Beyond Good Intentions: Agricultural policy in the SADC region | Food Security | Agriculture

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Smallholder farmers, and particularly women, are on the frontline in the fight against hunger and climate change in southern Africa. Unequal access to resources, poor access to finance and limited linkages to markets to sell their produce impose critical constraints, and food insecurity and poverty are the direct outcomes of this failure. In countries such as Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, between a quarter and half of the population are classified as being chronically undernourished. This briefing note argues that although policy makers in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are aware of these challenges, they urgently need to move beyond rhetoric to an action-based agenda that will catalyze smallholder-led development in the region.
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  OXFAM BRIEFING NOTE 7 AUGUST 2015 www.oxfam.org  Maize growing alongside an irrigation channel, Ruti area in Gutu Province, Zimbabwe, January 2012. Photo: Ruby Wright/Oxfam BEYOND GOOD INTENTIONS  Agricultural policy in the SADC region Smallholder farmers, and particularly women, are on the frontline in the fight against hunger and climate change in southern Africa. Unequal access to resources, poor access to finance and limited linkages to markets to sell their produce impose critical constraints, and food insecurity and poverty are the direct outcomes of this failure. In countries such as Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, between a quarter and half of the population are classified as being chronically undernourished. Policy makers in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are aware of these challenges, but they urgently need to move beyond rhetoric to an action-based agenda that will catalyze smallholder-led development in the region.  2 INTRODUCTION Four decades after the Green Revolution, 250 million smallholder farmers across sub-Saharan Africa still harvest less than a tonne of cereal crops from each hectare: this is just a fifth of the world average. 1  Foremost among the constraints faced by smallholder farmers, and women in particular, are unequal access to resources such as land and water, a lack of financing for key inputs, poor extension support and poor linkages to markets through which they can sell their produce. Food insecurity and poverty are the direct outcomes of this failure. In countries such as Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique, between a quarter and half of the population are classified as being chronically undernourished. 2  Women are on the frontline in facing these challenges. In many countries in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), women own or manage less than a quarter of the total agricultural land. 3  They are also disadvantaged in terms of access to extension services, which provide agronomic advice, and are able to access less than 10 percent of the agricultural credit offered to small-scale farmers in Africa overall. 4  Women disproportionately shoulder the risks and physical burden of agricultural production in many places. Estimates suggest that women could increase their farm yields by 20  – 30 percent if they had equal access to land and other productive resources  –  which would lead to concrete benefits for food security and nutrition. 5  Climate change brings a whole new set of challenges for southern Africa, at a time when the continent is „woefully underprepared‟ to cope. 6  Climate change increases the risks of natural hazards and hydrological events, which negatively affect the production of crops, livestock and fisheries. 7  The agricultural sector bears about 22 percent of all economic losses caused by natural hazards and disaster. 8  While estimates vary, analyses have shown that SADC countries are already experiencing reduced precipitation across the southern part of the region, with growing variability in rainfall across the board. These changes affect the production of key crops vital for food security such as maize, millet and sorghum, with countries such as Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe particularly vulnerable. 9  Policy makers are aware of many of these challenges. Through the 2003 Maputo Declaration, 10  which was reaffirmed in Malabo in 2014, African Union (AU) member states have committed to progressively increase their budgetary allocations to agriculture to at least 10 percent of their national budgets. This also provided the basis for the SADC Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 11    –  a 15-year programme to promote agricultural productivity and food security and encourage a structural transformation of the region‟s agriculture -dependent economies. This intervention was intended ultimately to drive national and regional agricultural growth rates of 6 percent annually. SADC countries complemented these financial commitments with measures that address the challenges faced by women and smallholder farmers. These policy measures advocate for the integration of women   3 into agricultural production and development, alongside gender mainstreaming and empowerment of women as a cross-cutting theme in all activities and sub-sectors. These policies promote women‟s access to land, productive inputs and resources, training, modern technology, markets and credit. Despite rhetorical commitments, however, the implementation of agricultural policy has been weak or non-existent. Only eight of the 54  AU member states and just one of the 15 SADC countries (Malawi) have fulfilled the commitments contained in the Maputo Declaration. 12  The accompanying strategies to enhance access to agricultural financing, such as through the establishment of rural financial intermediaries and the establishment of an agricultural development bank that is customized to meet the financing needs and challenges of the sector, have also not been implemented. In the few countries where some of these policies have been put into practice, the quality of agricultural financing and investment has also come into question. For instance, government subsidies for production inputs in Malawi and Zambia have led to considerable improvements in household food security for smallholders. 13  However, in general, the economic and environmental sustainability of such an approach and its potential to transform smallholder agriculture away from the production of low-value staple grains is in doubt. Despite the positive impact of input subsidies, the government of Zambia removed this support in 2013. 14  Research has shown that low-income earners (smallholder farmers) lost about 30 percent of their average income due to the subsidy removal, while large farms lost about 12 percent on average. 15  This shows the potentially negative impact of subsidy removal for the most vulnerable groups and points to the need for more comprehensive investment strategies to support smallholders. Lessons from the region show that increasing resource allocation to the agricultural sector is not sufficient on its own to support smallholders and women. First, rhetoric around investment needs to be matched by financing and implementation. Second, investment policy needs to be accompanied by other measures that address the constraints faced by smallholders in the sector. These measures include land policy reform; the use of clever policy interventions to reduce the barriers to entry for women and smallholders into higher-value markets; and the use of public policy to reduce the risks of commercial investment in smallholder farmers and the development of women‟s enterprise.  4 SADC POLICY: MISSING THE MARK FOR SMALLHOLDERS AND WOMEN Women comprise approximately 75 percent of people affected by hunger in rural areas 16  and, on average, make up 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. 17   Women‟s agricultural work is often unpaid or undervalued, and women do not have equal access to resources such as credit, education, land or markets. Women also perform the majority of unpaid care work in their homes and communities, such as childcare and domestic work. When this is combined with their agricultural tasks they often work longer hours than men on average, which limits their economic opportunities. 18  Oxfam programmes such as the Gendered Enterprise and Markets (GEM) programme, the Enterprise Development Programme (EDP) and Women‟s Empowerment Mainstreaming and Networking for Gender Justice in Economic Development (WEMAN) have shown that women must enjoy their rights across different areas of their lives in order to benefit from participating in the economy. For example, increasing women‟s participation and influence in decision making and their access to health services, care services, skills training and education is an important part of supporting women to realize the benefits of their farming activities. 19  In many respects, both the architecture of agricultural financing and investment policies and the multiple failures in their implementation have disadvantaged women and smallholder farmers. The promise of a vibrant smallholder sector that enables the realization of rights and supports poverty eradication remains a dream for many smallholder farmers, especially women. The lack of financial or institutional instruments to back policy measures The SADC Regional Agriculture Policy (RAP) includes strategies for transforming the region‟s agricultural sector from being mainly subsistence-based to being more commercially oriented, but it is thin on details of policy instruments to achieve this objective. 20  In accordance with the RAP, SADC leaders have promised to promote and support the development of regional-level mechanisms and instruments that support agricultural and rural financing. However, options for achieving these objectives have never been put on the table. Similarly, the SADC protocol on gender and development leaves the translation of its articles into implementable frameworks, resource mobilization and budgetary allocations to individual member states. This protocol relegates gender mainstreaming in agricultural investment to a voluntary exercise, as progress is conditional on national governments‟ budgets, human capi tal, political will and women‟s representation in decision-making bodies. The lack of proper workable frameworks for gender mainstreaming in agriculture remains a key obstacle for most countries.
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