Sustainable Agriculture in Africa: Towards A New Paradigm – The Embeddedness Approach

This is a paper written by

Cosmas Milton Obote Ochieng
International Development Centre
Queen Elizabeth House
Oxford University, UK.

An excerpt from the paper

This paper argues that the conventional paradigm of sustainable agriculture1{SA} in Africa
has disenfranchised smallholder farmers as researchers and principal actors in the pursuit of
answers to this question. Many scientists, agricultural research institutions and policymakers
in Africa have conceptualised and treated SA as a technical or scientific issue – the pursuit of
agricultural productivity and environmental conservation through ‘modern’ agricultural
practices and techniques – new or improved crop varieties, cropping patterns/methods, use of
modern equipment, chemicals, pesticides, et cetera {Barrett, et al, 2000 and Pretty, 1995, for
a good review of the literature on this view}. Underlying this conception are two worn out but
popular assumptions: a} traditional African agriculture is inefficient, unproductive and
backward, and b} the government, the donor and the scientist know what is best for the
African farmer. Nobel Laureate Theodore Schultz {1964} had long demolished the first view
by demonstrating that peasant farmers may be poor but are not necessarily inefficient.
Participatory development literature equally ought to have laid the second view to rest,
however, for reasons underscored elsewhere in this paper, both views persist.

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