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The Impact of Agricultural Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Synthesis of Symposium Findings


  • Oehmke, James F.
  • Crawford, Eric W.


The Symposium on the Impact of Technology on Agricultural Transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa funded by AID/AFR/ARTS and AID/RD/EID under the Michigan State University Food Security Cooperative Agreements, was held in Washington, D.C., Oct. 14-16, 1992. A primary purpose of the symposium was to present evidence which would either confirm or contradict the perception that the accomplishments of TDT were insufficient to justify continued funding. A secondary objective was to consider the adequacy of available analytical tools for impact assessment. The rate of return (ROR) is the most commonly used valuative measure of investments in technology development and transfer. Examined as a group, the estimated RORs support the proposition that African agricultural research has had people-level impacts, and that these impacts are large enough to justify the level of investment that led to the impacts. An important part of the impact assessment story is the analysis of factors that had a positive or negative effect on the impact of TDT. Five major factors emerged from the studies presented and comments by symposium participants: agroclimatic conditions, civil unrest, research system performance, policy, and markets. Progress has been made in moving forward with the process of TDT, in spite of adverse conditions. This progress includes enhancing the capabilities of national, regional and international institutions to generate new techniques, pushing forward the technology frontier, transferring technology, and increasing productivity both in farm production and post-harvest activities. Activities such as structural adjustment, improvements in agricultural and macroeconomic policy, greater reliance on democracy and capitalism, investments in infrastructure, and a greater willingness to work with the private sector have increased the potential for TDT to have significant impact. Given the importance of raising productivity in agriculture as a step towards agricultural transformation, continued investment in agricultural TDT is merited. The evidence of impact achieved from previous investments shows that those investments have paid off. Coupled with the evidence of beneficial changes in the macroeconomic policy environment in many countries, this provides the basis for expecting that future investments will pay off. What is perhaps unique about the symposium is the movement towards a commodity sector perspective as the next logical step toward including more demand-side considerations in the TDT agenda.

Suggested Citation

  • Oehmke, James F. & Crawford, Eric W., 1993. "The Impact of Agricultural Technology in Sub-Saharan Africa: A Synthesis of Symposium Findings," Food Security International Development Papers 54058, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:mididp:54058

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    Cited by:

    1. Beynon, Jonathan, 1995. "The state's role in financing agricultural research," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(6), pages 545-550, December.
    2. Boughton, Duncan & Crawford, Eric W. & Howard, Julie A. & Oehmke, James F. & Shaffer, James D. & Staatz, John M., 1995. "A Strategic Approach to Agricultural Research Program Planning in Sub-Saharan Africa," Food Security International Development Working Papers 54702, Michigan State University, Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics.
    3. Sumberg, James, 2005. "Systems of innovation theory and the changing architecture of agricultural research in Africa," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(1), pages 21-41, February.


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