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TRANSFORMING AGRICULTURE IN AFRICA AND ASIA

WHAT ARE THE POLICY OPTIONS?

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Efforts to reduce poverty and hunger in rural areas have come a long way in the last 50 years. Transforming agriculture from subsistence and farm-centred to commercial and off-farm-centred is a complex process. This is the first attempt to map the agricultural transformation path of 117 countries over a 45-year period to understand which policies worked.
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In 1970, most countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America were in the red. Today they are mostly in the blue, with only countries in Africa still lagging behind. No country is worse off today than it was in 1970.

We identified five groups with similar conditions in 1970, because of data availability and it is an important period for agricultural transformation in lower and middle-income countries.
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How was progress achieved?

Here are five ways:

1. TO DETERMINE THE DEVELOPMENT NEEDS OF A PARTICULAR COUNTRY, LOOK AT HOW MUCH AGRICULTURAL LAND IS AVAILABLE, HOW FERTILE IT IS, AND BIRTH RATES

Successful countries in Latin America with abundant and fertile land and high birth rates prioritized agriculture in the early phase of transformation. Successful countries in Asia with scarce land per person but high birth rates pulled people out of agriculture and prioritized industry and services in the early phase of transformation.

2. PRICE POLICIES PLAY A KEY ROLE IN AGRICULTURAL TRANSFORMATION

Agriculture took off when countries removed the anti-agricultural bias. 

3. PUBLIC INVESTMENT IN RESEARCH, EXTENSION SERVICES, ELECTRICITY AND IRRIGATION IS IMPORTANT 

But the quality of those services can matter more than the quantity.

4. LAND REFORMS, RESEARCH INSTITUTIONS AND IMPROVING ACCESS TO CREDIT ARE ALSO CRITICAL

Land reforms, supporting research institutions and improving access to credit are the most critical.

5. COMPLEMENTARITY IS ESSENTIAL

Combining these reforms with public investment is particularly powerful, particularly when well-coordinated. Careful sequencing of the investment also matters.

So what do the remaining countries need to prioritize in order to enjoy the same progress? 

We learn the most from comparing and contrasting countries whose initial starting conditions were similar. We identified five groups with similar conditions in 1970.
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What are the policy priorities?

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Looking Back at Policy Priorities
We look back at four types of policies used by 15 countries that transformed: public investment, price policies, macroeconomic policies, and land and other institutional reforms.
Looking Forward to Policy Options
In light of the policy priorities pursued by the transformed countries, we look forward to policy options for 13 countries that, in 2015, must still make additional efforts to complete their agricultural transformation.
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Country Profile Example: Kenya  

Want to Learn More?

Read the policy brief and the technical appendices
See the list of 180 papers that were reviewed.
Find out your country or make your own country profile.

About IFPRI and IISD

IFPRI

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) provides research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition in developing countries. Established in 1975, IFPRI currently has more than 600 employees working in over 50 countries. It is a research center of CGIAR, a worldwide partnership engaged in agricultural research for development.
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IISD

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) is an independent think tank championing sustainable solutions to 21st century problems. Our mission is to promote human development and environmental sustainability.