Policies, Institutions and Market Development to Accelerate Technological Change in the Semiarid Zones of Sub-Saharan Africa

Conference paper


Agriculture in the African dry lands is constrained by geographical and economic isolation due to limited market access which affect adoption of new technology. International subsidies that flood developing-world markets with cheap food, national policies that tax the agricultural sector to benefit urban interests, and neglect of rural infrastructure discourage agricultural intensification. Increased market demand for staples and for higher-value products produced more efficiently will ensure that dryland farmers realize an economic gain from adopting more intensive practices. The interdependence of these key factors requires an integrated management of water soil fertility and improved crop varieties research focused on the poor, particularly women and children to ensure that they are equipped to capture most of the benefits of these changes. Low-value but essential food security crops need public sector assistance until their intensification becomes attractive to the private sector. Drought and market risks determine farmers’ decision-making in the drylands; yet it is too often assumed that new technology increases risk. Some technologies, policies and institutions can reduce risk.

Drought risk can be combated through water harvesting, improved soil physical conditions and efficient supplementary irrigation where cost-effective. Nutrient use efficiency can be enhanced by correcting the most-limiting deficiencies, placing fertilizers directly in the root zone, combining inorganic with organic sources and adjusting topdressings to climatic conditions. Once these risks are reduced, gains from more input-responsive, longer-season varieties can be realized. Postharvest risk can be reduced and incomes increased through cooperative grain storage, inventory credit, improved processing and marketing systems, as well as diversification into new crops, crop products and related enterprises


Diversification drought risk intensification nutrient use efficiency water harvesting water use efficiency 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Plant Breeder and CoordinatorOasis
  2. 2.Economist, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)PatancheruIndia
  3. 3.Dept. of Agricultural EconomicsPurdue UniversityLafayetteUSA

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