and plain-
tain crops; and the majority of food legumes
(table 1-1). In addition, a great variety of sec-
ondary crops, such as fruits and vegetables, are
grown under low-resource conditions to sup-
plement these staples. An estimated 74 percent
of all livestock are raised on farms where crop
production is the primary source of subsistence
and livestock are an important source of cash
income. And approximately 20 percent of live-
stock production occurs in pastoral systems,
which are low-resource by nature. Fish is a
primary source of animal protein for much
of Africa. An estimated 85 to 95 percent of
African fish harvest is from small-scale opera-
tions that do not use expensive equipment or

Box 1-2.-African Agroecological Zones and Primary Food Commodities

Length of growing
Agroecological zone period* (days) Annual rainfall Primary food commodities

Arid and Semi-Arid 1-74 (arid) 100-1,000 mm


Subhumid Tropical

Humid Lowlands

Tropical and
Subtropical Highlands

75-180 (semi-arid)




900-1,500 mm
Bimodal rainfall
in East Africa

1,500+ mm
Bimodal rainfall


Little cultivation in arid areas. Mil-
let and sorghum predominant, with
millet grown in drier areas. Maize
in wetter areas and rice in river
basins. Food legumes (e.g., cowpeas
and groundnuts) important and
some roots and tubers grown in
wetter areas. Approximately 60% of
Africa's ruminant livestock (goats,
sheep, cattle, and camels) raised
here by both nomadic and settled
Sorghum and maize are the most
important cereals, with sorghum
preferred in drier areas. Roots,
tubers, and plantains are important.
Food legumes and rice also
produced. Two-thirds of the zone
are affected by trypanosomiasis
(spread by the tsetse fly) which
ihibits livestock production.
N'Dama and Zebu cattle are the
economically most important live-
stock followed by goats and sheep.

Roots, tubers, and plantains pre-
dominate (e.g., cassava, yams, etc.)
Some maize, rice, and sorghum.
Trypanosomiasis exists throughout
the zone precluding almost all but
the small trypano-tolerant N'Dama
cattle and tolerant goats and sheep.
Some poultry and swine production.
Mixed farming (livestock and crops
raised on same farm) prevails. Pre-
dominant cereals are maize and
sorghum. Roots and tubers (espe-
cially sweet potatoes) are important
in specific countries. Plantains and
food legumes are also grown. The
absence of trypanosomiasis and
availability of good fodder allow a
stocking density four times the

aLength of growing period is the period when both moisture and temperature permit crop growth.
SOURCES: US. Agency for International Development Bureau for Africa Plan for Supporting Naturl Roure Management in SubSharan Afra. (Washington.
DC: USAID, February 196). Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Afrcan Agriculur T Next 25 Yea At ofAfrican Afrcul-
tur (Rome FAO 1986). International Livetock Center for Africa. ILCA Annual Report 1983 (Addis Abbe. Ethiopia: ILCA. 1964).




Le one
Libena Togo

--- national boundary
SArid and semi-arid topics
Subhumid tropical uplands
Humid lowlands
Tropical and subtropical highlands


U Uganda


Swaziland Madagascar

SOURCES: Adped frm U S. Agency for Intemtional Dmetopment. Plan or Su po NftW Asowcs An Sub-Shw Aica. (Wahengton. DC: USAID.
Feb~my 19S7) Zontion for Medtgcr, from UN Food and AgrcuIure O a~ t ion (FA), AniAf -. The NMt 25 YVs -Aa of Mican Agria.ua
(Rome: FAO, 198); Intemaional h ock Center for Africa (LCA). LCA Anu port 13 (Addi Abeab Ethiopia ILCA, 1963)

Table 1-1.-Low-Resource Agriculture and African Staple Food Production*



Food legumes
(e.g., cowpeas,
pigeon peas, beans,
and groundnuts)
Roots, tubers, and
plaintain (e.g.,
cassava, yam,
cocoyam, and
sweet potato)

Small ruminants
and other livestock
(e.g., sheep, goats,
poultry, and swine)

Aggrte agricultural data for Africa usually do not detail levels of external input use but only whether or not such inputs we used. This table shows the importance
of ow-resource production in two ways: first. it describes the type of input use for the production of specific commodities and second, it sets a minimum boundary
on the volume of low-resource production of specific crops, based on estimates of "low-input agriculture" production In eight African countries.
bColumn 2 provides descriptions of the types and levels of external inputs used for specific products. These descriptions help to locate where the majority of produc-
tion takes place along the range of modern input use. The descriptions were compiled from a set of technology papers written for OTA (app. A) and from additional
outside publications.
CColumn 3 represents an effort to establish quantitative estimates of the minimum contribution of low-resource agriculture. The data show production under conditions
of no modem input use for eight sample countries. These eight countries account for at least 50 percent of African production of maize, sorghum, millet, cocoyam,
and no less than 30 percent of cassava, groundnut, and rice production. The data were compiled by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agricul-
ture for OTA (see app. E).
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment, 198.

A large majority of the estimated three-quar-
ters of Africa's labor force in agriculture is
resource-poor. The sale of food and other agri-
cultural products typically accounts for some
60 to 80 percent of the income of rural African

Also, low-resource agriculture makes impor-
tant contributions to national food security by
providing a part of export earnings. A sizable
part, perhaps the majority, of export crops are
produced by small farmers who simultaneously

raise food crops for local use under low-re-
source conditions. National export earnings are
likely to drop when such farmers cannot pur-
chase food reliably and, as a consequence, de-
vote more of their own production to food crops
and less to export crops.

Resource-poor agriculturalists commonly
face periods of inadequate food availability ei-
ther during seasonal shortfalls or more irregu-
lar famines. Many agricultural practices, such
as diversification to decrease the risk of total

Minimum estimate of



55% groundnuts
49% beans

93% cassava
100% yams
100% cocoyam

External input useb
Virtually no use of fertilizers and very little use of improved seed.
Basically the same situation as millet, but hybrids and commercial inputs
are becoming more important in some areas.
At least 75 percent produced without hybrid seeds and with less than
recommended fertilizer levels but probably as much as two-thirds produced
with non-hybrid improved seed and moderate levels of fertilizer.
At least 75 percent produced using less than recommended levels of
fertilizer and receiving inadequate irrigation (and no more than 5 percent
using High-Yielding Varieties).
Most crops of this diverse group receive virtually no commercial inputs,
but some production is under higher resource conditions (e.g., up to 50
percent of of groundnut production).

Virtually no use of fertilizers or improved seed. Some high-resource banana
production for export.

Six percent produced on ranches, generally considered high-resource; 20
percent produced by pastoralists, virtually all under low-resource
conditions except for occasional veterinary care; 74 percent produced in
mixed farms, a minority of this under higher resource condition, such as
dairy farming in some highland areas.
Almost all sheep, goats, and camels raised under low-resource conditions;
most swine and poultry produced under low-resource conditions, but
increasingly more produced under higher resource conditions, especially
near some urban areas.
As much as 85 to 95 percent caught in small-scale artisanal fisheries
mostly under low-resource conditions, though increasingly fishers are
using outboard motors; the remainder is harvested by large-scale offshore
operations mainly by foreign-owned vessels

crop failure, cassava production, bush collec-
tion of wild foods, as well as social means to
share food, buffer against these periods of hun-
ger. For example, cassava is known as a "poor
person's crop": it is a highly productive staple
that grows in low-fertility soils, requires little
labor, and can be stored in the ground until hard
times come between harvests.

ProWbl I- t Pam of ^M0-nu

African agriculture has continuously and, for
the most part, effectively adapted to meet
changing conditions. But never before has it
had to respond to the level of pressures it cur-
rently faces. Paramount is the pressure created
by rapidly growing populations and the conse-
quent demands on the land. The African con-
tinent has the most rapidly growing population
in the world: 2.9 percent per year in 1988. Even
if this rate slows slightly as expected, the con-
tinent will have triple its current population to
feed within just 40 years.
Resulting intensified land use is evident in
most regions in reduced fallow periods and,
in some areas, falling yields and natural re-
source degradation. Fallow periods have drop-
ped from 12 years to 2 years or less in Burkina
Faso and from 20 years to 5 years in Angola.
The shorter fallow periods can reduce yields
by as much as 25 to 75 percent, and can increase
weeds, soil acidity, and erosion. Many experts
anticipate further yield decreases due to land
degradation, continued deforestation, espe-
cially along the West African coast, and greater
fuelwood scarcity.

Per capital food production and income, as
well as nutritional levels, are dropping in most
areas. From the late 1960s to the late 1970s,
Africa changed from a net exporter of staple
foods to a net importer. In 1986, the value of
exports in 22 countries was not sufficient to
pay for imports. Not only is the overall trend
to decreasing incomes, it is also one of increas-
ing disparity of income between rich and poor
farmers and herders.

Under normal circumstances, low-resource
agriculture provides most countries in Sub-
Saharan Africa with adequate nourishment. At
the same time, its ability to meet African's food
needs is declining. This is the only region of
the world where the average energy in people's
daily diet decreased in the past decade. Al-
though malnutrition generally is not perceived
as a pervasive problem except during famine,
a significant level of chronic malnutrition
exists and as many as 90 percent of the mal-
nourished people are resource-poor agricultur-
No doubt low-resource agriculture can do bet-
ter, but a number of biophysical and socioeco-
nomic constraints exist that retard progress.
Generally, African soils are low in fertility and
rainfall is unpredictable in many areas and low
throughout much of the continent. Consequently,
only 16 percent of the total land area is with-
out serious biophysical limitations to agricul-
ture. Also, competition for land between farm-
ers and pastoralists; limitations of labor and
capital to invest in agricultural improvements;
and infrastructural weaknesses make it diffi-
cult to take advantage of new technologies and
other improvements. In addition, many na-
tional policies have been unsupportive of low-
resource agriculture, including the lack of in-
vestment in agricultural development and re-
search and development policies that have not
addressed the needs of resource-poor farmers
and herders.
Lack of investment in agricultural research
is among the serious constraints to agricultural
intensification. Research expenditures by na-
tional governments decreased $80 million be-
tween 1980 and 1984, from $465 million to $385
million. Research priorities and methods often
do not reflect African realities, for example,
women do not receive extension services in
proportion to their agricultural contributions,
and crops such as cassava are researched less
than their prominence in poor people's lives
would justify. Many research organizations are
plagued by lack of operating funds, low qual-
ity facilities, high staff turnover, and few in-
centives to work with poor farmers and herders.


Despite its constraints, low-resource agricul-
ture is the major food producer and the major
employer in most African countries. It is im-
practical to abandon traditional systems when
so many people stand to be adversely affected
and when the systems have an untapped po-
tential to be enhanced. This optimism is based
on: the central role this type of agriculture al-
ready plays, the vast number of people already
involved, the economic efficiency apparent on
the small-farm sector in Africa, and the signif-
icant capacity seen for technical improvements
in current agricultural systems. In addition, if
low-resource agriculture is ignored it is likely
that food security will decrease, bringing un-
known social impacts, and environmental
degradation will continue, perhaps irreversibly.
No viable alternative to low-resource agricul-
ture exists in much of Africa today.
Low-resource agriculture can be enhanced
using an approach that builds on the best of
existing African agriculture while taking advan-
tage of external inputs, information, and im-
proved techniques (see box 1-3). This, however,
presents a great challenge for development
assistance-how to pursue an approach that
builds on the potential strengths of low-resource
agriculture while alleviating the constraints.
From its analysis of low-resource agriculture
and how it is practiced in Africa, OTA found
four fundamental concepts that provide insight
into why low-resource agriculture has been suc-
cessful in the past and how these potentials
might be enhanced in the future. Using these
concepts as crucial starting points, OTA devel-
oped guidelines that could be used to redirect
development assistance to improve its effec-
Concept 1: Most African agricultural systems,
although once sustainable, are no longer
keeping pace with the increased demands be-
ing placed on them. Thus, development assis-
tance should be designed to:
place a high priority on environmental,
economic, social, and institutional sus-

Box 1-3.-Building on Low-Resource
In the 19th century, in the Zinder region of
Niger, there was a kind of tree so valuable that
the sultan decreed that people found cutting
it would lose their heads. Later, in Senegal,
the same trees were carefully nurtured as part
of a balanced system of crops and livestock.
The tree helped maintain continuous cropping
of millet in the Sudan for 15 to 20 years in areas
where the norm was 3 to 5 years. In each case,
the species involved was Acacia albida-a fast-
growing, leguminous tree native to Africa. It
is a species that today is receiving renewed
attention from the development assistance
community as a way to benefit people and the
First, Acacia trees are legumes and so fix
nitrogen from the air, thus, enriching the soil
and improving crop yields. Another advantage
is that at the onset of the rainy season the spe-
cies drops its leaves, providing a leaf mulch
that further enriches the topsoil. During this
wet season, which is when sorghum and mil-
let are produced, the defoliated canopy permits
enough light to penetrate for cereal growth,
yet provides enough shading to reduce the ef-
fects of the intense heat. During the dry sea-
son, the Acacia's long taproot draws nutrients
from beyond the reach of other plants and
stores these in its fruits and leaves. The leaves
drop to the ground with the onset of the next
rainy season, providing a highly nutritious for-
age for livestock. The livestock dung, as an
added benefit, helps enrich the soil even fur-
ther. Each of these benefits is important in
places where few alternatives exist for im-
proving soil fertility and crop yields.

acknowledge the importance of sound
natural resource management as a basis
for improved and stable agricultural pro-
acknowledge that resource-poor agricul-
turalists are the primary custodians of
their environment and, therefore, ensure
that they benefit from development assis-

tance to manage natural resources bet-
ter; and
*focus on enhancing the capability of Afri-
cans to assume primary responsibility for
their development as the surest route to sus-
Concept 2: Africa's heterogeneous mixture of
resource-poor farmers, herders, and fishers
have responded to a high degree of uncer-
tainty and vulnerability with diverse and flex-
ible strategies. Often these strategies mini-
mize risk while seeking optimum stable
yields, commonly at the expense of maxi-
mum yields. Thus, development assistance
should be designed to:
accommodate the diverse and flexible ap-
proaches typical of resource-poor agri-
culturalists: this would include enhanc-
ing their ability to manage risk, retaining
their flexible household organizations,
encouraging diversification of income-
generating activities, and supporting in-
digenous experimentation and innova-
tion in the agricultural system;
design, implement, monitor, and evalu-
ate policies, economic strategies, and
technologies for their differing effects on
people of different ages, genders, ethnic
groups, and economic status; and
have available a variety of interventions
(policies, programs, projects, and insti-
tutions) so that the ones most appropri-
ate to the varied and changing needs of
resource-poor agriculturalists can be
selected. Long-term monitoring and feed-
back should be used to adjust develop-
ment activities so they remain useful and
relevant as people's needs and conditions
Concept 3: Local resources-such as local peo-
ple's skills, knowledge, practices, and insti-
tutions, plus indigenous plants and animals-
reflect adaptations to the diverse local con-
ditions found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thus,
development assistance should be designed
make local participation an integral part
of the initiation, design, implementation,

monitoring, and evaluation of develop-
ment assistance projects;
ensure that African women, who in the
past have not received the share of de-
velopment assistance that their role in
agriculture warrants, become full partici-
pants in the development process;
make increased use of local organiza-
tions, including assistance to improve ex-
isting organizations; and
build on local resources, such as in-
digenous plants and animals and peo-
ple's knowledge of how to use them.
These resources have been largely un-
tapped by development assistance agen-
cies and they often can be improved.
Concept 4: Low-resource agriculture in Africa
is based on farming systems that have inter-
acting ecological, social, and economic com-
ponents, and these farming systems are
linked, in turn, to other, larger systems be-
yond the farm. Thus, development assistance
should be designed to:
account for the integrated nature of low-
resource agriculture and how these in-
terrelationships affect the success or fail-
ure of interventions; and
improve the links between farms and ex-
ternal systems such as markets, extension
systems, and transportation networks.
The guidelines above reflect the need for de-
velopment assistance to be long-term, dynamic,
flexible, and to incorporate a mixture of ap-
proaches. They build on the strengths inher-
ent in African agriculture, and are meant to di-
rect development assistance so it supports the
ongoing evolution of how low-resource agri-
culture is practiced. This resource-enhancing
approach alone will not be sufficient for agri-
cultural development in Africa, but it could be
carried out in conjunction with other develop-
ment assistance approaches such as increas-
ing non-farm employment and improving ru-
ral people's health and education.
The resource-enhancing approach described
here shares some common elements with other
agricultural development strategies promoted
by donors, but some significant differences also

exist. For instance, many development strate-
gies seek to improve agriculture as the primary
mechanism to further overall national eco-
nomic development. And within this agricul-
tural sector, a number of approaches focus on
small-scale farmers and not commercial or
state-run farms. The approaches differ, how-
ever, on how best to implement this agricul-
tural assistance.
A resource-enhancing approach seeks growth
with equity-one hallmark of the New Direc-
tions/basic human needs approach to U.S. de-
velopment assistance in the 1970s. Also, it
draws upon approaches that were developed
to respond to significant faults in the New
Directions approach. The need for appropri-
ate policy changes to spur national economic
growth is drawn from the Policy Reform ap-
proach of the 1980s: the need to establish appro-
priate trade policy and exchange rates, to in-
crease the efficiency of the public sector, and
to develop supportive agricultural policies.
Also, agriculture has specific technical and in-
stitutional needs that can be met by strength-
ening Africans' capabilities, as elaborated by
the International Food Policy Research Insti-
tute (IFPRI).
Also, OTA finds that enhancing low-resource
agriculture requires that significant attention
be paid to the specific needs of resource-poor
farmer, herders, and fishers. That is, policy re-
form must:
assess the effects of policy changes on the
poor and include measures to protect them
from adverse effects;
build African capacity to implement needed
policy changes; and
explore links between micro-level activi-
ties and macro-level reform.
Current implementation of the Policy Reform
approach does not emphasize these factors.

More technically oriented approaches, such
as IFPRI's, that aim to aid resource-poor
farmers and herders also need to focus on spe-
cific needs:
choosing technology for its suitability to
low-resource conditions;

giving high priority to areas where natu-
ral resource degradation is serious;
linking research to identified needs; and
providing farmers and herders with a
broader role in agricultural development.
A resource-enhancing approach would empha-
size these areas more than current technical
approaches do.

These approaches are ones primarily devel-
oped by donors, with varying degrees of input
from individual Africans and African govern-
ments. While donors have the responsibility to
tailor work to their own goals, the lack of Afri-
can involvement in determining development
strategies has been a weakness of most foreign
assistance. OTA surveyed some 40 African re-
searchers and policymakers for their specific
evaluation of OTA's approach for enhancing
low-resource agriculture and to gather their
suggestions about ways to improve the effec-
tiveness of U.S. development assistance. These
experts stressed the diversity of African agri-
culture-how problems and thus solutions can
vary significantly from country to country. As
a result, no single approach should be used to
the exclusion of others. Most found OTA's anal-
ysis generally consistent with their perceptions
of agricultural needs, but they did not want it
to be the sole strategy of U.S. development assis-
tance. Nor should it be perceived to maintain
subsistence agriculture instead of contributing
to its transformation.

Africans also emphasized the importance of
increasing African capacity to deal with prob-
lems, whether by supporting education and
training, institutional development (especially
research), or local organizations. The starting
point, many believe, is working with the tech-
nology and resources available to the majority
of the people. They also expressed their hope
that assistance would have a long-term focus,
be free of undue political motivations, and have
development as its goal. Is this possible? Some
doubt that U.S. development assistance, because
much of it focuses on top-down approaches and
on providing food aid, can support a resource-
enhancing approach without major changes in
U.S. philosophy and implementation.


African agriculture faces a major challenge
in the next few decades-it will need to double
production to keep pace with a growing popu-
lation and provide an adequate source of house-
hold income to purchase additional food. Al-
though traditional, extensive, shifting agriculture
will remain important in a few regions, the vast
majority of the continent's agriculturalists will
have to move toward a more intensified, per-
manent agriculture where more inputs (includ-
ing information and management) are used.
Technology has always played an important
role in this process throughout the world.
Therefore, technological innovation to enhance
low-resource agricultural systems will be a ma-
jor factor in determining Africa's ability to meet
the challenges ahead.

A PrWmis"lg Telmelogical
The technological framework with the most
promise for promoting food security in Africa
calls for an evolution of existing agricultural
systems. More rapid improvements are possi-
ble in high-potential areas, but these areas are
in a minority and changes there will not ad-
dress the needs of the majority of farmers and
herders who have few resources. Thus, few
areas can expect rapid and widespread tech-
nological change like that which occurred in
Asia. African soils are generally poorer, water
and labor are often less available, human and
institutional resources are less well-developed,
and a number of major crops have been little
To be successful given the great diversity
present in African farming systems, an equally
diverse array of technologies adapted to local
social, economic, and environmental condi-
tions is needed. Although Africa will benefit
from global agricultural research, African prob-
lems will require a greater emphasis on Africa-
specific solutions. Three efforts could contrib-
ute to this process: increasing African research
capacity through human and institutional de-
velopment; improving links among research-
ers, extension agents, farmers and herders; and

giving greater emphasis to on-farm adaptive re-
search with a farming systems perspective.
Technologies developed to support low-re-
source agriculture should reflect the high pre-
mium this approach places on risk aversion and
the need to maintain flexibility in the face of
uncertainty and limited access to resources.
Farmers throughout the world are justifiably
conservative when failure of technology could
mean bankruptcy or even starvation. Therefore,
many practices of low-resource agriculture en-
sure at least some production in bad periods,
even at the expense of higher yields under more
favorable conditions. To date, most agricultural
research has emphasized maximum production

i -<*

Photo credit: Consortium for International Crop Protection
Technology plays an important role in intensifying
agricultural production. Crop breeding for millet and
other African crops is likely to be one of the best
investments in enhancing low-resource agriculture.

even though other concerns face poor farmers,
herders, and fishers. For example, intercrop-
ping, a practice in which crops are grown to-
gether in an intermixed fashion helps to reduce
risk of one crop's failure. Yet, only 20 percent
of International Agricultural Research Center
funding involves intercropping, although some
80 percent of African food is grown as in-
Technological flexibility is also needed be-
cause agricultural conditions will continue to
change, and at different rates, throughout
Africa. Development of technology needs to
build in the flexibility to react to anticipated
and unanticipated events. Rapidly growing
populations, migration of young men to urban
areas, and the growing number of female-
headed households all have implications for the
development and dissemination of technology.
Currently, resource-poor farmers, herders,
and fishers rely primarily on resources inter-
nal to the farm or their immediate environment.
These include sunlight, rain, nutrients from
plant and animal wastes, and local labor. Even-
tually additional external resources (purchased
fertilizers, machinery, etc.) will be available but
this shift to increased use of external resources
is likely to be slow and gradual in many areas.
Consequently, technologies that rely on local
resources, labor, and institutions should be em-
phasized over the near term. Much develop-
ment assistance has bypassed the majority of
African farmers and herders because it empha-

sized external resource use instead. Thorough
economic analysis is needed to determine the
feasibility of all technological interventions, but
especially to make sound choices between using
external and internal inputs.

Farmers and herders' knowledge is among
the internal resources available for developing
useful, acceptable, and affordable technology.
Their participation in identifying problems and
solutions would enhance the effectiveness of
technical assistance. Existing agricultural prac-
tices could be the starting point of a process
combining the best of traditional and modern
technologies. This requires, for example, that
farmers and herders be part of research teams,
that their nonformal experiments be incorpo-
rated into research plans, and that units of
measure be meaningful to them.

Much uncertainty surrounds the issue of
whether the technology exists to fit within such
a framework and whether it can transform low-
resource agriculture. It is clear, though, that
some technologies and practices do exist that
show high potential for wider application in
the farming and herding systems of Africa (ta-
ble 1-2). These promising technologies have
often been overlooked and underused by de-
velopment assistance agencies even though
some have been developed with the agencies'

Table 1-2.-Promising Technologies and Practices by Agroecological Zone"

Technology and practices
Improved use of soil and water resource
Soil and water management
Recession farming...........
Water harvesting
microcatchments ..........
Planting and building bunds
on the contour ...........
Tied ridges .................
Drainage practices ...........
Terracing ...................
Minimum tillage, mulching
and other soil-conserving
vegetation practices .......




Primary benefits

S,H Labor-efficient method of growing crops using water from annual
floods; expands area under cultivation
,,S Increase water available from rainfall

A,S,H,T Increase water available from rainfall; reduce soil erosion
A,S Increase water available from rainfall
H,T Enable production on land that would otherwise be waterlogged
T Reduces water and soil runoff; enables cultivation on steep slopes

S,H,T Prepare land without incurring costs of plowing (soil erosion,
excessive leaching and compaction); organic residues and mulch
help maintain fertility, reduce water and soil runoff

Table 1-2.-Promising Technologies and Practices by Agroecological Zone*-Continued

Technology and practices Zoneb Primary benefits

Improving soil fertility
Biological nitrogen fixation ...
Manuring ...................
Phosphate rock ............
Commercial fertilizers........
Small-scale irrigation
Gravity diversion:
channeled systems ........
Gravity diversion:
poldered systems..........
Mechanically fed:
water lifting ...............
Mechanically fed:
water pumping ............
Improved cropping practices
Intercropping .................

Home gardens ...............
Dispersed field tree
intercropping .............

Alley cropping ..............

Windbreaks .................

Live fencing and other
linear planting .............
Genetic improvements
Crop breeding .................

Animal breeding ...............
improved use of animals
Mixed crop/livestock systems
using small ruminants........
Animal traction...............

Improved systems to reduce pest-loss
Integrated pest management
Host resistance ............
Cultural controls ............

Biological controls ...........
Pesticides ..................

Post-harvest technologies ......
Improving animal health
Veterinary support ...........
Animal nutrition .............



Increases nitrogen availability

Increase phosphorus availability
Increases soil organic matter and soil fertility
Increases phosphorus availability
Increase soil fertility

A,T Increase water availability

A,S,H Increase water availability

A,S Increases water availability

A,S,H,T Increases water availability

A,S,H,T Reduces risk of crop failure; increases seasonal availability of food;
reduces pest and disease problems; improves efficiency of
resource use
A,S,H,T Increase seasonal availability of food; improves nutrition in the diet









Increases soil organic matter; provides source of fodder, fuelwood,
Increases soil organic matter; provides source of fodder, fuelwood,
Decrease wind damage, especially to seedlings; decrease
evapotranspiration; provide source of fodder, fuelwood, poles

Provides source of fodder, fuelwood, poles, fencing

Provides resistance to diseases and pests; tolerance to
environmental stress; improves yield
Provides resistance to diseases and pests; tolerance to
environmental stress; improves yield

Increase income; improve diet; reduce risk through diversification
Reduces drudgery; improves labor productivity; extends area of
Provides source of protein; recycled nutrients; source of income

A,S,H,T Reduce risk of accidental introduction of pests
A,S,H,T Improves resistance to pests and disease
A,S,H,T Reduce pest populations by manipulating farming practices,
especially by intercropping and rotating crops
A,S,H,T Reduce pest populations by using natural enemies
A,S,H,T Reduce pest populations by using natural or synthetic biocides to kill
pests, limit their fertility, or disrupt pest development
A,S,H,T Improve processing and storage of foods; improve nutrition; reduce

A,S,H,T Reduces animal mortality and morbidity
A,S,H,T Increases productivity; improves feed use efficiency; reduces
susceptibility to disease

aSee box 3-4 for a map of Africa's agroecological zones.
bKey to agroecological zones: A Arid/Semi-Arid, S Subhumid Tropical Uplands, H Humid Lowlands, T Tropical and Subtropical Highlands.
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment, 1988.

An important consideration in choosing the
technologies reviewed in this report was their
likelihood of being adopted by resource-poor
agriculturalists, including influences such as
expense, accessibility, and cultural acceptabil-
ity. Some technologies already are in use, but
show potential to be improved (e.g., made more
productive, easier to use, or less expensive).
Others are relatively new, but agriculturalists
are likely to accept them because the technol-
ogies are well-matched to their needs and re-
sources. Accordingly, promising technologies
are judged by their ability to be:

Technically and environmentally sound.
This means they are able at least to stabi-
lize, if not increase, production while con-
serving natural resources.
Socially desirable. This means promising
technologies address farmer-identified
problems and operate within the con-
straints faced by farmers, and that they at-
tempt to minimize the disruption of exist-
ing farming systems. It also means
technologies are designed so farmers can
take additional steps toward moderniza-
tion as such changes become feasible.
Economically affordable. This means that
resource-poor farmers, herders, and fishers
are able to obtain and maintain the tech-
nologies. Within the context of low-
resource agriculture, this will generally em-
phasize the use of internal resources over
externally purchased inputs.
Sustainable. This means that it is feasible
environmentally, socially, economically,
and institutionally to maintain the technol-
ogies over the long term.

Also, the technologies discussed in the full
report show potential in at least one of seven
1. improving the use of local natural resources,
2. improving soil fertility,
3. improving water availability,
4. fostering genetic improvement in plants
and animals,
5. improving integration of animal and crop-
ping systems,

6. reducing food losses, and
7. enabling farmers to modernize as it be-
comes feasible for them.
Quantitative estimates of whether and how
much these methods will increase agricultural
production are difficult to make. Many past esti-
mates have been misleading. The literature
about experiments with crops and techniques
is replete with examples that have not met ex-
pectations: a newly developed sweet potato that
can yield at least six times the African aver-
age, and windbreaks that not only increase
yields but supply valuable fodder and fuelwood.
Yet adoption rates for improved varieties are
low, freely supplied tree seedlings often go un-
planted, and technologies developed under ex-
perimental settings are consistently less produc-
tive on-farm. Why? The answers range from
farmers being unfamiliar with the practice to
researchers being unfamiliar with the farmers,
including the criteria used in accepting or re-
jecting new technology.
Nevertheless, it seems that sizable on-farm
gains are possible using the types of technol-
ogies discussed here. For example, the U.N.
Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO)
tests show that improved management prac-
tices alone can raise crop yields 20 to 80 per-
cent. Full use of conservation measures could
increase long-term productivity by 33 percent.
Just as important are estimates of how much
current production may be lost if resource
degradation continues. Africa could lose 16.5
percent of its rainfed cropland if degradation
goes unchecked. Estimates of overall produc-
tivity losses reach 25 percent.
Also, however, qualitative benefits of many
technologies can be as important as their po-
tential to increase yields or prevent yield de-
creases. Stability of production from year to
year is vital. And many practices can be used
in combination, adopted piece by piece as farm-
ers and herders can afford them.
This suggests a general sequence for support-
ing technological development. Efforts should
first be directed toward improving and mak-
ing available technologies that maximize the

use of available, low-cost, renewable resources
since these are usually more accessible than
purchased inputs. For instance, efforts to im-
prove water use could first be directed at mak-
ing more efficient use of freely supplied rain-
water through improved management, then
moving toward systems such as contour plant-
ing, water harvesting microcatchments, and
tied ridges that require some structures or
greater external inputs. These practices may
produce only slight yield increases in average
years, but their real advantages show during
drought years, when technologically improved
fields are able to maintain yields when other
fields fail. A last step in this continuum would
be the adoption of small-scale irrigation tech-

nology, which faces substantial obstacles be-
cause of its high costs and complexity.
Although OTA's analysis sees an important
role for technology in the future of African agri-
culture, it is only one factor among many that
must be considered. Technologies do not oper-
ate in isolation. Research to develop and adapt
low-resource technologies must be accompa-
nied by attempts to address many influential,
nontechnical factors that operate at the national
and farm level. Agricultural prices, land ten-
ure, conservation policy, household dynamics,
and women's roles, for example, all affect use
of technology.


The United States has the potential to play
a major role in enhancing low-resource agri-
culture in Africa, but whether this role will be
pursued to its full extent has yet to be deter-
mined. The decisions made by Congress and
executive branch agencies will be important
in determining the U.S. role.
Congress faces a number of critical decisions
concerning development assistance to Africa,
with conflicting pressures to take several differ-
ent routes. Some urge continuing support for
existing foreign aid legislation. Others, espe-
cially within the current Administration, ad-
vocate a new macroeconomic approach that
focuses on policy reform and might suggest
amending current legislation. A third possibil-
ity-one influenced by domestic budget con-
cerns and the perception of the ineffectiveness
of previous development assistance-would de-
crease overall foreign aid.

ran d a IC "_-_ aig

Many goals of existing legislation already sup-
port a resource-enhancing approach: they call
for participation of the poor in their own de-
velopment, they note the need for women to
be included in development efforts, they stipu-
late that U.S. aid prevents environmental degra-

dation, etc. Congress has not provided clear
direction on priorities among different and
sometimes conflicting goals, however. And
food security, a critical need in Africa, has not
been an explicit, high-priority goal. Making
these clarifications would provide a stronger
basis for enhancing low-resource agriculture
in authorizing legislation.
Long-term commitments are necessary for
many key elements of a resource-enhancing ap-
proach, such as research, training, and insti-
tution-building. Stable, long-term levels of fund-
ing, with certain reduced restrictions on its use,
are among the most supportive actions that
Congress can take in its appropriations activi-
ties. Current funding mechanisms, such as au-
thorizing and appropriating several different
sources of funds administered by a number of
different bureaus within the U.S. Agency for
International Development (AID), and ongoing
attempts to reduce the Federal budget may re-
strict Congress' ability to provide long-term, sta-
ble funding, however.
The Development Assistance (DA) fund, ad-
ministered bilaterally by AID, may be the most
suitable funding source for supporting low-
resource agriculture. Development is its ma-
jor goal and its appropriations are less volatile
than others (e.g., food aid and economic sup-

port). But in the past, DA for Africa has not
received attention equivalent to that of Eco-
nomic Support Funds (ESF; also administered
by AID) and food aid.
Congress reversed the erosion of assistance
to Africa in fiscal year 1988 with the creation
of a special African development fund with a
1-year appropriation of $500 million. Its impact
cannot yet be determined but its success will
depend on whether Congress maintains its
commitment to a separate fund for Africa in
the future, on how AID uses the fund's provi-
sions for increased flexibility, on whether AID
and Congress ensure that funds are not diverted
to other programs, and on whether the fund
is used to support low-resource agriculture.
AID, the World Bank, and other assistance
agencies are often criticized for their inability
to support resource-poor agriculturalists. Yet
Congress already has mandated many elements
of a resource-enhancing approach and has
appropriated funding that could be used for this
purpose. Therefore, perhaps the most crucial
congressional responsibility is oversight to en-
sure that funds and policies intended to en-
hance low-resource agriculture are used effec-
Detailed oversight will be necessary to ensure
that donor activities are indeed supportive of
resource-poor farmers and herders but con-
straints on staff time and committee jurisdic-
tion may make this difficult. Increased coop-
eration among the seven committees with direct
jurisdiction over U.S. agricultural assistance,
an improved database on AID expenditures in
Africa, and AID/Congress development assis-
tance working groups could save staff time and
improve the quality of congressional oversight.
With more effective oversight, some poten-
tially burdensome congressional restrictions on
AID might be reduced. These include require-
ments for notification regarding reprogramming
funds, procurement requirements, restrictions
on aid to specific countries and commodities,
and earmarked funds. The legislation creating
the new African development fund relaxed
some of these congressional requirements. It
provides an important test of the benefits of

such an approach, including how well AID can
implement congressional intent without detailed
earmarking for guidance.

TbLee Cagmo"les of AsslsWtu
To implement a resource-enhancing ap-
proach to African agriculture, development
assistance must support three types of activi-
ties, involving a range of donor and African
organizations with different strengths and
local-level work, where activities would in-
clude support for local institutions, house-
holds, and individual agriculturalists;
support for formal agricultural institutions
necessary for agricultural development,
where activities would include research,
education, extension, and marketing; and
national-level work, where activities would
include assistance for supportive national
policies and national capabilities to create
and implement them.
Local organizations, often comprised in part
of the resource-poor agriculturalists for whom
assistance is intended, will play key roles in de-
velopment assistance. These groups range from
informal, self-help groups to more formal ones.
Their participation is likely to increase the rele-
vance of development activities to local condi-
tions, increase its cost-effectiveness, and in-
crease its sustainability over the long term.
Major donors have been largely ineffective
working at the local level. Many donors have
failed to tap the potential of local organizations
and sometimes have made overwhelming de-
mands on local groups and thus, undermined
the groups' effectiveness. Yet the needs of lo-
cal groups are large enough that they may re-
quire the resources available only from major
donors. In that case, the Peace Corps, U.S. pri-
vate voluntary organizations, and similar
groups have the potential to act as intermedi-
aries between the larger donors and local
groups in addition to implementing their own
sizable local-level programs.
Other high priority activities will be devel-
oping and improving agricultural research and

training institutions. The major bilateral and
multilateral donors are best able to provide the
comparatively high levels of long-term fund-
ing needed for this type of development. AID,
in particular, has a comparative advantage in
tackling these activities. Special efforts will be
needed, however, to ensure that training and
research are responsive to the particular needs
of resource-poor agriculturalists. For example,
training will need to build understanding of
how low-resource agriculture works, ensure
that women receive adequate training, provide
as much training as possible in Africa, ensure
that curricula are relevent to African condi-
tions, and combine U.S.-based work with sup-
port for research for Africans in Africa.
Support for building institutions has had
limited success in Africa, whether funded by

U.S. AID or the World Bank. Recent improve-
ments, however, suggest that both may be more
effective in the future. AID's 1985 "Plan for Sup-
porting Agricultural Research and Faculties of
Agriculture in Africa" is one element of AID's
institution-building approach. Many of its fea-
tures are supportive of a resource-enhancing
approach, for example, the need to build Afri-
can technical capabilities and for long-term
technology development. Questions remain,
however, regarding the apparently minor role
of farming systems research in this approach
and whether its narrow geographic and com-
modity approach is suitable.
National policies that support agriculture and
resource-poor agriculturalists are necessary if
low-resource agriculture is to be enhanced. Ma-
jor donors such as AID and the World Bank

Photo credit: Donald Plucknett/Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research
Support for agricultural research is an appropriate priority for U.S. development assistance. U.S. contributions helped the
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and the Rwandan national research program provide these farmers
with improved cassava varieties.

have significantly increased funding in recent
years to support reforms of national policies.
These changes have had ambiguous results con-
cerning their impact on increased food secu-
rity for resource-poor farmers and herders.
Therefore, support for sweeping reforms may
be unwarranted until donors improve their un-
derstanding of these impacts and examine the
actual policy needs of resource-poor farmers
and herders. The World Bank has the analyti-
cal capabilities to lead such an effort.

AID and a Resurue-EmImuadg
AID is the principle U.S. agency that would
bear responsibility for implementing a re-
source-enhancing approach to development as-
sistance in Africa. The Agency's current over-
all strategy for African development could be
compatible with such an approach, but full
implementation would require substantial
changes in priorities, operations, and general
philosophical approach. For instance, AID
would have to ensure that strategy papers, such
as ones supporting women in agriculture and
addressing environmental sustainability, are
implemented more effectively and that Africans
assume a larger responsibility for carrying out
U.S. aid. In addition, AID's current emphasis
on increased funding for policy reform might
need to be lessened considering the impact such
reforms have had on resource-poor agricul-
Over the past few years AID has made
changes that could help the agency enhance
low-resource agriculture, including more de-
centralized decisionmaking, increased atten-
tion to research, longer term support for proj-
ects, and an increased emphasis on projects'
sustainability. At the same time, the impact of
these shifts may be offset by deep personnel
cuts, a lack of appropriate technical personnel,
inadequate language and cultural skills, a flawed
reward system, and a project design system that
is cumbersome, inflexible, and oriented to
achieving short-term results. These latter con-
straints were identified long ago and have re-
mained unresolved. Therefore, their remedy

would require concerted effort on the part of
the Administrator and all AID staff.

The Road Ahad
The decision to assist resource-poor African
farmers and herders is not made in isolation
within AID or within Congress. Broader U.S.
policy concerns direct congressional decision-
making and these reflect a variety of American
For example, U.S. farm trade suffered an
overall decline in the 1980s with some com-
modities losing market shares to foreign com-
petition. Recent legislation, passed with the
backing of some U.S. farm groups, curtails U.S.
support for certain crops in developing coun-
tries due to concerns that such support helped
those countries improve their competitiveness.
Newer analyses, however, suggest that stimu-
lating African development will have greater
long-term benefits for U.S. agriculture than at-
tempts to limit U.S. technical assistance to Afri-
can farmers. They need higher incomes to buy
American products and higher incomes will re-
quire greater agricultural production. Yet press-
ing concerns regarding the health of the U.S.
farm sector and trade balance are likely to over-
ride longer term considerations.
Also much of the American public has little
awareness of the costs and benefits of U.S. de-
velopment assistance and perceives that the
United States spends too much money on for-
eign aid; some believe that as much as 40 per-
cent of the U.S. budget goes to development
aid. In fact, the correct figure is no more than
1 percent and has declined steadily since the
1940s. Almost inevitably, comparisons are
made to the successes of the Marshall Plan to
rebuild war-torn Europe when problems were
simpler to solve and more resources were
Whether the United States invests too much
or too little in meeting its interests in Africa
is a subject that will continue to be debated.
Expectations that dramatic results are possi-
ble are misguided, though, even if increased
funding was available. The road to African food

security is a long and difficult one. Decisions
on how to address the challenges ahead are
African ones. Clearly, however, U.S. foreign
assistance legislation states that the United

States will be a partner in this process. And
an approach that enhances low-resource agri-
culture will be an essential component of any
effective U.S. development assistance effort.


Congress can shape U.S. development assis-
tance in a number of ways. This chapter ad-
dresses how Congress can use these methods
to improve the effectiveness of U.S. aid and en-
hance African agriculture (table 1-3).

Finding 1: Low-resource agriculture-farming,
herding, and fishing-is the predominant
form of African agriculture, a largely un-
tapped development resource, and a neces-
sary starting point for meeting future food
security needs.

Agricultural development is recognized as
key to African economic development, that is,
meeting food needs, maintaining and increas-
ing rural employment, and stimulating the in-
ternal economic markets necessary for non-
agricultural growth. Low-resource agriculture
is the predominant form of agriculture through-
out Sub-Saharan Africa and experts believe that
it will remain the mainstay of African agricul-
ture at least for the short to medium term. But
low-resource agriculture, as it now exists, is
neither capable of meeting Africa's food and
employment needs nor of keeping up with
growing populations and environmental degra-
dation. Thus, any broadly based plan for Afri-
can agricultural development must find ways
to enhance low-resource agriculture.

Resource-poor African agriculturalists are
rich in local resources, such as skills, knowl-
edge of indigenous plants and animals, under-
standing of the environment, and indigenous
institutions. Agricultural development strate-
gies have consistently bypassed these resources,
sometimes contributing to their loss, often to
the detriment of aid's effectiveness. More suc-
cessful agricultural development depends, in
part, on tapping these resources by develop-
ing methods to identify and use them.

However, the United States has no overall
policy for enhancing low-resource agriculture
in Africa despite the importance currently
given to providing agricultural assistance. For
instance, AID's current strategy for Africa lacks
many features necessary for such an approach.
In practice, development assistance commonly
either has not addressed low-resource agricul-
ture or attempts have been made to improve
it in inappropriate ways. Most donors have not
developed the methods needed to improve low-
resource agriculture. Developing a strategic
plan for enhancing low-resource agriculture
would bring proper focus to its current status
and potential and contribute to development
and implementation of needed methods.

Many strategic questions regarding the U.S.
role in development assistance are being de-
bated now. For example, a significant number
of organizations are taking part in a 1988 ef-
fort coordinated by Michigan State University.
Its goal is to help shape U.S. development pol-
icy in the 1990s. Also, the U.S. foreign assis-
tance legislation is under continuing scrutiny
regarding its overall goals and their implemen-
tation. The appropriate role of macroeconomic
policy reform, a major Administration focus,
is one debated topic.

Such efforts will affect any U.S. approach to
enhancing low-resource agriculture, but they
do not provide the detailed guidance for that
work. Therefore, the U.S. development assis-
tance community needs to give specific atten-
tion to the strategic aspects of work that focuses
on resource-poor farmers, herders, and fishers.
This need is most acute for AID, the primary
provider of U.S. development assistance. But
other organizations using U.S. funds for agri-
cultural development, private groups, addi-
tional U.S. agencies whose work affects devel-

Table 1-3.-Findings and Congressional Options for Enhancing Low-Resource Agriculture in Africa

1. Low-resource agriculture is the predominant form of
African agriculture, a largely untapped development re-
source, and a necessary starting point for meeting
food security needs.

2. Strengthening African research, education, and training
is one of the most effective and sustainable contribu-
tions that the United States can make.

3. Improving low-resource agriculture entails work at the
local level. Supporting local African groups and inter-
mediary organizations is one way of working at the lo-
cal level. The Peace Corps and private voluntary organi-
zations (PVOs) also can work locally and can act as
intermediaries between large donors and local groups.
These intermediaries could be strengthened by im-
proved technical support and evaluations.

4. Congressional oversight will be crucial for implement-
ing a resource-enhancing approach since legislation
and funding mechanisms are already in place. Changes
in oversight will be necessary to increase its quality
while reducing the burden it places on AID.

5. Long-term commitments and stable funding levels are


5b. Encourage AID to address a set of internal constraints.
AID could evaluate the impact of its operational struc-
ture and procedures on its development work, then be-
gin institutional reforms.
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment, 1968.

opment, and African groups at all levels need
to be involved in developing this approach.

Option la: Congress could assign the Agency
for International Development (AID) the lead
role in developing and coordinating a U.S.
approach to enhancing low-resource agricul-
ture in Africa. To help develop such an ap-
proach, Congress could support an interna-

tional/interagency conference to assess the
status of current programs and set outa gen-
eral strategy, under the auspices of AID. Par-
ticipating organizations could prepare and
implement 5-year action plans subsequently

Interagency approaches to facilitate a foreign
assistance strategy have worked in the past.
AID and the State Department, for example,

la. Assign AID the lead role in developing and coordinat-
ing a U.S. approach to enhancing low-resource agricul-
ture. Support an internationallinteragency conference
to set out such a strategy and follow up with agency 5-
year action plans.
1b. Request that AID and the World Bank (through the U.S.
Department of Treasury) evaluate how policy reform
could best serve the needs of low-resource agriculture.
Base continued support for and direction of reform on
these evaluations.

2a. Support the long-term development of African agricul-
tural institutions. Oversee AID and World Bank activi-
ties to ensure this work assists resource-poor agricul-
2b. Support increased formal education and training of
Africans in ways that enhance low-resource agriculture.

3a. Direct AID to develop technical support mechanisms
for indigenous African organizations, PVOs, and the
Peace Corps. These mechanisms could draw upon
universities and research centers (African, U.S., interna-
tional) and private organizations.
3b. Request that the Peace Corps develop and implement
an ongoing evaluation system.

4a. Ensure that all funds provided for the new bilateral de-
velopment fund for Africa are used for development
purposes. Oversee that other types of agricultural fund-
ing support low-resource agriculture.
4b. Improve oversight activity and smooth the AIDICon-
gress working relationship.
4c. Reduce the restrictions on the use of development
assistance. Monitor the impacts of newly made re-

5a. Maintain stable appropriations for development assis-
tance. Emphasize Development Assistance within
bilateral assistance. Continue policies of appropriating
a special development fund for Africa and significant
U.S. contributions to the International Development
Association of the World Bank.

led the development of U.S. foreign assistance
strategies for tropical forests and maintaining
biological diversity. Both plans included strat-
egy conferences that brought together research-
ers, policymakers, and practitioners; high-
lighted the importance of an issue that had not
received adequate attention; underscored ma-
jor areas of concern; and identified avenues to
address those areas. Interagency task forces
then defined specific U.S. efforts and individ-
ual agencies developed action plans to imple-
ment the strategies developed by the confer-
ence and task forces.
A similar strategy conference on how to en-
hance low-resource agriculture in Africa could
bring a wide variety of organizations together
to discuss U.S. priorities, compare successful
methods, determine areas of collaboration, and
identify important research topics. OTA's work
suggests that several issues need to be ad-
dressed by such a group:
assessing the comparative advantages of
different donor organizations;
developing relevant technologies;
supporting the development of formal Afri-
can agricultural institutions (e.g., univer-
sities, research centers, markets, policy-
making bodies) and the trained personnel
to staff them;
supporting the development abilities of lo-
cal African organizations; and
supporting the development and imple-
mentation of relevant agricultural policies.
These topics are not new and have been ad-
dressed before. Using a specific resource-
enhancing framework would be essential to
breaking new ground. To do so, conference
planning and subsequent implementation
should be based on analytical criteria of:
sustainability-environmental, economic,
institutional, and technical;
diversity and flexibility-accommodating
the diversity of resource-poor farmers and
the conditions they face, and the flexible
ways in which they respond;
the use of local resources of the resource-
poor farmers, herders, and fishers which
includes methods of fostering their partici-
pation in development; and

accounting for the ecological, social, and
economic components of the farming sys-
tems and their off-farm links.
AID should host this meeting because it is
the agency ultimately responsible for carrying
out most of U.S. development assistance. How-
ever, substantial efforts must be made to draw
on other expertise, divergent views, and im-
aginative suggestions from a variety of groups
and, as such, much of the conference planning
should be assigned outside AID. Broad partici-
pation also could ensure that the meeting has
an impact throughout the U.S. development
assistance community. The Peace Corps, the
African Development Foundation, the World
Bank, private voluntary organizations, univer-
sities, and relevant executive agencies (the De-
partments of Agriculture, Commerce, and
Treasury, etc.) should participate.
Significant African representation would be
crucial before and during the conference to en-
sure that the work addresses African conditions
and that an expanded role for African organi-
zations is included. Members of Congress and
their staffs could participate to contribute a con-
gressional perspective. And a significant num-
ber of women must be included-whether they
represent Africa's large number of women
farmers or are drawn from the community that
serves women farmers.
Task forces grouped around individual
topics, like those associated with earlier strat-
egy conferences, could be formed to continue
working after the conference and to maintain
communication among groups. Individual
agencies could develop action plans to define
their specific responsibilities and priorities,
means for interagency cooperation, and fund-
ing requirements. These action plans could be
incorporated into agency policy and planning
documents. Congress could consider these
plans as it both sets and oversees development
Option Ib: Congress could request that AID and
the World Bank (through the U.S. Depart-
ment of Treasury) perform in-depth analy-
ses of howpolicy reform could best serve the
needs ofAfrican resource-poor farmers and
herders. Continued support for and future

directions of reform activities could be based
on these evaluations.
Support for policy reform quickly has become
a large component of development assistance.
By 1987, reform-related lending made up 35 per-
cent of AID Africa Bureau's agricultural loans
and 55 percent of the World Bank's commit-
ments to Africa. Needed reforms have been
known for some time but evaluating the effects
of donors' activities to stimulate such reform
is comparatively recent.
Evaluations are incomplete and ambiguous
concerning policy reform's effects on resource-
poor farmers and herders. However, evalua-
tions have raised concerns regarding reform's:
lack of grounding in actual, local agricultural
conditions; its potential to harm large segments
of the poor; and its lack of emphasis on build-
ing African capability to carry out and continue
policy reform once donor's efforts diminish.
Also, evaluations have called for additional re-
search addressing these concerns. For exam-
ple, research is needed to identify methods that
link macroeconomic reforms with conditions
at the microeconomic level. Without such meth-
ods, macro-level reforms may not match micro-
level needs (e.g., for removing local technical
or marketing obstacles) and adverse local ef-
fects of macro-level reforms may be difficult
to identify.
Congress could stabilize or decrease reform
expenditures until such analyses have been
completed and policy reform activities modi-
fied as needed. In addition, Congress could con-
sider what role the United States should have
in reform activity.
The World Bank, because of its sizable staff
of economists and its ability to marshall sup-
port from many donor countries, might be the
most effective lead agency for researching and
supporting policy reform. Such a lead agency
could coordinate work and discourage individ-
ual donors' from sending contradictory signals
to recipient countries. But any lead agency must
be sensitive to the policy needs of resource-poor
agriculturalists and the representatives to the
World Bank may need congressional encour-
agement to promote such work.

ewro crueai: wmnrOCK inemrnarona
Concerns have been raised regarding the local impact
that policy reform has on low-resource farmers and
herders such as these in Kenya.

In the past, Congress has examined substan-
tive issues of World Bank work via the U.S.
Treasury Department, which directs the vote
of the U.S. Bank Representative. For example,
congressional hearings on World Bank activi-
ties during 1983-84 led the Treasury Depart-
ment to perform an extended review of the envi-
ronmental aspects of the World Bank's work.
The Department actively promoted bank changes
in this area as a result of its review. Congress
could ask the Treasury Department to begin a
similar extended review of the World Bank's
policy reform work and accompany such a re-
quest with oversight hearings.
Congress could encourage AID to support a
narrower set of policy-related activities that
draw on AID's particular strengths. For exam-
ple, U.S. strengths in training and institutional
support could be directed to developing Afri-
can abilities to analyze and implement agricul-
tural policies that support low-resource agri-
culture. With these skills, African nations
would be better able to develop and continue
reforms over the long term.
Finding 2: Strengthening the abilities of Afri-
cans' to respond to their agricultural needs
through research, education, and training is
one of the most effective and sustainable con-
tributions that the United States can make
to African development.

Africans and donors alike increasingly see
agricultural development as fundamental to
overall African development. For agricultural
development to occur, Africa will require its
own strong agricultural institutions staffed by
trained Africans, supported by its governments,
and capable of responding to local concerns.
For example, agricultural research institutions
are necessary to develop, adapt, and improve
technologies for resource-poor farmers, herders,
and fishers; planning institutions are necessary
to develop and implement supportive agricul-
tural policies; and training institutions are nec-
essary to prepare staff for these roles. Concur-
rently, governments must be ready to provide
for recurrent and ongoing costs without which
agricultural institutions cannot function: equi-
table salaries, upkeep, costs for travel, equip-
ment, distributing reports, subscriptions to jour-
nals, etc.
In each case, the diversity of African agri-
cultural systems requires technologies, policies,
and training adapted to local social and envi-
ronmental conditions. International organiza-
tions and those in the developed countries have
neither the expertise nor the resources to meet
so many differing local needs. Nor is develop-
ment led by external groups likely to be sus-
Donors do have a clear role to play in pro-
viding agricultural training for Africans and
in supporting African institutions, however.
The United States has a comparative advantage
in these two areas and such work would be an
appropriate U.S. priority. Past efforts in these
areas often have not met the specific needs of
resource-poor farmers, herders, and fishers and
this problem must be addressed.
Option 2a: Congress could support the long-
term development of African agricultural in-
stitutions capable of assisting resource-poor
agriculturalists. As part of this support, Con-
gress could oversee AID's 1985 research plan
and the World Bank's work.
AID set out a coordinated approach in 1985
to support African research institutions and
faculties working in agriculture. Known as the
"Plan for Supporting Agricultural Research and

Facilities of Agriculture in Africa," AID envi-
sioned a commitment of significant resources
(at least $100 million per year) over a 15-year
span for supporting African research systems
and faculties of agriculture, and backing coop-
erative research work through the international
agricultural research centers and U.S. univer-
sities. The Plan is an important step in U.S. sup-
port of African capabilities both in the level of
resources to be committed to this work and in
its long-term approach-a departure from past,
short-term efforts.
Congress could support this work in several
ways. First, institution-building takes time, so
congressional authorization and appropriations
should provide resources for extended time
periods and avoid unnecessarily introducing
non-development interests that would slow
work. Also, congressional oversight is essen-
tial on a number of issues:
Is AID committed to implementing the
Plan for its full term?
Are established levels of funding being
How is AID refining the Plan to meet Afri-
can conditions?
Also, oversight is needed to ensure that the
Plan actually addresses the needs of resource-
poor agriculturalists, some of whom are now
overlooked. For example, AID does not explain
in detail how agricultural institutions can be
linked to the needs of the farmer and herder,
what their role in technology development
should be, how to ensure the environmental sus-
tainability of technology, how to address
women's needs, nor how to make the best use
of local resources. AID is currently reviewing
the plan and a congressional oversight hear-
ing could provide Congress with an update on
its status while signaling to AID the need to
address these points.
Congressional examination of the World
Bank's support for agricultural institutions also
is justified. The Bank's institutional support has
been criticized as inadequate in quality and
quantity. And a recently completed analysis of
African research needs by the Bank highlights
the importance of developing national research

capabilities, but the Bank's approach suffers
from many of the same weaknesses as AID's.
Congress can make its concerns known via
oversight and also could instruct the U.S. Treas-
ury Department to advocate increased work by
the Bank on building agricultural institutions.
The international agricultural research
centers (IARCs) have an important role support-
ing African institutions. While primarily con-
cerned with research, the centers could expand
their training and institutional support. Any
such expansion will require AID's continuing
support to the centers. AID can also ensure that
the centers gear more work to the needs of
resource-poor farmers and herders.
Option 2b: Congress could increase support for
formal education and training of Africans
in ways that would enhance low-resource
African countries will need increasing num-
bers of trained people (e.g., researchers and pol-
icymakers) to staff agricultural institutions.
They will need training to assess the needs of
resource-poor agriculturalists and to identify
ways to meet those needs. Specific ways for
the United States to be involved in this train-
ing could be determined at the strategy con-
ference discussed earlier. New legislation or
earmarked funds do not seem necessary but
congressional oversight could ensure that edu-
cation and training are priorities for U.S. de-
velopment assistance.
U.S. universities could play a major role in
education and training and U.S. support for
these institutions will be an important contri-
bution. Undergraduate education should be the
responsibility of African educational institu-
tions primarily. However, increased opportu-
nities for graduate training could be offered in
the United States.
Only certain U.S. institutions are equipped
to address the particular needs of low-resource
agriculture and a better match of African stu-
dents and U.S. programs is necessary. Mecha-
nisms to ensure the complementarity of train-
ing with the needs of African agriculture
include tying U.S. graduate training to thesis

research in Africa and providing increased
training opportunities for African women.
Also, AID could identify other appropriate pro-
grams that are particularly relevant to African
conditions and tap those programs. AID-pro-
vided strengthening grants to U.S. universities
could further the development of such pro-
grams where a commitment to low-resource
work exists.
Assistance for training and education should
continue once Africans who were students as-
sume responsibilities in Africa. Small grants
to begin research, travel funds for collabora-
tion with senior scientists, and longer term
"twinning" efforts between African and other
institutions (e.g., U.S. universities, private orga-
nizations, and the IARCs) could ensure that
trained Africans are able to make use of and
update their education.
Finding 3: Enhancing the capabilities of re-
source-poor farmers, herders, and fishers will
require support at the local level. Support-
ing local African groups and African inter-
mediary organizations who provide services
to these groups is one means of working at
the local level. The Peace Corps and private
voluntary organizations can work directly at
the local level while also acting as intermedi-
aries between larger donors (e.g., AID and
the World Bank) and local groups. Improved
evaluations and strengthened technical back-
up would increase the effectiveness of these
Agricultural development will depend, in
part, on developing technologies appropriate
to the diverse local conditions of Africa and
matching technologies with the social organi-
zations necessary to make use of them. Devel-
opment of formal agricultural institutions and
agricultural policies need to be linked to the
local level to ensure their relevance to actual
conditions. However, local African organiza-
tions, whose membership includes resource-
poor agriculturalists, offer donors an additional
means of reaching the local level directly. These
organizations can initiate work appropriate to
local conditions, mobilize local resources, and
maintain work after outside assistance ends.

The Peace Corps and many private voluntary
organizations (PVOs) have experience working
with local organizations and they, along with
African intermediary groups, could become im-
portant sources of support for local organiza-
tions. This might entail a shift from their cur-
rent focus on implementing projects. Often,
however, PVOs are technically weak and do
not carry out the evaluations necessary to iden-
tify their particular strengths and weaknesses.
Correcting these two problems is a prerequi-
site for providing more effective U.S. aid at the
local level.

Larger donors such as AID and the World
Bank commonly do not work well at the local
level nor have they given much attention to the
growing numbers of local African organiza-

Photo credit: Watson/U.S. Peace Corps
The Peace Corps, like many PVOs, works well with local
groups such as this women's gardening cooperative in
Mali. Better technical support and improved evaluations
would ensure that this work is as effective as possible.

tions. Their support of local groups may be nec-
essary because the Peace Corps and PVOs do
not command enough resources to match the
growing needs of African groups. The Peace
Corps, U.S. PVOs, and African intermediary
organizations could, however, become impor-
tant intermediaries between large donors and
local organizations. But, evaluations of individ-
ual group's abilities to carry out effective low-
resource work must precede their selection for
Option 3a: Congress could direct AID to de-
velop technical support mechanisms to help
PVOs, the Peace Corps, and others (includ-
ing indigenous African organizations) iden-
tify, adapt, and promote promising technol-
ogies. Such mechanisms could draw upon
the expertise of universities and research
centers (U.S. and African), the international
agricultural centers, and private organiza-
tions (African and U.S.). The goal would be
to have these services in place within 5 years.
Members of the development assistance com-
munity, such as the Peace Corps, PVOs, and
African organizations that have staff based in
African communities, know the needs and abil-
ities of resource-poor farmers and herders in
ways that few others do. Often, however, these
people lack the technical skills (including
managerial and financial skills) needed to sup-
port agricultural development most effectively.
The costs of developing and maintaining these
skills for each group would be prohibitively
high. Instead, a number of African and U.S.
sources of technical expertise could be linked
to local groups. This linkage should be two-way;
for example, farmers' research needs should
be passed to research centers as these groups
provide technical information to farmers.
Some U.S. assistance has been effectively pro-
vided in this manner. For example, the AID-
funded Forestry Support Program provides
technical support benefiting AID missions and
PVO-funded projects.
The importance of such efforts is likely to in-
crease. African groups are increasingly able to
assume direct responsibilities for implement-
ing development programs. Some larger donors

are cutting their field staff and relying more
on PVOs. And Congress is reinforcing this pres-
sure to channel significant amounts of U.S. de-
velopment assistance through U.S. and Afri-
can PVOs. Increasing the abilities of these
groups to be technology brokers between tech-
nical experts (e.g., agricultural researchers) and
groups of farmers and herders will improve
their effectiveness. Support for groups that have
demonstrably good results at the local level and
for groups that focus on low-resource agricul-
ture is important.
Option 3b: Congress could request that the
Peace Corps develop and implement an on-
going system for evaluating its work.
The Peace Corps is considered effective in
local-level work, providing skilled training for
its volunteers. But the quality of its work varies
across geographic regions and disciplines; its
institutional memory is short; and long-term
planning and implementation are difficult to
carry out. The evidence for these strengths and
weaknesses is largely anecdotal, however.
As conditions in Africa change, it will be im-
portant for the Peace Corps, which seems par-
ticularly effective, to keep pace. An ongoing
evaluation program could help the Peace Corps
identify areas of proven effectiveness, and then
enable the agency to concentrate its resources
there. Also, many weaknesses listed above are
inherent in short-term, volunteer-based work.
Project and program evaluations could seek
ways to compensate for these problems. Evalu-
ations might also address how well the Peace
Corps might function as a technology broker,
linking resource-poor agriculturalists with agri-
cultural researchers.
Finding 4: Congressional oversight will be cru-
cial for using development assistance to en-
hance low-resource agriculture. Appropriate
legislation is already in place and many com-
plementary changes in funding have been
made. Changes in the way oversight is con-
ducted may be necessary to increase its qual-
ity while reducing the burden it places on ex-
ecutive agencies, though.
The current legislation governing U.S. devel-
opment assistance provides a mandate for en-

hancing low-resource agriculture. In addition,
the 1987 creation of a separate, bilateral Afri-
can development fund and corresponding re-
ductions of restrictions on its use have stabi-
lized funding and increased flexibility. Thus,
Congress already has provided the basis for AID
to improve how it addresses low-resource agri-
Criticism is likely to remain regarding AID
and other donors' abilities to meet the needs
of low-resource agriculture, however. Many ar-
gue that the needs of resource-poor farmers and
herders have not been the focus of U.S.-funded
research, training, and institution-building pro-
grams. Oversight will be needed to ensure that
U.S.-funded donors respond to this criticism
and, where necessary, sharpen this focus.
Current forms of oversight have not proven
adequate to this task and evidence exists that
oversight sometimes has impeded the work of
donors due to its excessive demands. Thus,
Congress could revise oversight procedures to
increase the quality of information provided
while reducing the burden on agencies provid-
ing it. In 1987, Congress made several such
changes by reducing a number of restrictions
on AID's operations regarding procurement,
earmarks, and program funding. These reduc-
tions will need to be monitored for their im-
pact on AID's efficiency and to evaluate how
well AID carries out congressional intent with
this more flexible guidance from Congress.
Option 4a: Congress could oversee that all the
funds provided in the new African develop-
ment fund are used for development objec-
tives and that agricultural funding supports
the improvement of low-resource agricul-
ture. Oversight for the latter also could be
applied to other U.S.-supported organiza-
tions such as the World Bank.
Congress created a separate development
fund for Africa for fiscal year 1988 totaling $500
million. The fund provides more stable levels
of African development assistance (and may
continue to do so if maintained in the future),
helps protect this funding from use for short-
term political objectives, and provides AID with
increased programming flexibility since it con-
tains few restrictions for the use of funds.

If the fund's potential benefits are to be real-
ized, however, Congress will need to ensure
that the monies appropriated are not diverted
from development aid. In addition, the fund sets
no levels for spending on agriculture. AID has
made agriculture a focus of its assistance for
Africa but Congress could monitor whether the
percentage of funds used is adequate.
The existence of this or any other fund is not
adequate to ensure that U.S. assistance en-
hances low-resource agriculture. Donor agen-
cies receiving the majority of U.S. development
assistance funds undoubtedly have the capac-
ity to support such development. Yet evalua-
tions show that AID and the World Bank have
weak records concerning the development of
technology appropriate for resource-poor
farmers and herders; that their track record is
poor for supporting the development of Afri-
can institutions able to address low-resource
agriculture; that their training programs are
missing important opportunities; and that links
between their policy reform work and the lo-
cal level are weak. In particular, questions ex-
ist whether the development assistance com-
munity is taking advantage of the opportunities
offered by African organizations, including lo-
cal ones. Therefore, congressional oversight of
substantive issues such as these will be neces-
sary to ensure that funds are provided for agri-
cultural development and also used to address
the needs and abilities of resource-poor agricul-
Option 4b: Congress could make improvements
to its oversight activities and smooth the
AID/Congress working relationship.
A need exists for in-depth, long-term over-
sight on substantive matters. This need conflicts
with the time available to Congress and with
the more general expertise of Members of Con-
gress and their staffs. Small staffs oversee large
executive branch programs annually, often in
conjunction with other duties. If inadequately
prepared, oversight can provide little useful in-
formation to Congress and absorb development
resources that could be spent on implement-
ing programs.
This problem is aggravated by the many con-
gressional actors involved in oversight. For

example, seven committees and additional sub-
committees have direct jurisdiction over devel-
opment assistance and Members often take part
on an individual basis as well. As a result, AID
(the agency most affected) often responds to a
multitude of congressional requests which may
be duplicative or contradictory. These problems
are exacerbated by the somewhat adversarial
relationship between Congress and AID.
A number of methods are available to im-
prove the substance of oversight, cut its undue
costs, and reduce problems in communication.
For example, an informal task force of author-
izing and appropriations committee and sub-
committee staff could help coordinate oversight
and reduce redundancy. Such a task force
might also be a forum for a detailed examina-
tion of development issues and new ap-
proaches. It could tap outside expertise in this
process, especially that of Africans visiting the
United States.
Another means to provide specialized exper-
tise to staff would be to form a group of experts
in development work to help oversee U.S. mul-
tilateral and bilateral development assistance
policy. Such a group could be constituted in-
formally or more formally established as a De-
velopment Assistance Study Institute. Such an
institute could provide a forum for congres-
sional members and staff to meet with execu-
tive agency personnel and other groups to fo-
cus oversight and gain substantive input into
the process. An institute such as this could be
a new body or an addition to an existing one,
such as the Energy and Environment Study In-
An AID/Congress forum could be established
under these or other auspices. An AID task
force could identify congressional constraints
on its work and a corresponding congressional

group could identify high-priority oversight is-
sues for AID to address. This forum could be-
gin an ongoing process for resolving some of
the underlying strains between AID and
Oversight also could be improved by increas-
ing the availability and relevance of specific
information on U.S. assistance. For example,
Congress could request AID to improve its data-

base on its agricultural work in Africa. Cur-
rently, AID is unable to provide such informa-
tion. At the same time, Congress needs to make
its data needs clearer so as to reduce the amount
of data generated by AID in anticipation of con-
gressional needs that do not materialize.
Option 4c: Congress could reduce restrictions
on the use of development assistance funds
in order to increase its efficient use, while
monitoring the impact of newly granted flex-
Congress has placed a variety of restrictions
on how AID implements development assis-
tance. In some cases, these restrictions have
direct costs to AID, for example, it devotes
money and staff time to notifying Congress re-
garding reprogramming of funds and to pro-
viding mandated reports. AID has testified that
at least 200 annual staff-years are devoted to
preparing materials for Congress and dealing
with various congressional groups. In other
cases, AID's costs due to congressional limits
are less direct, for example, procurement re-
quirements may increase the cost of overseas
purchases, appropriations earmarks may re-
quire more detailed accounting, and restric-
tions on aid to individual countries and com-
modities may decrease the overall effectiveness
of AID's program. Also, AID responds to more
informal congressional pressure to achieve mul-
tiple (sometimes incompatible) goals and to use
assistance for non-development purposes. Con-
gress and AID could streamline this process
so that more of these resources could be spent
on development.
Congress made several legislative changes in
1987 to reduce restrictions on AID's assistance
to Africa: reprogramming and procurement re-
strictions were reduced and the number of ear-
marks was significantly cut. If these changes
prove effective, Congress could increase AID's
flexibility further by providing no-year money,
reducing additional earmarks, etc. Also, com-
plementary changes could be made to define
priorities among the multiple mandates in the
Foreign Assistance Act to reduce non-devel-
opmental pressures on the use of assistance.
At the same time, Congress needs to moni-
tor carefully how AID makes use of its in-

Photo credit: F. MattiolU.N. Food and Agricultur Orgnization
Improved management of land and water resources is
an important part of enhancing low-resource agriculture.
This is recognized in the new African Development
Fund, an attempt by Congress to provide flexible
guidance and fewer restrictions for AID while still
specifying general priorities.

creased flexibility. Granting increased flexibil-
ity to AID may enable more efficient and
effective use of its resources. However, it also
increases the risk that congressional priorities
for development assistance may not be followed
fully. AID's past inability to address the needs
of resource-poor farmers and herders contrib-
utes to concern over this issue. Again, this em-
phasizes the need for substantive and thorough
oversight. Congress could ensure that con-
tinued flexibility depends, in part, on AID's
responsiveness to broad congressional direc-
tion for development assistance.
Finding 5: Long-term commitments and stable
funding levels are necessary for donor agen-
cies to provide effective development assis-
tance, especially for enhancing low-resource
Many development assistance goals identi-
fied by OTA as necessary for African agricul-
tural development cannot be reached quickly
nor if development assistance funding under-
goes large and unpredictable swings. Research,
agricultural institution-building, and support-
ing the development of local organizations are
all long term in nature. Development assistance
for these purposes must be correspondingly
long term. And stable levels of aid are impor-
tant for planning long-term work. Unantici-

pated fluctuations in aid, whether caused by
changes in overall assistance funding or by
changes in political goals, reduce the effective-
ness of aid. Such swings have stopped success-
ful efforts and ended other work before results
could be achieved.
Option 5a: Congress could appropriate stable
levels of bilateral and multilateral assistance
for Africa. For bilateral assistance an empha-
sis on Development Assistance would best
support such long-term stability, a continu-
ation of the 1987 policy creating the devel-
opment fund for Africa and increasing U.S.
contributions to the International Develop-
ment Association of the World Bank.
U.S. bilateral agricultural assistance to Africa
is provided primarily through three AID-
administered funding sources: Development
Assistance, Economic Support Funds (ESF),
and food aid. Of the three, Development Assis-
tance is the most suited for providing stable
levels of funding in support of a long-term ap-
proach. U.S. legislation regarding development
generally supports enhancing low-resource
agriculture. Also, Congress provided the means
to maintain stable funding levels for AID's Afri-
can Development Assistance account by cre-
ating the new development fund for Africa.
Previously, African funds were held with world-
wide development funds and were vulnerable
when discretionary funding was reduced due
to earmarks for aid to other regions.
The other funding sources continue to be held
in common. They are less appropriate for pro-
viding long-term stable support for this and
other reasons. ESF usually are provided to re-
cipients for political and security reasons and
tend to be volatile. Africa's needs are seen as
less pressing than those of other regions. Food
aid can fluctuate substantially due to chang-
ing emergency needs in Africa and U.S. food
While Development Assistance may be the
most appropriate form of aid for African so-
cial and economic development, the United
States sometimes has not made it the primary
source of African assistance. Between 1980 and
1985, ESF to Africa tripled thereby exceeding
Development Assistance funding, which had

increased by one-fourth. This decline in the
relative importance of Development Assistance
took place as worldwide U.S. foreign assistance
doubled, primarily through increases in ESF
and military aid.
With declines in total foreign assistance in
1986 and 1987, ESF to Africa was severely cut
and Development Assistance became the pre-
dominant source of funding to Africa. Yet the
cuts in Development Assistance and ESF put
1987 funding to Africa close to 1980 levels. The
$500 million appropriated for the development
fund for Africa in fiscal year 1988 (and also an
additional $50 million for projects of the South-
ern Africa Development Coordination Commis-
sion) halted the decline in Development Assis-
tance for Africa. If maintained, the fund could
provide the means for stabilizing Development
Assistance to Africa for the long term.
U.S. support of multilateral development
organizations has also fluctuated, with some
exceptions. The International Development
Association (IDA) of the World Bank provides
concessional loans to the poorest countries.
United States IDA funding fluctuated from a
high of $1 billion to a low of $520 million be-
tween 1980 and 1987. The U.S. agreement to
provide $2.875 billion over the next 3 years,
along with congressional appropriations of
$915 million for fiscal year 1988, will help stabi-
lize IDA funding to Africa, assuming that ap-
propriations continue at agreed-upon levels.
U.S. support for the African Development
Fund, the concessional loan window of the Afri-
can Development Bank, has had fairly stable
funding since 1986. Funding for the United Na-
tions development agencies that receive volun-
tary U.S. contributions (e.g., the United Nations
Development Program and the International
Fund for Agricultural Development) increased
between 1980 and 1985 but declined signifi-

cantly in 1986 and 1987. The U.N. Children's
Fund was an exception; its funding has re-
mained relatively constant since 1984.
Maintaining stable funding over the long term
is made difficult by the annual congressional
authorization and appropriations process.
Longer term authorizations and appropriations
(possibly 2 to 4 years) would help set stable fund-

ing levels, allow agencies to do long-term plan-
ning, help protect development funding from
shifts in funding or diversions to other uses,
and free Congress to spend additional time con-
ducting oversight.
Option 5b: Congress could encourage AID to
address a set of internal constraints that hin-
der effective implementation of development
assistance. First, AID could evaluate the ef-
fect its operational structure and procedures
have on its development work. Then, Con-
gress and other organizations could help AID
develop and implement internal reforms.
AID has made a number of positive opera-
tional changes that could increase the effective-
ness of its development assistance activities
overall, especially as they relate to resource-
poor farmers and herders. These include in-
creased roles for field missions, funding longer
projects, and strengthening its evaluation and
information system. Past OTA work has iden-
tified a set of internal constraints that may un-
dercut the benefits of these changes:
The numbers and skills of AID's Africa
staff are not commensurate with the U.S.
commitment to Africa. Significant staff
cuts in the 1980s have worsened the prob-
lem. Technical, local language, and cul-
tural skills largely are lacking. High rates
of turnover interrupt program continuity,
make accountability difficult, and reduce
institutional memory. Local staff are often
Program and project design systems tend
to be slow and inflexible, and they tend to
reward the project designer and obligator
of funds rather than the successful im-

plementor. Obligating funds can be quick
but project implementation can be held up
by paper requirements and procurement
Program and project monitoring is con-
strained by a small staff. Evaluation results
may be too narrowly focused and ineffec-
tively incorporated into the design process.
These constraints are well known. Some con-
sider them to have worsened with time. Grow-
ing concern has led some observers to conclude
that AID lacks the commitment to remedy these
problems or is incapable of doing so and the
best solution would be to restructure the pro-
vision of U.S. assistance substantially, to form
a new development agency, or to transfer cer-
tain AID functions to other organizations.
While OTA did not analyze the appropriateness
of these options, current budget restrictions and
difficulties in passing foreign assistance legis-
lation suggest that such drastic changes are un-
likely. Thus, resolving AID's constraints de-
pends primarily on AID/Administration action.
Part of the problem is influence exerted by
interests outside of AID (for example, political
concerns of the U.S. Department of State, short-
term economic interests of American exporters)
that sometimes hamper development work, and
Congress may wish to examine these compet-
ing pressures. Notwithstanding such external
influences, AID has not been effective in re-
solving well-recognized internal problems. Con-
gress could focus AID's attention on the need
to address and provide support for internal re-
forms. If such reforms are not successful, then
alternative, perhaps more extreme, options
could be considered.


Pr -.w"

The Critical Need for Food Security ................................ 35
Issues Beyond the Scope of This Assessment .......................... 35
Toward Enhancing African Agriculture .............................. 38
Chapter 2 References ......................................... 39

Box Page
2-1. AIDS in Africa: Will It Affect Agricultural Development? ............ 37

Chapter 2


In view of two decades of acute and chronic
food scarcities in much of Africa, and projec-
tions of a doubling of population in 25 years,
the question arises whether Africa will ever be
able to provide enough food for its people. The
magnitude of the challenge ahead is reflected
by one alarming trend: overall food production
in Sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade has
increased only about half as fast as population
growth although the record is uneven, with food

surpluses existing in some areas. Food self-
sufficiency has deteriorated in virtually every
country (13). Twenty years ago Sub-Saharan
Africa was a net exporter of basic food staples,
exporting an average of 1.3 million tons a year
between 1966 and 1970. By the mid-1980s the
region was importing some 10 million tons per
year (9). Cereal self-sufficiency alone has
dropped from 94 to 82 percent in the past 15
years (14).


Lack of food self-sufficiency need not be a
serious problem per se, so long as production
of other goods and services provides adequate
income to acquire food from elsewhere. Food
security, not food self-sufficiency, becomes the
key goal. Food security can be defined as ac-
cess by all people at all times to enough food
for an active, healthy life and it depends on both
the availability of food and the ability to acquire
it (16). Improving food security involves in-
creasing food supplies in addition to increas-
ing poor people's real income, thus giving them
access to food in national markets or through
imports. Simply ensuring adequate national
production contributes little to food security
if people lack the ability to purchase what they
cannot produce themselves.
African economies are heavily dependent on
agriculture. In most countries in Sub-Saharan

Africa, 70 percent or more of the labor force
is in agriculture. Under these circumstances
declining food self-sufficiency, as a function
of declining per capital food production, is rea-
son for concern. Most disturbing is the pros-
pect that Africa's most vulnerable populations
will become even more vulnerable and more
Africans will be in this precarious position.
This report focuses on promising technol-
ogies to enhance low-resource agriculture in
Africa and how U.S. assistance, with the sup-
port and direction of the U.S. Congress, can
support African initiatives to meet food secu-
rity needs. However, several issues that are not
covered by this assessment directly and in-
directly affect the African governments' abil-
ity to deal successfully with low-resource agri-
culture and other food security needs.


Achieving food security requires solving a
two-part equation, one of food production (the
supply side) and one of the ability to buy food
(the demand side). OTA's charge was to look
at technology in support of food production in
Sub-Saharan Africa, and thus this report fo-
cuses on the production side of the food secu-
rity equation. Notwithstanding this emphasis,

OTA finds strong agreement with the sugges-
tion that:
More research is needed on the demand (food
access) side of the equation in light of the co-
existence of malnutrition and food surpluses
in the region. High priority food security re-
search priorities are: marketing, trade, ex-
change rate policies, household food security

in low rainfall areas, the effects of market liber-
alization on the food security of various groups
in society and research on institutional inno-
vations that increase access to food (12).
Further, this report does not address many
of the difficult challenges faced by African gov-
ernments in balancing the needs of promoting
food production with other development needs.
Many governments face serious difficulties of
providing basic city services under the pres-
sure of the most rapidly growing urban popu-
lations of any region in the world (1). Many gov-
ernments also will need to deal with concerns
over an "urban bias" whereby food prices are
kept artificially low in order to appease more
politically vocal urban constituents, at the ex-
pense of rural food producers. Population and
refugee problems are also serious in many
areas. Degradation of the natural resource base
as increasing numbers of Africans overwork
the land or are forced to move onto increas-
ingly marginal land is just one manifestation
of these problems. Recent concerns of the po-
tentially devastating impact of an AIDS epi-
demic in Africa (box 2-1) will also demand im-
mediate attention and compete for scarce
government resources.
Progress in developing Africa's low-resource
agricultural sector will also be affected by in-
ternational factors which African governments
alone can do little to control. Countries in Sub-
Saharan Africa suffered perhaps more than any
other region as a result of global recession in
the early 1980s. Beyond the obvious stress
placed on funds for development assistance,
was the serious impact of decreased interna-
tional demand for Africa's exports.
Terms of trade have generally been declin-
ing for most African countries. Prices have
fallen for most of Sub-Saharan Africa's major
export products while, on balance, prices have
risen for imports. Countries in the region are
particularly vulnerable because export earnings
depend on one or two commodities (e.g., cof-
fee, cocoa, or cotton). The high level of diver-
sity manifest in traditional African agricultural
systems has never translated into the export
arena. In fact, over the last several decades Afri-

can countries have become increasingly depen-
dent on fewer commodities for export earnings
(13). As with farming systems, one consequence
of little diversity is increased vulnerability. Fur-
ther, most of Sub-Saharan Africa's agricultural
export earnings are derived from commodities
with low price elasticity of demand. For a num-
ber of the most important export commodities,
including coffee and cocoa that together com-
prise nearly half of the region's agricultural ex-
port earnings, increased export volume may ac-
tually reduce earnings. Thus emphasis on
expansion of African agricultural exports with-
out diversification is unlikely to greatly improve
African export earnings (5).

Also troubling is that new biotechnological
advances in industrialized countries could re-
sult in synthetically produced replacements for
some of Africa's most important export com-
modities (e.g., cocoa). This could have devastat-
ing consequences for some African economies.
Synthetic substitutes for cotton and rubber, and
especially jute and sisal, already have taken a
heavy toll. These scenarios present issues that
developed and developing countries alike need
to address.

Finally, serious concerns exist regarding
Africa's external debt problems. The combined
debt of Sub-Saharan African countries pales in
comparison to that of other developing regions,
especially when compared to those of countries
such as Brazil or Mexico. However, viewed as
a percentage of gross domestic product or when
considering what proportion debt servicing rep-
resents relative to total export earnings, the
figures assume much greater dimensions. For
example, Sub-Saharan Africa's ratio of debt to
total exports is significantly higher than that
of developing countries as a whole (10). Par-
ticularly alarming are figures that show precipi-
tous declines in the financial flows to the re-
gion and a net outflow of income (10). It is hard
to envision how African economies can main-
tain the status quo, let alone progress, under
such conditions. Considerable attention is now
being directed to the situation but many
proposals have yet to be acted upon (17).

Box 2-1.-AIDS in Africa: Will It Affect Agricultural Development?
"Imagine the AIDS epidemic if the disease were well entrenched in the heterosexual population.
If the Red Cross didn't screen the blood supply. If condoms weren't available. And if most hospitals
couldn't test patients for the virus. Tragically, that's exactly the picture [some experts] paint of Africa
today" (2).
World Health Organization (WHO) statistics as of June 1987 show that in Africa 27 countries
have reported 4,570 cases of AIDS. But this figure is the tip of an iceberg, reflecting the continent's
limited health infrastructure. WHO estimates that 20-35 percent of all patients in some hospitals have
AIDS or AIDS-related diseases (7). Central Africa is the most severely affected, although adjacent
countries in east and southern Africa are also caught in the epidemic. In an 11 nation strip from
the Congo to Tanzania, an estimated 50,000 people have died from AIDS since the first confirmed
appearance of the virus in the late 1970s. Up to 5 million people may be infected. Although estimates
are somewhat uncertain, up to 99 percent of the people exposed to the virus can be expected to de-
velop AIDS (15). This translates into several million deaths from existing infections alone (6,8).
Clinically, AIDS in Africa is no different than AIDS in developed countries: it is an invariably
fatal disease, often characterized by a diarrhea-wasting syndrome, infections with organisms that
normally do not cause disease, and cancer, such as Kaposi's sarcoma. In Africa, one local name for
the disease is "slim disease," to describe the gaunt look of its victims. However, in Africa the male
to female ratio of cases is 1:1. In developed countries, it is 13:1. In Africa the disease is transmitted
predominantly by heterosexual activities, exposure to blood transfusions and unsterilized needles,
and from mothers to newborns. Because sexual transmission is the dominant route of infection, the
brunt of the illness is currently borne by people aged 20 to 49 (11).
It is impossible to predict the long-term economic and political impacts of the AIDS epidemic,
or the impacts on agricultural development, but the selective involvement of so many young and middle-
aged adults certainly opens the possibility for serious problems. One possibility in rural areas is that
agricultural labor will shrink, and food production could suffer. As more of the economically produc-
tive members of society die, fewer resources will be provided for dependents such as young or very
old people. This could create added burdens for governments and development assistance. In addi-
tion, Africa already lacks trained personnel in many fields, and AIDS could reduce the continent's
capabilities even further as it strikes the blue- and white-collar work force (4). At a different level
of impact, the disease could make personnel from development assistance organizations reluctant
to work in Africa, harm tourism, and restrict training opportunities for Africans (3).
Impacts may also be felt on public policy both in Africa and in the nations providing development
assistance. AIDS is an expensive disease: the costs of caring for 10 AIDS patients in the United States
(approximately $450,000) is greater than the entire budget of a large hospital in Zaire, where up to
25 percent of the pediatric and adult hospital admissions are infected. The approximately $60 million
spent in the United States on blood bank screening in 1985 is many times greater than the entire
health budgets of many African countries (11). As the costs mount, African governments may focus
their limited resources on fighting the disease, and less may be available to fund other priorities such
as agricultural development. Similarly, donor assistance may increasingly be focused on AIDS, leav-
ing less for other work.
The impacts of AIDS will reach into all aspects of African society and for now the prospects
for controlling the disease are limited. However, 45 African countries have developed plans to fight
the disease. These include establishing a national AIDS committee, conducting an epidemiologic assess-
ment, and instituting a surveillance system for AIDS and AIDS-related infections. Education is given
a critical role. But many countries lack the resources needed to build and sustain these activities
on a long-term basis, so assistance is likely to be required.


The general nature of the above discussion
masks considerable variation in severity of
these problems among African countries, as
well as their potential for dealing with them.
It does, however, provide a backdrop against
which the challenge of promoting agricultural
development in the region should be viewed.
The intent is not to create an impression of
hopelessness but rather to provide a broad per-
spective to the challenges ahead for Africa and
stress the need to address many fronts when
pursuing African food security needs. African
farming systems need to be a focal point of
progress, but factors operating at the national
and international levels also have strong in-
The path toward improving food security will
vary by country, by region, and even by house-
hold. Establishing blue-prints for how to meet
food security needs is not realistic-diversity
in Africa is too great, resources too variable,
and objectives too personal. Africa will need
assistance and support in meeting the chal-
lenges ahead. But solutions must come from
within Africa because it is ultimately the onus
of African governments, and more importantly
the African people, to support the improve-
ments in agricultural systems.
OTA's analysis indicates that success is more
likely if development assistance builds off ex-
isting agricultural systems instead of replacing
them. The track record of development agen-
cies in assisting rural communities in Africa
is poor. This suggests a need for greater cau-
tion when suggesting what development assis-
tance can offer. Perhaps even more important
is the need for a greater appreciation for exist-
ing practices. These practices are an important
source of information and material for future
improvements, not simply obstacles to "mod-
ern" agriculture. Further, a careful understand-
ing of the precarious livelihood of low-resource
agriculturalists is needed. This suggests an ap-

proach to development assistance that does not
expose them to even greater risk, given the tenu-
ous base for survival on which many function.
Their practices and institutions are a direct re-
sponse to reducing their vulnerability-and un-
derstanding these responses should be a prereq-
uisite to interfering with them.
To help resource-poor farmers and herders
thus requires an improved understanding of the
environment in which these systems operate.
To date, development assistance has overem-
phasized solutions from the outside-failing to
account for local conditions, perceptions, and
resources. Increased attention will have to be
paid to soliciting input and support from the
people that development assistance is supposed
to help. In a sense, the development process
in support of low-resource agriculture will need
to shift from a monolog, in which communica-
tion is one-way from development agent to
farmer, to more of a dialog, where communi-
cation and exchange of ideas operate in both
directions. Enlisting these resource-poor
farmers and herders as full partners in the de-
velopment process enhances the chances that
development efforts are directed to the right
set of problems and that they will be adopted
and sustained. Further, low-resource agricul-
turalists have an intimate understanding of
such basic, but poorly documented, factors as
local soil types, indigenous plants and animals,
pest control, and climatic patterns. For devel-
opment assistance groups to ignore this impor-
tant local information is at best wasteful and
at worst a recipe for failure.
In this assessment, OTA outlines approaches
and technologies that show promise to help the
African farmers and herders involved in low-
resource agriculture. The goal is to provide op-
tions for Congress which, if pursued, can help
African farmers, herders, and fishers enhance
low-resource agriculture, increase their food
security, and improve their lives.



1. Adepoju, A. and J.I. Clarke, "The Demographic Back-
ground to Development in Africa," J.I. Clarke, M.
Khogali, and L.A. Kosinski (eds.) Population and De-
velopment Projects in Africa (New York: Cambridge
University Press, 1985), pp. 1-19.
2. Anonymous, Johns Hopkins Magazine, vol. 39, No.
4, pp. 15-16, August 1987.
3. Copson, Raymond W., "AIDS in Africa: Background
Issues for U.S. Policy," Congressional Research Serv-
ice Report for Congress, Library of Congress, Wash-
ington, DC, Sept. 15, 1987.
4. Dickson, David, "Africa Begins to Face Up to AIDS."
Science, vol. 238, pp. 605-607, Oct. 30, 1987.
5. Godfrey, Martin, "Trade and Exchange Rate Policy:
A Further Contribution to the Debate," Tore Rose (ed.),
Crisis and Recovery in Sub-Saharan Africa, Develop-
ment Centre of the Organization for Economic Co-
operation and Development (OECD) (Paris: OECD,
1985), pp. 168-179.
6. Kingman, Sharon, "How Africa Must Live With
AIDS," New Scientist, No. 1595, pp. 34-35, Jan. 14,
7. Mann, Jonathan, "AIDS Epidemiology, Impact. Pre-
vention and Control: The World Health Organization
Perspective," undated manuscript.
8. Nordland, R., R. Wilkinson, and R. Marshall, "Africa
in the Plague Years," Newsweek, pp. 44-47, Nov. 24,
9. Paulino, Leonardo A., "The Evolving Food Situation,"
J.W. Mellor, C.L. Delgado, and M.J. Blackie (eds.), Ac-
celerating Food Production in Sub-Saharan Africa
(Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press,
1987), pp. 23-38.

10. Perez de Cuellar, Javier, Africa: One Year Later, Re-
port of the Secretary-General on the economic crisis
in Africa a year after the U.N. Special Session, Oc-
tober 1987.
11. Quinn, Thomas C., Jonathan M. Mann, James W. Cur-
ran, and Peter Piot, "AIDS in Africa: An Epidemio-
logic Paradigm,"Science, vol. 234, pp. 955-963, Nov.
21, 1986
12. Rukuni, M. and Eicher, C.K., "The Food Security
Equation in Southern Africa," M. Rukini, and C.K.
Eicher (eds.), Food Security for Southern Africa, Ha-
rare, UZ/MSU Food Security Project, Department of
Agricultural Economics and Extension, University of
Zimbabwe, 1987.
13. Singh, Shamsher, Sub-Saharan Africa: Synthesis and
Trade Prospects, World Bank Staff Working Paper No.
608 1983 (Washington, DC: The World Bank, July
14. U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization U.N. (FAO),
Atlas of African Agriculture (Rome: FAO, 1986).
15. Specter, Michael, "AIDS Virus Likely Fatal to All In-
fected," Washington Post, June 3, 1988, pp. Al, A14.
16. World Bank, Poverty and Hunger: Issues and Options
for Food Security in Developing Countries, A World
Bank Policy Study (Washington, DC: The World Bank,
February 1986).
17. World Bank, World Dept Tables, vol. I. Analysis and
Summary Tables, 1987-1988 Edition (Washington, DC:
The World Bank, 1988).

Part I:
Low-Resource Agriculture and
Development Assistance

Chapter 3
The Status of
Low.Resource Agriculture

Highlights ....................................................... 45
African Agriculture: Resourceful With Few Resources ................... 45
A Characterization of Low-Resource Agriculture in Africa ............. 46
An Agroecological View of Low-Resource Food Production .............. 50
Arid and Semi-Arid Tropics .................................... 50
Subhumid Tropical Uplands ....................................... 53
Humid Lowlands ................................................ 53
Tropical and Subtropical Highlands ................................ 56
Contributions of Low-Resource Agriculture to African Food Security...... 56
Producing Most of Africa's Food .................................. 57
The Primary Employer and Major Source of Income .................. 58
A Buffer Against Famine .......................................... 59
Losing Ground: Concerns for African Agriculture ...................... 60
Africa's Population Challenge for Agriculture ........................ 60
Signs of Decline in African Agriculture ............................. 61
Obstacles To Improving Productivity and Food Security ................. 64
Biophysical and Socioeconomic Constraints .......................... 64
Unsupportive Policies ............................................. 66
Infrastructural Weaknesses ......................................... 67
Underdeveloped Technical Institutions ............................ 68
Chapter 3 References .............................................. 70

Box Page
3-1. Terms Used in Describing African Agriculture ..................... 48
3-2. Profile: The Life of a Farmer .................................... 51
3-3. Profile: The Life of a Nomadic Herder............................ 52
3-4. African Agroecological Zones and Primary Food Commodities........ 54

Figure Page
3-1. Women's Contributions to African Agriculture ..................... 49

Table Page
3-1. Importance of Agriculture to African Economies ................... 46
3-2. Low-Resource Agriculture and African Staple Food Production ....... 57
3-3. Summary of the Most Serious Environmental Degradation Problems by
Region .................................................... 63
3-4. Modern Input Use in Africa, Asia, and South America, 1977 ......... 68
3-5. Level of Support for Agricultural Research in Different Regions ...... 69

Chapter 3

The Status of

Low-Resource Agriculture

ri is pratod by as d e segroup df
groimarDon themes local mmources, but may a
S.n IBeknr option and th1nolomy.
riicuitiump I prdEianimatm throughout SubBeharan Africa. Itprod etm
f w rebhon'sfod, Invokles and provides income for the mUajory at pqtib,
1r g*in f1nd end coatrbil*0 to nnalonl uonr Immih pGndemhIag *gwin
=6 hi dsmietc mo mad sqpwt
sR ag0ltu1 is no mlanw bla~t to at eedsf dia~f
be pwnla eapi ood poductlo ad agicaplru 1 UI
mi aeile ilrsourcdpgruldtispaignsofaiis doremaring aMtH inld Ia
-mIa diboeu t h f0tre.
1r of Africas will depend on l1w-rsource aPricul=ue r fed ami4ivll-
ia slftig domdB. Tims It is incrIasinly laprtaBt to Impr Iow-inoagom
Sapstisnob so.ibe axe better able to hlp meet Africa's food security and gricld-
lament no@&


Africa's hallmark is its diversity. Its vast cul-
tural diversity is manifest in nearly 800 distinct
ethnic groups, which account for about one-
third of the world's languages (23). The 45 coun-
tries of Sub-Saharan Africa show a wide array
of political and economic systems, including
numerous systems of tribal and modern law.
The region also has wide ecological diversity-
ranging from desert to savannah to rainforest-
and broad soil and climate variations that can
change over short distances. This diversity is
mirrored in the nature of African agriculture.
Having evolved under these differing biophysi-
cal and cultural influences, African agriculture
encompasses a complex array of crop and live-
stock production systems.

Clearly, then, it is risky to generalize about
African agriculture. There is no such thing as
a "typical" African farm. Some common ele-
ments, however, can be identified. One con-
sistent aspect of African agriculture is its prom-
inent position in African economies (table 3-1).
Agriculture employs about three-quarters of
Sub-Saharan Africa's labor force and accounts
for about one-third the region's gross domes-
tic product. Also, about one-half of the coun-
tries in the region derive at least 40 percent of
their export earnings from agricultural prod-
ucts. Further, despite major increases of food
imports, particularly grains and dairy products,
the region still produces most of its own food-
at least 80 percent of its cereals, 95 percent of

Table 3-1.-Importance of Agriculture to African Economies

in millions
Country (1985)

Angola .................
Benin ..................
Botswana ..............
Burkina Faso ...........
Burundi ................
Cameroon ..............
Cape Verde .............
Central African
Republic (CAR)........
Chad ............. ......
Comoros ...............
Congo .................
Djibouti ................
Equatorial Guinea .......
Ethiopia ................
Gabon .................
Gam bia ................
Ghana .................
G uinea .................
Guinea-Bissau ..........
Ivory Coast .............
Kenya ..................
Lesotho ................
Liberia .................
M alaw i .................
M ali ...................
Mauritania ..............
M auritius ...............
Mozambique ............
N iger ..................
Principe and Sao Tome...
Rwanda ................
Senegal ................
Sierra Leone ............
Som alia ................
Sudan ..................
Swaziland ..............
Tanzania ...............
Togo ...................
Zaire ...................
Zam bia .................
Zimbabwe ..............
aGDP-Gross Domestic Product



Labor force
in agriculture
(% in 1980)





NOTES: Figures without parentheses are World Bank data, those in parentheses from FAO. FAO population data is for 1980.
Where discrepancies in data were noted, both World Bank and FAO data are included
SOURCES: World Bank, World Development Report (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1987); Food and Agriculture Or-
ganization of the United Nations (FAO), Atlas of African Agriculture (Rome: FAO, 1986).

its meat, 75 percent of its dairy products, and
almost all roots and tubers (72). Although sig-
nificant variations may exist from country to
country or village to village, the overall impor-
tance of agriculture to African economies is in-

A ChcraterizatioW of Low.-Resewr
Agrickrdre Il Afric

Although it is difficult to generalize about
African agriculture, a close look at the majority
of the farming systems used shows that many

as % of GDPa





Agricultural exports
as % of total
exports (1983)





share important attributes. Despite the great
variation in approaches, most of Africa's agri-
culture can be categorized as low-resource agri-
culture. Low-resource agriculture is a form of
agriculture conducted by a diverse group of
poor farmers, herders, and fishers, based pri-
marily on the use of local resources but may
make modest use of external inputs, including
information and technology. Local resources
include the various renewable resources at
hand, such as soil, water, and vegetation, etc.,
as well as local knowledge, labor, agricultural
practices and management systems, and local
External resources refer to those agricultural
inputs and technologies (e.g., commercial fer-
tilizer and pesticides, hybrid seeds, tractors,
and irrigation systems) and information (e.g.,
management skills and data) that originate out-
side the local area and typically depend on con-
tinued external support. These external re-
sources are commonly referred to as "modern"
inputs because of how they have changed agri-
culture over the last 50 years, especially in de-
veloped countries. The distinction between lo-
cal and external resources sometimes is not
clear. Resources that came from outside of the
local area in the past now may be considered
"local" because of adaptation and a long his-
tory of use. For example, most of Africa's sta-
ple crops (e.g., corn) were introduced from out-
side the continent but have since evolved
unique varieties in various regions.

A Comtiuwm of Resource Use
The definition of low-resource agriculture is
a conceptual one that is difficult to quantify,
in part because the available aggregate data on
African agricultural production do not distin-
guish the degree of modern input use, only
whether or not farmers use them (64).
Resource use in African agriculture is best
viewed along a continuum, acknowledging that
various kinds of inputs and outputs can change
over time or according to what is being raised.
African agricultural systems range from small-
to large-scale, from using no modern inputs to
using many modern inputs, from producing

crops and livestock for subsistence to produc-
ing them for sale, and from providing low in-
comes to providing high incomes. However, the
vast majority of Africa's farmers, herders, and
fishers operate on the lower to middle end of
this range and these people are the focus of this

The agriculturalists working on the lowest
end of the resource use scale are relatively easy
to identify: they use no modern inputs, earn
little money, and produce goods primarily for
their own family's consumption. These people
are sometimes referred to as subsistence agri-
culturalists or low-input farmers (box 3-1). It
is possible to estimate roughly how much food
this subset of low-resource agriculture pro-
duces, which helps establish an idea of the con-
tribution made by these "low-end" low-re-
source agriculturalists. These estimates are
discussed later in this chapter.

Moving up along the resource use continuum,
the importance of external inputs increases;
farmers may use small amounts of fertilizer and
improved crop varieties and herders may have
some access to veterinary services. The level
of modern input use can vary among farms and
herds and even on the same farm between crops
and seasons. For example, a low-resource farm
in Senegal may grow an improved rice variety
using irrigation and low levels of fertilizer as
well as an intercrop of local varieties of maize
and cowpeas that receives no fertilizer or pes-

On the highest end of the resource use con-
tinuum are the relatively few high-resource
African farms. These include large-scale, pri-
vately owned commercial operations (e.g., plan-
tations); large mechanized state-run farms; and
large-scale cattle ranches. These agricultural
systems rely on greater amounts of inputs, in-
cluding information and technology and devel-
oped support services such as transportation
infrastructures, established markets, and input
supply. The contribution of these large-scale
farms to Africa's food production probably is
no more than about 5 percent (47). These oper-
ations are not examined in this report.

Some high-input, highly commercialized, but
small-scale operations also exist in Africa.
These enterprises generally operate in more cli-
matically favorable regions within a select num-
ber of countries, tend to be well integrated into
national economies, and have good access to
national and export markets. Examples include
certain smallholder operations heavily geared
to export commodities (e.g., coffee and cocoa)
that account for a high proportion of Africa's
fertilizer and pesticide use. Smallholder com-
mercial dairy operations, such as those in parts
of Kenya that rely heavily on input and output
markets, might also be included in this cate-
gory. Although this category provides some in-
sights about how to enhance low-resource agri-
culture and may benefit from the sorts of
technologies outlined in this report, the main

focus of discussion here is on farmers and
herders at a lower portion of the resource con-

Deribing Lowe source Agrkiltwe
Low-resource agricultural systems are typi-
cally complex, diversified, and changing, but
they generally share certain characteristics:
they strive to reduce risk, even if this means
obtaining less than maximum yields;
they depend on local knowledge;
they depend on biological processes and
renewable resources;
they involve low cash costs, but relatively
high labor costs and low labor productivity;
they are adapted to local cultures and envi-

Box 3-1.-Terms Used in Describing African Agriculture
OTA's use of the term low-resource agriculture is not intended to coin a new phrase or suggest
a radically different view of African agriculture. Instead, "low-resource agriculture" is used to em-
phasize the strong dependence of farmers, herders, and fishers on resources internal to agricultural
systems, their poverty, and the existence of combined farming, herding, and fishing practices. Each
of these is a defining feature of most African agriculture but not well captured in other terms. While
the term low-resource stresses limited resource use, it does not mean no use of external inputs (i.e.,
"no-resource"). Input use varies among low-resource producers and within their operations.
These points are emphasized to varying degrees in related terms used by the development assis-
tance community, including:
Low-input agriculture: As used by FAO, the primary input in these systems is hand labor. No
modern inputs (e.g., fertilizer and herbicides) or technologies (e.g., soil conservation techniques)
are used (67). This definition is narrower than that of low-resource agriculture because low-
input agriculture includes only those systems at the lowest end of the input continuum where
no modern, or external, inputs are available.
Smallholding/small farm: These terms are used frequently to describe African agriculture. They
overlap considerably with low-resource agriculture, but differ in two respects: this definition
connotes small farm size, a description which is inadequate when talking about pastoralists
who use very large areas. Also, the level of external inputs used on small farms is not explicit
in the definition. In some cases, smallholders may use high levels of external inputs. For exam-
ple, smallholders in Kenya's highlands have established a dairy based on crossbred cows, in-
cluding artificial insemination, input and extension services, and a marketing network. This
operation would not be included in OTA's definition of low-resource agriculture because resource-
poor farmers use fewer external inputs, regardless of farm size.
Subsistence farm: Subsistence farms generally gear their production to meeting household needs.
By most definitions, no more than 50 percent of the output is sold. While the precise proportion
of sales is debatable, the low participation of producers in commercial markets and in cash
cropping is the rule. "Subsistence" farms would exist at the lowest end of a resource use con-
tinuum. Low-resource agriculture is broader-focusing on food production and rural purchas-
ing power as integrated components of food security.

ronments, although social and ecological
systems are showing increasing strains un-
der growing pressures.
The resource-poor agriculturalists who use
these systems generally are poor and have
limited access to and control over land, water,
labor, capital, external sources of information
and technology, and external inputs such as
commercial fertilizer. Raising food, including
livestock, is a major production activity but they
may also engage in cash-crop production, fish-
ing or fish-farming, forestry, food processing
and marketing, and a host of other income-
generating activities.
The range of activities and how they are per-
formed is a response to this group's great vul-
nerability to factors outside their control. Activ-
ities of resource-poor agriculturalists reflect a
need to reduce the risks created by fluctuations
in climate, the economy, and the political sys-
tem. This tends to result in lower than optimal
yields, but with the benefit of producing house-
hold food supplies throughout as much of the
year as possible. This strategy has been char-
acterized as a kind of "adaptive diversity" that,
while not providing maximal returns under op-
timal conditions, is able to provide reasonable
returns under a wide range of fluctuating and
unpredictable environmental conditions (43).
Poverty seriously constrains most farmers
from investing in agricultural improvements.
It is not unusual for a farmer's total annual cap-
ital investment to be under $10 (9,42). Expend-
itures in the semi-arid tropics of West Africa,
where labor commonly is hired, may reach $20
to $60 per hectare (42). Although expenditures
other than labor appear to be small, in many
cases they represent a high proportion of the
capital actually available to a household for ex-
penditures other than food (52).
In low-resource agriculture, the family or
household provides the critical source of labor.
The division of labor in African agriculture
varies across the continent. Men are primarily
responsible for land preparation and planting
in many areas, whereas women are primarily
responsible for weeding and harvesting. In
other areas, men are responsible for produc-

ing export crops, whereas women work in the
production of the export crops as well as in sep-
arate fields to produce food for household con-
Data from most African countries confirm
that women play a major role in agriculture,
especially in women-headed households (fig-
ure 3-1). Women contribute about two-thirds
of all hours spent producing food in traditional
agriculture, about 70 percent of the hours
devoted to marketing, and at least 80 percent
of the hours spent on food processing and stor-
age (31). The elderly and young children of the
household also make significant contributions
to agricultural production, from scaring birds
and harvesting crops to tending small livestock.
The dependence on household labor can lead
to seasonal labor shortages as well as periods
of underemployment. The need for manual la-
bor is especially high during seasonal activi-
ties such as land clearing, tilling, sowing, weed-
ing, and harvesting. These periods represent

Figure 3-1.-Women's Contributions to African

Clearing land
Turning soi


Weeding & hoeing
Carrying crops home
Carrying water & fuel
Domestic animal care
Cooking & family care

95 0,

SOURCE U N Economic Commission for Afrnc, Women in Africa. 1975

peaks in labor demand and available household
labor may be inadequate. The ability to meet
this peak demand has been further constrained
as many young men seeking jobs migrate from
rural to urban areas or to distant rural regions
for commercial jobs such as those on agricul-
tural estates or in mines. On the other hand,
however, seasonal underemployment occurs
during times when little agricultural labor is
needed, especially in the shorter growing sea-
son, semi-arid regions (50).
Low-resource agriculture thus can be seen
as a livelihood meeting multiple needs, and it
involves balancing scarce endowments of land,
labor, and capital. For the farmer or herder,
this involves a complex decisionmaking proc-
ess that regularly requires difficult trade-offs.
This complexity also creates challenges for re-
searchers trying to decipher the process. Anal-
yses that focus narrowly on only one particu-
lar activity in low-resource systems can lead

to misguided or inappropriate conclusions
about how to improve that activity since the
assistance may be inconsistent with the over-
all household production system. For example,
new technologies that require increased labor,
particularly during peak labor periods, may not
be feasible for a farming household to adopt
if it means drawing someone's time away from
other important activities.
Although low-resource agriculture was once
perceived as inefficient and somewhat haphaz-
ard, recent investigations have given rise to a
far greater appreciation of the efficiency and
logic of various systems and practices-given
families' available resources and multiple ob-
jectives. Further discussion of the features of
low-resource agriculture and their implications
for development assistance is provided in chap-
ter 4. Boxes 3-2 and 3-3 illustrate two particu-
lar low-resource systems.


Socio-economic factors are extremely impor-
tant in defining the nature of low-resource agri-
culture. It is also essential, however, to evalu-
ate how agroecological factors help define
production in low-resource agricultural sys-
tems. The discussion that follows is organized
around four broad agroecological zones (box
3-4). This organization provides an overview
of African agriculture and is a simple way to
address various management and development
assistance issues. Reality, however, is rarely
simple. Each zone on the map includes a wide
range of agroecological conditions that reflect
heterogeneity at the microlevel. Each zone is
likely to produce some of each particular crop
and kind of livestock and multiple crop and live-
stock varieties tend to be raised together. Home
gardens are important in all zones, for exam-
ple. Defining only the major food crop also
masks the importance of the cash crops grown,
as well as the importance of the many non-farm
activities pursued by low-resource agricul-

turalists. Thus, the following regional sketches
and the summaries in box 3-4 are intended sim-
ply to illustrate the relative importance of ma-
jor crops and livestock in each zone.

Arid and Semi-Arid Tropics
Millet is the predominant crop in Africa's
drier areas, where it is commonly the only
cereal that can be grown under rainfed condi-
tions. Sorghum replaces millet as the principal
crop in wetter areas or on more moisture-
retaining soils. Maize, which is less drought
tolerant than either of the other two cereals,
is produced to a small extent in this zone.
Whether grown separately or intercropped, mil-
let and sorghum are typically grown under low-
resource conditions using local varieties and
little or no fertilizer or pesticides (1,42,48,75)
(app. D). Rice is an important crop but its pro-
duction is restricted to river basins. Although
some improved varieties are used, less than 5

Box 3-2.-Profile: The Life of a Farmer*
Malawi is a landlocked country in southern Africa, bordered by Tanzania, Zambia, and Mozambique.
At least 80 percent of the people in Malawi are rural and make their livings farming. In the center of the
country is a broad plateau called the Lilongwe Plain-an area of good soils and adequate rainfall that is
the granary for the country. It is here that Sindima lives on a farm of about 2/2 hectares that includes
land she inherited from her mother and land that belongs to her husband.
Sindima is in her late thirties and has five living children; two other children have died, and it's likely
that she will have two or three more children in time. She is head of her household-which is not unusual
in Malawi, where at least one-third of all rural households are headed by women. Sindima's husband moved
to Lilongwe, the capital, to find work. It takes 2 days for him to walk home, so she sees him infrequently.
This means the traditional division of labor on their farm has shifted-in their grandparents' time, the
men did all the heavy work, like clearing new land, plowing, or building fences, and the women did all
the planting, weeding, harvesting, and processing. In her family, decisionmaking was shared. Now, how-
ever, Sindima makes almost all the management decisions, and she and her children do all the work. Since
most of the land is under continuous cultivation, there is little opportunity to clear new lands, which is
one of the reasons her husband felt compelled to leave for the city.
By local standards, Sindima is affluent. Because she and her husband belong to a local farmers club,
she has access to the extension agent for information. A development assistance project supplies credit
in the form of some fertilizer and improved seeds, which she will pay back when she sells the crops after
the harvest. With this help, she plants a more complicated mix of crops than many of her neighbors-hybrid
and local maize, groundnuts, beans, a variety of local vegetables, and a little tobacco. She uses the fertilizer
and improved maize on about one-half hectare, but she continues to plant local maize even though it is
less productive because it tastes better and is less susceptible to insect damage in storage.
Sindima is quite knowledgeable about managing her fields, particularly the garden crops she grows
near the house. Because she has a relatively good size farm, Sindima is able to grow some maize and tobacco
as monocrops, which simplifies the labor and management required. Like most of her neighbors, however,
most of her land is intercropped and she has a sophisticated understanding of crop rotation, planting times,
weeding requirements, and allocation of labor. Sindima knows it is important not to overwork the land.
But it's more difficult now than ever to let a field lie fallow to regain fertility because of the pressure she
feels to produce the most she can from her small farm.
In the past, Sindima took some extension classes on nutrition and sewing, but only recently have they
let women take the farming courses. She hopes to take a course about using the improved maize varieties
soon, because she has been learning by trial and error so far. Of course, finding time for classes is hard
when she almost always has something to do in the fields or her household. Just grinding maize enough
for her own family takes hours; so does finding enough firewood. She keeps some chickens and goats,
too, which have always been the woman's responsibility. Her children help with many tasks-the two older
girls walk to the community well twice each day to get water, and everyone helps with harvest-but she
wants them to stay in school. With the money she makes at market (she not only sells crops, but also a
little tobacco and home-brewed beer) and the money her husband sends, she can pay their school fees
and sees education as a high priority.
Sindima illustrates what can be accomplished on a small farm with few resources-but she has an
advantage over many other women who farm alone. After all, she has a husband sending money, two par-
cels of land, and access to the agricultural extension system. Her cousin Nanthalo, on the other hand,
is younger, divorced, with three small children. To make ends meet, she hires out to help others with plant-
ing and weeding, but this interferes with the time she has to devote to her own fields. (Since this is a matrilineal
society, she kept her land when her husband left; in many other countries, she would be worse off because
all land belongs to the men.) She does not have the money to keep her children in school, and her child
care responsibilities keep her from taking any extension classes. With only one small parcel of land, her
farm is too small to be eligible for credit packages or other help from extension. She gets by as she can,
and depends on help from relatives like Sindima. While Sindima illustrates the potential of low-resource
farming styles in Malawi, Nanthalo may well be more typical.
'Sindima is fictional but this profile is a composite drawn from the lives of real people.
SOURCES: Anita Spring. Associate Dean. College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, University of Florida. Gainesville. FL, personal communication.
1987. and "Profiles of Men and Women Smallholder Farmers in the Lilongwe Rural Development Project. Malawi." report to Office
of Women in Development. U.S. Agency for International Development. Washington. DC. March 1984.

Box 3-3.-Profile: The Life of a Nomadic Herder*
The Sahel region of West Africa is vast and dry, a seemingly inhospitable land. Yet for 6,000 years,
nomadic herders have made productive use of what is, to many, a marginal environment. They have
learned to use the ecosystem to their advantage, moving when they must seek water and forage to
satisfy their livestock.
Mossa is a herder, like his father and his father's father. He is in his forties, the youngest of nine
children, and has lived his life in an area north of Timbuktu, Mali. He and his wife have three sons
and four daughters still alive; four other children have died. Mossa's life is typical of that found in
this large expanse of arid and semiarid land, although from a broader perspective he illustrates only
the lifestyle of the 6 percent of Africa's population that is nomadic.
Animals are the core of life for Mossa and his family. Cattle, sheep, and goats provide milk, butter,
cheese and, for special occasions, meat. The heavy tents Mossa and his family live in-strong enough
to withstand high winds, sand storms, and the driving rain of the wet season-are made of hides,
as are their sandals and many household goods. When the family needs grain or other goods, Mossa
sells or trades what he must from the herd. His herd size is respectable by local standards; he has
some cows, calves, and heifers, plus a number of goats and some sheep. Mossa, his father, and others
before them have carefully applied their knowledge and management skills to these animals and their
breeding. And while Western veterinary medicine is not generally available, he has a variety of tradi-
tional, and often effective, methods for treating his animals.
The herd represents more than a source of income to Mossa and his family. It is a measure of
their wealth, status, and security. This is not merely a matter of pride: livestock are their "bank ac-
count," their way of saving resources for bad times in a land that has unpredictable but frequent
Mossa's nomadic community consists of about 10 related families who move together with their
livestock following good pasture and water. During the dry season, they break camp before dawn
and travel before the heat of noon. They camp near a particular well as long as the pasture holds
out-usually a matter of a few weeks. During the wet season, they move more frequently to take advan-
tage of the better forage. They must always camp within about 10 km of water because their small
livestock must be watered every day.
Life is changing rapidly for Mossa now. He has far more contact with urban people than his father
did, and this has changed his and his family's expectations. They buy more household goods and
eat some different foods. Young men from the community are far more likely to leave now and go
to the city in search of work, which changes the family structure for those that remain. Mossa's ability
to make a living from the land is changing too. Some productive lands he once grazed have deterio-
rated, like the area around the government-dug deep well. It was a good idea gone awry: water is
always needed, but too many animals concentrated around one water source stripped the land of
its vegetation, starting in motion a chain of erosion and degradation. In other places, crop farmers
have taken over land where he and his family once grazed their livestock. In particular, one area
he traditionally used during dry periods has become part of a large landholding owned by an absentee
civil servant, and he can no longer go there. His risk has increased: during the next severe drought,
Mossa will probably lose a large part of the herd. Mossa still has yet to recover from the last drought
when, like most other herders, he lost half his animals.
During this recent drought, for the first time Mossa was unable to feed his family. International
assistance organizations provided food aid to Mossa's community, but little else. Indeed, Mossa sees
fewer donor-supported livestock projects than he did a decade ago, and he wonders whether his own
government or any of the many other groups that attempt to help really know how to help him im-
prove his life.
SMossa is fictional but this profile is a composite drawn from the lives of real people.
SOURCES: American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Tin Aicha Nomad Village (Philadelphia, PA: AFSC, 1982); Michael M. Horowitz,
The Sociology of Pastoralism and African Livestock Projects. AID Program Evolution Discussion Paper No. 6. (Washington, DC:
Bureau for Program and Policy Coordination, AID. May 1979); George S. Scharffenberger, Consultant, Washington, DC, personal
communication, 1987.

percent of the rice production in Africa con-
sists of High Yielding Varieties, unlike most
other parts of the world where these are used
extensively (13).
Food legumes, especially cowpeas, are often
intercropped with cereals under low-resource
conditions. Root and tuber crops are less im-
portant in the arid and semi-arid zone than in
others, but they provide a small percentage of
the dietary energy supply (72).
About 60 percent of tropical Africa's rumi-
nant livestock and virtually all of the continent's
estimated 11 million camel live in the arid and
semi-arid zone (30,60). The region is charac-
terized by a low livestock/land ratio, but a high
livestock/human ratio. Pastoralist systems of
various kinds prevail. For example, nomadic
systems, which occupy the drier regions of the
Sahel that are unsuitable for crop production
(i.e., rainfall less than 300 mmlyr), use nutrient-
rich natural vegetation produced during the
short rainy season. These people then move
south during the dry season. Transhumant
pastoralists-those who are mobile around a
fixed base-are most common in the semi-arid
zone receiving 300 to 600 mm/yr of rainfall.
Sedentary agropastoralists-those who remain
in one place-have become increasingly com-
mon in more favorable areas within this zone.
An estimated 40 percent of Sahelian cattle and
even larger percentages of small ruminants are
being raised under this system (82).
Virtually all of the rangeland livestock pro-
duction in the arid and semi-arid zone can be
considered low-resource agriculture. In Sudan,
for example, an estimated 90 percent of live-
stock is produced with virtually no outside in-
puts (app. D, 75). The exceptions are ranching
activities that are important in a few southern
African countries, such as Botswana and Zim-
babwe. Overall, however, ranching activities
in Sub-Saharan Africa probably account for
only about 6 percent of Africa's livestock pro-
duction (7).

wbblmid Tropical Uploads
Sorghum and maize are the predominant
cereals in Africa's subhumid tropical uplands.

In this zone, sorghum is the preferred cereal
for drier conditions and whereas maize is more
common in wetter areas. Maize commonly re-
ceives some modern inputs. Compared to mil-
let and sorghum, it is not clear how much of
the maize production should actually be con-
sidered "low-resource." For example, in the
leading maize-producing countries-Zimbabwe
and Kenya-most land is planted with hybrids
(15). Yet most countries across all agro-
ecological zones report low national produc-
tivity averages (e.g., Ivory Coast: 660 kg/ha,
Zaire: 780 kg/ha, Angola: 510 kg/ha-compared
to 1,940 kg/ha average in Zimbabwe) (72), an
indication that most maize is produced under
low-resource conditions.
Roots, tubers, and plantains are also preva-
lent in subhumid areas, although less so here
than in the humid lowlands. As in the arid and
semi-arid zone, food legumes and rice are also
N'Dama and Zebu cattle are the most eco-
nomically important livestock in the subhumid
zone, followed by goats and sheep (30). Graz-
ing densities are low, on par with the arid zone
and less than one-quarter of that in the high-
land regions. Low productivity is the result of
nutritionally deficient forage (i.e., inadequate
protein and minerals), despite the generally
favorable quantity of forage growth (28). Also
trypanosomiasis prohibits livestock production
in about two-thirds of the subhumid zone (63).
Livestock and crop production are not well
integrated in mixed farming systems, although
close links often exist between pastoralists and
farmers, especially in West Africa. Examples
of links include exchanges of food crops for
livestock products, exchanges of post-harvest
fodder for organic fertilizer (manure), and
reciprocal labor arrangements (40). Increas-
ingly, however, these complementary relation-
ships seem to be overshadowed by competition
for land and resources (40).

NHmid Lowla.ds
Roots, tubers (e.g., cassava, yams, sweet pota-
toes, and cocoyams), and plantains are the pre-
dominant crops and major sources of calories

Box 3-4.-African Agroecological Zones and Primary Food Commodities

Length of growing
Agroecological zone period (days) Annual rainfall Primary food commodities

Arid and Semi-Arid 1-74 (arid] 100-I,000 mm


Subhumid Tropical

Humid Lowlands

Tropical and
Subtropical Highlands

75-180 (semi-arid)




900-1,500 mm
Bimodal rainfall
in East Africa

1,500+ mm
Bimodal rainfall


Little cultivation in arid areas. Mil-
let and sorghum predominant, with
millet grown in drier areas. Maize
in wetter areas and rice in river
basins. Food legumes (e.g., cowpeas
and groundnuts) important and
some roots and tubers grown in
wetter areas. Approximately 60% of
Africa's ruminant livestock (goats,
sheep, cattle, and camels) raised
here by both nomadic and settled
Sorghum and maize are the most
important cereals, with sorghum
preferred in drier areas. Roots,
tubers, and plantains are important.
Food legumes and rice also
produced. Two-thirds of the zone
are affected by trypanosomiasis
(spread by the tsetse fly) which
inhibits livestock production.
N'Dama and Zebu cattle are the
economically most important live-
stock followed by goats and sheep.
Roots, tubers, and plantains pre-
dominate (e.g., cassava, yams, etc.)
Some maize, rice, and sorghum.
Trypanosomiasis exists throughout
the zone precluding almost all but
the small trypano-tolerant N'Dama
cattle and tolerant goats and sheep.
Some poultry and swine production.
Mixed farming (livestock and crops
raised on same farm) prevails. Pre-
dominant cereals are maize and
sorghum. Roots and tubers (espe-
cially sweet potatoes) are important
in specific countries. Plantains and
food legumes are also grown. The
absence of trypanosomiasis and
availability of good fodder allow a
stocking density four times the

aLength of growing period is the period when both moisture and temperature permit crop growth
SOURCES U S. Agency for International Development. Bureau for Africa. Plan for Supporting Natural Resources Management in Sub-Saharan Africa, (Washington.
DC U SAID. February 1986) Food and Agriculture Organization of the U'nited Nations. African Agriculture The Next 25 Years Atlas of African Aficul-
ture (Rome. FAO 1986) International Lilestock Center for Africa. ILCA Annual Report 1983 (Addis Ababa. Ethlopia ILCA. 19841.



Weste Al a Libya
Sahara Egypt

Leone -. .

Key Burundi
bteaion bound Djibouti

Bis Subhumid tropical uplands Vii :!:i- : ::
Liberia Togo Benin

SHumid lowlandsla
STropEcau and subtropical highlands

yRSwaziland Madagascar
Republic a
Key Burundi
- Intemational boundary

s An d and semi-a.d topic -------- o
ubhumid tropical uplandsr

SOURCES Adapted fron U S. Agency for Intemnationri Oewopmn Plan r Supp n Aftal easourae = In Sub ANa, (Washngton, DC: USAID,
Feby 1987) Zonon for Madagascar from UN Food and r Agcuiue Orizion (FA). A ctan The Neit 25 Years-Als of Afrcn Aricuam
(Rome: FA, 196); Itemaiol ieto Center for Africa (ILC). CA pot 19 (Addis Aab Ethop LCA 193)

throughout the humid lowlands (72). These are
grown almost completely under low-resource
conditions (27,74,75) (app. D). While most of
these crops can be grown under widely rang-
ing rainfall and soil conditions and therefore
are produced in all agroecological zones,
cocoyams are restricted to the humid lowlands
(25). Maize, rice, and sorghum are grown in
various parts of this zone, as are a wide range
of food legumes and vegetables.
Although the humid zone comprises almost
20 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa, it accounts
for only about 7 percent of the ruminant live-
stock production. Virtually the entire humid
zone is infested with tsetse fly, precluding
almost all but the small trypano-tolerant
N'Dama breeds of cattle. Goats and sheep,
which are more tolerant of trypanosomiasis,
assume greater importance in this zone, al-
though other diseases (e.g., Peste de Petit Ru-
minant) and parasites can restrict their produc-
tion. However, women manage a few small
ruminants in most areas in conjunction with
their home gardens.
Poultry and swine production are of particu-
lar importance in the humid zone, particularly
near population centers. Swine production, re-
stricted in many areas because of disease and
religious taboos, is most common in humid
coastal regions. Rapidly increasing demand for
poultry, and to a lesser extent swine, has
promoted intensification in traditional produc-
tion systems. A significant share of these pro-
duction increases are possible because of im-
ported large-scale commercial production
technology being developed near urban centers

Tropkal and Subtropical Highlads
Even though the highlands contain no more
than 5 percent of Africa's land area, generally
favorable agroclimatic factors enable it to sup-
port nearly 20 percent of the region's rural pop-
ulation. The zone produces a wide range of
crops. Cereals, primarily maize and sorghum,
predominate in most countries. However, root
and tuber crops, especially sweet potatoes, are
more important in such countries as Rwanda
and Burundi (72). Plantains and food legumes
also contribute to the diet.
Livestock production, especially cattle, is an
important activity, with almost 20 percent of
Africa's ruminant livestock production occur-
ring in the highlands (22). Generally fertile soils,
moderate temperatures, and ample rainfall re-
sult in relatively high fodder production. These
factors, combined with the absence of trypano-
somiasis and the use of high-yield imported
breeds and cross-breeds, allow a stocking den-
sity almost four times the average for Africa.
Most farming in the highlands, consists of
mixed systems where crops and livestock are
raised in the same management units (22). This
is the only zone where such integration is well
developed. High human population densities,
relatively well-established distribution systems,
and numerous markets have led to progres-
sively greater use of purchased inputs. In the
most favorable highland regions, many small-
scale farmers have established highly commer-
cialized operations, using predominantly high-
yielding crop varieties and modern inputs such
as artificial insemination services for livestock.


Low-resource agriculture makes a crucial
contribution to African food security' because
'Food security can be defined as access by all people at all
times to enough food for an active, health life; food security de-
pends on both the availability of food and the ability to acquire
it (79).

it is significant to household food production
and income generation. Low-resource agricul-
ture is the source of most of Africa's food, a
primary income and employment source for the
majority of Africans and African governments,
and a strategy used by many of Africa's most

vulnerable people to buffer themselves against
food shortfalls and famine.

Produc g Most of Africa's Food

The majority of food production across
Africa, is by low-resource agriculture. Low-
resource agriculture produces the majority of
grain, except wheat and perhaps maize. Almost
all root, tuber, and plantain crops, and the
majority of food legumes are produced on low-
resource farms (table 3-2). In addition, a great

variety of secondary crops such as fruits and
vegetables are grown under low-resource con-
ditions to supplement these staples (app. D, 75).

An estimated 75 percent of all livestock in
Sub-Saharan Africa is raised on farms where
crop production is the principle source of sub-
sistence, and livestock are an important source
of cash income. Most of these livestock receive
little supplementary feed or health care (7) and
their production can be considered "low-
resource." Approximately 20 percent of live-

Table 3-2.--Low-Resource Agriculture and African Staple Food Production*




Food legumes (e.g.,
cowpeas, pigeon peas,
beans, and groundnuts)
Roots, tubers, and plain-
tain (e.g., cassava, yam,
cocoyam, and sweet

External input useb
Virtually no use of fertilizers and very little use of improved seed.
Basically the same situation as millet, but hybrids and commercial in-
puts are becoming more important in some areas.
At least 75 percent produced without hybrid seeds and with less than
recommended fertilizer levels; but probably as much as two-thirds
produced with non-hybrid improved seed and moderate levels of fer-
At least 75 percent produced using less than recommended levels of
fertilizer and receiving inadequate irrigation (and no more than 5 per-
cent using High-Yielding Varieties).
Most crops of this diverse group receive virtually no commercial in-
puts, but some production is under higher-resource conditions (e.g., up
to 50 percent of groundnut production).
Virtually no use of fertilizers or improved seed. Some high-resource
banana production for exports.

Minimum estimate of



55% groundnuts
49% beans



Cattle Six percent produced on ranches, generally considered high-resource;
20 percent produced by pastoralists, virtually all under low-resource
conditions except for occasional veterinary care; 74 percent produced
in mixed farms, a minority of this under higher-resource conditions,
such as dairy farming in some highland areas.
Small ruminants and Almost all sheep, goats, and camels raised under low-resource condi-
other livestock (e.g., tions; most swine and poultry produced under low-resource conditions,
sheep, goats, poultry, but increasingly more produced under higher-resource conditions,
and swine) especially near some urban areas.
Fish As much as 85 to 95 percent caught in small-scale artisanal fisheries
mostly under low-resource conditions, though increasingly fishers are
using outboard motors; the remainder is harvested by large-scale off-
shore operations mainly by foreign-owned vessels.
aAggregate agricultural data for Africa usually do not detail levels of external input use but only whether or not such inputs are used. Table 3-2 shows the importance
of low-resource production in two ways. First, it describes the type of input use for the production of specific commodities and second, it sets a minimum boundary
on the volume of low-resource production of specific crops, based on estimates on "low-input agriculture" production in eight African countries.
bColumn 2 provides descriptions of the types and levels of external inputs used for specific products. These descriptions help to locate where the majority of produc-
tion takes place along the range of modern input use. The descriptions were compiled from a set of technology papers written for OTA (app. A) and additional outside
CColumn 3 represents an effort to establish quantitative estimates of the minimum contributions of low-resource agriculture. The data show production under condi-
tions of no modern input use for eight sample countries. These eight countries account for at least 50 percent of African production of maize, sorghum, millet, cocoyam;
and no less than 30 percent of cassava, groundnut, and rice production. The data were compiled by the Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agricul-
ture for OTA. (See app. E)
SOURCE: Office of Technology Assessment, 1988

stock production occurs in pastoral systems,
where animals are the major source of income
and food (milk is often more important than
meat) (63). Pastoralist systems, by their nature,
are low-resource enterprises, although some
use of veterinary services is becoming more
common. Just over 5 percent of Africa's live-
stock is raised on higher resource ranches (7).

Fish are a principal source of animal protein
in many parts of Sub-Saharan Africa (17). An
estimated 85 to 95 percent of African fish har-
vest is from traditional artesanal fisheries-
small-scale operations that do not use expen-
sive equipment or inputs (44,53) and fall within
a definition of low-resource agriculture.

The Primary mployer and Major
SoWe of 1Icome
An estimated three-quarters of Africa's labor
force are involved in agriculture, and a large
majority of these workers are engaged in low-
resource farming and herding. For them, farm-
ing and herding systems represent their pri-
mary source of income as well as food. The sale
of food and other agricultural products ac-
counts for between 60 and 80 percent of the
income of most rural producers in Africa (21,
24). Other non-farm activities also represent im-
portant sources of income but are most often
pursued in conjunction with, rather than in
place of, on-farm activities.

Low-resource agriculture is of particular im-
portance for African women, who constitute
the major food producers in most African coun-
tries and account for about one-half the agri-
cultural labor force (3). Women also earn a sig-
nificant portion of household agricultural
income because of their predominant role in
marketing activities-selling agricultural prod-
ucts (e.g., peanuts, vegetables, or grain) and gen-
erating income from processing activities (e.g.,
cheese, beer, or soap-making). The role of
women as farm managers is also growing in
importance. Although women typically engage
in some autonomous activities within male-
headed farming households (e.g., managing sep-

arate fields), the number of female-headed
households is increasing as growing numbers
of men seek work away from the farm.
Low-resource agriculture contributes to na-
tional as well as household income. Agricul-
ture's share of the gross domestic product of
African nations averaged approximately 41 per-
cent between 1982 and 1984 (81). In addition,
agricultural production contributed signifi-
cantly to the export earnings of many countries.
Agricultural exports in 18 countries, provided
at least 50 percent of the value of total exports
in 1983. In another 12 countries, they provided
at least 20 percent (72).
The exact contribution of low-resource agri-
culture to exports is difficult to estimate. Data
show that low-resource agriculturalists produce
more food crops than cash or export crops such

Photo credit: U.S. Agency for International Development
Low-resource agriculture provides income for a large
proportion of Africans. Women play a large and grow-
ing role in the continent's farming systems.

as coffee, cocoa, cotton, and rubber (app. D,
75). The latter crops tend to receive the high-
est input levels, and in this sense are less likely
to be considered low-resource. However, there
are important links between the production of
these exports and food crops.

A sizable proportion of export crops, perhaps
even a majority, are produced by small farmers
who are also producing food crops under low-
resource conditions. USDA data show, for ex-
ample, that in Kenya 64 percent of coffee ex-
ports, 40 percent of tea exports, and nearly 100
percent of cotton exports are produced by
smallholders. Even in Malawi, with its large
tea, sugar, and tobacco estates, smallholders
accounted for an estimated 64 percent of the
value of agricultural exports in 1979/80 (64). If
local markets cannot provide a dependable food
supply for these farmers, they will devote more
of their resources to growing food, thereby con-
straining their export crop production and con-
sequently reducing national exports (64). The
result can be a decline in foreign exchange earn-
ings and fewer resources for governments to
devote to economic development, including the
agricultural sector. In turn, the use of modern
inputs and other investments in agricultural im-
provements, made affordable by growing cash
or export crops, can have a direct or residual
benefit on food crop production. For example,
fertilizer remaining in the soil after its appli-
cation for a cotton crop benefits the subsequent,
unfertilized, rotation of millet (64).

A Bwffer Againt Famine

Resource-poor agriculturalists commonly
face periods of inadequate food availability.
Seasonal shortfalls can occur annually when
food from past harvests is exhausted but be-
fore new crops can be harvested. For herders,
inadequate access to suitable dry-season fod-
der generally results in shortfalls in milk pro-
duction, the major source of nutrition for
pastoralists. These seasonal shortages are some-
times called the "hungry period." Famine, on
the other hand, is a more extreme incidence
of food shortfall with no set period.

The practices of resource-poor farmers and
herders have evolved as responses to reduce
the impacts of these periods of acute hunger,
which are too common events in many parts
of Africa. These include diversification of crop
and animal production, root crop production,
collecting wild foods in the bush, as well as
many social mechanisms. Other responses-
such as seeking non-farm employment or
migration-are not examined here.
One characteristic of low-resource produc-
tion systems that reflects a concerted effort to
buffer against famine is the raising of differ-
ent crop and livestock species and varieties (56).
This diversification minimizes the risk of total
crop failure. In addition, it reduces the inci-
dence of food shortages by ensuring some pro-
duction during year-to-year fluctuations in cli-
matic conditions, increasing expected returns
by fitting various types of crops to particular
micro-environments, and by spreading food
production throughout the year. Herders
achieve similar goals by raising several live-
stock species. Multi-species herds make better
use of available pasture and offer a more con-
tinuous supply of food because of differences
in periodicity of growth, milk production, and
reproductive cycles (16,20).
Another buffer against famine is the common
practice of growing roots and tubers. Because
most roots and tubers in Africa are grown un-
der low-resource conditions they are sometimes
referred to as "poor peoples crops." Cassava,
for example, is a highly productive staple that
grows in low-fertility soils where few other
crops can. It requires little labor to produce,
and can be stored-simply left unharvested in
the ground-until the hungry period between
harvests. The fact that cassava is a staple crop
among the poor has been partially responsible
for its neglect among agricultural researchers
Resource-poor farmers may also make ex-
tended use of undomesticated plants and ani-
mals during hungry periods. Farmers and
herders often have a wealth of information on
various wild resources, and may directly or in-
directly promote their growth in surrounding

\1 LI

Photo credit: Consortium for International Crop Protection
Cassava is a "poor people's crop" because it grows
where little else can, requires little labor to produce,
and can be stored in the ground until seasonal food
shortages strike.

areas. Although collecting wild foods and prod-
ucts can be important to household nutrition
and income throughout the year, the collection
of wild foods increases during hungry periods
and certain wild foods are used only during
these times (8,18,44).
Resource-poor farmers also have established
a variety of social mechanisms to help seriously
affected households survive periods of food
shortfalls. These social mechanisms may be
based on relationships such as kinship, affinity,
or patron-client relations. For example, recipro-
cal food sharing is sometimes used to minimize
starvation in a community while food supplies

last (51). Livestock may be loaned to a house-
hold that has suffered serious losses of their
herd. The loan arrangement economically ben-
efits the lender by increasing the labor avail-
able to tend the herds, while the borrower re-
ceives milk, manure, and perhaps, rights to the
progeny (62).
Most low-resource farmers and herders are
relatively isolated from national markets and
this is a major reason why these individual ef-
forts to provide buffers against famine are so
important for African food security. This was
vividly illustrated during the mid-1980s
drought: serious food shortages occurred in
countries that actually had excess food, but gov-
ernments were unable to transport and mar-
ket it in the drought-affected areas. Also, small-
scale farmers without other sources of income
and pastoralists who depend on selling animals
for cash must use their crops and animals them-
selves during a famine. As a result, they, along
with landless agricultural workers, often lack
the purchasing power to buy food even if it is
available during a famine (79).
Therefore, an important aspect of dealing
with food security issues in Africa is not sim-
ply the availability of food within the country,
but also whether the vulnerable populations
have access to it. For much of Africa this means
promoting improvements among low-resource
agriculturalists and, at the same time, not dis-
rupting those mechanisms used to buffer
against famine.


African agriculture has continuously, and for
the most part effectively, adapted to meet
changing conditions. But never before has it
had to respond to the level of pressures it cur-
rently faces. Paramount is the pressure created
by rapidly growing populations and the conse-
quent demands on the land. The resulting neg-
ative changes in agricultural land use are evi-
dent in most regions-reduced fallow, falling
yields, and natural resource degradation. Per
capital food production and income, as well as
nutritional levels, are dropping. Although the

severity of the problems varies greatly among
countries, the overall threat is serious and likely
to get worse before it gets better.

Afri's Paepualleti Mhlloewg for
The African continent has the most rapidly
growing population in the world. The estimated
rate of population growth is 3 percent per year,
a rate that increases Africa's population by 1
million people every 3 weeks. Although the

United Nations and the World Bank project that
population growth will drop to 1 percent by the
year 2045, at current rates of growth Africa will
have three times its current population to feed
in just 40 years (83).
Population density in Africa, however, is rela-
tively low, with an average of about 60 people
per 100 hectares of cultivable land. This is about
one-third the average for the developing world
(79). These averages, however, hide the severe
consequences of high population growth in
those areas where population concentrations
are already great, and in areas lacking the re-
sources to support dense populations. For ex-
ample, resource scarcity and intense popula-
tion concentration are already acute in
countries such as Rwanda and Burundi where
the population densities are the greatest in
Africa. Farm size in some parts of Kenya, where
population is growing at an estimated 4 per-
cent per year, now averages no more than 1
In the past, the widely used practice of shift-
ing cultivation was an effective traditional agri-
cultural system in most parts of Africa. This
is a form of production where farmers use sim-
ple tools to clear the land, then burn the debris
so the ash serves as fertilizer. They leave or
prune useful shrubs and trees. Then they plant
seeds or other material, cultivate the site for
a few years, and move to another area when
yields fall and weeds begin to suppress crops.
The previously cultivated site regenerates nat-
urally during a fallow period until the cycle be-
gins again (54).
Although scientists formerly viewed shifting
cultivation as a primitive and inefficient form
of farming, they increasingly recognize it as a
culturally integrated, economically rational,
and ecologically viable practice. This holds
true, however, only as long as population den-
sities are low enough to ensure adequate fal-
low periods to regenerate soil fertility and a new
vegetative cover (61).
In many parts of Africa today fallow periods
are too short. For example, fallow periods have
been reduced from 12 to 2 years in Burkina Faso
and from 20 to 5 years in Angola (4). When the

average fallow period dropped from 5.3 to 1.4
years in Nigeria, cassava yields fell significantly
This raises a fundamental problem for Afri-
can farmers: can local innovations and adap-
tations in their current farming practices en-
sure their food security while facing the
pressures of increasing population densities?
Quantitative study of this issue is largely lack-
ing. However, one study in Nigeria raises seri-
ous concerns by concluding that:
(Farmer) adaptations were obviously able to
slow the process of diminishing yields (result-
ing from reduced fallows), but they are insuffi-
cient to stop the process ... Without additional
income from off-farm employment, the house-
holds in high population density areas could
not provide their daily food requirements (35,
p. 116).
Although this conclusion relates specifically
to a Nigerian case study, the general conclu-
sions regarding the declining sustainability of
many low-resource food production systems
can confidently be extended to numerous other
regions. One study, for example, concludes that
22 countries in Africa (including North Africa)
were unable to feed their populations from their
own land resources with existing practices as
early as 1975. The number of countries unable
to meet their needs with their own land re-
sources is projected to reach 29 by the year 2000
(representing 60 percent of the region's total
population) in the absence of significant in-
creases in inputs and conservation measures

Signs of Decliin im African
A number of additional signs indicate seri-
ous problems ahead for Africa's low-resource
farmers and herders. For instance, declining
per capital food production and income are
making it more difficult for Africans to grow
or acquire enough food to meet adequate nu-
tritional standards. Perhaps the most insidious
aspect of the problem is the inter-locking and
self-reinforcing nature of these negative
trends-namely poverty, malnutrition, poor

agricultural performance, and environmental

Declining Per Capita Food Production
Africa's food problems are not caused by de-
creasing food production-the production of
many food crops has actually increased-but
rather by increasing population growth (72). Al-
though total food production increased 1.8 per-
cent annually for Africa as a whole between
1980 and 1984, population growth outpaced
these increases. Therefore, per capital food pro-
duction fell 1.3 percent annually between 1971
and 1984. Some exceptions exist, however,
where specific countries have had significantly
lower per capital declines and, in a few cases,
increases (72).

Lags between food production and demand
have caused a need for increased food imports.
The changing balance between exports and im-
ports of basic foodstuffs in Africa (including
wheat, rice, coarse grains, and dairy products)
reflects the negative effects of Africa's declin-
ing food production and increasing demand.
From the late 1960s to the late 1970s, Africa
changed from a net exporter of staple foods to
a net importer, with food imports rising by 140
percent and exports declining by 52 percent
(59). The value of exports in 22 countries in 1986
was not sufficient to pay for imports (72). In
this way, low-resource agriculture's failure to
keep pace with population growth also has con-
tributed to the problems of trade deficits and
scarcity of foreign exchange.

Declniing Per Capita Income
Although low-resource agriculture has been
a primary source of income in Africa, the in-
come provided has not been adequate to en-
sure food security. Per capital income in Africa's
low- and middle-income countries decreased
by an average of 0.4 percent per year during
the 1970s. For comparison, low-income coun-
tries in Asia saw increases in per capital income
of 1.1 percent per year, and middle income
countries saw a 5.7 percent increase during the
same period (36).

Not only is the overall trend in Africa toward
decreasing incomes, it is also one of increas-
ing maldistribution of incomes and income-pro-
ducing resources, such as land and livestock.
For example, in Nigeria the share of land owned
by the poorest farmers has decreased while the
share owned by the richest farmers has in-
creased. In Botswana and Somalia, the higher
economic groups among the pastoralists in-
creasingly control most of the livestock (21).
Declines and fluctuations in income have par-
ticularly severe effects on Africans because a
greater percentage of their income is spent on
food than in other parts of the world. For in-
stance, Tanzanians spent about 60 percent of
their total income on food in 1975; in Niger,
people spent almost 65 percent. This can be
compared to Hondurans who spent about 45
percent; Japanese, approximately 20 percent;
and Americans and Canadians, who spent 10-
15 percent of their incomes on food (41). This
trend particularly affects the urban and rural
poor, who spend a greater proportion of their
income on food than the wealthy (21).

Increasing Malnutrition
Under normal circumstances, low-resource
agriculture provides most countries in Sub-
Saharan Africa with adequate dietary energy
supplies (DES, a measure in kilocalories/per
capita/per day). Dietary energy supplies in 31
African countries are near or above the aver-
age recommended requirement of 2,100 kcal
per day. Ten countries, however, have DES
levels that do not reach the recommended level
and four of these are near or below the critical
requirement of 1,800 kcal/day (72). Even within
countries with acceptable DES levels, some peo-
ple eat less than an adequate level.
These dietary trends provide further evidence
that low-resource agriculture's ability to meet
Africa's food needs is declining. Sub-Saharan
Africa is the only region in the world where
the dietary energy supply has declined over the
past decade (72). In 1980, an estimated 150 mil-
lion people in 37 African countries did not re-
ceive enough calories to support an active work-

ing life and, of these, 90 million did not receive
enough to prevent serious health risks (79). As
many as 90 percent of the malnourished peo-
ple in Sub-Saharan Africa are poor agricul-
turalists (39). Their malnutrition is chronic but
periods of acute food shortage occur during the
planting season, just when people most need
their strength to continue farming (76).

Desm erNteig Nmgmml Resewre mee
Resource degradation problems vary by re-
gion, but almost all of Africa is affected (table
3-3). Approximately 35 percent of non-"desert-
ified" land in Africa currently is at risk of fu-
ture desertification (73). At risk are such
important resources as soil quality and vegeta-
tive cover, including trees.
Soil erosion, salinization, and drainage prob-
lems are causing physical and chemical degra-
dation of African soils, and reducing land pro-
ductivity. Water erosion is the major cause of
soil loss in Africa. Wind erosion is also a prob-
lem, particularly in more arid regions. Com-
paction or crusting of the soil caused by short-
ened fallow periods, reduction of soil organic

matter, and improper mechanical tillage are
sources of serious degradation of the soil's phys-
ical properties. Crusting can reduce the amount
of water entering the soil, increase water run-
off and erosion, and make it difficult for farmers
to till the soil and for seedlings to emerge (72).
Agriculture is "mining" the soil in many
areas-removing more nutrients than it is put-
ting back into the system through fallows, or-
ganic and mineral fertilizers, and rotations with
nitrogen-fixing species.
These factors can significantly impair soil
productivity and agricultural yields. The nature
and extent of the impact varies by soil type and
cultivation practices. FAO has estimated that
without adequate conservation measures, the
area of rainfed cropland in Africa will decline
by 16.5 percent by the year 2000 because of land
degradation. The loss of this land, plus the loss
of soil quality on the remaining cropland, would
lead to a loss of about 25 percent of Africa's
land productivity (68).
Africa's three main types of vegetative
cover-tropical rainforest, savannah woodland
(or open forest), and rangeland-are all being

Table 3-3.-Summary of the Most Serious Environmental Degradation Problems by Region

Sudano-Sahelian Africa

Humid and Sub-Humid
West Africa

Humid Central Africa

Sub-Humid and
Mountain East Africa

Sub-humid and Semi-Arid
Southern Africa

Arable Land
Decline in nutrient
levels in the soils
Decline in soil physical
Wind and water erosion
Decline in nutrient
levels in the soil
Decline in soil physical
Water erosion
Degraded soil physical
Degraded soil chemical
Water erosion
Degradation of soil
physical properties
Degradation of soil
chemical properties
Water erosion
Degradation of soil
physical properties
Degradation of soil
chemical properties

Grazing Land
General degradation of
vegetation's quality
and quantity
Wind erosion in sub-humid
Degradation of vegetation
Wind erosion in sub-humid

Degradation in quality and
quantity of vegetation
Water erosion

Degradation in quality and
quantity of vegetation
Wind erosion
Water erosion

Forest Land
Degradation of vegetation

Degradation of vegetation

Degradation of vegetation
Water erosion

Degradation of vegetation

SOURCE: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, African Agriculture: The Next 25 Years, Annex II. The Land Resource Base (Rome, Italy FAO, 1986).


degraded or lost (4). Reliable data on deforesta-
tion is lacking for much of Africa, but an esti-
mated 3.7 million hectares of forest are cleared
every year (71). Tropical rainforests are being
cleared primarily for agriculture and commer-
cial logging, and the highest rates occur in the
West African coastal countries. Savannah wood-
lands are being cleared for fuelwood, livestock
grazing, farming, and construction materials.
Rangelands are being cleared by overgrazing
and the expansion of farming (4).
Significant resources are lost when land
clearing is rapid and unmanaged. Trees, shrubs,
and grasses help control erosion and maintain
soil fertility. Trees are capable of recycling nu-
trients and reaching moisture at soil depths be-
yond the reach of most crop roots. In addition,
trees and shrubs are essential to meet the fuel-

wood needs of low-resource agriculturalists.
Wood is the primary fuel in Africa and defor-
estation is creating shortages. Data show that
all of Sub-Saharan Africa, with the exception
of the humid central region, will suffer a fuel-
wood deficit by 2010 (72). Fuelwood scarcity
affects low-resource producers by increasing
the time they must spend collecting it or the
money they spend to purchase it. For example,
the radius of fuelwood collection around Nou-
akchott, Mauritania expanded from 10 to 70
kilometers between 1970 and 1980 (4). Between
1970 to 1978, the price of fuelwood increased
almost 10 percent per year in Ouagadougou,
Burkina Faso (80). Wood deficits also can harm
soil fertility because when wood is lacking
farmers will use crop residues and animal ma-
nure for fuel instead of fertilizer (80).


Low-resource agriculture currently is not
meeting Africa's food security and agricultural
development needs and productivity in low-
resource agriculture is loosing a race with pop-
ulation growth. Most experts agree, however,
that low-resource agriculture can be improved.
This will require greater efforts by African gov-
ernments, development assistance agencies,
and the agriculturalists themselves in dealing
with obstacles to enhancing low-resource agri-
culture. These obstacles are internal to the farm-
ing system, such as biophysical and socioeco-
nomic constraints, as well as external to the
farming systems. These latter factors include
unsupportive policies, infrastructural weak-
nesses, and underdeveloped technical insti-

Biophysical and Sodcoecoom ic
One problem that confronts planners in Sub-
Saharan Africa is that the average level of agri-
cultural productivity is generally much lower
than in other regions of the world. For exam-
ple, cereal yields in Sub-Saharan Africa are
about 50 percent less than yields in Latin Amer-

ica, and yields of roots, tubers, and pulses are
30 percent lower than yields in Asia and Latin
America (9). This poor performance can be at-
tributed primarily to biophysical and socioeco-
nomic constraints within the farming systems.
Generally, African soils are low in fertility;
rainfall is unpredictable in many areas and low
across much of the continent. At least 44 per-
cent of Africa is subject to drought conditions,
18 percent of the area has soil affected by
mineral stress toxicitiess and deficiencies), 13
percent of the soil is shallow, and 9 percent is
affected by water stress. This accounting, while
hampered by uncertain and sparse data, sug-
gests that only 16 percent of Africa's total land
area is without serious biophysical limitations
for agriculture (65).
Over the past two decades, at least two-thirds
of Africa's food production increases have been
gained by expanding the area cultivated (55,
59). Only one-third of the gains have come by
increasing the output per hectare through in-
tensification. Yield increases range from about
50 percent in eastern and southern Africa to
virtually none in West Africa (59). The role of
expansion onto uncultivated lands is decreas-

ing since cultivation is extending into increas-
ingly marginal lands with lower production po-
tential (42).
For Africa to meet its future food needs and
avert serious environmental problems, a far
greater proportion of its food production gains
must come from intensification and yield im-
provements, and a smaller proportion from ex-
panding the cropping area. Estimates by FAO,
for example, suggest that by the year 2000 about
one-half quarter of the necessary food produc-
tion gains should come from yield increases,
about one-quarter from increased cropping in-
tensity, and about one-quarter from expanding
the amount of arable land (66). This would re-
quire a dramatic shift in approach and presents
numerous difficult challenges, although con-

siderable regional variation exists in how rapid
and how urgent such shifts need be (68). For
example, agriculture in Rwanda has little room
to expand in area, whereas in other countries,
particularly in central Africa, population den-
sity and consequent pressure on land is still low
Intensifying agricultural production in Africa
presents many difficulties, particularly for
Africa's resource-poor farmers and herders.
First, agroecological factors can restrict the ex-
tent to which intensification is possible (5). For
example, in low rainfall zones, opportunities
to develop more intensive farming systems can
be severely restricted by slow vegetative
growth. Developing permanent cultivation sys-
tems in these regions, where possible, can seri-

Photo credit: Jerry Frank/U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization
This rice field is an experiment in agricultural intensification. The Liberian government, with assistance from the United
Nations, is carrying out research and training personnel at the College of Agriculture and Forestry.

ously undermine the viability of pastoralist pro-
duction systems in surrounding areas by
denying herders access to essential dry season
fodder. At the other climatic extreme-high
rainfall areas-problems of soil leaching and
acidification, as well as high incidence of pests
and pathogens, can seriously limit more inten-
sive cultivation and livestock rearing. Medium
rainfall areas (i.e., 750 to 1,200 mm per year)
and some areas of the humid highlands offer
the highest potential for permanent intensified
cultivation (5).
More intensive agriculture also generally in-
volves a greater investment of labor and capi-
tal. This raises problems for resource-poor
farmers who rely on household labor and have
little money to invest in intensive practices. For
example, more intensive production such as in-
creasing the growing period relative to the fal-
low period can greatly increase the need for
weeding and place excessive demand on house-
hold labor. Maintaining adequate soil fertility
under conditions of intensified production may
also require supplemental fertilizer use, requir-
ing either an additional labor investment (e.g.,
rearing animals for manure) or additional cash
to purchase fertilizer.
Adopting conservation practices to maintain
soil fertility, such as building terraces, can also
require considerable investment from the re-
source-poor farmer. Land tenure problems also
complicate matters in low-resource agricultural
systems. Farmers are generally unwilling to in-
vest in the long-term benefits of conservation
practices unless they know they will reap the
future benefits. Finding sustainable technical
and institutional answers that encourage the
intensification of farming systems and yet are
economically feasible and socially acceptable
to resouce-poor farmers is a central challenge
for development assistance in Africa.

Us-pporive Polkil
National and donor policies often have not
been designed to benefit low-resource agricul-
turalists; in some cases, policies have harmed
resource-poor producers. Three types of these
policies are discussed here: national policies

regarding expenditures on agricultural devel-
opment, agricultural pricing policies, and pol-
icies concerning the development of tech-
Expenditures on agricultural development in
Africa reflect the relatively low importance
agriculture has as an economic development
strategy in the eyes of policymakers (2,58,64).
Many African governments spend no more
than 10 percent of their national budgets on
agriculture even though an average of at least
50 percent of Africa's gross domestic product,
employment, and foreign exchange depends on
the agricultural sector (69). For example, while
70 percent of Botswana's labor force works pri-
marily in agriculture, the government spends
only 1 to 3 percent of its gross fixed investment
in the sector. About 80 percent of Kenya's la-
bor force works in agriculture, yet the govern-
ment invests about 8 percent. Zimbabwe has
the highest investment-12 percent in a coun-
try where 57 percent of its labor force works
in agriculture (39).
National pricing policies have been criticized
for their disincentive effects on agricultural pro-
duction and rural income. Government mar-
keting agencies that buy commodities from
farmers regularly establish prices below their
true market values. In this way they collect so-
called "hidden taxes" from farmers, especially
for export crops. This practice also enables gov-
ernments to provide cheap food to urban pop-
ulations (34, 78). Such policies can provide seri-
ous disincentives for production and make it
unprofitable for producers to buy agricultural
inputs. The institutions used to carry out such
policies have also been criticized as ineffective,
primarily the parastatal organizations that often
control agricultural supplies and crop mar-
The relative importance of pricing policy as
a constraint on the enhancement of low-
resource agriculture is not yet clear. Experts
who believe pricing reforms are important ar-
gue that positive changes already have led to
some significant increases in production and
income (26). Other experts, however, are less
convinced of the importance of pricing policies


relative to other development needs. These
critics also contend that the benefits of pricing
reforms have often gone to the minority of
better-off farmers while bypassing, or in some
cases hurting, the resource-poor agriculturalist

Research and technical development policies
have been criticized for being misguided and
resulting in technological interventions that
have failed to significantly improve low-
resource agricultural systems. In some cases,
interventions have actually upset the equilib-
rium of the old methods of land use without
producing equally balanced new systems of
farming (14). These problems arise because in-
troduced technologies are often inappropriate
for resource-poor farmers and herders (12)-
whether for economic, social, managerial, or
environmental reasons. Too often research ef-
forts have focused on export crops or sophisti-
cated systems that are out of reach for most
farmers and herders and they have failed to ac-
count for the restricted access to and afforda-
bility of agricultural inputs (e.g., hybrid vari-
eties, irrigation, and fertilizer).

Another problem has been that introduced
technologies often ignore the reality of how
African agriculture is actually practiced. For
instance, farmers seeking to improve their in-
tercropping systems necessarily suspect tech-
niques designed for monocropping systems
(19). The role of women in agricultural produc-
tion, postharvest food processing, and house-
hold chores often has been neglected and tech-
nical interventions have been inappropriate,
and thus unused, because they do not meet
women's needs and priorities (33).

lufrastrucural Weaknesses
Low-resource agriculture suffers from infras-
tructural weaknesses that make it difficult to
take advantage of improved technologies. These
include inadequate rural institutions for sav-
ing and lending money, lack of rural trans-
portation networks, and poorly developed
distribution systems for providing agricultural

The official rural financial systems of Africa
function poorly, at best (37) and are nonexist-
ent in many isolated areas. Existing institutions
often do not provide credit for producers to
grow staple foods. They also deny credit to most
women because usually women lack collateral.
Official interest rates are often subsidized, mak-
ing credit a bargain that is often monopolized
by economic and political elites (49). Local in-
vestment opportunities are lost, then, because
appropriate ways to promote rural-based sav-
ings and lending among resource-poor farmers,
herders, and fishers are missing (38).
The costs of providing formal credit to
resource-poor farmers are often a disincentive
for formal financial institutions (70). While for-
mal credit opportunities are few for resource-
poor producers, informal sources do exist. In-
formal savings and loan associations, which are
locally managed, socially regulated, and knowl-
edgable about the creditworthiness and finan-
cial needs of the rural poor, often serve rural
populations not addressed by the formal sec-
tor. Given adequate incentives, many of these
could grow to reach a larger population while
providing credit at lower cost than formal banks
(37, 49).
The lack of adequate transportation such as
roads and rail systems throughout Africa is a
major constraint to the delivery of inputs to
farms and the transportation of food or other
commodities to markets. The primary means
of transporting agricultural products today is
"headloading"-carrying them on one's head.
In 1982, only 206,177 kilometers of roads ex-
isted in Africa's 14 landlocked countries.
Among these countries, Zimbabwe had almost
one-third of all roads and about 8,000 of the
total 19,850 kilometers of paved roads (11).
Most of Africa's railroads were designed dur-
ing the colonial period to link areas producing
agricultural exports and minerals with the ports
that would distribute them for the colonial
powers. Lusaka, Zambia, is therefore linked by
rail with Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania; Uganda,
Burundi, and Rwanda are linked with Mom-
basa, Kenya; and Bamako, Mali is linked with
Dakar, Senegal, etc. Central Africa, because of

vast distances from a port, has no major rail
links in spite of its agricultural potential. Be-
cause of low population densities in central
Africa and other regions, the costs per capital
to provide roads and other services are much
greater than in other regions of the world (36).
The inadequacy of the systems for distribut-
ing and marketing external inputs is another
constraint on low-resource agriculture. When
external commercial inputs do arrive in rural
Africa, they are often labeled and packaged im-
properly (36). Seed and fertilizer deliveries may
not be synchronized and delays in the arrival
of pesticides may make them less than effec-
tive (57). Africa ranks last in developing regions
in the percentage of irrigated land, tractors per
10,000 hectares, and fertilizer use per hectare
(table 3-4). If commercial inputs are to be used
by more agriculturalists in Africa, better deliv-
ery organizations and a better transport infra-
structure are essential.

Underdeveloped Tecleical

Low-resource agriculture in general, will
need to become more intensive to meet the food
security needs while balancing the need to
maintain the natural resource base. This change
will, in part, depend on technical developments
and the spread of their use among agricul-
turalists. Total funding for agricultural research
has been declining in Sub-Saharan Africa. Ex-
penditures by national governments for agri-
cultural research decreased $80 million be-
tween 1980 and 1984, from $465 million to $385
million (46).

Table 3-4.-Modern Input Use in Africa, Asia, and
South America, 1977
Percentage of Tractors per Fertilizer used
Area irrigated land 10.000 hectares per hectare
Percent Number Kilograms
Africa 1.8 7 44
Asia 28.0 45 45.4
South America 6.1 57 38.8
SOURCES: U.N Food and Agriculture Organization, Production Yearbook, and
Fertilizer Yearbook (Rome: 1978). Cheryl Christensen, et al, Food
Problems and Prospects in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Decade of the
1980's, Foreign Agricultural Research Report No 166 (Washington.
DC" U.S Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, Au-
gust 1981).

Also, research priorities often do not reflect
food security needs. For example, in 1983 Brit-
ish foreign aid funding for tobacco research in
Malawi was about twice as much as it was for
millet research (77). Cassava is a staple food
in many parts of Africa but only Nigeria (with
a $2.7 million investment) and Ghana (with a
$0.9 million investment) spent at least $50,000
on cassava research in 1976. Although the In-
ternational Institute of Tropical Agriculture
(IITA) has made some advances in cassava re-
search, national programs primarily are respon-
sible for developing varieties adapted to and
accepted by local farmers (39). These programs
often do not have adequate budgets or rank high
enough in national governments' priorities to
have a major impact on food security needs.
Extension systems in African countries also
face many problems. They generally lack staff,
supplies, and technical support, and inadequate
communication exists between researchers, ex-
tensionists, and farmers. They also suffer from
a lack of appropriate and profitable technol-
ogies to transfer. Some critics argue, then, that
extension's problems originate with the lack of
research and that, under existing agricultural
budgets, research deserves a higher priority
Another problem with most extension serv-
ices is that they focus on providing informa-
tion and inputs for export crops rather than
food crops. In addition, the approaches used
are generally "top-down," with the information
flow in one direction-from the researcher
through the extension agent to the male farmer
(69). Women, the major food producers in many
regions, often are not provided with relevant
services. Non-formal education for African
women most often covers their non-income
generating activities, including home eco-
nomics and nutrition (6), but they have limited
access to training activities dealing with
income-related activities such as cooperatives,
agricultural production, and animal husbandry.
Considering the major role of women as food
producers and caretakers of livestock, this is
a serious failure of the system.
Ensuring good staff for extension, research,
and other agricultural services is another prob-

lem (36). Low-quality facilities, low salaries, un-
desirable living conditions, and the lack of sta-
tus associated with working for traditional
farmers are not attractive to trained personnel
(36). Research staff turnover rates are high: at
the Nigerian Institute for Agriculture, for ex-
ample, staff turnover was about 80 percent be-
tween the 1960s and 1970s (46). In addition, gov-
ernments spent three to ten times more for
skilled staff such as researchers in Africa than
in Asia in part because of a reliance on higher-
salaried foreign scientists. These high costs
make it difficult for African countries to expand
national research systems.

A substantial increase in funding for research
and personnel occurred between 1970 and 1980
(table 3-5). However, since 1980 a general de-
cline in research expenditures has occurred
(29). At the same time the number of scientists
involved has grown, compounding the impact
of recent budget declines in terms of level of
support per scientist.

In many African countries, a high proportion
of budgets cover salaries versus operations.
This can be a serious obstacle to producing
needed high-quality research and technology
development. For example, some institutions

allocate only 5 percent of their budgets to oper-
ations and maintenance, compared to a desira-
ble figure of at least 30 percent (29). This places
serious limitations on the funds available to get
researchers into the field. As long as research-
ers are isolated from agriculturalists, questions
will arise regarding their ability to address the
on-farm problems of low-resource agriculture
Removing these all-too familiar obstacles will
not be easy. The process is likely to take at least
a generation, even if significant increases in
resources were available today. Heightening the
challenge is the realization that African coun-
tries will have double the number of people to
feed and employ within the next several dec-
ades. The industrial and urban sectors cannot
effectively absorb or provide for large portions
of these people. The continuing dependence on
rural employment and local food production
by large numbers of Africans is thus inevita-
ble. However, signs of decline in African agri-
culture underscore the urgency of better ad-
dressing the problems and potential of Africa's
largest group of farmers, herders, and fishers.
The following chapters outline one approach
to enhancing low-resource agriculture in

Table 3-5.-Level of Support for Agricultural Research in Different Regions
Expenditures (in millions of
constant 1980 U.S. dollars) Scientist Years
1959 1970 1980 1959 1970 1980
Western Europe .............275.0 918.6 1,489.6 6,251 12,547 19,540
North America ............... 668.9 1,221.0 1,335.6 6,690 8,575 10,305
Oceania .................... 91.6 264.0 386.8 1,759 3,113 3,302
Latin America ............... 79.6 216.0 462.6 1,425 4,880 8,534
Africa ................... ...119.1 251.6 424.8 1,919 3,849 8,088
North Africa ............... 20.8 49.7 62.0 590 1,122 2,340
West Africa ............... 44.3 91.9 205.7 412 952 2,466
East Africa............... 12.7 49.2 75.2 221 684 1,632
Southern Africa............ 41.3 60.8 81.8 696 1,091 1,650
Asia ....................... 261.1 1,205.1 1,797.9 11,418 31,837 46,656
SOURCES: U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, African Agriculture: The Next 25 Years, Annex III: Raising Productivity
(Rome: Italy, FAO, 1986). M. Judd, J. Boyce, and R. Evenson, "Investing in Agricultural Supply: The Determinants
of Agricultural Research and Extension Investment," Economic and Cultural Change, vol. 75, October 1966, pp.
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41. Mackie, Arthur B., The U.S. Farmer and World
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42. Matlon, Peter J., "The West African Semiarid
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gado, and Malcolm J. Blackie (eds.), Accelerat-
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44. McGlothlen, Michael E., Goldsmith, Paul, and
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48. Miller, F., and Mann, J., "Technical and Policy
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50. Moock, J.L. (ed.), Understanding Africa's Ru-
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51. Moris, Jon, "Indigenous Versus Introduced So-
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52. Mukwonye, Uzo, International Fertilizer Devel-
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57. Olayide, S.O., and Idachaba, Francis S., "Input
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Chapter 4
A Resource-Enhancing
Approach to African


Highlights ................... .................................... 77
Why Focus on Low-Resource Agriculture? ............................. 77
A Resource-Enhancing Approach to Development Assistance ............. 78
Agricultural Systems for Africa's Future ............................. 79
Diversity and Flexibility in the Face of Adversity ...................... 80
Untapped Resources for Development ............................... 84
A Complex Web of Connections................................ 86
A Resource-Enhancing Approach: A Comparative Assessment ............ 88
African Perspectives ............................ .................... 92
Chapter 4 References................................................ 94

Box Page
4-1. Turning the Tide at Guesselbodi ................................ 81
4-2. Diversity in the African Home Garden ............................ 82
4-3. Acacia albida: An Indigenous Resource for Development ............ 85
4-4. Changing Farming Systems of the Nyiha of Tanzania ................ 87

Chapter 4

A Resource-Enhancing Approach

to African Agriculture

* bMsting future food security needs in Africa wil require that increased atttion be directed
toward listing African low-resource agriculture This conclusion is based on low-resource
aiicaultre's central position in African economies today, its economic and technical po-
tential to contribute to national and local development tomorrow, and the serious implica-
tids of continued neglect of this sector.
* Understanding the diversity and complexity of low-resource agricultural systems provides
essential guidance on how development assistance can contribute most effectively to sus-
taabhile agricultural development
* A opposed resurce-enanh ing approaches complementary to, and in some respects over
laps with, other defined African agricultural development strategies that focus on: 1) basic
huan needs, 2)the need for policy reform, and 3) targeted development ofhigh-potetil,
sal farms. Differences also exist, however, that have other implications for development

* A es-urcnhancing approach generally is consistent with the views of African scien-
tists and poicymakers expressed to OTA.


Assistance to Africa's resource-poor farmers,
herders, and fishers could have a substantial
impact on African food security and agricul-
tural development. Thus, low-resource agricul-
ture deserves increased attention from devel-
opment agencies and African governments (1,
17,27,33,35,37). This conclusion is based on
four factors:
1. Low-resource agriculture already plays a
central, though largely neglected, role in
African economies.
2. Economic advantages and widespread
benefits can be achieved through focusing
agricultural development efforts on
Africa's small-farm sector.
3. Low-resource agriculture in Africa gener-
ally is efficient, given current availability
and dependability of resources and infor-

mation. Known and promising technologi-
cal opportunities exist to improve effi-
ciency, however.
4. Failing to provide increased support to this
sector will likely mean a continued deteri-
oration of Africa's food security, and ac-
celerating degradation of its natural re-
source base.

Low-resource agriculture, as shown in chap-
ter 3, produces the majority of Africa's food
and employs the majority of its people. Histori-
cally, however, agricultural development ef-
forts have focused on large-scale farms and
ranches, in part to take advantage of potential
economies of scale. However, under conditions
that prevail in most African countries, the ben-
efits of pursuing "small farm development

strategies' involving labor-intensive, capital-
saving technologies" are now generally recog-
nized as a more economically viable approach
Also, efforts to promote agricultural devel-
opment in Africa must look beyond simply ele-
vating aggregate agricultural production and
seek the balanced economic growth and social
development that will only be provided through
increased attention to resource-poor agricul-
In brief, the economic advantages of achiev-
ing widespread increases in productivity among
a country's small-farm units derive from the fact
that they are the most feasible and cost-effective
means of attaining the multiple objectives of
development-the growth of output, expansion
of opportunities for productive employment,
narrowing income differentials, reducing mal-
nutrition and excessively high rates of infant
and child mortality, and slowing the rate of pop-
ulation growth (17).
The economic advantages of focusing on a
broad-based effort to promote small-farm de-
velopment derive, in large part, from the heavy
dependence on family labor in most African
farming systems. Small farms that depend pri-
marily on household labor are more economi-
cally efficient than larger scale state or private
operations (16,33).
Also, practices of low-resource farmers and
herders are increasingly being recognized as

'Economic analyses are often framed in terms of "small farms"
and do not address explicitly the effects of such approaches on
herders. Some economic arguments apear to apply to the broader
group OTA terms "low-resource" (which includes herders) but
a definitive conclusion awaits further analysis.

efficient ways to balance scarce resources and
meet multiple objectives. However, the exis-
tence of compatible technologies and the
prospects of providing improved access to in-
puts and information suggest significant im-
provements are possible. For example, crop
yields probably could be doubled within a dec-
ade if improved management practices and va-
rieties that already exist were employed widely
(see ch. 5).
Because low-resource agriculturalists are in
many cases the principal agents causing the de-
terioration of the African natural resource base,
this group truly needs options to encourage sus-
tainable production. The problem is most acute
in regions where farmers and herders are, for
lack of alternatives, overworking the land or
are forced onto increasingly marginal lands,
in many cases leading to serious environmental
Perhaps the strongest arguments for focus-
ing development assistance efforts on the
resource-poor agriculturalists are rooted in hu-
manitarian concerns. Simply stated, failing to
direct attention to this group will, in large meas-
ure, shut a majority of Africans out of the de-
velopment process. The threat arises that this
group, in terms of production and consump-
tion, may become relegated to "insignificant"
elements of national economies that mainly re-
ceive attention within the context of famine re-
lief (13). To avoid such a scenario necessarily
will require efforts by development assistance
agencies, but especially African governments,
to more effectively integrate the needs and con-
tributions of resource-poor agriculturalists into
national development efforts.


The following discussion focuses on four con-
cepts that are central to a resource-enhancing
approach that might be undertaken with poor

farmers, herders, and fishers in Africa. Each
concept, in turn, suggests the applicability of
particular guidelines for development assis-


tance in support of low-resource agriculture
and each is illustrated by a box.2
These guidelines for development assistance
are derived from a review of development suc-
cesses and failures. They reflect the need for
development assistance to be long-term, dy-
namic, and well matched to existing conditions.
Also, these guidelines stress that to enhance
low-resource agriculture, understanding exist-
ing systems must precede interventions. Most
importantly, the development and application
of African skills are crucial for reaching the
goal of eventually eliminating the need for most
development assistance.
The guidelines outlined here reflect a gener-
ally well-accepted view of low-resource agri-
culture in Africa. In fact, many of the guide-
lines are already reflected to some degree in
existing legislation and official development
assistance policy (see ch. 6) and are largely con-
sistent with the views expressed by African ex-
perts surveyed by OTA (1; app. D). The guide-
lines are general because they are intended to
respond to the diversity of low-resource agri-
cultural systems and no attempt has been made
to list all the ways in which the four concepts
could be turned into guidelines. Basically, these
guidelines are simple ideas, perhaps obvious
ones. However, too often they have been ig-
nored and development assistance has suffered
as a consequence. What the guidelines imply
for development assistance is addressed in gen-
eral terms here; chapters 5 and 6 provide addi-
tional detail.

2The material in this chapter comes from several sources. OTA's
Contractor Reports were used to develop an overview of the fun-
damental concepts underlying low-resource agriculture's man-
agement of natural resources, household productivity, and the
effectiveness of institutions (10,11,18). OTA also held a work-
shop to integrate the findings from these papers (app. B) and
supplemented this information with an additional contractor re-
port and a workshop summary (app. A). Many other experts par-
ticipated in the review of the information, but the final synthe-
sis and conclusions are OTA's.

Agrictural Systems for
Afric's Future

Concept 1: Most African agricultural systems,
although once sustainable, are no longer
keeping pace with the increased demands be-
ing placed on them. Thus, development assis-
tance should be designed to:
place a high priority on environmental,
technological, economic, social, and in-
stitutional sustainability;
acknowledge the importance of sound
natural resource management as a basis
for improved and stable agricultural pro-
duction; and
acknowledge that resource-poor agricul-
turalists are the primary custodians of
their resources, and therefore ensure that
they benefit from development assistance
to manage natural resources better; and
focus on enhancing the capability of Afri-
cans to assume primary responsibility for
their development as the surest route to
Sustainability of agricultural production sys-
tems should be a paramount objective for African
agricultural development. Sustainable agricul-
ture is a concept that has received consider-
able attention in recent years, but one whose
criteria remain inadequately defined. Agree-
ment on some fundamentals of the concept is
growing, however. Sustainability of agriculture
should be approached from various perspec-
tives-environmental, technological, economic,
social, and institutional. It is generally recog-
nized that for agricultural development to be
sustainable it must consider all these dimen-
sions as well as their interaction (22,23).
Sustainability is fundamentally a temporal
consideration-a condition of viability over
time. It means, for example, not only that a tech-
nology is affordable today, but that costs and
upkeep remain affordable tomorrow, or until
replacement or upgrading becomes cost-effec-
tive. Institutional support services (e.g., for re-
pair, distribution, or financing of inputs-as

Box 4-1.-Turning the Tide at Guesselbodi
The Sahel is not an easy place to make a living, but people have been doing so for as long as
600,000 years. The region is characterized by sparse, erratic rainfall and what some scientists suggest
is a cyclical pattern of drought every 30 years or so. Farming and especially herding activities are
closely aligned to these fluctuations. With sufficient rainfall, farmers have extended their activities
into drier areas and herders increased herd size and altered herd structures (e.g., increasing numbers
of cattle relative to more drought-tolerant camels and goats). When drought set in, the pattern has
historically meant a retreat to wetter areas and a shift to more drought-resistant crops and livestock.
However, population growth in the region, among other factors, has made it increasingly difficult
to revert back to the areas of higher and more dependable rainfall. The consequences are increasingly
severe. After almost three decades of below-normal precipitation, a once gradual process of declining
productivity and loss of biological diversity has now accelerated in many regions to the point of dis-
rupting ecological processes essential to sustainable development in the region (29).
The impacts can be readily seen around the Guesselbodi Forest in eastern Niger. Guesselbodi
was designated a national forest reserve in 1948. But authorities have been unable to prevent local
populations from overexploiting the forest and land, through deforestation, overgrazing, and unsus-
tainable farming practices. An estimated 40 to 60 percent of the forest cover was lost between 1950
and 1979, leaving behind barren land largely denuded of topsoil (15). Strong pressures also emanate
from Niamey, Niger's capital, about 25 kilometers away. Niamey's population grew from 7,000 in
1945 to 300,000 in just 25 years; and with its growth came demands for food and fuel from surround-
ing areas. The result has been an ever-widening ring of degraded land around the city, as once viable
pasture and farmland are left crusted and barren. It has become increasingly apparent that in order
to meet the needs of existing residents, let alone the projected increased population, a more sustaina-
ble approach to exploiting the region's natural resource base is needed. Further, greater effort also
must be directed to reclaiming land already degraded.
Guesselbodi is one place where development focuses on turning back the tide of environmental
degradation. It is the most advanced of a number of similar pilot projects in Niger's Forestry and
Land Use Planning Project currently funded by AID. A research and management plan was devel-
oped in 1983, based on soil and topographic surveys and inventories of vegetation and forest resources.
The aim is to promote systems whereby multiple uses of the forest resources could provide sustaina-
ble benefits to the surrounding communities-e.g., fuelwood, poles, forage, honey, medicine, food,
and income:
The idea was to test simple, small-scale, low-cost rehabilitation measures that could be carried out by
villagers. The first plots were covered with water harvesting and water spreading structures: microbasins,
earth banks, stone lines, rock dams to divert flash floods from gullies onto slopes. The earth banks and lines
are already collecting soil, leaves, and seeds and local tree species are regenerating spontaneously. Perhaps
the simplest and most spectacular regeneration technique on crusted areas is a mulch of twigs and small
branches-of the kind that would be left over after extraction of saleable branches for firewood. The brush-
wood accumulates soil, sand, organic materials, and seeds, but also lowers soil temperature, protects against
raindrop impact, and attracts termites, which aerate the soil. In the first year, 1983, when control plots of
untreated crusted land produced no vegetation, the mulched plots yielded 440 kilograms. But in 1984-a
drought year-(nearby) plowed plots had recrusted and produced only 30 kilograms of vegetation; the twig-
mulched plots yielded five times as much.
The success of Guesselbodi and similar initiatives ultimately will depend on the willingness of the
local people to support them. Initial economic evaluations seemed encouraging (15). Early field results,
however, showed problems. Some modifications resulting from farmer participation, and support
from national authorities (primarily the granting of tax exemptions for forest products) seem to have
resolved the major problems and the project is now showing promising results. Some 5,000 hectares
of formerly degraded land have been reforested and are providing income and other services to vil-
lages and individuals, primarily through wood products and grasses. Although wood was initially
envisioned by planners as the principal benefit, access to fodder has emerged as an equally important
product as identified by local participants. Thus, the lessons of Guesselbodi also illustrate the impor-
tance of long-term support, local participation, and flexibility in project development (25).

well as markets for outputs) should be avail-
able to support innovations at the outset, but
should also be able to evolve to meet continued
needs as development occurs. Further, the abil-
ity of the natural resource base to support a par-
ticular activity should be evaluated using a long-
term view, using the basic tenet of keeping
renewable resources renewable (7,18,20).
In effect, the concept of sustainability must
also be viewed in dynamic terms, given the
changing demands placed on farming systems
in Africa. It must be recognized that change,
in many cases rapid change, will be the norm.
In these circumstances sustainable agriculture
means continued modification of agricultural
practices, and in most cases intensification, in
order to accommodate growing demands (7).
In the face of these growing demands, increased
attention must also move beyond simply ensur-
ing sustainability of existing systems, and be-
gin to restore productivity of already degraded
systems (box 4-1).

Diversity ad Flexibility in
the Fac of Adverity

Concept 2: Africa's heterogeneous mixture of
resource-poor farmers, herders, and fishers
have responded to a high degree of environ-
mental uncertainty and economic vulnera-
bility with diverse and flexible strategies.
Often these strategies minimize risk while
seeking optimum stable yields, commonly at
the expense of maximizing yield. Thus, de-
velopment assistance should be designed to:
Accommodate the diverse and flexible ap-
proaches typical of resource-poor agricul-
turalists. This would include enhancing
their ability to manage risk, retaining their
flexible household organizations, encourag-
ing diversification of income-generating
activities, and supporting indigenous ex-
perimentation and innovation in agricul-
tural systems.
Design; implement; monitor; and evaluate
policies, economic strategies, and technol-
ogies for their differing effects on people
of different ages, gender, ethnicity, and eco-

nomic status since all practice low-resource
Have available a variety of interventions
(policies, programs, projects, and institu-
tions) so that the ones most appropriate to
the varied and changing needs of resource-
poor agriculturalists can be met. Long-term
monitoring and feedback should be used to
adjust development activities so they re-
main useful and relevant as people's needs
and conditions change.
Poverty and a heavy dependence on local re-
sources, including household labor, give rise
to certain common strategies among African
farmers and herders. Among these strategies
are planting numerous crop species, as well as
multiple varieties of a particular crop. In the
Congo basin, for example, it is not unusual to
find as many as 30 or more different crops on
a single farm (6; box 4-2). Equivalent strategies
within pastoralist systems include mobility,
maintaining large and diverse herds, and estab-
lishing social arrangements to gain access to
increased resources during bad times (9). Chap-
ter 3 outlines rationales for these various re-
sponses, but basically they represent strategies
promote diversity of diet and income;
stabilize production;
minimize risk;
reduce insect and disease incidence;
use labor efficiently;
intensify production within the constraints
of scarce resources; and
maximize returns under low levels of tech-
nology (2,14).
Heavy reliance on family labor sometimes
creates surplus labor during parts of the year
and labor shortages during other parts. Afri-
can farmers accordingly have developed vari-
ous practices that help moderate fluctuations
in labor demands by, for example, cropping
practices and sequences that spread labor de-
mand, or reserving most nonagricultural activ-
ities for slack seasons.
The high degree of household and commu-
nity self-reliance inherent in low-resource agri-

Box 4-2.-Diversity in the African Home Garden
The home garden (also known as a compound farm) represents one important means by which
farmers have diversified the form of agricultural production and the types of commodities produced.
Occurring wherever cultivation is possible, home gardens are cultivated across the agro-ecological
zones of Africa though they differ considerably in size, shape, intensity of cultivation, and in type
and number of species grown (30). Unlike the U.S. conception of a garden as a source primarily of
vegetables, African gardens also include staples (e.g., maize, yams, cassava, and legumes), tree crops,
oil crops, spices, and condiments. They may also provide a variety of non-food products, including
animal browse, fuel, fiber, medicine, and ornamentals (30). They are important for direct household
consumption and provision of cash income.
Home gardens are managed differently from other fields. They are commonly located on land
closest to the homes of the farm families. Unlike the outlying fields which are extensively cultivated,
home gardens are intensively farmed often on a permanent basis or with extremely short fallows.
This intensive permanent cultivation is made possible by the application of animal manure, crop
residues, and household refuse which help maintain soil fertility.
Home gardens also differ from other fields in the number of different crops grown, often in a
multistoried structure. The number of stories and species decreases as one moves from humid to
less humid areas. For example, gardens in the humid zone of Nigeria may have four stories of growth
and up to 84 species of plants. The lowest story has such crops as sweet potato and melon growing
along the ground. The next layer includes vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplant along with grain
legumes and the seedlings of trees and shrubs. Cereals, such as maize, and small trees and shrubs
make up the third layer and include citrus fruits, yams on stakes, and cassava. The topmost layer
includes tall trees such as African breadfruit, oil palm, and wild figs. Besides these better known
crops, a host of plants less well-known and less researched is grown.
Several benefits derive from the diversity of the home garden. Nutritionally, products of the gar-
den provide essential nutrients that complement the crops and vegetables grown in outlying fields.
In some cases, no other source for these nutrients exists. In addition, the garden supports production
throughout as much of the year as possible thereby minimizing seasonal periods of food shortage.
Agronomically, the multistoried and intercropped structure of the garden creates favorable micro-
climates for production, and plants are arranged accordingly. Solar energy is used at the various
levels, weeds are crowded out, the impacts of pests and diseases are reduced, and the roots of the
different crops reach different depths and take better advantage of soil moisture and fertility. Labor
productivity on established gardens is high and is well distributed over the year. The garden is also
used as an experimental area where new species and varieties may be tried (5,19,30).
Home gardens have received little study concerning their agronomic functioning and actual im-
portance to nutrition and household economy (including the roles of men's and women's labor). Im-
proved understanding of both of these areas could support improvements in gardening. Identified
areas of possible improvement include: breeding varieties which fit into garden structures, identifica-
tion and extension of underutilized useful species, improved management techniques, integration
of animals, improved food processing and utilization practices and access to the needed resources
necessary (e.g., water and land) (5,19,30).

culture also makes flexibility, such as the abil- rainfall or high pest incidence. As one re-
ity to reallocate resources in response to searcher expresses it:
changing and unanticipated circumstances, an Farmers allocate their inputs under an inter-
important aspect of African farming systems. seating matrix of constraints-soil moisture sta-
Flexibility also is a function of the unpredicta- tus, pest outbreaks, an unexpected illness, lack
ability and risk commonly associated with Afri- of ready cash, etc.-which can rapidly change
can agriculture, particularly in areas of erratic In the short run attention is concentrated

on the varying mix of constraints and events,
which can have quite different implications de-
pending upon the stage of crop maturity (28).
Many ways exist for development assistance
to accommodate the diversity and flexibility
needed in low-resource agricultural systems.
For example, increased attention could be
directed toward research in multiple crop farm-
ing systems (see ch. 8). It is also important to
understand social structures currently operat-
ing in support of low-resource farming systems.
It can be important, for example, to understand
social mechanisms (within the household or
community) that determine access to and con-
trol over on- or off-farm resources. It may be
valuable to investigate how women's farming

associations or savings associations, for exam-
ple, may be pooling resources or reducing risks
of individual investments through joint pur-
Helping diversify local and regional econ-
omies can increase the availability of income-
generating activities (e.g., labor for hire, small
trade, carpentry, crafts) while bringing stable
markets for the sale of produce and the pur-
chase of external inputs such as tools or fer-
tilizer. Promoting indigenous experimentation
and innovation with diversified production sys-
tems should be encouraged because it brings
about adaptations to existing conditions and
can serve as a basis for improvements in agro-
nomic practices, seeds, or other features (11).

Photo credit: F Botts/U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization
Women in Burundi diversified their activities by raising chickens cooperatively. The Burundi Department of Rural
Development received support from the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to train farmers.

Development assistance must be aware of the
existing division of labor common in Africa (i.e.,
by age or sex). Responsibilities for various tasks
are allocated among household members to
help balance labor demands in ways that re-
duce labor bottlenecks. Introducing technol-
ogies can disrupt the balance and undermine
anticipated improvements. For example, intro-
ducing tractors to facilitate or increase land
clearing (often men's work) creates increased,
even excessive, demands for weeding the field
(primarily women's activity). It should also be
recognized that some mechanisms used by re-
source-poor households (e.g., remittances from
male migrant laborers, seasonal hiring of short-
term labor by female-headed households) may
enhance on- and off-farm opportunities.
Institutionalized inequality of households and
communities in Africa can create problems for
development assistance. Agricultural exten-
sion, for instance, commonly fails to reach the
largest group of farmers-women-because it
is run by men and directed to men's needs. De-
velopment assistance practitioners must be sen-
sitive to the diverse and complex cultural sys-
tems of Sub-Saharan Africa for their work to
be accepted. But they should strive to remove
obstacles to the equitable introduction of new
technologies in order to ensure its effectiveness
Development assistance must support tech-
nological change while recognizing the unique-
ness and diversity of African agriculture and
agriculturalists (18). Each production unit will
respond differently to the introduction of new
methods and ideas and development interven-
tions will be successful only if they address the
varied situations present (24). In addition, de-
velopment assistance should recognize that a
variety of public and private sector institutions
potentially are available to serve resource-poor
farmers. None of these institutions should en-
joy a monopoly; none should be overlooked;
each should be used where it will be most ef-
fective. In particular, development assistance
should recognize that local, often small, infor-
mal institutions-not just larger or more for-
mal institutions-are important to development
activities since they are directly in touch with

and accountable to local publics. Local insti-
tutions constitute an indispensable resource
that governments and donors should encour-
age. Development assistance agencies also
should promote institutions and activities that
emerge from specific local needs, not from
"blueprints," and they should help them evolve
to accommodate technological, social, eco-
nomic, and other changes (10).

U"ppd Resrm e for Deve lopm
Concept 3: Local resources-such as local peo-
ple's skills, knowledge, practices, and insti-
tutions, plus indigenous plants and animals-
reflect adaptations to the diverse local con-
ditions found in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thus,
development assistance should be designed to:
Make local participation an integral part
of the initiation, design, implementation,
monitoring, and evaluation of development
assistance projects.
Ensure that African women, who in the
past have not received the share of devel-
opment assistance that their role in agri-
culture warrants, become full participants
in the development process.
Make increased use of local organizations,
including assistance to improve existing
Build on local resources, such as indig-
enous plants and animals and people's
knowledge of how to use them. These re-
sources have been largely untapped by de-
velopment assistance agencies and they
often can be improved.
Experts in agricultural development assis-
tance increasingly view many traditional agri-
cultural systems and the products they produce
as valuable resources for Africa's development.
In part, this change toward increased appreci-
ation of these resources is a function of the poor
track record development assistance organiza-
tions have had so far in finding alternatives.
It also reflects, however, a greater effort now
being directed toward understanding practices
and research that shows that these practices
represent efficient responses to meeting mul-
tiple objectives with often meager resources.

In investigations of African pastoralists, for ex-
ample, a conclusion has emerged that:
More and more often the livestock developer
has come to realize that the practices of pas-
toralists make sense: animal breeds well-suited
to multiple goals, herd management techniques
adapted to local conditions, husbandry as up-
to-date as the flow of information and technol-
ogy permits, land-use management carefully
adjusted to long-term social and subsistence in-
surance (12).
Much the same argument is made for crop
and mixed crop-livestock production systems.
Of particular interest are the genetic resources
that have emerged to fit the particular needs
of African farming systems. The varieties that
have evolved over the course of hundreds of
years of human and natural selection are in-
herently well suited to local conditions and, de-
spite what are commonly viewed as low yields,
are of critical value to low-resource systems

(box 4-3). Evidence of their value is reinforced
by the poor record of improving on their per-
formance under resource-poor conditions and
people's continued use of traditional cultivars
in conjunction with "improved" varieties.
Local knowledge may also provide resources
for agricultural development beyond those
manifest in existing production systems. Evi-
dence exists, for example, to show that popu-
lations have information on a range of produc-
tion systems that may provide important
sources for innovation and agricultural inten-
sification. One researcher notes, for example,
African ecological research suggests a con-
tinuum from extensive to intensive cultivation,
with shifting cultivators not unaware of the
costs and benefits of permanent field cultiva-
tion. From time to time cultivators may adjust
their position back and forth along this con-
tinuum ... (32).

Box 4-3.-Acacia albida: An Indigenous Resource for Development
Traditional African agriculture has long used existing resources to provide sustainable benefits.
For instance, the use of Acacia albida-a fast-growing, leguminous tree native to Africa-is one of
many practices that have been used for centuries. Historically, the tree was considered so valuable
that in the Zinder region of Niger, a 19th century Sultan decreed that people found cutting Acacia
trees would be beheaded. In Senegal, highly productive agrosilvipastoral systems have continued to
evolve using the multiple benefits provided by these trees.
The species has several characteristics that are valuable in agricultural systems. For instance,
at the onset of the rainy season the species drops its leaves. These leaves provide a leaf litter mulch
that enriches the topsoil. During this wet season, which is when sorghum and millet are produced,
the defoliated canopy permits enough light to reach the ground for cereal growth and provides enough
shading to reduce the effects of intense heat. During the dry season, the Acacia's long taproot draws
nutrients from beyond the reach of other plants and stores these in its fruits and leaves. These drop
to the ground at the beginning of the next rainy season and are consumed by livestock. Because the
fodder has more nutritive value per unit weight than many other fodder crops, more livestock can
be supported than without the Acacia. In addition, the livestock manure helps enrich the soil further.
Thus, crop yields are greater when an Acacia is in a field than when it is not (26).
Using the tree with a proper balance of crop and livestock can also considerably extend the length
of cropping without loss of productivity. For example, using the Acacia helped maintain continuous
cropping of millet in the Sudan for 15 to 20 years in areas where the norm was 3 to 5 years.
Today, the Acacia is being promoted by some development groups in an attempt to provide sus-
tainable benefits to low-resource agriculturalists. Nevertheless, many Africans were well aware of
the importance of the tree as a productive resource long before the Western researchers who now
tout its qualities. It provides just one of many examples of indigenous resources and production sys-
tems once overlooked or denigrated, but now commonly recognized as valuable.

The implications of this are that farmers and
herders tend to have a reservoir of latent knowl-
edge of agricultural systems and local re-
sources. This suggests that local farmers al-
ready may have done considerable "research"
of their own on different forms of production.
This information could provide valuable infor-
mation on development options, but requires
a concerted effort to tap it.
Despite the considerable wealth of knowledge
and resources in low-resource agricultural sys-
tems, this alone will not be adequate for meet-
ing Africa's future needs. Outside resources will
be essential, in particular the application of
modern science to African agricultural prob-
lems. Along these lines, however, a far greater
investment needs to be made in bolstering the
scientific capacity within Africa itself. In this
way, African scientists-better placed to under-
stand agriculture in their own countries-may
be able to draw on knowledge and technology
selectively from abroad and apply it to their
own settings.
Enlisting the participation of resource-poor
farmers and herders is essential in defining ef-
fective approaches to assist them. Local par-
ticipation can come in many forms, including
one-on-one approaches, communication with
community leaders, community meetings, in-
teraction with local and multi-village organi-
zations or their representatives, and interac-
tions with regional-level organizations or their
representatives. Efforts to engage local partici-
pation are not without additional costs to
donors and participants themselves. Therefore,
effective participation depends upon identify-
ing key places where local decision-making will
most improve assistance (36).

A Complex Web of Come mtol s
Concept 4: Low-resource agriculture in Africa
is based on farming systems that have inter-
acting ecological, social, and economic com-
ponents, and these farming systems are
linked, in turn, to other larger systems be-
yond the farm. Thus, development assistance
should be designed to:
Account for the integrated nature of low-
resource agriculture and how these inter-

relationships affect the success or failure
of interventions.
Improve the links between farms and ex-
ternal systems such as markets, extension
systems, and transportation networks.
The farming systems of Africa are complex
and changing. Many interacting internal and
external factors affect who uses the land, how
it is used, with what techniques, and for what
One way to view the integrated nature of
farming systems is to use a hierarchical per-
spective, where ecological, economic, social,
and institutional factors operate and interact
at different levels (22). At one level, for exam-
ple, are various factors operating within fields,
for example, agronomic considerations of soil
quality and water availability, or social factors
such as division of labor in field activities. On
a broader level are activities taking place wi-
thin the entire farming enterprise, including
non-farming activities. Therefore, understand-
ing how resources are used within farming
systems requires looking beyond the house-
hold, given the importance of links among
Investigations of numerous systems of rural
production in Africa have demonstrated that
viable production by individual farm house-
holds depends on their being embedded in
supra-household networks. These supra-
household linkages may take the form of mutual
aid or have the character of patron-client rela-
tions. Whatever the form, it is clear that access
to key resources or to basic factors of produc-
tion lies outside the household as often as it lies
within it ... (31).
It is also important to consider agricultural
development using a broader ecological frame-
work that incorporates, for example, the en-
vironmental services (reducing run-off, con-
trolling wind erosion, etc.) provided by natural
areas beyond the farm. Disturbing these sys-
tems, as reflected in such processes as deser-
tification and deforestation, increasingly un-
dermines the viability of development in Africa.
But protecting these resources depends on the
area (e.g., the consequence of decisions made
by many individual farmers given land tenure
patterns) and beyond (e.g., the commitment of

national government to resource planning and
At the national or regional level a variety of
macroeconomic and national policy issues,
although seemingly removed from the day-to-
day operations of resource-poor farmers, can
have major impacts. How a government struc-
tures its agricultural policies (e.g., pricing,
credit, and extension) and such factors as mone-
tary or fiscal policies can significantly influence
the low-resource farmer. Even international
factors, such as international commodity prices
and international commodity agreements, can
influence agricultural activities. For example,
establishing access to international markets for
particular cash crops can result in fundamen-
tal restructuring in local farming systems (box
Enhancing the links between on-farm and ex-
ternal systems (e.g., markets, rural financial in-
stitutions, transportation networks, research

and extenion systems, and off-farm income) will
require the use of different institutions and
combinations of institutions. Development as-
sistance agencies should support a wide range
of institutions-public and private, governmen-
tal and nongovernmental, local and regional-
depending on their comparative advantages for
specific activities. Their choice should serve
rural publics and help people reduce their vul-
nerability to external influences such as unsta-
ble markets and inadequate extension systems.

The ways in which interventions will change
the relative weight of available production fac-
tors, and modes of access to those factors, re-
quire careful tracing, including both prior trac-
ing of likely effects, based on available
knowledge of linkages, and post hoc tracing,
as part of the monitoring, evaluative, and
directed feed-back processes of research (31).

Development assistance agencies can encour-
age these many layers of institutions to share

Box 4-4.-Changing Farming Systems of the Nyiha of Tanzania
Farming systems of the Nyiha people of Tanzania serve as an example of the complexity of low-
resource agricultural systems and their changing links to external and internal factors. The rainy
season usually lasts for 5 to 6 months in the Mbozi area, with annual precipitation averaging 40 to
50 inches (1,000 to 1,250 mm). This environment is suitable to produce the Nyiha's major staples-
maize, millet, sorghum, legumes, and cassava-using a variety of traditional shifting cultivation tech-
niques. These typically include several crop sequences followed by a fallow period.
Internal and external factors-e.g., increasing population pressure, the introduction of European-
style coffee estates, and increased coffee production by resource-poor farmers-have caused major
changes in local farming systems and their links with the export crop economy. As the area's popula-
tion grew and as coffee production expanded, less land was available for food production. Some farmers
migrated to less densely populated regions within the Mbozi area. Others intensified their food pro-
duction systems, and still others incorporated coffee into their own annual labor cycle and household
economy. The people who migrated continued traditional shifting cultivation. Those who intensified
their food production began to replace shifting cultivation with various grassland-fallow manage-
ment techniques, such as ridging, mounding, intercropping, legume/grain rotations, and production
of cassava on marginal lands. Those who incorporated coffee into their household production sys-
tems mobilized male labor which was not typically involved in food production.
Each of these three groups requires a different form of development assistance. Shifting cultiva-
tors will need assistance in the transition to permanent agriculture as this becomes necessary in re-
sponse to growing populations. Those that have already begun this transition can be assisted with
technologies that promote sustainable production systems using their particular mix of resource en-
dowments. Farmers growing some coffee might be assisted through efforts to adapt scaled-down tech-
niques from larger coffee plantations. They use more inputs such as fertilizers and modern manage-
ment techniques, and are able to rely on external institutional arrangements and marketing systems
to obtain their inputs. On these farms, traditional food production meets most subsistence needs and
provides some income, while coffee production provides additional income from exports (18).

information and coordinate their efforts. De-
velopment assistance agencies also can work
with national governments to reform bureau-
cratic structures and procedures as necessary
so they serve low-resource farmers more effec-
tively (10). In addition, special attention should

be given to encourage maintenance of diverse
social connections between households, groups,
other cooperative groups, and communities be-
cause these networks help reduce risk and serve
the varied needs of low-resource agricul-


A variety of approaches to development assis-
tance exist and donors often use mutually sup-
portive elements from several. A resource-
enhancing approach would have elements in
common with other strategies addressing agri-
cultural development and some significant
differences. To illustrate these similarities and
differences, three donor approaches are com-
pared and contrasted with a resource-enhanc-
ing approach. The three approaches are:
The New Directions/basic human needs
approach which sought to provide such
basic human needs as food, education, and
health care for the poor.
The Accelerated Development/policy re-
form approach which has come to focus
on reforming national policies that con-
strain economic development, including
development of the agricultural sector.
An approach promoting accelerated
growth in food production, primarily in the
highest potential regions, detailed by the
International Food Policy Research Insti-
tute (IFPRI),3 through increases in use of
commercial inputs, infrastructure, and
African institutional capabilities.
A resource-enhancing approach shares a
common overall emphasis with these three
strategies. All seek to develop agriculture as the
primary means to support national develop-
ment. Within agriculture, all four focus on the

3Researchers associated with the International Food Policy Re-
search Institute (IFPRI), 1 of 13 centers of the Consultative Group
on International Agricultural Research, have recently detailed
this approach in J. Mellor. C. Delgado, and M. Blackie (eds.).
Accelerating Food Production in Sub-Saharan Africa (Baltimore.
MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press. 1987). For this sec-
tion, this approach is called "the IFPRI approach."

"small farmer" and not larger, commercial, or
state run farms. The four strategies differ sig-
nificantly, however, on how best to support the
development of this group, and on what por-
tion of this broad group should be addressed.
The United States' development strategy was
redirected toward improving the lives of the
poor by the 1973 New Directions legislation
amending the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
This change stemmed from criticisms that pre-
vious U.S. aid to developing countries was sup-
porting inequitable economic growth and that
it was not helping the poor who made up a sig-
nificant and growing percentage of recipients
(21). With this approach, the purpose of devel-
opment assistance shifted to increasing the
poor's access to food, health care, and educa-
tion. The poor were to benefit through the di-
rect provision of these basic human needs and
by increased access to factors such as credit,
extension, and improved infrastructure that
could increase their productivity and income.
Increases in income would then enable the poor
to supply their own needs. Assistance was also
intended to increase the poor's participation
in and control over development. Because the
majority of Africa's poor are agriculturalists,
agriculture became a central focus of the strat-
egy although attention was also given to the ur-
ban poor. Project aid was an important means
of providing for basic human needs (16).
The impact of the New Directions strategy
was limited both by conditions in Africa and
by its actual implementation. These problems
a lack of trained Africans to program de-
velopment assistance funds and to run the

a lack of improved agricultural technology
to be transferred to poor farmers, inhibit-
ing the potential for increases in agricul-
tural production and income and thereby
leading to a greater emphasis on the direct
provision of basic human needs;
a lack of indigenous institutions and trained
personnel capable of generating agricultural
technology and supporting the development
of agriculture;
the existence of national policies which dis-
couraged increased agricultural production;
projects' failure to generate the revenues
needed to be self-sustaining;
overly complex attempts to deliver differ-
ent services and goods, combined with the
unfilled need to coordinate differing bur-
projects' failure to address local environ-
mental and social conditions; and
projects' failure to ensure beneficiaries' par-
ticipation (16,21).

These constraints became evident as projects
were implemented to carry out the New Direc-
tions strategy. Their identification was a key
reason for the design of the other three ap-
proaches, which have responded to these short-
comings in different ways, and for modifying
the New Directions approach itself.

Lack of national economic growth in Africa
and the identification of the important role of
national policy in this problem led to the more
macro-economic approach of Accelerated De-
velopment, first detailed in a 1981 World Bank
report, Accelerated Development in Sub-
Saharan Africa: An Agenda for Action, pre-
pared at the request of the African Governors
of the World Bank. According to the Acceler-
ated Development approach, changes in na-
tional policies (known as policy reforms) are
key to national economic growth and three
types of policies are of primary importance:
suitable trade and exchange-rates; increased
efficiency of the public sector; and supportive
agricultural policies. Agriculture is seen as
the most important determinant of economic
growth. Means to support agriculture would
include: a focus on smallholders with greatest
attention paid to the highest potential regions,

increased prices for agricultural products, more
competitive markets, increased rural availabil-
ity of consumer goods, improved transport and
marketing infrastructure, increased research,
and increased attention to export crops where
a comparative advantage exists (38). Over time,
donors have come to focus primarily on the pol-
icy reform aspects of Accelerated Development,
giving less attention to those nonpolicy factors
also identified in the approach; hence, the in-
creased use of the term Policy Reform as a
donor approach. Donors have also focused
more on changing actual policies than build-
ing African support and capability to do so.
They have concentrated on supporting a set of
reforms which address such current policies as:

below-market prices paid to farmers for
their commodities, set by the government
as a way to increase government revenue
(especially from export crops) and to pro-
vide cheap food to politically important ur-
ban populations;
overvalued exchange rates combined with
import restrictions used to conserve for-
eign exchange, make food imports cheaper,
and make food exports less remunerative
for the farmer, imported agricultural tech-
nology more expensive, and consumer
goods more expensive;
a failure by the government to invest ade-
quately in agricultural development; and
an overreliance on parastatals for market-
ing agricultural inputs and outputs, which
has led to inefficient marketing, high mar-
keting and transport costs, and locking out
the indigenous private sector (21,34,38).

In addition to the benefits incurred by chang-
ing such policies, Policy Reform is attractive
because of how it can be implemented. Donors
can move large amounts of assistance quickly
in return for promises of policy change and thus
meet their own budget timetables and react to
domestic political needs. Measurable goals can
be set, such as changes in exchange rates or
prices, and can be reached relatively quickly
thus meeting demands for documentable, fast
results. In addition, expatriate personnel re-
quirements are seen as lower than those nec-
essary for New Directions' type project assis-

76-578 0 88 3 : QL 3

tance and macro-level data analysis can occur
at central locations. These justifications have
been challenged, however, because some see
reform as a slow process and note that person-
nel requirements are not reduced only shifted
Policy Reform's approach and its implemen-
tation have raised several concerns over its im-
pact. Its emphasis on national-level economic
growth and, for agriculture, national produc-
tion increases may overlook the goal of equitable
growth and an emphasis on the poor majority.
This concern is partly based on a lack of data
conclusively showing links between policy re-
forms and increases in production and income
among resource-poor agriculturalists. It is also
a function of growing evidence of negative im-
pacts that structural adjustment policies can
have on the poorer segments of society. As-
sumptions that policy reforms can be effective
in bolstering production without, among other
things, addressing technical or infrastructural
bottlenecks are also being challenged. In sum,
questions are increasingly being raised regard-
ing the wisdom of pursuing macro-level reforms
on a broad scale without adequately under-
standing their impact at the micro-level (see
ch. 6).
Another criticism of current implementation
of Policy Reform is that it is not creating Afri-
can capacity to implement and maintain such
reform. This lack of attention to African capa-
bility contradicts the original conception of the
Accelerated Development approach, with its
stress on donor support for such activities (38).
The failure of the New Directions and Pol-
icy Reform approaches to address the techni-
cal and institutional needs of African agricul-
tural development led to an approach to
accelerate food production growth, detailed by
the International Food Policy Research Insti-
tute (IFPRI). The IFPRI approach is based on
the theory that increases in food production will
lead to increases in farmer income which will
in turn lead to increases in production and em-
ployment in other sectors of the economy.
Improved technology is seen as the driving
force for speeding growth in food production.

And national economic growth will depend on
the commercialization of smallholder produc-
tion, needed for the adoption of improved tech-
nology. According to this strategy, resources
should be directed to: 1) fertilizer distribution,
2) agricultural research, 3) education and train-
ing, and 4) infrastructure development. Policy
reform is an important but not primary goal
and reforms emphasized are those that address
these four areas.
The IFPRI strategy seeks to build African ca-
pability necessary to carry out development as
it supports the implementation of these four fac-
tors. For example, indigenous fertilizer distri-
bution systems and African analytical ability
to set regional fertilizer priorities and import/
distribution policies would be improved along
with increases in the distribution of fertilizer.
To support agricultural research, the approach
emphasizes building and improving African re-
search institutions. Increasing and improving
human resources is part of building these Afri-
can research institutions as staff must be
trained to use and manage them. In addition,
formal education for farmers would be in-
creased so farmers could avail themselves of
the services of agricultural institutions. Finally,
improved rural infrastructure would benefit
African transport and marketing capability and
would require the involvement of local govern-
ments and rural organizations because of con-
struction costs and maintenance needs.
The IFPRI strategy argues that donor assis-
tance should be aimed at better-off areas that
can take most advantage of the scarce devel-
opment resources available. This means focus-
ing on higher income small farmers who can
invest in new technology and on geographic
areas with favorable rainfall and soils or where
soil problems can be solved. For commodities,
this means limiting the majority of internation-
ally supported research to a small set of widely
grown, staple crops, such as maize, rice, sor-
ghum, and cassava, that have the possibility for
major improvement, especially in the higher
potential geographic areas.
For many, the IFPRI approach, like Policy
Reform, raises concerns over equity. Focusing

assistance on the better endowed regions will
bypass large numbers of Africans and contrib-
ute to increasing inequalities in income. By-
passing large numbers of persons also reduces
the positive impact better-off agriculturalists
have on stimulating economic growth since
fewer people will be in this group (8). In addi-
tion, ignoring the less well-off regions will lead
to ignoring the unsustainable production now
taking place there and degradation of the nat-
ural resource base will continue.
These three approaches have been developed
to address constraints to agricultural develop-
ment: New Directions with lack of equity; Pol-
icy Reform with unsupportive national policies
for agriculture; and IFPRI with a lack of tech-
nology and institutional support. A resource-
enhancing approach combines parts of each of
these three strategies to address the needs and
abilities of resource-poor agriculturalists. For
this reason, a resource-enhancing approach
overlaps with each on specific points but also
has significant differences.
A resource-enhancing approach shares New
Directions' emphasis on equity because both
address development of the majority of the poor
although New Directions is broader because
it also addresses the urban poor. Also, a re-
source-enhancing approach concentrates on in-
creasing the productivity of the poor, versus
New Directions' provision of basic needs-giv-
ing the former a more technical and institu-
tional orientation. Provision of basic education,
health care, and food, while complementary to
a resource-enhancing approach, is peripheral
to it.
Policy Reform's identification of the impor-
tance of supportive national policies is built into
this resource-enhancing approach. Technol-
ogies and institutions' effectiveness can be
greatly reduced by discriminatory policies. Un-
like Policy Reform, though, a resource-enhanc-
ing approach would link reforms in policies pri-
marily to the development of resource-poor
agriculturalists. Therefore, action on such re-
forms would stress: links to the on-the-ground
working of the agricultural sector, ensuring that
benefits are received by a majority of resource-

poor agriculturalists; providing "safety nets"
for the poor significantly hurt by reforms; and
providing significant attention to building Afri-
can capacity to create and implement such re-
forms in order to ensure the two above points
and the sustainability of the reforms. Policy re-
forms remain important in a resource-enhanc-
ing approach but less so than in a Policy Re-
form approach as resources must be used to
support technical and institutional needs as
A resource-enhancing approach incorporates
many of the components of the IFPRI approach.
Both place strong emphasis on the need for im-
proved technology, and both include the need
for ensuring that technologies address the real
constraints faced by farmers and herders
through means such as on-farm testing of tech-
nology and farming systems research. In addi-
tion, both emphasize the need for institutional
development to develop and support improved
technology. This leads to a common emphasis
on building African capability to carry out this
However, significant differences exist be-
tween the two approaches. A resource-enhanc-
ing approach would not direct assistance to
only those agriculturalists and areas with high
potential for improvement. It would address
wider populations and geographic areas for rea-
sons of equity and to prevent a large majority
of resource-poor agriculturalists from being
bypassed by development. This leads to differ-
ent technological choices because the appro-
priateness of a technology depends, in part, on
the resources available to an agriculturalist. For
example, a resource-enhancing strategy would
support the use of commercial fertilizers where
applicable. However, it would not give them
the same overall emphasis as the IFPRI strat-
egy because significantly expanded use of pur-
chased fertilizers is not affordable nor avail-
able to a large proportion of resource-poor
farmers. Also, a resource-enhancing approach
would support research on a broader range of
agricultural commodities. Although some of
these make up a comparatively small percent-
age of total agricultural production, they are
often essential to household nutrition and in-

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