Friday, 6 September 2013

Increasing calls for a refocus on the use and implementation of agricultural input subsidy programmes

Back from fieldwork now and it seems that the debate over agricultural input subsidies is hotting up. With some countries like Malawi and Zambia now several years into their latest input subsidy programmes and progress on tackling hunger and poverty slow, people are getting frustrated.

Whilst I was in Malawi, the UN's special rapporteur on the right to food - Olivier de Schutter - warned about the many problems facing the Farm Input Subsidy Programme: the need for complementary policies, crowding out other investments due to high costs, poor targeting, poor timing. He has even questioned the wisdom of focusing so much on inorganic fertiliser for the purpose of replenishing soil fertility.

Just today two researchers have also written for the Guardian Development Blog highlighting the need for change in Zambia's programme, with similar problems being highlighted.

These calls are a wake up call to governments implementing input subsidy programmes. While they are obviously politically appealing, they could be much more efficient and effective. Especially for those countries that are donor-dependent, these calls are likely to put increasing pressure on governments to take measures to improve the cost-effectiveness and look more carefully at other complementary policies that are needed if input subsidies are to bring about the impacts theory suggests they could.

Photo: twin and twin trading

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