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An African Green Revolution: Finding ways to boost productivity on small farms. Keijiro Otsuka and Donald Larson World Bank January 11, 2012. An African Green Revolution: Finding ways to boost productivity.

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an african green revolution finding ways to boost productivity on small farms

An African Green Revolution: Finding ways to boost productivity on small farms

KeijiroOtsuka and Donald Larson

World Bank

January 11, 2012

Research supported by the Knowledge for Change Program, Research Support Budget (World Bank); FASID/GRIPS (Japan)

an african green revolution finding ways to boost productivity
An African Green Revolution: Finding ways to boost productivity
  • Research project focused on the usefulness of the Asian Green Revolution strategy as a model for Africa

-- Characterize key elements of the strategy, initial conditions and outcomes

-- Explore whether a similar set of policies are appropriate for Sub-Saharan Africa

      • Identify key components for successful outcomes

-- Jointly managed by Kei and myself

-- Involved a number of rural development researchers from Africa, Australia, Europe, Japan and the US

-- Material is presented as a series of 13 chapters in a forthcoming book

      • Some chapters already available as working papers

-- Funded by the Knowledge for Change Program, Research Support Budget (World Bank); FASID/GRIPS (Japan)

asia s green revolution policy model
Asia’s Green Revolution Policy Model
  • Key Focus Areas
    • Small farms
    • New varieties of key staple crops
      • Often input intensive
    • Market-based distribution systems
      • Inputs and outputs
      • Varying degrees of support
  • Core component of most current rural development strategies in Africa
    • but not only component
the asian policy model is a central pillar in most african rural development strategies
The Asian policy model is a central pillar in most African rural development strategies

“Eighty-six per cent of staples in poor areas come from local sources, so support for country-led efforts to bolster smallholder agriculture is critical.” –Robert Zoellik, President of the World Bank, Financial Times January 5, 2011

“Sustainable intensification of smallholder crop production is one of FAO’s strategic objectives.” Jacques Diouf, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.Foreword to Save and Grow. FAO (2011).

“G20 Ministers of Agriculture must focus on smallholder farmers to achieve food security and prevent food price volatility” Shenggen Fan, Director General, International Food Policy Research Institute. Press Statement June 15, 2011.

“AGRA works to achieve a food secure and prosperous Africa through the promotion of rapid, sustainable agricultural growth based on smallholder farmers.” What is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa,, downloaded June 16, 2011.

key messages
Key messages
  • A strategy based on small farms and staple crops should be a crucial and central component of most rural development strategies in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Implementation of the strategy in SSA is much different than in Asia
  • Success in SSA is arriving as a collection of technological breakthroughs rather than a wave of successes based on a handful of new crops
    • In Asia, the concentration of diets and land-constrained production in rice and wheat created special circumstances that allowed high-yielding varieties and rice and wheat to set off a powerful virtuous cycle
    • In Sub-Saharan Africa, heterogeneity of circumstances requires a larger portfolio of technologies
      • Including technologies that focus on non-land inputs
    • There is greater scope in Africa for complementary contributions from other pillars
why asia as a starting point
Why Asia as a starting point?

Source: von Braun (2005)

why asia as a starting point1
Why Asia as a starting point?

Source: FAOSTAT (2011)

Small farms as a long-term fixture of African and Asian agriculture and not an obstacle to productivity increases

Source: Nagayets (2005)

agriculture as a catalyst to poverty reduction
Agriculture as a catalyst to poverty reduction
  • Virtuous cycle
    • Agricultural productivity gains
    • Higher rural incomes
    • Reductions in rural poverty
    • Investments in human and physical capital in rural economy
    • Declining food prices
    • Reductions in urban poverty
key difference fertilizer use
Key differenceFertilizer use

Source: FAO, average 2003-2007

commonly asked question
Commonly Asked Question

Why hasn’t Green Revolution taken place in SSA?

what is the green revolution in asia
What is the Green Revolution in Asia?

Development and diffusion of a series of fertilizer-responsive, high-yielding modern varieties (MVs) in irrigated and favorable rainfed areas.

The Asian Green Revolution entailed a long-term process spanning more than three decades since the mid-1960s.

The Asian Green Revolution was technology-led and sustained by subsequent changes in policies and institutions, i.e., the development and adoption of early generation MVs led to an increase in yield, which induced increased investments in irrigation, development of fertilizer markets, adaptive research and extension, subsidy programs for purchased inputs, and further research to improve MVs.

mv adoption and irrigation ratio in the philippines which caused which
MV Adoption and Irrigation Ratio in the Philippines: which caused which?

Data source: World Rice Statistics, online

mv adoption and irrigation ratio in bangladesh
MV Adoption and Irrigation Ratio in Bangladesh

Data source: World Rice Statistics, online

fertilizer use and yield growth in the philippines
Fertilizer Use and Yield Growth in the Philippines

Data source: World Rice Statistics, online

fertilizer use and yield growth in bangladesh
Fertilizer Use and YieldGrowth in Bangladesh

Data source: World Rice Statistics, online

our answer green revolution has been taking place in some areas of ssa but not in others
Our answer: Green Revolution has been taking place in some areas of SSA but not in others.

Questions: How can we scale up the success in limited areas?


Agriculture in SSA is characterized by:

Low and stagnant crop yields

Increasing population pressure on land

Dominance of small farms

Declining soil fertility

Deteriorating climate

Fear of widespread famine

Is contemporary SSA very different form tropical Asia before the eve of Green Revolution in the early 1960s?

there are similarities but also differences at starting points
There are similarities but also differences at starting points

A broader portfolio of crops and more diverse diets in SSA  Need for diverse innovations

Higher real fertilizer price and lower fertilizer use in SSA  Need for efficient marketing

Lower irrigation ratio, and comparable farm size and arable land-rural population ratio  Greater need for investments in land improvement including irrigation

research questions
Research Questions

Small vs. Large Farms: Do small farmers in SSA respond to new opportunities?

Promising vs. non-promising crops: Is Asian Green Revolution technology transferable to SSA?

Low-Input vs. High-Input Agriculture: How can we achieve high yield sustainably in SSA?

Markets vs. Government: Where do markets function and fail in SSA?


Asian Green Revolution in Rice

Irrigated Rice Farming in SSA

Climate and Crop Yields in India and SSA

Upland NERICA Rice in East and West Africa

Soil Fertility, Fertilizer Use, and Maize Green Revolutions in SSA

Chemical Fertilizer and Organic Fertilizer in Upland Farming in India

Experiments on Improved Maize Technology Adoption in Uganda

1 small vs large farms
1. Small vs. Large Farms

Small farmers adopt improved maize varieties equally fast and achieve higher yields than large farmers in Kenya and Uganda.

Small rice farmers achieved higher yields than large farmers in irrigated areas in Uganda and Mozambique.

There is no difference in NERICA adoption and yield between small and large farms in Uganda.

Small farmers apply larger amount of inorganic fertilizer per ha than large farmers in Ethiopia.

Conclusion: African small farmers are at least as entrepreneurial and innovative as large farmers, as in the case of Asia. The inverse correlation between farm size and productivity (e.g., yield) has been emerging in SSA, like South Asia.


2. Transferability of Asian Technology

Cereal Yields by Crop: India vs. SSA


Sub-Saharan Africa

Yield (Ton/ha)

Yield (Ton/ha)
















what crops are promising
What crops are promising?

Sorghum and millet: Unpromising as Green Revolution did not take place even in Asia, and yields are comparable between India and SSA.

Wheat: Promising as yield tripled in SSA but production area is limited in this region.

Maize: Fairly promising as yield increased from 1.0 t/ha to 1.5 t/ha in SSA but the yield gap is not so large.

Rice: Promising as yield increased from 1.2 t/ha to 1.8 t/ha and the yield gap is still substantial.

promising crop 1 lowland rice
Promising Crop (1): Lowland Rice

Using Asian MVs, rice yields per ha are:

  • 5.3 t/ha in irrigated areas of Senegal River Basin
  • 3-4 t/ha in irrigated areas in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger
  • 3-4 t/ha in irrigated area in Uganda without any chemical fertilizer
  • 4 t/ha in irrigated area in Tanzania
  • But only1-2 t/ha in rainfed area of Tanzania, Ghana, and Mozambique.

Rice Green Revolution, using MVs developed in Asia, has been taking place in irrigated areas in SSA. But yields under rainfed conditions are deplorably low. Why?

our field observations no bunding
Our field observations: No Bunding!

No bund→less and uneven water →weed / uneven plant growth

Rainfed parcel without bund

Rainfed parcel without bund

Rainfed parcel with bund

Irrigated parcel with bund

our field observations leveling and straight row planting to avoid uneven growth facilitate weeding
Our field observations: Leveling and Straight-Row Plantingto avoid uneven growth / facilitate weeding

The same place after leveling

Before leveling

Impact of leveling (Mbarali)

Straight-row planting Weeding

promising crop 2 upland nerica rice
Promising Crop (2): Upland NERICA rice

In Uganda, NERICA yields are 2 t/ha (dropouts) and 3 t/ha (continuous adopters) in 2004, and 1.5 t/ha (new adopters) and 2.5 t/ha (continuous adopters) in 2009, which are far higher than the average upland rice yield of 1 t/ha in SSA.

In Benin, NERICA yield is 2.6 t/ha, which is significantly higher than average yield of other rice varieties, which is 1.6 t/ha.

In Cote d’Ivoire, Gambia, and Guinea, however, no yield advantage of NERICA is found.

promising crop 3 maize
Promising Crop (3): Maize

Yield in Kenya: 2.2 t/ha with hybrid vs. 1.7 t/ ha with local and “recycled” hybrid varieties

Yield in Uganda: 1.7 t/ha with hybrid vs. 1.5 t/ ha with local and recycled varieties

Experiment in Uganda:

-- Distributed free hybrid seeds and chemical fertilizer to randomly chosen 500 HHs and none to 300 HHs in early 2009

-- Sold seeds and chemical fertilizer to all HH and some neighbors at market prices and discounted prices with and without credit before the crop season in 2010

-- Yields improved but not impressively (see Figure)

melinda smale derek byerlee and thom jayne argue
Melinda Smale, Derek Byerlee, and Thom Jayne argue

“Well-adapted germplasm is highly specific to location…. progress achieved in one tropical environment cannot be easily replicated in another.”

“Whether farmers grow improved open-pollinated varieties or hybrids, they are reliant on seed industry to a much greater than growers of improved rice or wheat.”

“….. investment in maize research is required to produce a new generation of improved varieties that are drought-tolerant, pest-resistant, and nutrient-efficient.”

3 low input vs high input agriculture
3. Low-Input vs. High-Input Agriculture
  • Since prices of inorganic fertilizer are high and grain prices at the farm gate are low, Asian-type “high-input farming” is inappropriate for SSA.
  • At the same time, it is obvious that high grain yields cannot be achieved without applying fertilizer.
  • We found that manure is applied to upland fields not only in India but also in East Africa where dairy cows are kept in stalls and that it is complementary to inorganic fertilizer.

Conclusion: Mixed crop-livestock farming system with the use of moderate amount of both organic and inorganic fertilizer is appropriate for SSA. Careful crop rotation and the use of nitrogen fixing agroforestry should be also considered.

water and climate
Water and Climate

The impacts of climate (i.e., temperature and rainfall) on crop yields have been lessened over time in the case of the Green Revolution crops in India (i.e., rice, wheat, and maize), due presumably to shorter growth duration of modern varieties.

Weaker but similar changes, i.e., reduced impacts of climate on yields of rice, maize, and wheat, have been observed in SSA, suggesting the emerging impacts of Green Revolution technologies in SSA.

4 markets vs government
4. Markets vs. Government

Distance and road conditions are major determinants of output and input prices (e.g., maize, rice, milk, and inorganic fertilizer prices) in Kenya, Uganda, and Ethiopia, suggesting that unfavorable relative prices for farmers are due to poor infrastructure, not due to the malfunctioning of markets.

NERICA farmers said that lack of rice millers in nearby towns was a major constraint on NERICA adoption in 2004, but rice millers mushroomed since then, which promoted NERICA adoption.

Tentative Conclusion: Although the evidence is not as concrete as we may wish, it seems that output and input markets have developed responding to increased demand for inputs and increased supply of outputs. Similar changes seem to have taken place in the process of Green Revolution in Asia.

4 markets vs government continued
4. Markets vs. Government (continued)

Credit market is not working and, thus, lack of credit is commonly a major constraint on the use of fertilizer.

-- Why don’t fertilizer dealers/traders/millers provide fertilizer on credit, as in Asia?

-- Does micro finance work in agriculture in SSA?

Weak extension system is another major constraint on the Green Revolution in SSA.

-- No bunding and leveling in lowland rice production in many areas in SSA

-- Absence of knowledge on hybrid maize and fertilizer in Uganda

-- Deterioration of self-produced NERICA rice seeds in Uganda, resulting in more than 50% discontinued adopters in 2004-06.

successes in african agriculture s haggblade and p hazell
Successes in African Agriculture (S. Haggblade and P. Hazell)

Success: cassava and cotton due to sustained collaboration between national agricultural research institutions and advanced institutions that has generated a steady stream of new productive technology.

Some success: dairy-cows in Kenya and maize in Eastern and Southern Africa, but improvement took place basically one time.

concluding remarks i
Concluding Remarks (I)

1. Support smallholders as small farm size is not obstacle to productivity growth in SSA. As in Asia, smallholder farmers adopt new technologies as fast as or even faster than large farmers and achieve higher yields in SSA .

2. Focus on lowland rice, upland rice, and maize as core strategic crops (possibly cassava and sweat potatoes could be other promising crops). In particular, lowland rice has advantage, as the useful technology and production practices can be directly transferable from Asia to SSA.

concluding remarks ii
Concluding Remarks (II)

3. Invest in research not only on new crop varieties but also on the search for the optimum farming systems based on integrated dairy and maize production with crop rotation, manure/compost and fertilizer application, and the use of agroforestry.

4. Strengthen extension system to boost grain production in the short run.

5. Strengthen research systems (particularly sustained collaborations between CG centers and national agricultural research institutions) and increase investments in transportation infrastructure to improve marketing systems and irrigation to realize Green Revolution in the longer run.