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TRANSFORMING AGRICULTURE IN AFRICA AND ASIA

WHAT ARE THE POLICY OPTIONS?

August 2019 edition
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In 2018, we completed the first attempt at mapping the agricultural transformation path of 117 countries over a 45-year period, looking to understand which policies worked and why. We have now completed the next phase of our research: our August 2019 update takes a deep dive into a select group of countries that have either transformed their agricultural sectors or have the potential to do so.

We broke down their policy trajectories from 1970 to 2015, assessing the impact that different policies had on agricultural transformation. We also mapped out key economic indicators against these countries’ transformation contexts, seeing how these changed over time.

For our selected countries, we then developed a new interactive feature that brings evidence and data together in one place, allowing readers to view the policy choices of transformed countries, as well as the policy options for those yet to transform. Looking ahead, we have put together a policy taxonomy to support future decision making, organizing policies by their underlying targets.
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The wider group of 117 countries was split up into five sets of countries that had similar conditions in 1970. This was due to data availability and given that it was an important period for agricultural transformation in lower- and middle-income economies. In that year, 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.
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How was progress achieved in transformed countries?

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 in 1970. 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. We then look forward to policy options for 13 countries that 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 more about a particular country or countries.