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African food security has become an increasing concern during the last decade.

Reports are regularly appearing about famine and hunger in countries south of the Sahara. Pessimism is widespread about the possibilities for the continent to feed its growing population.

Until recently, optimism about Asian development on the other hand seemed boundless, and Asia is considered the emerging centre of the world economy. Food security has substantially improved in Asia since the early 70s, despite a heavy population pressure. Even countries that used to be regarded as chronically underfed, like India and Bangladesh, today are able on the whole to feed their populations adequately. Prevalent problems of food insecurity in Asia do not primarily depend on too low production, but on inequitable and inefficient systems of distribution.

Not long ago, the roles were reversed. Asia was regarded as the hopeless case, where in the race between population and food resources, the Malthusian scenario was enacted, and population seemed to be outgrowing resources. This project proposal is about Asian agricultural development models, and aims to recapture the story of how Asia moved from food scarcity to security.

By a series of historically oriented case studies, we will seek to construct multi-dimensional and multi-causal models of Asian agricultural development. In a second leg of the study, these models will be used as inputs into another series of case studies, dealing with the attempts in Africa south of the Sahara to replicate or reformulate the Asian experience.

Currently large-scale experiments with agricultural policies are underway in a number of African countries. Inspired by Asian development and the Green Revolution, African governments are attempting to stimulate the development of domestic food production.

The project is currently in its first year, and during the reconnaissance trips that we have undertaken in three East African countries we have discovered that our research agenda is more up-to-date and in the centre of current events than we had imagined when launching the project.

In Ethiopia, the government adopted more or less wholesale the model developed by Sasakawa Global 2000. The model is a straightforward development of the Asian model where Noble Peace Prize laureate Normal Borlaug played a leading role in adapting it to Ethiopian circumstances. In Malawi, the government has adopted the “packet approach, well-known from Asia, and for two years have distributed free “starter packets of seed and fertiliser to all small farmers in the country with a view to increase national production of food grain.

Uganda, another example still, is following a slightly different model. There the role of State is played down while the private sector is stimulated to take on the distribution of seeds and other inputs. At the same time, the farmers are encouraged to form their own organisations in the hope of goading the development and diffusion of new technology through these.

These cases are all variations on a theme showing that African governments are trying to learn from the Asian experience. In several cases, the thrust seems to have led to a spurt in production and a consequent slump in prices, a circumstance which raises questions about the sustainability of the effects. At the same time, these events have had important implications for our understanding of food problems in Africa, and for the most popular theories about Africas prospects to feed its own population. While as social scientists we can seldom conduct experiments, African governments are now conducting a large-scale experiment which should be documented and assessed.

Through our project, we have a unique opportunity to study these processes as they are unfolding, and thus gain new perspectives on the conditions and constraints in development of domestic food production in Africa. The research will builds on collaboration with researchers in the African countries selected for case studies.

Researcher teams

The Swedish team is responsible for the comparative analysis and for the analysis of the Asian experience and its relevance to Africa. The teams sub-contracted are responsible for country case studies.

Swedish team

  • Göran Djurfeldt (team leader), Dept of Sociology, Lund University
  • Hans Holmén, Institution for Thematic research, Linköping University
  • Magnus Jirström, Dept of Social and Economic Geography, Lund University
  • Agnes Andersson, Dept of Social and Economic Geography, Lund University
  • Johanna Bergman-Lodin, Dept of Social and Economic Geography, Lund University
  • Cheryl Sjöström, Dept of Social and Economic Geography, Lund University

Sub-contractor teams

We have signed agreements with the following colleagues:


  • Dr. Wolday Amha, Ethiopian Economic Association
  • Dr. Teketel Abebe, Addis Ababa University
  • Dr. Mulat Demeke, Addis Ababa University


  • Professor Willis Oluoch-Kosura, African Economic Research Consortium (AERC)
  • Dr. Stephen K. Wambugu, Department of Geography, Kenyatta University
  • Dr. Joseph Karugia


  • Dr Bernard Bashaasha, Department of Agricultural Economics & Agribusiness, Makerere University, Kampala


  • Prof. Aida Isinika, Institute of Continuing Education, Sokoine Agricultural University



  • Mr. Mukata Wamulume, Institute of Economic and Social Research (INESOR)
  • Ms. Charlotte Wonani, Development Studies Department, University of Zambia
  • Prof. Oliver Saasa, Institute of Economic and Social Research, University of Zambia


  • Dr. Peter Coughlin, EconPolicy Research Group, Ltd., Maputo


  • Professor Olatunji Akande, Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER), Ibadan
  • Dr. Olorunfemi Oladapo Ogujndele, Nigerian Institute for Social and Economic Research (NISER), Ibadan