This paper argues that the state has a large potential role in increasing staple food crop productivity as a result of:
The importance of staple food crop intensification in driving and supporting pro-poor growth in poor rural areas
Active state involvement was a pervasive feature of Asian green revolutions, but the task is not easy, particularly with the varied and often difficult agro-ecological conditions in Africa, the lack of irrigation infrastructure, likely impacts of climate change, the limited human and financial resources available to governments, and the political challenges facing governments in pursuing consistent policies.
Increasing staple food crop productivity requires governments, with private sector actors, farmers and civil society, to address a number of challenges.
These are posed by specific technical constraints to productivity increases:
Lack of important public goods (principally infrastructure and institutions)
Recent dramatic increases in food and fertiliser prices; poor policy coordination
Lack of complementary coordination in rural service development and provision
The food price/ productivity tightrope
Un-affordability of on-farm productivity investments; and high price instability
The nature of and solutions to these challenges, and hence the nature and importance of responses to them, vary between three different types of crop – characterised as high response cereals (maize and rice), low response cereals (sorghum and millet), and roots and tubers (cassava and yams).
FAC Research Paper No. 10, June 2008, 59 pp.