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The strength of the agricultural sector affects the standard of living for a broad swath of citizens across Africa. Thus measures aimed at strengthening agriculture, such as the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP), must be evaluated thoroughly. Inventing such programs is not enough; they must be effectively implemented.


Agriculture is an economic sector that most African people and people around the world depend on for their livelihoods. However, its importance is not prioritized by African nations. Theodore Schultz, in his speech for the 1979 Nobel Prize in Economics, began by accepting that

“Most of the people in the world are poor, so if we knew the economics of being poor we would know much of the economics that really matters. Most of the world's poor people earn their living from agriculture, so if we knew the economics of agriculture we would know much of the economics of being poor”. (Shultz 1979).

Recognizing the importance of agriculture to the economies of its member states and the many challenges faced in reducing poverty and enhancing food security on the continent, the African Union (AU), together with the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), created an agricultural initiative called the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) in 2003.

The main goal of CAADP is to help African countries reach a higher path of economic growth through agriculture-led development that eliminates hunger, reduces poverty and food insecurity and enables the expansion of exports (NEPAD 2005a). Around the same time, AU and NEPAD developed another continental initiative, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), to address governance issues. The implementation of both of these initiatives at the national level has been underway for several years now, although to varying degrees in different countries.

The failure of previous development interventions on the continent motivated Africa to seek this new strategy. The emphasis on African ownership and leadership distinguishes NEPAD and CAADP from past African development initiatives. In its recently published guide to implementation, NEPAD (2008) suggests that the creation of CAADP clearly demonstrates Africa’s stepping up to take full responsibility for its own development agenda.


The fact that agriculture continues to be a fundamental instrument for African sustainable development and poverty reduction cannot be despaired. It is one of greatest drivers of the economy, although its potential has not yet been fully realized among the African countries. Research done by Firmino G. Mucavele in 2006 in the Ninth Annual Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) policy dialogue, which addressed the theme of “Agriculture’s True Contribution to the Economic Development of Southern Africa” revealed this truth by drawing examples from various countries.

Agriculture is the major development sector in Zambia. About 97.4 per cent of rural households are engaged in agriculture, which this equates to 45 per cent of the total population—approximately 4.6 million poor people dependent on agriculture. Out of the estimated 600,000 farmers, 76 per cent are small-scale subsistence farmers. It is also estimated that a quarter to a third of these farming families live within 10 kilometers of the Line of Rail.

The findings in Mozambique indicated that a large number of rural people derive their livelihood from agriculture and other related rural economic activities. It follows, therefore, that the most direct and effective means of raising standards of living and alleviating poverty, hunger and malnutrition is through increasing the productivity and income of smallholder agriculture. Coupled with greater participation of farmers in commercial agriculture through effective agrarian and land reforms, this can lead to a transformation of the rural economy through the development of rural agro-industry and the rural private sector.

In Tanzania, agriculture remains the largest sector in the economy and hence its performance has a significant effect on output and corresponding income and poverty levels. The sector accounts for about half of GDP and exports, and its importance is amplified through backward and forward linkage effects. Sale of agricultural products accounts for about 70 per cent of rural household incomes.

Increasing growth, reducing food insecurity and accelerating poverty reduction, particularly in rural areas, requires an increase in agricultural productivity, higher added value and improved producer price incentives. These increases also require a consolidation and continuation of long-term reforms, particularly with respect to markets, institutions and investments. Greater emphasis is needed on improved institutional functioning and service delivery, technology adoption, infrastructure development and greater commercialization among smallholders. (ASDP 2001).

Research done in Ghana by the International Food Policy Research Institute in July 2010 revealed that agriculture has always been the dominant sector in the economy of Ghana. Its share in the economy declined marginally from 39.6 to 35.8 per cent between 2000 and 2006; the shares of the other two sectors, service and industry, were 30.1 and 25.4 per cent respectively in 2006. The sector employs 60 per cent of the economically active population and contributes about two-thirds of foreign exchange earnings. An estimated 2.74 million households operate a farm or keep livestock. According to the 2000 census, the most recently available population census, 50.6 per cent of the labor force, or 4.2 million people, are directly engaged in agriculture (GSS 2002).

Moreover, agriculture forms the basis of foreign exchange and supply of raw materials—Van Zyl et al (1988) reached that conclusion regarding the balancing role of agricultural exports resulting from a positive trade balance. They also showed that the sector was still an important provider of raw materials, seeing as 28 per cent of factories depended on the processing of these materials. Van Rooyen (1997) argued for the important role of the agricultural sector in the generation of rural incomes, the creation of employment, ensuring food security and the transfer of resources to the rest of the economy.


It is approximately twelve years now since African heads of state made their declaration in support of the continent’s agricultural sector in Maputo in July 2003. The program’s main target is the value it can add to existing policy and planning frameworks for the agriculture sector. The question here is does CAADP contain mechanisms or provisions that can change the perceptions that African leaders already had?

At the summit of the new African Union in Maputo in July 2003, African heads of state committed to implement CAADP ‘as a matter of urgency’ (Assembly of the African Union, 2003). At this stage the emphasis was primarily on mobilizing investment in four main areas (the four CAADP pillars that remain today). These are land and water management, rural infrastructure for market access, increasing food supply (reducing hunger) and agricultural research.

Following the Maputo Declaration, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was commissioned to identify bankable investment projects around the continent. According to Bruntrup (2011), by 2004 FAO had developed country investment programs for 49 African countries and validated these in national stakeholder workshops. However, the impact of this effort was negligible (p. 84). The programs were not integrated with countries’ national agricultural strategies, so gained neither government nor donor buy-in and as a result were not implemented.

From 2005, therefore, the NEPAD Secretariat began to develop a new strategy for realizing CAADP objectives. This placed much greater emphasis on influencing and improving national agricultural policy formulation. It envisaged a process for developing and gaining consensus around an overarching national agricultural policy. This process would be launched at a multistakeholder workshop, then would enter a technical phase of policy review and modelling, generating outputs for deliberation at a second multistakeholder event that would culminate in the signing of a CAADP compact by representatives of government, non-state actors, regional and continental institutions and donors (NEPAD 2010).

The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) of the African Union thus became important players within the CAADP approach, charged with taking leadership in stimulating, coordinating and facilitating support (as well as providing financial and expert/technical information) for country CAADP implementation processes (NEPAD 2010, p. 7). During this phase, too, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) was brought on board to provide technical support to CAADP, including conducting the modelling work to inform country-level processes.

The event that restored momentum to CAADP was the 2007/08 food price crisis. Within Africa, at least 14 countries experienced food riots (Berazneva and Lee 2013), raising the political importance of paying attention to agriculture. Several of the countries that experienced riots (including Senegal, Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso) were in West Africa. In response, ECOWAS, charged with promoting CAADP within the West Africa region, used its own funds to encourage the organization of CAADP launches in member countries and also to pay for technical input into the stocktaking and review processes prior to roundtable meetings. Nine countries within the ECOWAS region signed their CAADP compacts in the final quarter of 2009.

By the end of 2010, 22 countries had signed CAADP compacts and 14 of these had also concluded subsequent business meetings at which different stakeholders (from the government, donor bases and the private sector) met to commit funding for the implementation of the countries’ CAADP investment plans.

By February 2013, 30 countries had signed CAADP compacts and 22 of these had also concluded business meetings.


Since its inauguration, CAADP has noticed enormous success in various African countries; however, challenges are also inevitable. For its supporters, one of the merits of CAADP is its foundation in the declaration made by African heads of state in Maputo in 2003, hence its claim both to reflect but also to seek to further enhance political commitment to invest in agriculture in Africa. The following are other key points that show how CAADP has produced desirable results.

There has been a rise in awareness of the importance of agriculture that necessitates African leaders to prioritize agriculture. Poulton (2012) highlights the strong domestic political incentives to invest in smallholder agriculture in Rwanda and Ethiopia. In both cases a combination of history plus current internal and external opposition (including an armed component) means that the government knows it has to deliver broad-based benefits to the population, and perhaps especially the rural population, in order to justify its hold on power. Attention to smallholder agriculture is the most obvious way to do this. In Ethiopia, the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) administration has a long track record of prioritizing agricultural investment (Berhanu 2012).

Rwanda has already been singled out as the pioneer of the CAADP process in Africa. Following poor harvests and disappointing poverty reduction figures in the mid-2000s, President Kagame and others within Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), convinced of the need to raise the priority of agricultural investment, used CAADP to make their case both to others within government and to donors, who had previously placed greater emphasis on social sector spending.

Burkina Faso is another country that registered success in CAADP. This is a landlocked country for whom a large source of revenue is minerals. Here, agriculture plays a critical role in the political economy, as a source of livelihood for a majority of the population, of foreign exchange and of rents for the elite (Loada 2012). Burkina was one of the countries to suffer urban food riots in 2008 and therefore ECOWAS sought to catalyze the CAADP process in response.

In Ghana political incentives to invest in agriculture are focused firstly on cocoa (Whitfield 2011), due to its contribution to wider economic growth, which voters value highly (Lindberg 2011). Beyond cocoa, there is a remarkably strong neoliberal consensus amongst technocrats, donors and even politicians, who seem willing to let technocrats and donors largely determine what is funded. Here an exemplary CAADP process was also observed.

In Tanzania the ruling party CCM has retained reasonably strong rural support despite delivering little in the way of rural economic growth or poverty reduction. Whilst the 2010 election perhaps provided a warning as to the dangers of this, the government’s ability to respond seems constrained by the ineffectiveness of the state machinery (Therkildsen 2011). The first consequence of CAADP in Tanzania was the introduction of the Tanzania Agricultural and Food Security Investment Plan (TAFSIP) in 2011 to the existing list of agricultural programs, but with little prospect of improving implementation of any of them. In addition, CAADP led to the introduction of the Kilimo Kwanza policy in Tanzania. The policy was launched in Dodoma on 3 August 2009 by H.E. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, President of the United Republic of Tanzania, as a central pillar in achieving the country’s Vision 2025.


There are various challenges in terms of implementation that African countries face. These are explained in detail as follows.

Inadequate budget allocation to some countries—Fan et al. (2009), report that few African countries had reached the Maputo target of devoting 10 per cent of their national budget to the agricultural sector by 2008 (the deadline set in the Maputo Declaration). Moreover, some of the countries that did so (for example, Burkina Faso and Ethiopia) had already devoted more than 10 per cent of their national budget to the agricultural sector in 2003.

Inadequate level of experts to monitor and control the program—It has been noted that the main type of expertise used in the program has been modelling expertise from International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). These experts are limited in their numbers as employing a great number of them requires more money. Hence there is great need to train a great number of domestic experts who can effectively and smoothly run the program.

In the final analysis, it is important to keep in our mind that agriculture is an economic sector that affects a great number of people in Africa, mainly in rural areas. It is faced with a number of problems including poor access and low use of improved seeds and fertilizers, under-investment in productivity-enhancing technologies including agricultural mechanization, limited access to financing for uptake of technologies, unreliability of rainfall in some of the regions as well as limited use of available water resources for irrigated agriculture. Great efforts should be made to implement efforts countering these problems, including easy access of finance by farmers, establishment of irrigation schemes by the government and introducing new technologies.

It must not be left aside that effectiveness in dealing with these problems will mark the beginning of African transformation and economic development. It will be helpful also in dealing with hunger and reducing poverty and food insecurity. Lastly it must be capitalized that “most of the world's poor people earn their living from agriculture, so if we knew the economics of agriculture we would know much of the economics of being poor.” (Shultz 1979).

* Sevelin Katoto is a final year student pursuing Bachelor of Education majoring Economics as a teaching subject at the University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. He is a member of International Youth Foundation (IYF) in Tanzania and a member of Gender and UN Charter Clubs at his college.


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