The effect of structural adjustment on African agriculture
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Seck, Abdoulaye. 1991. The effect of structural adjustment on African agriculture. Spore 32. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Papa Abdoulaye Seck is a computer scientist, economist and agriculturalist. For ten years his research has concentrated on fruit and vegetables. He is now the coordinator of the Institut Senegalais de Recherche Agronomlque (ISRA) research programme....
Papa Abdoulaye Seck is a computer scientist, economist and agriculturalist. For ten years his research has concentrated on fruit and vegetables. He is now the coordinator of the Institut Senegalais de Recherche Agronomlque (ISRA) research programme. Agriculture is subject both to the laws of economics and to politics. The effects of the profound changes that Africa is undergoing can even be felt in the villages, and agriculturalists and research scientists are confronted with such new concepts as 'structural adjustment' and trade 'liberalization'. Can they ignore these issues? One of our readers, Papa Abdoulaye Seck of ISRA, thinks they cannot afford to. In the article below he looks at this question which preoccupies many of those 'in the field' in Africa. Structural adjustment must be one of the most frequently used expressions in political speeches in developing countries today. The term refers to the package of economic measures demanded by the international financial institutions as a means of ensuring the conditions necessary for economic growth and vigour in various sectors of development, including agriculture. It has been deemed necessary because of the failure by developing economies to meet anticipated targets. At the end of the 1970s the prices of basic commodities were high, and the banks had capital flooding in from the petroleum-exporting countries. The governments of developing countries seized the opportunity to take on large, and relatively short-term, loans. But with the worldwide recession of the early 1980s these countries could neither repay nor service their debts. This led to reductions in public expenditure with all that this entails in the public and private sectors. Receivers were called in; workers were made redundant; wages were frozen; recruitment was halted; food supply and production subsidies were reduced or withdrawn and investments were cut. The logic behind the attitude of African decision-makers in post-independence days was being seriously questioned in the spirit of 'liberalism'. The effect of this was felt in all sectors and particularly in the agricultural sector. The existence of large-scale, state owned marketing and export enterprises and management companies became threatened, and 'enterprise licenses' were granted to anybody prepared to take the chance. The balance of payments also had to be restored, which meant that imports had to be reduced and export drives launched. But this required an economic climate which would permit increased agricultural production and promote the consumption of locally produced goods. However, it was unlikely that farmers would be keen to intensify their efforts without some degree of protection against the multiple risks they faced. Also, the transfer of state responsibility to local enterprises would call for increased literacy and numeracy among the rural populations as well as rural credit systems which were not dependent on big commercial banks. In many African countries a wise entrepreneur would rather put his capital into real estate than into agriculture, which is a high-risk business at the best of times and is particularly so when the state offers no protection. One consequence is that privatization in the agricultural sector is even more difficult than in other sectors of the economy. The activities of the non-formal sector are closely linked to the purchasing power of the urban, formal sector. But this power is diminishing as wages are frozen and unemployment rises a characteristic of structural adjustment. So what is the future for the non-formal sector in these conditions? The struggle for self-sufficiency in food in the developing countries cannot be won without effective agricultural research programmes. But agricultural research also suffers from the effects of structural adjustment policies and programmes are constantly being cut back at the very time that the population growth rate and increased dependency on food imports are making their success imperative. The end of agricultural research in some developing countries could well be in sight. The agricultural sector is 'sick' and and needs 'doctors'. Research scientists are the doctors. It is therefore shocking to have to admit that agriculture is 'sick' and yet to deprive it of treatment. Effective improvement of agricultural production is hampered by such factors as rural isolation and poor transport infrastructures, and also by the absence of urban markets, a factor which goes hand-in-hand with the population boom and an increase in demand. No matter what degree of decentralization has been achieved it is still the responsibility of the state to solve these problems through appropriate investment programmes. Structural adjustment is a problem which has afflicted Africa without producing any demonstrable benefit, and only appropriate agricultural research and political determination can lead to viable alternatives for agriculture.' The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CTA.
- CTA Spore (English)