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Competitive or complementary? Industrial crops and food security in sub-Saharan Africa

Research report

Written by Giles Henley, Steve Wiggins, Sharada Keats

Research report

To answer this, it sets out a conceptual framework that explores plausible linkages between the cultivation of industrial crops and impacts of food, and interviews stakeholders from industry and non-governmental organisations interested in industrial crops to understand where which linkages are the most important.

By reviewing national policies and strategies related to industrial crop development in five low-income and low-middle-income African countries, and the academic literature on experiences with  production of major industrial crops, it analyses whether industrial crops lead to competition or complementarity with food security.

Analysis of the literature suggests that complementarities outweigh competition and growing industrial crops is often likely to improve rather than worsen food security. However, industrial crops alone are unlikely to enable farmers to alleviate their poverty, especially when they do not receive reasonable prices or are unable to manage price fluctuations. Women face particular disadvantages as farmers, processors and marketers, and therefore steeper challenges in leveraging industrial crops to improve their food security. Lastly, the study finds that most evidence concerns smallholders, not plantations and estates where more serious concerns over land and labour may apply.

This research was part-funded by UK aid from the Department for International Development and by a research grant from the Belmont Forum.


Steve Wiggins, Giles Henley and Sharada Keats