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Agriculture for Development: the case for Somalia

Bashir Duale
Wednesday, January 16, 2013


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Worldwide agriculture and hunger eradication have taken their rightful place as a top priority.  During the Rio+20 gathering, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced The Zero-Hunger Challenge, calling for an end to world hunger. In Somalia the crisis that commenced in 1991 shattered the existing economy as Government services collapsed and businesses closed. Civil war affected every aspect of Somali society. It destroyed the country’s basic infrastructure. Some 80 percent of Somali households’ income came from their animal herds or subsistence farming. The civil war led to a sharp decrease in the price of animals, drove up cereal prices, and led to a dramatic increase in food insecurity.  With a new Government in Mogadishu now is the time to roll out a vision and a strategic plan to deal with not only food insecurity but also persistent hunger and malnutrition. In this writing and more to come I will attempt to make a case for Agriculture for Development. Given security is a basic prerequisite for economic growth. Agricultural development is futile if businesses and households are constantly at the risk of seeing their goods appropriated by armed groups. In a lawless environment, neither production nor trade can proceed. However, the current situation in Somalia has changed as the country is recovering from the war ravages of recent years. Studies have shown post conflict societies can indeed produce agricultural development and innovation.


Focusing in agriculture investment for better future coupled with a revitalization effort will provide the largest source of employment and will direct the other economic sector such as health and education of comparative advantage. Agricultural productivity growth is single most effective driver of poverty reduction by directly raising the farmer’s income and reducing food shortage. Moreover, rising agricultural productivity encourages entrepreneurial activities such diversification into new and improved varieties, rural development services and the emergence of agribusinesses. Higher agricultural productivity is thus a precondition for economic growth and development and increasing yields is essential to raising income and reducing poverty. In the 21st century, agriculture will continue to be a fundamental instrument for sustainable development and poverty reduction. Dynamic new markets, far-reaching technological and institutional innovations, and new roles for the state, the private sector, and civil society all characterize the new context for agriculture. The emerging new agriculture is led by private entrepreneurs in extensive value chains linking producers to consumers and including many entrepreneurial smallholders supported by their organizations. The agriculture of staple crops and traditional export commodities also finds new markets as it becomes more differentiated to meet changing consumer demands and new uses and benefits from regional market integration.


Access to assets is major determinants of the ability to participate in agricultural markets, secure livelihoods in subsistence farming, compete as entrepreneurs in the rural nonfarm economy, and find employment in skilled occupations. Three core assets are land, water, and human capital. Yet the assets of the rural poor are often squeezed by population growth, environmental degradation, expropriation by dominant interests, and social biases in policies and in the allocation of public goods. The lack of assets where farm sizes in many the more densely populated areas are unsustainably small and falling, land is severely degraded, investment in irrigation is negligible, and poor health and education limit productivity and access to better options. In some cases, it is more a matter of institutional development, such as enhancing the security of property rights and the quality of land administration. Increasing assets may also call leveling the field to equalize chances for disadvantaged or excluded groups, such as women. Access to financial services remains pervasive too and a major barrier.  The lack of credit to agriculture through public or private programs has left huge gaps in financial services.

Without peace and security, adequate governance, and sound macro fundamentals, no part of any agricultural agenda can be effectively implemented. Pursuing an agriculture-for-development agenda for a country implies defining what to do and how to do it. What to do requires a policy framework anchored on the behavior of farmers and their organizations, the private sector and the state. How to do it requires effective governance to muster political support and implementation capacity, again based on the behavior of all involved—the state, civil society, the private sector, donors, and global institutions. Particularly ensuing four policy objectives agenda has proven successful. These objectives should be:

1. Improve access to assets, financial services and markets

2. Enhance smallholder competitiveness

3. Improve livelihoods in subsistence farming and low-skill rural occupations

4. Increase employment in agriculture and the rural

Bashir Duale
[email protected]


C, Martin Weber and Patrick Lababste. Building Competitiveness in Africa’s Agriculture. World Bank Washington, DC

Kurt Larsen, Ronald Kim and Florian Theus, Agribusiness Innovation Systems in Africa. World Bank Washington, DC


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