Monday, 16 September 2013

Agricultural Input Subsidies in Southern Africa (link) and Goats

Interesting Guardian article (here) on agricultural (ie. fertiliser) subsidies in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular Zambia, Malawi and similar countries. I agree with some of the observations - there are other agricultural needs that should also be funded, production doesn't necessarily improve just because you add fertiliser (there are other soil quality issues), etc. I disagree with other, some of which are a little hysterical - the imagine how many schools could have been built argument, in particular, is stupid given the severe impact of chronic malnutrition resulting from food insecurity on educational outcomes. Still, worth a read.

I'd also add, which I think is a fundamental point that is lost in almost every agriculture debate about Southern Africa, that most of the agricultural wealth and assets in the hands of the poor in countries like (in particular) Zambia, are livestock. We're talking something like a million goats. Which assets represent real, actual income-generating potential and the possibility of dramatically reducing vulnerability and enabling farmers to choose the input interventions that best suit the soil and land-size they have. So perhaps some of the 90% of the agricultural budget currently (according to the article) allocated to input subsidies could be redirected to support small-scale livestock farming instead.

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