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African Crop Science Journal
African Crop Science Society
ISSN: 1021-9730
EISSN: 2072-6589
Vol. 5, No. 1, 1997, pp. 93-98
Bioline Code: cs97012
Full paper language: English
Document type: Symposium
Document available free of charge

African Crop Science Journal, Vol. 5, No. 1, 1997, pp. 93-98

 en A green revolution frustrated: lessons from the Malawi experience
Carr, S. J.

Abstract

High population density, small farm size and a monomodal rainfall pattern are the main determinants of smallholder farming patterns in Malawi. With over 70% of farmers having total land holdings of less than 1 ha, the farming system is dominated by continuous cropping with maize without fallow and very little rotation. Consequently the nutrient capital of the soil is being depleted and yields are declining. For many years, the government's response to this situation has been to intensify technology based on the use of hybrid maize and inorganic fertilisers. Originally, the entire effort of the extension staff was devoted to this strategy, supported by subsidies on credit, input and output prices. As a result, the use of fertiliser and hybrid seed expanded rapidly and, in the 1992/93 season, this technology had been adopted on almost half of the total maize area. Yields of fertilised hybrid maize are presently about three time those obtained under traditional practices, and a number of international observers classified Malawi's experience as an example of an African "Green Revolution". Predictions were that by the end of the decade up to 70% of the maize area would be fertilised and planted with hybrid seed. Such claims and predictions took inadequate account to the cost to the tax-payer of maintaining these distortions once the technology was adopted on a large-scale. Subsidies have had to be dropped, both input and output markets have been liberalised and the currency has been floated. The result has been that the small holder sector in 1995/96 was able to purchase hybrid seed sufficient to plant only 7% of the maize area, whilst per capita sales of fertiliser for use on maize were lower than they were fifteen years ago. The rapid rise in the price of fertiliser has been unmatched by a rise in grain prices because these are controlled by the purchasing power of a poor population. Increasing fertiliser use has been the engine of growth of agricultural production in much of the world during the past thirty years. The World Bank, among others, has stressed the need for a rapid increase in fertiliser use in Africa if its expanding population is to be fed. It has stressed that the removal of subsidies, the liberalisation of markets and sound currency exchange policies are the vital pre-requisite for achieving this goal. The Malawian experience provides ominous indications that such policies may not achieve their desired results, and that Sub-Saharan Africa may only be able to make limited use of the fertiliser technology which has transformed so much of the world's agriculture. This paper provides a detailed analysis of the figures and factors involved in this frustrated Green Revolution and points to their relevance to other countries in the region.

Keywords
Fertiliser subsidies, maize, market liberalisation, Sub-Saharan Africa

 
 fr
Carr, S. J.

Résumé

Une forte densite de population, des petites tailles des fermes et un regime de precipitation monomodal sont les determinants les plus importants pour les petits agriculteurs au Malawi. Avec plus de 70% des agriculteurs qui possedent moins que 1 ha, les systemes agricoles sont domines par une culture continue du mais sans friche et avec peu de rotation. En consequence, la reserve nutritive du sol et les recoltes diminuent. Pendant plusieurs annees, le gouvernement a intensifie la technologie en se basant sur le mais hybride et des engrais inorganiques. Les efforts de vulgarisation se sont concentres a cette strategie, supportee par des subventions de credit, et des prix d'achat et de vente. Le resultat etait que l'emploi des engrais et des graines hybrides augmentait rapidement et dans la saison de 1992/93 cette technologie a ete adoptee par presque la moitie de la zone de production de mais. Les recoltes du mais hybride augmentaient d'environ trois fois celle obtenue par les pratiques traditionnelles et plusieurs observateurs internationaux ont classifie l'experience de Malawi comme l'exemple "d'une revolution verte Africaine". On a pronostique qu'a la fin de la decennie, plus de 70% de la zone de production de mais serait plante avec le mais hybride. Ces predictions tenaient insuffisamment compte des depenses des contribuables pour maintenir cette distortion des que la technologie serait adoptee a grande echelle. Les subventions devaient baisser, les marches d'intrants et de produits ont ete liberalises, et le monnaie flottait. En consequence, en 1995/96 les petits agriculteurs etaient capable de seulement planter 7 % de la zone de production de mais pendant que la vente des engrais par capita etait plus bas qu'il y a 15 ans. Les prix des engrais n'augmentaient pas simultanement avec le prix du mais parce qu'ils sont controles par la capacite d'achat de la pauvre population. L'emploi eleve des engrais etait le moteur devant le developpement de la production agricole dans la plupart des pays pendant les 30 annees passees. La banque mondiale, parmi d'autres, a stigmatise le besoin d'une augmentation rapide de l'emploi des engrais en Afrique pour nourrir sa population expansive. Elle a insiste sur la reduction des subventions, une liberalisation du marche et une politique saine de taux de change comme conditions vitales pour atteindre les objectifs. L'experience Malawienne donne la preuve que cette politique ne peut pas atteindre les resultats desires et que l'emploi des engrais en Afrique sub-Saharienne est limite. Cet article donne une analyse detaillee des parametres qui se rapportent a cette revolution verte ratee et des lecons a tirer pour d'autres pays dans cette region.

Mots Clés
Des subventions d'engrais, le mais, la Banque Mondiale, l'Afrique sub-Saharienne

 
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