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Agricultural policy priorities for improving rural livelihoods in Southern Africa
Regional Synthesis
October 2004
Chiedza Muchopa, Victor Manyong and Lindiwe Sibanda
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)


This paper synthesizes the findings from the policy module of the USAID/RCSA Improving Rural Livelihoods Project. This policy module was implemented by IITA and FANRPAN in four pilot SADC countries namely, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia. The major objective was to provide critical policy analysis and dialogue leading to harmonization of selected policies within SADC countries. The studies are expected to provide the analytical basis for the design of agricultural policy strategies that contribute to unlocking constraints to commercialization and investment in the agricultural sector for a sustained economic growth; enhanced food security; increased competitiveness of products in the domestic, regional, and international markets; sustainable environmental management; and poverty alleviation.

The data collection and analysis was guided by a framework that was designed to capture the influential factors in both quantitative and qualitative parameters. The analysis of data combined several techniques such as descriptive statistics, multivariate models, and domestic resource cost ratio analysis (DRC). Spatial analyses were applied to define development and crop domains.

Five development domains were defined. The spatial coverage of these domains indicates that limited pockets of southern Africa have very high potentials for agriculture under rainfed conditions. The results from the country studies show that agriculture remains the predominant source of livelihood and the engine for growth. The major problems constraining the performance of agriculture were highlighted as follows: poor access to inputs, poor communication, land degradation, over-dependence on rain-fed agriculture, underdeveloped marketing system, high prevalence of HIV/AIDS and weak legislation and lack of enforcement of laws/acts among others. Though attractive to domestic private investment, the agricultural enterprises in all countries were generally found to be less attractive to foreign private investment. High taxes and tariffs, poor infrastructure, bureaucracies, lack of policy incentives and adverse business environment were identified as inhibiting the performance of agribusiness enterprises. The major constraints to trade identified in the study relate to trade development, facilitation and promotion and the poor coordination among institutions. Three areas were identified for policy intervention as follows: diversification of agricultural commodities, trade in domestic markets and trade at the SADC level. The priority staple commodities that were identified in-order of priority when all four countries taken together are maize, cassava and rice . Cotton was recommended as the major industrial priority commodity common to all countries. Under rainfed conditions, few pockets of Southern Africa were found with high potentials for some of the main priority commodities. Five cross cutting components were identified to promote the diversification of SADC agricultural commodities and trade, namely research and technology transfer, human resources and institutional capacity building, market and export development, improvements in delivery systems, market information and communications as well as the coordination and harmonisation of policies to reduce bureaucratic delays.

Promotion of targeted policy dialogues with stakeholders in research and policy agendas, and active involvement of farmers and the agribusiness sector were recommended as ideal advocacy strategies alongside with policy briefs and personal follow-ups by well-placed advocates, It is expected that the resulting strategies and priority areas for intervention will catalyze support for the flow of investment into the agricultural sector by Governments, private sector and other donors thereby paving the way for a sustainable agriculture and diversified economic growth.

This synthesis paper and other outputs produced by the IITA/FANRPAN collaborative studies are intended to initiate dialogue amongst policy makers and major stakeholders in agricultural policy formulation within the study countries and in the SADC region as a whole.

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