The role of agricultural growth in reducing poverty and hunger

The case of Tanzania

Although Sub-Saharan Africa experienced unprecedented economic growth in recent decades, this did not always translate into less poverty or improved nutrition. The Tanzanian economy is one example of a country that failed to reap the benefits of sustained rapid growth. National gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 6.6 percent per year during 1998–2007, while agricultural growth, often regarded as instrumental in lowering poverty rates in agrarian-based developing countries, averaged a respectable 4.4 percent during the period. Yet, between 2001 and 2007, Tanzania’s poverty rate only fell from 35.7 to 33.6 percent, while the share of the population consuming insufficient calories declined marginally from 25.0 to 23.6 percent.

This outcome raises two questions. First, why did rapid growth not translate into more rapid reductions in poverty and malnutrition? And second, what is the contribution of agricultural growth to reducing poverty and malnutrition in Tanzania? To address these questions, an economywide model of Tanzania is linked with microlevel poverty and nutrition models to (1) show how the current structure of growth resulted in the weak poverty and nutrition outcomes and (2) examine how accelerated, broad-based agricultural growth can contribute to higher overall growth and more rapid reductions in income poverty and hunger. Finally, this brief examines more closely the growth, poverty, and nutrition contributions of agricultural subsectors in order to identify priority sectors.

Pauw, Karl
Thurlow, James
Published date: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Series number: 
PDF file: