Changing Development Objectives and Agriculture

  • Eric Clayton


Although this quotation has an archaic ring, it nevertheless reminds us that the notion of ‘poverty’ being synonymous with ‘underdevelopment’ is not of recent origin. The alleviation of poverty has long been considered an essential goal of the development process and, in the decades since World War II, objectives have been postulated and strategies formulated which, it was hoped, would achieve this elusive goal.


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Notes and References

  1. 1.
    United Nations, Measures for the Economic Development of Under-Developed Countries (New York: 1951).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    FAO, Agriculture in the World (Rome: 1955).Google Scholar
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  4. 4.
    World Bank World Development Report (1978) Tables 1 and 2.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    D. Colman and F. Nixon, Economics of Change in Less Developed Countries (Philip Allan, 1978) pp. 165–66.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    D. Seers, The Meaning of Development, Communications Series 44 (I D S, University of Sussex, 1969). See also an early critique of GNP by Jacob Viner quoted in S. H. Frankel, Some Conceptual Aspects of International Economic Development of Underdeveloped Territories, Essays in International Finance, no. 14 (Princeton University, 1952).Google Scholar
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    Seers, The Meaning of Development.Google Scholar
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    F. Stuart and P. Streeten, ‘New Strategies for Development’, Oxford Economic Papers, vol. 28 (1976) no. 2.Google Scholar
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    R. Jolly, The World Employment Conference: The Enthronement of Basic Needs’, ODI Review (1976) no. 2.Google Scholar
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    ILO, Employment, Growth and Basic Needs: A One World Problem (Geneva: 1976).Google Scholar
  12. As Singer put it: The problem is not so much how to withdraw labour surplus from the countryside for urban employment without reducing agricultural output. That is essentially a static problem appropriate to an economy with stationary population and slowly developing technology. In the present dynamic context, the problem is rather how to find increasing employment for a rapidly increasing rural population [my italics] and to raise agricultural output more than in proportion to the increase in rural population, in order to reduce the impact of rural poverty. H. Singer, ‘Rural Unemployed as a Background to Rural Urban Migration in Africa’, in Manpower and Unemployment Research in Africa, Newsletter vol. 6 (1973) no. 2 (Centre for Developing Area Studies, McGill University). But see also the early article byGoogle Scholar
  13. F. Dovring, ‘The Share of Agriculture in a Growing Population’, Monthly Bulletin of Agricultural Economics and Statistics, vol. 8 (Rome: FAO, 1959).Google Scholar
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    G. Myrdal, Asian Drama, vol. 3 (Pelican Books, 1968) ch. 22, p. 2046.Google Scholar
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    IBRD, Employment, Income Distribution and a Poverty Redressal Index, Economic Staff Working Paper No. 129 (prepared by Deepak La1, 1972).Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    H. Chenery et al., Redistribution with Growth (Oxford University Press, 1974).Google Scholar
  19. 20.
    K. Griffin and A. T. Khan, ‘Poverty in the Third World: Ugly Facts and Fancy Models’, World Development, vol. 6 (1978) no. 3. For these authors, redistribution requires the socialist transformation of society. Presumably this would mean the destruction of smallholder agriculture.Google Scholar
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    M. Lipton ‘Inter-farm, Inter-regional and Farm-Non-farm Income Distribution: Impact of the New Cereal Varieties’, World Development, vol. 6 (1978) no. 3.Google Scholar
  21. Also CGIAR Secretariat, The Consultative Group and the International Agricultural Research System, An Integrative Report, (mimeo) (1978); andGoogle Scholar
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  23. 23.
    Many examples can be found in ILO, Poverty and Landlessness in Rural Asia (Geneva, 1977) andGoogle Scholar
  24. in B. Dasgupta, Agrarian Change and the New Technology in India, (Geneva: UNRISD, 1977); see foreword of the latter publication.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    But see ILO, Employment Incomes and Equality in Kenya (Geneva: 1972) which proposed the encouragement of a free market in land as a means of achieving redistribution of land in favour of smallholders.Google Scholar
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    ILO, Employment, Growth and Basic Needs: A One World Problem (Geneva: 1976).Google Scholar
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    P. Streeten and S. J. Burki, ‘Basic Needs: Some Issues’, World Development, vol. 6 (1978) no. 3, p. 413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    P. Streeten ‘From Growth to Basic Needs’, Finance and Development, vol. 16 (1979) no. 2. In this later statement, he says that for philosophic and practical reasons ‘meeting basic needs is more important than equality’.Google Scholar
  29. 30.
    As formulated previously. Criticism of the strategy obviously does not imply rejection of the urgent need to tackle the serious deficiencies of nutrition, housing, health, education and water supplies in the LDCs. Recently, to confuse discussion further, the term ‘basic needs’ is being used indiscriminately. Thus the Integrated Agricultural Development Programme in Kenya, which is a normal comprehensive agricultural strategy for raising smallholder incomes, is referred to as a basic needs activity. Compare D. Ghai, M. Godfrey and F. Lisk, Planning for Basic Needs in Kenya, (Geneva: ILO, 1979).Google Scholar
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    It has been heavily criticised by both the Left and the Right. T. Killick, Strengthening Kenyas Development Strategy, Discussion Paper 239 (I D S, University of Nairobi, 1976); andGoogle Scholar
  31. C. Leys, Underdevelopment in Kenya (Heinemann, 1975). Since we do not have a theory linking income growth and its distribution, the RwG model is a mechanistic device which postulates untested relationships between prescribed variables. Although mathematically it is capable of producing a determinate outcome, in practice, this requires the insertion of precise coefficients. Neither the relationships nor the coefficients have any empirical justification. Moreover, fixed coefficients are used — implying unchanging values over time. In the original presentation of the model, Hans Singer candidly admitted to its deficiencies (ILO, Employment Incomes and Equality in Kenya). It assumed that redistribution would not affect levels of productivity; that there would be no (or small) disincentive effects; that over a long period (20 years) there would be highly productive investments to raise income levels of the poor (in agriculture) and that appropriate technologies would be available to effect this; that investment funds from extra income would be efficiently employed by government, and so on. In the quantification of the model it assumed a normal annual growth rate of 7 per cent and a special capital/output (K/O) ratio of 1 in the agricultural sector — that is, the agricultural development problem was assumed away! The assumptions of the later Chenery model (H. Chenery et al., Redistribution with Growth), were more modest, but the results were no less optimistic. It is notable that criticisms of the RwG model have not been answered by its authors. Yet the RwG model is a core ingredient of BN. Its acceptance is therefore an act of faith, not a scientifically established theorem. Its outcome remains indeterminate and its use highly dubious for planning development strategy.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    G. Ranis, Basic Needs, Distribution and Growth: the Beginnings of a Framework, Discussion Paper 365 (Economic Growth Center, Yale University, 1981).Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    M. ul. Haq, ‘An international perspective on basic needs’, Finance and Development, vol. 17 (1980) no. 3.Google Scholar
  34. See also, S. J. Burki and M. ul Haq ‘Meeting Basic Needs: An Overview, World Development, vol. 9 (1981).Google Scholar
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    The World Bank, World Development Report (Oxford University Press, 1980) Table 5.3 p. 48.Google Scholar
  36. 35.
    Ibid., p. 98.Google Scholar
  37. 36.
    ODI, Basic Needs, Briefing Paper No. 5 (1978). See also Streeten, ‘From Growth to Basic Needs’: ‘Does then, the basic needs approach represent an improvement on the earlier approaches, which advocated raising the productivity, incomes and purchasing power of the poor? There are several reasons for thinking that it does … Personal income which is earned by an employed worker or self employed farmer is sometimes an inefficient way of meeting basic needs and may even reduce the amount spent on necessities.’ To paraphrase, farmers who raise their incomes may purchase less nutritious foods and non-food items. Hence the state, which knows better, must also try to counter what it deems are the irresponsible decisions of its people.Google Scholar

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© Eric Clayton 1983

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  • Eric Clayton

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