Sunday, October 3, 2010

Practical project to test and promote my Sahelian agricultural revolution proposal

About a year ago I wrote a paper on promoting an agricultural revolution in the Sahel of Africa, which I later linked to on this blog, with some hindsight comments about the shortcomings or omissions of my original Sahel proposal. Anyway, after writing the original essay, which limited itself for the most part to the realm of grand proposals, I put together a short document detailing practically how one might implement and test some of the general proposals I put forth in the essay. I tried to shop the essay and the practical project document around to different development organizations to see if they might be interested in pursuing the idea beyond the abstract. However, that came to nothing, so I feel comfortable now publishing the practical document on the blog. Here it is:

Project to promote an agricultural revolution in the Sahel

Pre-project planning and follow-up monitoring

  • Compile background library on Sahelian agriculture, agricultural change in the Sahel, land reform, appropriate technology for the Sahel, fertility management in the Sahel, etc.
  • Perform agrarian diagnostics in 10 pilot villages, analyzing landscape, historical changes, cropping systems, and general farming systems.
  • Based on the agrarian diagnostics, we will identify central agrarian problems in each village to guide us in our portfolio of proposed interventions.
  • We will hold village-wide meetings to determine what interventions to implement to respond to identified problems.
  • Perform baseline evaluation and long-term follow-up measurements of poverty and family income indicators, as well as soil fertility and organic matter.

Soil fertility interventions

  • Fencing of unplanted land to exclude cattle (with communal ownership maintained over the resource)
  • Fencing of planted fields to enable pasturing of cattle on fields
  • Incorporation of fodder and forage crops into crop rotations, including catch crops at the end of the growing season to prevent nitrogen loss from fields
  • Promotion of tree planting or natural regeneration, especially of leguminous trees such as Faidherbia alba
  • Promotion of underutilized indigenous African crops as a way of diversifying land use (and also diversifying income)

Equipment interventions

  • Competitive grants and contests to fund farmer invention of new technologies
  • Collaboration with local engineering schools in which students work with farming communities to design new technologies
  • Competitive grants, contests, and subsidies to small- and medium-size manufacturers of new tools and equipment

Institutional changes

  • Credit for tools, inputs, irrigation, and “hungry season” loans, from government lenders and government-backed private lenders
  • Creation of farmer-run buying and marketing cooperatives
  • Crop insurance, offered by government agencies and government-backed private insurers
  • Promotion of local and national marketing channels
  • Promotion of food crops versus export crops
  • Promotion of farm-scale well irrigation (preceded by a study of aquifers)
  • Agricultural extension to help farmers calculate production costs
  • Land redistribution to grant land to landless workers
  • Implementation and enforcement of food sales tax to replace government revenue lost by doing away with verticalized export crop systems
  • Preferential government purchasing from local farmers

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