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Professor Mahmood H. Khan is at Simon Fraser University, British Columbia, Canada. The authors are grateful to a number of colleagues in the Fund and the World Bank for helpful discussions on this topic. Very useful comments on a previous draft were also provided by Charles Adams, Karl Driessen, Cyril Enweze, Padma Gotur, and Robert Sharer.
The terms Africa or African countries refer to the Sub-Saharan African countries.
The indices for Africa include the North African countries: Egypt, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. If the indices of these countries are excluded from the total, the picture is even worse.
A recent study by Wen (1993) of the total factor productivity in China’s agriculture shows that productivity nearly doubled--rising from 70 to 140--between 1978 and 1992. Unfortunately, there is no similar study of changes in total factor productivity in African agriculture.
Much of the expansion of the land base in Africa has been achieved at the expense of forest and pasture (grazing) lands.
Some of this literature is reviewed in Platteau (1992). There is considerable debate about the effects of farm size (economies or diseconomies of scale) and tenancy (sharecropping, fixed rent, and wage labor), on agricultural productivity and rural income distribution. This debate goes back to the nineteenth century.
A formal explanation of the underlying theory and test of some hypotheses about collective farms in China is given in Lin (1988).
This general conclusion is reached in several studies, but a rigorous analysis is provided in Lin (1988) and Wen (1993). According to the second of these studies, the “commune system was detrimental to, and the HRS has been conducive to an increase in total factor productivity, and there was an outward shift of the production frontier following the dismantlement of the commune system” (Wen (1993), p. 34). However, while the productivity effects of HRS have been generally recognized, there is still debate about its consequences on the distribution of rural income; see Khan, Griffith, Riskin, and Renwei (1992), and Lin (1994).
Burkina Faso is one of the few countries in which the government has started providing land titles to the traditional communities.
See Findlay, Martin and Watson (1993). Initially the government did not pass on to consumers the price increases of basic (rationed) commodities (grains in particular). However, in 1991 the retail prices of grains and other farm products were increased significantly. It may also be noted that the compulsory procurement quotas were replaced by purchasing contracts between the state and farmers (Ash (1993); and Lin (1994)).
Prices and distribution of agricultural inputs, chemical fertilizers in particular, have also been subject to heavy government intervention. Most of the inputs have been subsidized partly to compensate farmers for the excessive taxation of agricultural products and partly to give incentives to farmers to adopt new and profitable technologies. There is much debate about the subsidies for fertilizers in relation to the fertilizer use and the efficiency of the public distribution systems. Governments in Africa, as in other parts of the world (including China) have started to reduce gradually the levels of fertilizer subsidy and increase the participation of the private sector in the distribution system (World Bank (1994a)).