New work: Agricultural Transformation


Poverty reduction remains a major challenge. The story being told by many governments and donors is that the solution to this challenge is economic growth, fuelled by economic transformation (the movement of labour and capital away from less productive agricultural activities to the more productive manufacturing and services sectors of the economy). Economic history in some way endorses this view: structural change in the economy is the only known permeant route out of poverty.

But the picture isn’t always so rosy.

Economic history also shows that such transformation is often accompanied by increasing income inequality, environmental degradation and slower than expected reduction in poverty rates. The transformation that happens within agriculture is also problematic, with shifts to commercial agriculture raising significant social and environmental justice concerns.

So what does this mean in a context where the global community now recognises that poverty and hunger will remain rampant unless women are empowered, the environment is protected, and income inequality is reduced – a recognition encapsulated in the global sustainable development goals?

Ultimately it means that governments are faced with the difficult challenge of engineering an economic transformation path which will produce sustainable development outcomes. To do so, would require them to recognise, adapt and learn from policies, strategies, and political and institutional innovations which have managed to avoid the environmental and social pitfalls of a ‘classical’ economic transformation pathway. Given the importance of agriculture, and specifically small-holder agriculture in many LIC’s, agricultural transformation will need to play a key role here, but in a way that has poverty impact, is environmentally sustainable and is centred on the needs of women and other marginalised groups.

Our new CAFOD and Christian Aid policy paper seeks to contribute to this discussion: AgTNew Pathways out of poverty in Africa: inclusive and sustainable agricultural transformation. Have a read and let us know your thoughts.

We’re also discussing what some of this means for livelihoods and agricultural programmes on our new blog dedicated specifically to sustainable economic transformation in Africa ( Do follow and join the conversation.




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