This paper argues that investment in agriculture has a large and continuing developmental importance in terms of both economic growth and poverty reduction. Moreover, targeted public resources have proven to be indispensable in achieving these results. Both arguments are supported with novel analyses which update and strengthen the traditional case for agriculture-led development with public-sector involvement. But despite the strong case for agriculture-led development strategies, the authors find that the financial resources allocated towards this sector have strongly declined over the last three decades, and they suggest that a shift towards new development paradigms since 1980 might be a significant explanation for this apparent Agricultural Paradox. This conjecture is tested with data on foreign aid, public expenditure, PRSP contents, and empirical analyses of the intellectual resources devoted to the study of agriculture in development by World Bank researchers. The authors conclude with a critical discussion of these disturbing trends.


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