Introduction

Throughout the developing world and regions in transition, interest in formulating and carrying out new agricultural policies and strategies has not been diminished by the emphasis in recent years on economic liberalization. On the contrary, in many instances the implementation of programs of economic adjustment has lent increased urgency to the task of finding policies to invigorate the agricultural and natural resource sectors. The motivation arises in part from the need to redefine the role of agriculture in a manner consistent with new visions of the economy, and at the same time to ensure that the needs of rural populations are addressed in that context. Rural poverty is a persistent and pervasive issue, and agricultural growth is the most effective way to address it.

For these reasons, and because of the inherent importance of agriculture in economic development, agricultural policy is experiencing a period of ferment and evolution throughout the world, from Latin America to Africa to the Newly Independent States and the Middle East and South and East Asia. As this book shows, many new approaches to agricultural policy are being developed, refined and implemented. Lessons are being learned and adapted. Yet in the available literature there is little systematic guidance for agricultural policy makers in the form of distillations of the findings of international experience and research. Often Ministries of Agriculture and other public agencies seek new solutions, attempt ing to move away from traditional forms of government intervention in the sector, such as the use of support prices, State marketing arrangements, State ownership of assets, subsidized credit, import controls, and centralized provision of agricultural services, but concrete guidelines for possible new policy orientations are not always readily available.

The aim of this book is to provide a systematic exposition of several important classes of policy issues and strategic considerations for agriculture, plus the emerging international consensus on viable approaches to those issues. For each area the conceptual foundations are developed, key contributions to the literature are cited, and illustrations are presented of policies that have worked, and some that have not, with explanations of why or why not. The book may serve as training material for policy staff of national and international institutions, as a reference for agricultural policy makers on issues in the sector and alternative approaches to them, and also as a source book for teaching about agricultural development.

The topics covered in the early chapters of the book include agriculture's role in economic development, the objectives of agricultural policy and strategies and the nature of policy instruments used to fulfill them, and recurring issues such as fiscal policy for agriculture, debates over the role of subsidies, policies for improving the conditions of rural poor, gender issues, privatisation, and the

Agricultural Development Policy Concepts and Experiences. R. D. Norton

© 2004 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

ISBNs: 0-470-85778-1 (HB) 0-470-85779-X (PB) FAO Edition: 92-5-104875-4

role of legislative frameworks. The succeeding chapters cover in detail the linkages between macroeconomic and agricultural policy, land tenure policies, water management policies for agriculture, policies for the agricultural financial system, and policies for agricultural technology development and dissemination.

In most experiences in policy formulation, a number of strategic issues must be confronted and resolved while seeing the process through to fruition. They range from the technical to the institutional and the social and political. The more these issues can be anticipated, and options analysed, the greater is the likelihood of a successful outcome of the process. For this reason, the basic orientations of agricultural policy are often developed in the context of a long-term national agricultural strategy. The final chapter of the book reviews issues related to the formulation of strategies and requirements for making them successful, with respect to both their content and the processes by which they are developed. Participatory approaches are discussed, and in this strategic context frameworks for rural development are reviewed as well.

A central message of this book is that in the final analysis successful strategies and policies for agricultural growth and poverty alleviation must arise out of each country's own context. In spite of globalization, conditionality of international agencies, the exigencies of world trade agreements, and the role of transnational corporations, considerable space for creative policies exists in each country. Examples from elsewhere can stimulate the policy process and suggest new avenues of thinking, but in the end the solutions have to be tailored to each country's circumstances.

As a training and teaching tool, this book is intended to serve as a basic reference for a frequently encountered policy topics and principal considerations that can assist the process of developing policy proposals. For practitioners, it is hoped that the experiences summarized in it will provide stimulus in their continuing search for appropriate answers to issues in agricultural policy, and reinforce their conviction that broadly based and sustainable agricultural development is achievable.

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