Agricultural Productivity in Changing Rural Worlds

Rural worlds are changing rapidly. Information technology has shortened the distances from remote villages to urban centers but has also sharpened the contrasts in ways of life. This report emphasizes three ways that the United States can contribute to raising agricultural productivity in poor countries—investing in agricultural productivity from a longer-term, resource-based, farmer-centered perspective; revamping the way that technology is developed and diffused to better diagnose and solve the practical problems of rural people; and complementing investments in the “hard” infrastructure of markets (roads, rural electrification) with investments in “soft” infrastructure, including rules, regulations, policies, financial and market information systems that kick-start private-sector investments. The authors focus on sub-Saharan Africa, drawing on some experiences from Asia, to recommend such positive U.S. contributions as making greater use of natural resource management approaches, expanding innovative financial and market information services, and strengthening public institutions.

Melinda Smale and Timothy M. Mahoney