State Fragility and African Agriculture

Background paper to the ERD2009


Shailaja Fennell – ERD-Team member, University of Cambridge


Paper prepared for the Conference on “Moving Towards the European Report on Development 2009”, organised by the European Report of Development in Florence, Italy, 21-23 June, 2009


This paper examines the characteristics of African development that have emerged from the conventional approach to looking at agriculture as a contributor to development. The consequences of examining African agriculture and identifying its characteristics variously as a sectoral contribution to GDP, a provider of employment and its ability to support a rural population, the source of food and raw materials, and the site of entrepreneurial skill, will all be analysed. The prognosis that emerges from this established perspective is that African agriculture has not been very successful in ensuring economic development. With regard to the relationship between agriculture and security, a more recent set of paradigms that focus on agriculture as a site, rather than a source, have emerged, and this paper examines how these provide new opportunities to examine agriculture security linkages to reduce contexts of state fragility.
The paper begins by reviewing the depiction of African agriculture in the traditional literature to identify the causes of agricultural instability and agricultural crisis. Section 2 asks how the new literature on state fragility can be linked to agricultural development to develop a typology of agricultural policies. Section 3 reviews the impact of land reform and land re-distribution on agricultural production and conflict. Section 4 examines how the introduction of social safety-nets and social protection could reduce risk and vulnerability in contexts of rural poverty. Section 5 traces the linkages between food security and newer concepts of vulnerability and resilience. Section 6 focuses on how the institutional initiatives undertaken by the EU in the area of food security and agriculture in Africa have created new opportunities and challenges in reducing food insecurity and state fragility.
Keywords: Africa, agriculture, State fragility, land reform, safety nets, vulnerability, resilience, food security, European Union.

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