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Agriculture and Pro-Poor Growth: An Asian Perspective

Imagine a region of the world where all food and agricultural products are sourced from international markets, and domestic agricultural sectors have disappeared. This "world without agriculture" is not imaginary. For many of the world's poorest countries, especially in Africa, a future without agriculture is increasingly being urged as the efficient path to development. Mark Rosenzweig, the new Director of Harvard's Center for International Development, asks at the broadest level: "Should Africa do any agriculture at all?" (Harvard Magazine, 2004, p. 57). Adrian Wood, Chief Economist for the Department for International Development (DfID) of the United Kingdom, envisions a "hollowed out" Africa, with most of the population on the coasts where they could more effectively produce manufactured exports (Wood 2002). Many macro economists, convinced of the power of rapid economic growth to lift populations out of poverty, see resources devoted to slow-growing agriculture as wasted. In a world of ample food supplies in world markets (some of it free as food aid) and increasingly open borders for trade, what is the role of agriculture in pro-poor growth?

Vol. 5 No. 1, June 2008

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