Food Security in Africa Cooperative Agreement.  [1985 - 1992]

Project Name:            Food Security in Africa Cooperative Agreement *
Donor:                        United States Agency for International Development
Contract No:              DAN-1190-A-00-4092-00
Account No:               71-2004 (Core); 71-2026 (Zimbabwe) and other add-ons
Location:                    Africa (Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, Sahel West Africa, Southern Africa Regional, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe)
Duration:                    September 1985-August 1992
Budget:                       Core (Total): $4,049,773    All Add-Ons: $8,747,873
Documents:                (Click here to view)

Project Goals:            To assist African countries in formulating alternative institutions and management processes that deal with critical short- and medium-term food supply problems, and that are consistent with longer-term strategies for achieving more reliable, productive, and dynamic food systems that benefit both producers and consumers.  Sub-goals included:  1) to develop new knowledge, operational approaches and analytical methods that enhance the ability of governments to identify problems, analyze program alternatives, and formulate strategies that achieve food security goals; and 2) to develop a new understanding of how to upgrade institutional and professional capabilities for managing national food systems.

Project Plans/Objectives: In selected African countries, the project’s objectives were:

  • To analyze how alternative structures of incentives, as reflected in prices, technology, and institutions, influence whether farmers devote their resources to expanding domestic food production, export crop production, or other employment activities that can increase their incomes and effective food demand.
  • To analyze alternative roles and responsibilities of both the public and private sector in the development of productive and reliable food systems effectively coordinated through input and output markets, including investigation of investment needs and incentives, alternative ownership and management arrangements, and other necessary institutional, infrastructural, and technology changes that structure the nature of the market.
  • To analyze alternative uses of food aid and administrative procedures that will contribute to medium- and longer-term food security goals.

Cooperating Institutions:    Host-country organizations and individuals in project add-on countries.  See country-level fact sheets under “Documents From/About This Project”.

Project Summary:     In 1984 the “Alternative Rural Development Strategies Cooperative Agreement was amended and extended to concentrate on issues of Food Security in Africa (FSA).  The amended Food Security in Africa Cooperative Agreement was a joint undertaking between the USAID Bureau of Science and Technology (S&T/RD) and the Africa Bureau (AFR/TR/ARD).  Over the life of this activity, MSU/FSA faculty, students and host country collaborators worked in Senegal, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe/Southern Africa, Sahel West Africa/Regional and on topics of nutrition and agricultural technology assessment.  The final evaluation of this work summarized contributions as follows:

 “The project has empirically unmasked incorrect “conventional wisdom” about rural households, informal local and regional marketing, and the capability of farmers, traders, and government managers to respond to policy reforms, institutional changes, and technological improvements. It has shown how policy reform can become more directly attuned to food security issues by better understanding household consumption patterns, rural trade patterns, informal regional trade flows, internal marketing institutions, the diversity of household strategies for coping with short-term food emergencies, and the limits imposed by technological constraints.

 Michigan State University’s (MSU) work on food security has shown that in an environment characterized by high production variability, technological constraints, and poor local food marketing infrastructure, food self-sufficiency is not a viable food security strategy. At the same time, their work suggests that there are opportunities for intra-regional trade which would enhance food security both in the Sahel and Southern Africa Development Coordination Conference (SADCC) regions.

 MSU has made a significant contribution to understanding short-term solutions to food deficits, especially factors affecting the use of food aid in the policy reform process. The project has demonstrated that knowledge about marketing arrangements was inadequate, and in some cases, wrong. MSU research has shown how more effective markets can be created. In some cases, reducing state intervention in markets serves to stimulate markets. Yet privatization does not automatically produce well-functioning markets. There is strong evidence that certain public interventions, such as investments in infrastructure, agricultural research, and market information systems, have positive impact on food security. Sufficient empirical evidence has been generated to substantiate the importance of the linkages among technology, institutions, and policies in food security strategies.

Current studies of the performance of agricultural research programs in Africa will serve to provide an empirical basis for understanding the factors that impede or facilitate agricultural research programs, and for developing methodologies to measure the economic costs and benefits of agricultural research. Important linkages among household production, the marketing system, and household income and access to food have also been elucidated. The project has shown that the production of food crops and cash crops can be complementary enterprises; that many rural households do not benefit as sellers from higher prices for food crops because a significant number of rural households, even those that produce food, are net buyers, not net sellers; and that higher prices for producers do not necessarily result in greater output due to non-price factors such as the lack of technology, credit, or adequate marketing infrastructure. These and other research findings have contributed to an understanding of how different categories of households are affected by different government and donor interventions.”

Documents From/About This Project:


* This description is adapted from work by Nancy E. Horn, an MSU alumnus from the Anthropology Department, published in 1985 “A Project History of Michigan State University’s Participation in International Development for the period 1951 – 1985”.  See AFRE Emeritus Faculty - Acknowledgements