William J. Burke
Agricultural & Food Policy Consulting
Thanks for visiting. I am an agricultural economist and independent consultant, working in Africa for more than 15 years. I hope you'll check out my biography, publications, links to the projects I'm working with, and feel free to get in touch.
Media and op-eds
Occasionally the work colleagues and I do gets noticed by local media, or I'm asked for an opinion. Here are some excerpts & links:
Rebuilding Agricultural Subsidies from the Ground Up
Food Tank - April, 2018
"While there may be a compelling role for modified input subsidy programs in certain contexts, transformational change in Africa is more likely to come from helping farmers to increase the efficiency with which they use fertilizer through public investments in agricultural science research, robust extension services and investments in physical infrastructure."
Barriers to Market Access in African Agriculture
World Farmers' Organization-F@rm Letters, June, 2017
"Even more important than 'getting policies right', is that policies be predictable. In many sub-Saharan African countries, food marketing policies tend to be ad hoc, often changing within a single season and without advance public notice. When marketing board operations have proven ineffective in supporting smallholder farmers’ ability to utilize markets, some leaders have villainized traders as the problem, attempting to distract the public away from questionable policy choices. In the long run, these actions hurt the very people who depend most of the functioning of food markets – farmers and consumers. Rules-based, transparent policies have a better track record."
Getting more out of farmer input support
Zambia Analysis - January, 2012
"Shortly before becoming Vice-President of Zambia,Guy Scott wrote openly about the need to improve and diversify the input subsidy programme. We wholeheartedly agree. In fact, there is a need to revise the set of productivity enhancing policies as a whole. Addressing the issues related to soil acidity and allocating more resources to agricultural research and development would be a good start."
Africa needs better farm policy- not better farmers
Food Tank - July, 2017
"Why do African farmers do what they do? Why don’t they do what we think they should do? Specific answers always depend on the context, but this I do know: African small farmers’ behaviors may be born from a lack of knowledge, but it is not from lack of intelligence or a failure to pursue happiness. If it is for lack of resources, it is not for lack of effort."
Mountains of maize, persistent poverty
Zambia Analysis - November, 2011
"Clearly a more holistic strategy is needed, one that involves raising on-farm productivity so that Zambian smallholders can profitably produce maize and other crops without government output price supports and input subsidies, promoting crop diversification, educating farmers in improved agronomic management and marketing practices, improved seed generation systems, livestock promotion programmes, and improved health and education programmes.