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Technology, Environment and the Productivity Problem in African Agriculture: Comment on the World Development Report 2008

Authors

  • PHILIP WOODHOUSE

    1. Institute for Development Policy and Management, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK
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  • Philip Woodhouse, Institute for Development Policy and Management, School of Environment and Development, University of Manchester, Manchester M13 9PL, UK. e-mail: phil.woodhouse@manchester.ac.uk

  • The author wishes to record thanks to the editors and two reviewers for comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

Abstract

This paper is concerned with the need for a ‘productivity revolution in smallholder farming’ that the World Development Report 2008 (WDR08) identifies is required in sub-Saharan Africa. It reviews the technological options for such a productivity revolution in Africa, and how these are conditioned by the ‘agriculture-based’ model the WDR08 uses to characterize African economies. It argues that the model effects, firstly, a disconnection of agriculture from ‘urban’ Africa that constitutes its principal market and the source of investment and inputs with which to raise productivity, and, secondly, an adherence to unrealistic and sometimes contradictory assumptions about the way markets link agriculture to other parts of the economy.

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