We study agricultural development, the factors that help such growth — technology, supply of inputs, access to markets — and the policies and programmes that can stimulate them.
Scale of production is a particular concern. Most farmers in the developing world are smallholders. While in production there may be few economies of scale — indeed, being small can give advantages in supervision of labour and understanding of micro-variations in soils and climate — there are drawbacks when dealing with buyers, suppliers of inputs and bankers. Hence, finding ways to link small farmers to link effectively to large-scale enterprises in supply chains is a challenge.
Working with the Agriculture for Impact team at Imperial College, London, led by Sir Gordon Conway, a major focus of our work over the next year will be the study of opportunities for smallholder farmers to scale up their activity and increase market engagement.
Developing countries are moving from being largely rural and agrarian to becoming urban and industrial. We study the processes by which this takes place, including the way mutually beneficial links can be forged between town and country, and how the rural non-farm economy can be stimulated to provide local jobs for some of those who leave farming for better paid jobs.
Reducing poverty and producing more food that helps reduce the real cost of food are half the battle in beating hunger and malnutrition. But better nutrition, above all for preschoolers, is also about their health and care. So we are also interested in complementary policies to promote basic health care, clean water and sanitation, and girls’ education that make a difference to this side of nutrition.