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Boosting Agricultural Productivity and Food Security in Africa: A Case Study of Ghana

Mr. Francis Abebrese and Dr. Tewodaj Mogues discuss agricultural productivity and public financing for agriculture in Africa, focusing on Ghana as a case study.

Date & Time

Sep. 7, 2017
2:00pm – 3:30pm


6th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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Boosting Agricultural Productivity and Food Security in Africa: A Case Study of Ghana

On September 7, 2017, The Wilson Center Africa Program hosted Mr. Francis Abebrese, an Economic and Research Analyst at the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) and a Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding Scholar with the Africa Program and Dr. Tewodaj Mogues, Senior Research Fellow for the Development Strategy and Governance Division at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to discuss agricultural productivity and public financing for agriculture in Africa, focusing on Ghana as a case study.

Dr. Mogues began the discussion by addressing the trends, impacts, and determinants of public expenditures in the agricultural sector in Africa. Public spending on agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa varies by country, ranging from 0.25 to about 12 percent of GDP. Relative to the size of the sector, public spending is low and has been decreasing in recent decades—a trend that is even more apparent in Ghana than in Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole. Public expenditure on research and development in agriculture, in particular, is low compared to many other world regions. Although the African Union established a target of 1 percent of spending intensity (spending as a percentage of GDP) allocated towards research and development, less than half of African countries meet this target (including Ghana). Despite the low level of spending on this line item, research and development offers high rates of return; the dollar for dollar returns on agricultural research and development for household income are higher than on other sectors, like education or roads. For example, in Rwanda, for every $1 spent on research and development, there is a $12 return, but only a $3 return for investments in agriculture as a whole. Given these strong returns, why does under-spending on the agricultural sector persist in Sub-Saharan Africa? Dr. Mogues pointed to two key explanations: that public leaders tend to allocate funds towards investments that are visible, and that they are more likely to invest in areas that accrue benefits quickly and visibly. Research and development spending, on the other hand, often results in less visible outcomes that take years to accrue. Dr. Mogues concluded that social, economic, and political returns all matter for policymaking and expenditure allocation; this incentives problem is one that will have to be addressed going forward if the agricultural sector is to be transformed.

Mr. Abebrese focused in on the agricultural sector in Ghana, discussing the reasons behind low agricultural productivity as well as lessons learned, key issues, and policy recommendations for increasing public expenditure and improving productivity. Although the contributions of agriculture to total GDP in Ghana have been declining, it remains significant at about 20 percent. Increasing agricultural productivity is of vital importance because of its role in food security, poverty reduction, and promoting peacebuilding. Productivity has remained low in Ghana compared to other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa due to low intensification, usage of improved seeds, usage of fertilizer, irrigation, and access to output markets as well as weak farmer education and an unfriendly policy environment. Although the 2003 Maputo Declaration recommends that at least 10 percent of the national budget be spent on agriculture, spending in Ghana is far lower, at 2.6 percent. Not only is total public spending for agriculture low, but it is also inefficiency allocated; although research and development has been shown to have one of the most high productivity returns, only 6.2 percent of agricultural spending in Ghana goes towards this line item. Agricultural productivity, Mr. Abebrese argued, will not increase until there is more smart public investment in this sector, funneled towards the right areas. Mr. Abebrese concluded with several recommendation for policymakers: 1) More effort should go towards managing the political pressures around funding allocation to ensure that investment goes towards priority areas like research and development; 2) Ghana should reduce barriers to and encourage private investment in agricultural research in collaboration with international organizations; and, 3) the international donor community can align its support towards policies that will support agricultural productivity.

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The Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding (SVNP) is a continent-wide network of African policy and research organizations that works with the Africa Program to bring African analyses and perspectives to key issues in U.S.-Africa relations. Funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York since 2011, the project provides avenues for African researchers to engage with, inform, and exchange perspectives with U.S. and international policymakers in order to develop the most appropriate, cohesive, and inclusive policy frameworks for the issues of peacebuilding and state-building in Africa.

This event was livetweeted and webcast. Follow the Africa Program Twitter account @AfricaUpClose and catch up on the conversation with #foodsecurity.

[1] Ghana Statistical Service, Labour Force Report (August 2014) Page 26 -

[2]  Ghana Ministry of Food and Agriculture -

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Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and U.S.-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial U.S.–Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, including our blog Africa Up Close, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in U.S.-Africa relations.    Read more

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