While open and liberalized agricultural markets can encourage agriculture-led economic growth in developing countries, ineffective policies, weak institutions, and inadequate infrastructure can impede progress toward a market-oriented economy. One of the activities IFPRI engaged in this past year to help clear a path for progress was the African Growth and Development Policy (AGRODEP) Modeling Consortium. This new initiative launched by IFPRI and several partners aims to position African experts—rather than external actors—as leaders in the study of strategic development issues in Africa and the broader agricultural growth and policy debate. AGRODEP will facilitate use of economic modeling tools, promote access to existing data sources, develop methodologies and standards to improve data quality, provide training workshops and research grants, and support collaboration between African and international researchers. By sharing core economic models; establishing a central web-based database for statistical, economic, and geospatial data; and combining a network of experts with a community of practitioners, AGRODEP is poised to equip African researchers with the tools necessary to perform science-based research and solve locally relevant agriculture-related challenges through sound policies.
In Central America, IFPRI researchers developed and implemented a poverty scorecard system to determine the allocation of development grants that link smallholders to markets. In order to better target grants and investments to the rural poor, the scorecard system uses an innovative methodology to assess potential projects in terms of both impact (including spillover effects) and sustainability. To date, there are nine projects (in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua), which will have nearly 6,000 beneficiaries—50 percent of whom are women—who live in areas with high levels of poverty.
In 2010, IFPRI’s study on cereal availability in Ethiopia drew to a close. The project found that cereal procurement by the government, the World Food Programme, or other NGOs should not have significant impacts on market prices; similarly, increasing cash transfers to social safety net beneficiaries should not cause cereal price inflation. To minimize the impact of strategic reserves on cereal prices, researchers recommend linking the operation of grain reserves with the operation of social safety net programs. These findings (along with results from a separate IFPRI assessment of Ethiopian agriculture) will be institutionalized in the newly established Ethiopian Agricultural Transformation Agency, which will evaluate food production, food prices, and income diversification in order to develop a national agenda for agricultural growth and food security.