Expanding the Frontiers of Agricultural Economics to Meet the Future Challenges of Agricultural Development
In this paper I challenge the theoretical building blocks of agricultural economics and then provide some indication of how the discipline has rectified some of its shortcomings. The introduction of the New Institutional Economics into our discipline has been a major improvement. I have then argued that the challenges facing our profession are so huge that we need to think about further adaptation by making more use of other social sciences such as sociology and anthropology. This could help us understand the major complexities of dealing with the challenge of black economic empowerment in agriculture. This will however, also be necessary for us to adjust our research paradigm. This argument is well articulated by Doyer and Van Rooyen (2001) when they motivated a research method to study agribusiness supply chains. The challenges highlighted that for agricultural economic analysis to capture complex business reality and decisions to explain and predict the institutional and governance structures and optimal resource allocation behaviour of firms, approaches to research that combines positivist and constructivist are the most sensible. The combination of these approaches enables a holistic approach to the research problem. Positivism's strong explanatory and prediction capabilities are combined with the strong understanding and reconstructive capabilities of the constructivist approach. Throughout this process, qualitative and quantitative data can be used in combination. Since our research work also needs to focus more on structural and institutional issues it seems quite evident that we have to adopt a more eclectic research approach making much more use of case studies. The skills from the other social sciences will desperately be required here to advance our discipline into previously untreated terrain. This is necessary to make sure we make the important contribution to the task of building Africa's Agriculture.
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