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AGRICULTURE REPORT - Scientists Document Effects of Market Policy Changes on Three West African Countries

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rice
rice

This is the VOA Special English Agriculture Report.

Today we continue telling about a report by three geography experts from American colleges.  They studied food security in Gambia, Ivory Coast and Mali over thirty years.

In the nineteen eighties, governments and lenders like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund changed market policies. They launched free markets designed to improve agriculture. The report, however, suggests that the changes caused loss of important support systems for farmers.

Private investment in agriculture largely replaced government help.  In some places, roads and mills built to help farmers fell into ruin.  Protectionist import taxes and farm supports were cut.

Farmers planted more of their best crops, or "cash crops," for export.  They planted fewer food crops for local use. Less costly rice came into the ports of Gambia and Ivory Coast.  Many city people in those countries liked the cheap rice more than rice grown locally.

Researcher Judith Carney works at the University of California at Los Angeles.  She said buying the cheaper imported rice worked well until the worldwide food crisis of two thousand eight.  Then, many people could not pay for an important part of their diet.

Researcher Laurence Becker of Oregon State University said some local farmers stopped farming.   Food production fell and unemployment rose.

The researchers said people in Mali were able to deal better with the food crisis.  Mali's farmers supplied more of their nation's rice needs than the other two countries studied.  And the poorest people in Malian cities ate sorghum instead of rice.

William Moseley of Macalester College in Minnesota led the report.  Professor Moseley said Malian farmers had planted more sorghum because the price of their cotton, a cash crop, had dropped.

Unlike Ivory Coast and Gambia, Mali has no seaports.   He said this is often seen as a problem for Mali.  But it caused them to depend less on imported rice.

Based on their research, the experts suggest that farmers plant a variety of crops and not just depend on rice.  They also say governments could place some trade barriers.  And, they urge that mills and roads be built or rebuilt to process and carry grains to market.

And that's the VOA Special English Agriculture Report, written by Jerilyn Watson. To comment on our reports, go to our Web site, www.unsv.com.  I'm Steve Ember.

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