Expanding access to agricultural inputs in Africa: A review of recent market development experience
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This paper asks: What can be done to expand input use in Africa? and Can it be done in a manner that supports continued growth of private sector input markets? The precarious food security situation in many African countries has prompted governments and donors to use input distribution or credit programs as a means of rapidly increasing food supply for the poor. These efforts, however, often reduce the ability of input market development programs to stimulate commercial interest in input supply. A review of both types of programs describes recent efforts to address constraints to expanded input use and finds that further expansion is often constrained by inadequate investment in a variety of public goods needed to stimulate input-led agricultural intensification. Rather than continuing to invest resources in programs to provide inputs or credit directly to farmers, governments (with donor assistance) should consider shifting their focus to the serious deficiencies in the provision of public goods (roads, irrigation, basic education, market information systems, research and extension) and improved institutions (contract law and enforcement, systems of grades and standards). Improvements in these areas can both lower costs of supply and increase farm-level demand, creating a situation where the private sector will have greater incentives to expand input distribution networks to zones and farmers who currently do not have access.