New Directions for African Agriculture

Edited by: Ian Scoones, Aaron deGrassi, Stephen Devereux and Lawrence Haddad

June 2005
Volume 36 Number 2

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.