National Extension Policy
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What contribution can agriculture make to poverty reduction?

What contribution can smallholder agriculture can make to poverty reduction? Although there have been widespread calls for increasing investment in small holder agriculture as a “pathway out of poverty” there has been debate as to how effective this will be.
A 2006 an OECD review argued that “it is clear that the potential of agriculture and agricultural (land) reform itself to reduce poverty is limited. The long-term solution to poverty reduction requires involving a greater part of the rural poor in economic activities generating sufficient income. The main potential to reduce rural poverty and inequity lies in the development of overall frameworks providing social security, education and training as well as health care, and in developing adequate infrastructures in rural areas”(Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2006)
However agencies like DFID have argued that at the macro-economic level, growth in agriculture has been consistently shown to be more beneficial to the poor than growth in other sectors. There is an important caveat here that increased productivity (as opposed to increased production) is the key to greater impact on poverty. “Broad-based growth and diversification do not happen when agricultural output increases simply by using additional land or labour. Instead, greater value must be added to the land and labour used, i.e. agricultural productivity increases.” (DFID, 2004)
In the African context it has been asserted that “each 1% increase in agricultural productivity in Africa reduces poverty by 0.6%. Thus, a smallholder-led growth strategy has the potential to make a very significant impact on food security and poverty reduction.” (Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa, 2007) This has been echoed in South Africa where it has been argued that there is “a strong case for agriculture’s role in reducing poverty...Evidence from other countries shows that, with the necessary support, smallholder agriculture can contribute significantly to poverty alleviation by raising agricultural productivity and rural incomes.”. (Machethe, 2004).
The National Development Plan and the New Growth Path contain optimistic projections for job creation from agriculture. If job creation and improved livelihood security are to become realities extension and advisory services have to find ways to add value to current land reform, communal area land use and production systems. However this on its own will not be enough as rural poverty has deep structural elements as the Second Economy Strategy has illustrated  so effectively.
To date the land reform programme has focused primarily on enabling access to land without adequately engaging with the constraints that people acquiring land will face if they want to bring it into production, irrespective of scale. With limited development support and where land reform offers few opportunities to pursue multiple livelihoods, many land reform beneficiaries are forced to remain where they are but move family members and resources between two locations which can drain household resources particularly as transport costs continue to escalate. 
Improved extension has to be seen as part of a package of measures to address systemic structural poverty and tenure insecurity in rural areas.

Posted: 6/28/2012 (2:52:42 PM)


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