Journal Article


New Directions for African Agriculture

Published on 1 June 2005

Both this year’s UN Millennium Report and The Commission for Africa Report highlight the lack of progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in sub-Saharan Africa. What role should agriculture have in this challenge?

Most of Africa’s poor are rural, and most rely largely on agriculture for their livelihoods. Inevitably, ‘getting agriculture moving’ must be part of the solution to the seemingly intractable problem of African poverty. While the standard storyline about African agriculture is not positive, there have been some notable achievements in the past decade. Are these successes exceptional and limited to particular settings and times, or are they replicable across wider areas, benefiting larger numbers of people?

This IDS Bulletin draws together contributions from a diverse range of researchers and development practitioners working in Africa, with the common goal of exploring why agriculture is contributing to poverty reduction and livelihood improvement in some places.

This debate comes at a critical time when there is renewed interest in agriculture in Africa and a real commitment to revitalise the sector. How to translate words into reality? How to avoid the recycling of old ideas, and generate new thinking – rooted in African contexts and ground realities – which makes a difference?

Central to all solutions are social, cultural and political factors: rather than an expert-driven, technocratic approach, a more politically-sophisticated stance is required with a new emphasis on understanding and influencing processes of innovation, intervention and policy. The aim of this IDS Bulletin is to contribute to this journey.

Table of contents

  • Introduction: New Directions for African Agriculture (pdf) – Ian Scoones, Stephen Devereux and Lawrence Haddad
  • ‘Investing in Africa: The Political Economy of Agricultural Growth’ – Adebayo Olukoshi
  • ‘Success Stories from African Agriculture: What are the Key Elements of Success?’ – Steve Wiggins
  • ‘Is There a Future for Family Farming in West Africa?’ – Camilla Toulmin and Bara Guèye
  • “Seven Fat Years and Seven Lean Years”? Climate Change and Agriculture in Africa – Coleen Vogel
  • ‘HIV/AIDS and Agriculture in Southern Africa: What Difference Does it Make?’ – Michael Drinkwater
  • ‘A “Blue Revolution” for African Agriculture?’ – Synne Movik, Lyla Mehta, Sobona Mtisi and Alan Nicol
  • ‘Key Challenges for Technology Development and Agricultural Research in Africa’ – Monty Jones
  • ‘Transport, Poverty and Agrarian Change in Africa: Models, Mechanisms and New Ways Forward’ – Aaron deGrassi
  • ‘Agricultural Markets in West Africa: Frontiers, Agribusiness and Social Differentiation’ – Kojo Sebastian Amanor
  • The WTO: A Spectre, But at Which Feast?’ – Christopher Stevens
  • ‘Corporate Control Over Seeds: Limiting Access and Farmers’ Rights’ – Patrick Mulvany
  • ‘Gender, Work and Vulnerability in African Horticulture’ – Stephanie Barrientos, Andrienetta Kritzinger, Maggie Opondo and Sally Smith
  • ‘Beyond Liberalisation: “Developmental Coordination” Policies for African Smallholder Agriculture’ – Andrew Dorward, Jonathan Kydd and Colin Poulton
  • ‘The Centrality of the Social in African Farming’ – James Fairhead and Melissa Leach
  • ‘Do Poverty Reduction Strategies and Agricultural Policies Engage in West and Central Africa?’ – Abdou Salam Fall and Thiendou Niang
  • ‘Communities, Commodities and Crazy Ideas: Changing Livestock Policies in Africa’ – Andy Catley, Tim Leyland, Berhanu Admassu, Gavin Thomson, Mtula Otieno and Yacob Aklilu
  • ‘Neo-patrimonialism and Policy Processes: Lessons from the Southern African Food Crisis’ – Elizabeth Cromwell and Allan Chintedza
  • ‘Governing Technology Development: Challenges for Agricultural Research in Africa’ – Ian Scoones
  • ‘Livelihoods Research Findings and Agriculture-led Growth’ – Godfrey Bahiigwa, Ntengua Mdoe and Frank Ellis
  • ‘Too Much Inequality or Too Little? Inequality and Stagnation in Ethiopian Agriculture’ – Stephen Devereux, Amdissa Teshome and Rachel Sabates-Wheeler
  • ‘Smallholder Agriculture and Land Reform in South Africa’ – Edward Lahiff and Ben Cousins
  • ‘Agricultural Development in Zambia’s Northern Province: Perspectives from the Field Level’ – Howard White, Jennifer Leavy and Venkatesh Seshamani
  • ‘Peace Through Agrarian Justice’ – Paul Richards and Khadija Bah


Image of Ian Scoones

Ian Scoones

Professorial Fellow

Image of Stephen Devereux

Stephen Devereux

Research Fellow

Image of Lawrence Haddad

Lawrence Haddad

Honorary Associate

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Publication details

published by
Scoones, I., deGrassi, A., Devereux, S. and Haddad, L.
Ian Scoones, Aaron deGrassi, Stephen Devereux and Lawrence Haddad
IDS Bulletin, volume 36, issue 2


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