Food security in Africa is challenged in three key ways – by competition between food and cash crops, by constrained access to productive resources, and through social norms.
This is the upshot of my 10-minute film on agriculture in Ivory Coast, which summarises evidence from past research, samples the views of local stakeholders and outlines the contours of a future research agenda. The film is investigatory in scope. Firstly, it seeks to uncover the mechanisms that determine the allocation of land and labour in Africa to food and tropical cash crop production, considering consequent impacts on food security. Secondly, it investigates the role gender-related social norms play within agricultural choices and outcomes.
The starting point:
This particular project was triggered by a counterintuitive finding alongside Monnet Gbakou, that the poor in Ivory Coast – a country heavily dependent on food imports and tropical cash crop exports – benefitted from dramatic food price spikes. Not only do small food producers gain directly, cash crop production by the poor also helps them alleviate a food price shock.
Further research, with a different set of co-authors, delved deeper into the gender-related social norms that shaped choices between food and cash crops. Associated productivity and welfare differences were also considered. We found that granting land rights to women was not a policy that, on its own, could moderate gender-specific productivity issues and associated agricultural productivity and household consumption problems.
Key insights from the film:
The film showcases a range of viewpoints from key stakeholders in Ivory Coast, including: Dr Koffi Pokou (Ministry of Planning), the village chief of Loboyo village near Soubré; Véronique Ndri, Tano Kolo and Bamasso Zalé from the Association of Female Agricultural Producers; and Kouadio Tiacoh Thomas, from the Rice Union of Ivory Coast. These testimonies echo the author’s prior findings, providing further context and specific insight. Perhaps most importantly, these contributions open up new research horizons in the context of competition around space for cash crops, and the ever-present threats associated with climate change.