Interview: Bart Minten on the importance of policies to food security

Bart Minten, IFPRI Senior Research Fellow

IFPRI's Bart Minten believes that policies play a very important role in stimulating agricultural productivity.

They can create right or wrong environments and incentives that influence agricultural productivity.

"We are learning over time”, explains Minten. “In many countries for instance, the State was very much involved in setting prices. Many of the same countries have now moved towards more private marketing systems, which can have a big influence on productivity and delivery of inputs to the farmers."

Major challenges

“I see two major challenges facing the increase of productivity”, he adds.

“Previously, the international community invested heavily in institutions such as the CGIAR. These institutions developed better crop varieties, which have been adopted widely, and this had led to a productivity increase for a long time. For the past 10 years however, which coincided with the food crisis, these investments were lower. Food prices have increased because of increasing demands; productivity has not kept up.

This is changing slowly and hopefully for the better.

Delivering technologies to farmers is another big challenge, what are the necessary mechanisms to ensure that all these technologies are adopted? What incentives can we give to systems to make them work?”

Making a difference

“Institutions can make a difference at farm level by evaluating the impact of new technologies, and different delivery mechanisms, the effectiveness of the institutions that deliver technologies, and the impact of incentives and price setting.

A good example is the work of Eleni Gebre-Medhin – what she accomplished really made a difference in Ethiopia. She tried to modernize the local traditional market system, which became the Ethiopian Commodity Exchange. She helped to make markets more transparent and ensured that there was more competition so there would be higher prices for the farmers.”

Expectations

“My expectations from this conference are to learn from different countries, assemble knowledge from different countries, and get some discussions going.

The second thing is to bring researchers, donors and policy makers together and link the research side to the donor side and to the policy makers.

This is really the objective of the conference, focused on Africa and focused on agricultural productivity improvements, which is on the agenda of the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development (CAADP) initiative.

Bart chairs one of today’s parallel sessions on markets, trade, and regional integration for promoting agricultural growth.

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