Agriculture, Poverty, and Policy Reform in Sub-Saharan Africa logo

There is a strong relationship between agricultural stagnation and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. Much, though not all, of the solution for poverty alleviation depends on stimulating agricultural growth in Africa. Data collected by the World Bank, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the African governments, shows that most of Africa ' s poor live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for survival. The dependence is both direct in growing food and cash crops, and indirect by working on farms or by trading in agricultural inputs and products. Growth of agriculture, of agricultural production, and of agricultural incomes helps the rural poor, and hence alleviates poverty. It also helps the non-poor, in some cases more than the poor. In the few African countries which have implemented policy reforms consistently and reduced implicit taxation on agriculture and investment in agriculture, there has been some modest revival of agriculture growth, averaging between 3.5 to 5 percent for several years. Nigeria, Uganda, Tanzania, Benin, Guinea, and Mauritius represent these good agricultural performers. Unfortunately, in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa, agriculture has grown much more slowly than population, agricultural incomes have stagnated in real terms, or fallen. The major problems continue to be poor economic and agricultural policy, and inadequate public investment in infrastructure, rural education, agricultural services such as extension and research, and rural health. Poor policy and poor public investment have led to a lack of private investment in farming, farm input supply, and processing. Domestic markets have been lost to foreign imports, and export markets lost to countries in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. The countries that have stopped discrimination against agriculture through improved policies and better investment show the way for sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, because it is in these countries in these years that rural poverty has been reduced. There is nevertheless a set of additional constraints facing the poorest rural inhabitants, that agricultural growth will help resolve only in the long run. Targeted measures are needed to address the problems of the poorest rural inhabitants, even in growing agricultural economies.

Publisher: World Bank

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