Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)
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FANRPAN's Strategic Plan 2007 - 2012
Meeting the Demand for Effective Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis in Southern Africa

Draft 5:
Draft FANRPAN Strategy for Feedback
10 May 2007


The policy context

  1. The food, agriculture and natural resources sector is critical for economic growth and development in most of the SADC and COMESA countries. It contributes substantially to Gross Domestic Product (35%) and employment (over 70%) for the 228 million people within the region. Yet realising FANRPAN's vision remains a formidable challenge.


  2. While both SADC and COMESA countries are well endowed with a diversified natural resource base, agricultural growth and productivity have been stagnant over the past twenty years. Agricultural incomes have declined and food insecurity has increased markedly. Poverty has increased, particularly in rural areas, thus accelerating rural-urban migration. Unsustainable management agricultural and natural resources management practices threaten the resource base itself.


  3. The region has high levels of climatic variability with frequent drought conditions - and climate changes are exacerbating this natural hazard. Human population growth is outpacing food production; and animal population growth is putting pressure on grazing resources and water availability. The HIV and AIDS scourge, which is most severe in southern Africa, is further exacerbating the food situation in an already food and nutrition insecure region.


  4. The stagnation in yields and farm incomes throughout much of the region cannot be attributed solely to climatic and demographic factors. The low productivity and profitability of agriculture and the failure of agricultural markets to expand, as well as the persistence of rural poverty and unemployment, are clear evidence that policies intended to promote agriculture and rural development are not working as well as they should.


  5. At the regional level, southern African countries have endorsed well-considered strategies to address agricultural challenges. The SADC Dar es-Salaam Declaration on Food Security, the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), the SADC Trade Protocol, COMESA's Agricultural Plan, and NEPAD's Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) provide a consistent set of priorities for public investment, regulatory reform and production incentives.


  6. However, the detailed implementation of strategy, through the design of policies and policy instruments, remains a major challenge and, for those engaged in agricultural production and trade, the risks and costs confronting the industry continue to suppress innovation and investment.


  7. There are reasons why the formulation of policies to provide incentives to the agricultural sector is especially difficult in the region. First, policy cannot only be concerned with raising aggregate production and promoting international competitiveness. The majority of the population in the region depends largely on agriculture to sustain themselves. As a consequence, ensuring the food security of rural households and reducing rural poverty must also be an agricultural policy objective. This dual objective poses difficulties both for expenditure priorities and for the design of specific instruments such as targeted subsidies or vouchers, or regulation of the movement of food staples.


  8. Second, most of the region has committed itself to reducing government intervention in pricing and marketing and to creating conditions for private markets to operate, allowing greater competition, efficiency and investment in agriculture. However with a generally weak and uncompetitive private sector trading environment, combined with large disparities among countries' private sectors, governments have been reluctant to abandon intervention, thereby lowering private sector willingness to invest or to operate in less accessible areas.


  9. Third, in the southern African region the major water resources are transboundary in nature, requiring agreements and institutions to enable their equitable exploitation. Such co-operation is made more complex by the relatively scarcity of water in some basins, high levels of inequity in the distribution of water resources, and similar inequity in political influence and economic weight of upstream and downstream countries on some shared basins. Lack of access to reliable water supply exacerbates the alarming soil erosion and degradation trends in the region.


  10. Fourth, the growing importance of Regional Economic Communities (RECs) is re-structuring relationships between African and international donors: whereas donors tended to take the initiative on agricultural development in the past, leadership is now being asserted by African institutions with donors and other international partners in a support role. FANRPAN views the RECs as major clients and has already signed a partnership agreement with COMESA and has a draft MoU with SADC under discussion. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) has 14 Member States (Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has 20 member states, eight of which are also members of SADC (Angola, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe). Because of this partial common membership in both SADC and COMESA by a significant number of member states, FANRPAN has sought to strengthen its relations with both COMESA and SADC.


  11. A further challenge is the need for agricultural policies to accommodate the long term development benefits of regional economic integration, while also recognizing the shorter term difficulties of adjusting to the competition that trade liberalization brings and the risks of removing established national regulations in favour of new regional standards.


  12. In summary, the agricultural challenge facing the region is principally about effective policies to meet different objectives for the sector. This, in turn, requires stronger analytical contributions from the region's researchers, wider awareness of research findings and broader consultation on evidence-based policy initiatives.

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