African Agriculture in 50 Years: Smallholders in a Rapidly Changing World?

Elsevier, World Development, November 2014, Pages 92 - 101
Authors: 
Paul Collier, Stefan Dercon

For economic development to succeed in Africa in the next 50 years, African agriculture will have to change beyond recognition. Production will have to have increased massively, but also labor productivity, requiring a vast reduction in the proportion of the population engaged in agriculture and a large move out of rural areas. The paper questions how this can be squared with a continuing commitment to smallholder agriculture as the main route for growth in African agriculture and for poverty reduction. We question the evidence base for an exclusive focus on smallholders, and argue for a much more open-minded approach to different modes of production. To allow alternative modes and scale of production to emerge, new institutional and policy frameworks are required. A rush to establish “mega-farms” with government discretionary allocation of vast tracts of land is unlikely to be the answer. Allowing a more dynamic agriculture to develop will require clear institutional frameworks, and not just a narrow focus on smallholders.