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17. The foundations represent necessary but not sufficient conditions to improve smallholder farmers’ access to markets.  The three foundations that this framework rests on are

  • rural infrastructure, including rural feeder roads, modern energy services, irrigation and large-scale drainage, and storage and warehousing;
  • rural public services* that support human development, such as health, education, and water and sanitation; and
  • the rural investment climate or enabling environment for business, including small-scale businesses.

18. African governments recognised the importance of substantial investment in agricultural development with creation of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Plan (CAADP), announced in the 2003 Maputo Declaration[1].  Through CAADP African governments committed to increasing their annual spending on agriculture to 10% of GDP by 2008, with the objective of generating 6% p.a. growth in the sector.  By February 2013, 30 countries had signed the CAADP compact and 26 had finalised related Investment Plans (NEPAD 2013).

19. However, only eight countries had achieved or exceeded the 10% investment target by mid-2012; and only 10 succeeded in realising 6% annual growth in agricultural production (NEPAD 2013).  During 2004-2007, almost as many countries reduced their agricultural spending as increased it (ActionAid 2009).  Between 1990 and 2005 agricultural spending in sub-Saharan Africa averaged only between 4 and 6% of overall spending (Fan et al 2009).  Fan et al point out that there was a 75% surge in average agricultural spending between 2000 and 2005; however the starting point was so low that spending levels remain well below what is needed to achieve significant and sustained agricultural growth. There is also some inconsistency in how governments categorise agricultural spending for purposes of reporting on CAADP progress – for example, some countries include investment in rural infrastructure such as feeder roads which, while critical to agricultural development, are not strictly speaking meant to count towards CAADP targets for agricultural support (Curtis 2012).

20. Based on 2006 data, ActionAid estimates the investment shortfall between actual levels and the aimed-for 10% to be US$2.9 billion a year, and identifies lack of political will as the main reason why more countries have not met CAADP targets (ActionAid 2009). It is worth noting that Asian governments devoted around 20% of overall spending to agriculture during the green revolution (Conway 2012).

21. Although the primary responsibility for providing these foundational conditions rests on the state, in the context of severe resource constraints there is an important role for development agencies, donors and, increasingly, the private sector.  The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is a joint commitment by G8 nations, African governments and private sector partners to lift 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years through inclusive and sustained agricultural growth.  Building on the agenda of the Global Partnership for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition which preceded it, the New Alliance aims to support the accelerated implementation of CAADP, among others through catalysing private sector investment in African agriculture. A reported US$3 billion of private sector investment has been committed to date. However, serious concerns have been expressed about many aspects of the New Alliance.  Some argue that it is not inclusive or democratic enough; that it is too closely aligned with the interests of large-scale agribusiness, which results in its promoting a particular approach to agricultural development which focuses strongly on green revolution-type policies (driven by modified seeds and large-scale use of agrochemicals) at the expense of more agro-ecological and sustainable approaches; and that these investments will not bring tangible and sustainable benefits to the majority of smaller producers (see, for example, Oxfam 2012a, IDC 2013).

22. Critics of the New Alliance argue for adherence to the principles of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), whose Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests as a means of eradicating hunger and poverty, supporting sustainable development and enhancing the environment. The Voluntary Guidelines were adopted by the CFS after a three-year process of consultation and are widely recognised for putting emphasis on the rights and needs of women, indigenous peoples and the poor.  The effectiveness of these guidelines will depend on how they are implemented. Social movements and NGOs in the CFS are lobbying for the Voluntary Guidelines to be translated into binding national laws, while many in the private sector believe they should remain voluntary (Grain 2013).

23. Turning now to the individual foundations and their particular relevance for smallholder farmers, a number of potential indicator questions are suggested which could be used to assess whether governments are taking the right actions to ensure a supportive business environment exists for smallholder farmers to participate in markets and share in the benefits of increased agricultural investment.

In this section

  1. Rural infrastructure
  2. Rural public services
  3. The investment climate


*Agricultural research and development and agricultural extension services are key public goods and of critical importance to smallholders.  For purposes of this framework research and extension services is treated as a separate ‘Pillar’ rather than as part of the foundations (see Pillar 4), as it impacts on smallholders specifically and directly, rather than benefiting the rural population at large which the other factors categorised as ‘Foundations’ do.

[1] More information on CAADP is available at

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