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Future Agricultures blog

Opinion and comment from Future Agricultures researchers on agricultural politics, science and society in Africa.

by Barbara Adolph and Laura Silici, IIED

To mark World Food Day, IIED, ODI and IDS have launched the first seven of 12 new papers addressing agricultural and rural development debates in sub-Saharan Africa.

World Food Day celebrates the anniversary of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's creation on 16 October 1945, and is a good occasion to reflect on the challenges of achieving food security worldwide. This year’s theme, 'Family Farming: Feeding the world, caring for the earth', was chosen to raise the profile of family farming and smallholder farmers.

There is general agreement that family farming plays important roles in eradicating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development. However, the debates around the specific policies and investments needed for this are as heated as ever.

In sub-Saharan Africa in particular, the challenges of feeding a growing and increasingly urbanised population, while increasing household incomes for rural producers, have given rise to fierce debate and contested recommendations.

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By Gareth Borman, Centre for Development Innovation, Wageningen UR


Despite huge investment from governments and donors in seed sector development in Africa over the better half of a century, access to quality seed remains a great challenge for smallholder farmers across the continent.

Addressing this challenge is a complex task, and requires an integrated, multidisciplinary and innovation systems approach. Certain aspects of the greater challenge may be best addressed at regional level, through the collaboration of countries, experts, seed programmes, and their associated organizations and institutions in the public and private domains.

A select number of challenge areas have been prioritised for deeper exploration and intervention through an action-oriented research and learning approach during the Piloting Phase of the Comprehensive Programme on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa.

Tagged in: issd seeds
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China_brazilflagsThis news roundup has been collected on behalf of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project.

For regular updates from the
project, sign up to the CBAA newsletter.

Book Review of ‘Agricultural Development and Food Security in Africa’

A book review by Lídia Cabral has been published in the Journal of Agrarian Change. It covers the book ‘Agricultural Development and Food Security in Africa: The Impact of Chinese, Indian and Brazilian Investments, edited by Fantu Cheru and Renu Modi. London: Zed Books. 2013’
(Journal of Agrarian Change)

Brazil’s strategy in Africa: business, security and defence

CEBRI, a Brazilian think-tank, has released a Special Edition discussing Brazilian strategy in Africa. This Edition is composed of five articles. Two articles analyse the role of Brazilian companies, while the others look at security and defence.  
(CEBRI – in Portuguese)

China formalises foreign aid law – and consults public

In April, 2014, China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) published a draft of its ‘Measures for the Administration of Foreign Aid’. Marina Rudyak is a PhD student from the University of Heidelberg and has done a translation of the document with a short blog analysing the draft: “Consisting of 51 articles, the Measures are the first comprehensive legal document with the character of a law to regulate Chinese government's foreign aid. Interestingly, following a practice already applied in preparation to the last Five Year Plan, MOFCOM was seeking comments and suggestions from the Chinese public.”
(China Aid Blog)

Tagged in: cbaa-roundup
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As mentioned last week, the University of Sussex hosted the major biennial UK African Studies Association conference. Around 600 delegates were registered, and there was a real buzz, with panels on every conceivable topic from every corner of the continent. Quite a few papers reported on new work from Zimbabwe, and land and politics was a recurrent theme. In the end we had a single panel of three papers (as several panellists had to drop out at the last minute). It was a fascinating session to a standing-room-only audience.

The three panellists all reported on new research in the now not-so-new resettlements, representing different geographic areas, and diverse methodologies. All looked at how new livelihoods are being carved out following land reform in A1 sites. This included in-depth reflections on the relationships between farmers and farmworkers, a quantitative assessment of production outcomes across sites compared to communal and old resettlement areas, and an analysis of how farm and off-farm livelihood opportunities are combined in a mining area.

Tagged in: Zimbabwe
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Since the emergence of the “land grab” phenomenon in the mid-2000s, alternative approaches to land-based investments have been developed and tested to mitigate the often significant and adverse impacts on rural people of such grabs while still supporting foreign direct investments, particularly in agriculture, for economic development in African countries.

The use of more inclusive business models is one approach. These models aim to ensure that the existing land users do not lose their rights to access, control and own land. They are meant to empower communities to have a voice in business decision making processes and share benefits and risks resulting from the business activities.

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landhungerNew research from Zimbabwe will be shared at a double panel session at the UK African Studies Association conference this week.

This year’s event is at the University of Sussex, and our session is on Wednesday 10 September from 9 to 10.30 and 11 to 12.30. The session has been organised by Gareth James of Edinburgh University, and I am chairing (for full panel & paper details, see below).

Zimbabwe’s land reform that unfolded from 2000 has been intensely controversial, and remain so. But 14 years on there is a wider array of research to draw from in order to make more balanced and informed conclusions on outcomes and implications.

The work by me and colleagues, published in the book Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities, showed how some farmers who gained land through the land reform in Masvingo did remarkably well – accumulating, investing and improving production. Others have pointed to the ‘tobacco boom’ that has brought significant riches to those in the Highveld tobacco areas. Such successes have not universally been the case however. Land in some areas remains poorly utilised, some larger scale farmers have failed to invest, and political elites have captured land but not put it into production.

The panel, ‘New narratives and emerging issues in the Zimbabwe land debate’, will provide an opportunity to reflect on new research conducted by Zimbabwean and European researchers in the last few years in different parts of the country.

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China_brazilflagsThis news roundup has been collected on behalf of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project.

For regular updates from the
project, sign up to the CBAA newsletter.

Brazil’s More Food Africa programme funds £38m of farming equipment in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is said to be receiving farming equipment worth $38m in September for the 2014/15 summer cropping, under Brazil’s ‘More Food Africa’ programme. This was announced at the 2nd National Dialogue on Agro-Business, Food and Nutrition Security organised by the National Economic Consultative Forum and the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society. The consignment forms part of the first tranche of a $98mil package signed by Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, and Brazilian counterparts.

Sichuan province eyes $300mil investment in Ugandan farming

The Agricultural Department of China's Sichuan province is in talks to invest $300 million in cotton, rice and fruit production in Uganda, a senior Ugandan official said on Wednesday. This is said to require 15,000 acres of land, which the Ugandan government is helping them to acquire. The plan is then to establish an “agricultural production and industrial park which will involve developing the whole value chain of cotton, rice and fruits."

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China_brazilflagsThis news roundup has been collected on behalf of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project.

For regular updates from the
project, sign up to the CBAA newsletter.

Agricultura “made in Brazil”

This article argues that Brazil’s agricultural technology model has been a success in Brazil and will be valuable for countries with similar environmental conditions. It focuses on the ProSavana project in Mozambique that embodies such technology transfers and critiques those civil society movements that contest their value.
(Vermelho Portal – in Portuguese)

South Africa wants to sell more agricultural produce to China

South Africa is preparing to plant and harvest 1million hectares of fallow land. As part of this they hope that they will be able to increase agricultural exports to China.

“In China, we have found a growing market for our agricultural produce. The Department of Trade and Industry (dti) has been instrumental in assisting producers in the wine industry with accessing marketing opportunities through international trade fairs in countries like China… We must however, challenge ourselves to translate export gains into opportunities for local economic development and job creation.”
(South African Government News Agency, via AllAfrica)

The developmental implications of Sino-African economic and political relations: A preliminary assessment for the case of Zambia

“This scoping study evaluates the nature, scope, and scale of Chinese trade and investment relations
in the primary sector of mineral-rich Zambia. It details how, despite diplomatic ties dating back to the liberation struggle of the 1960s, economic and political relations between the two countries matured only over the 2000s. This has focused primarily on the mining sector, with Chinese companies, many of which are state owned, investing heavily in mineral prospecting, copper mining and smelting, and associated (service) industries. With most investment activities targeting the mining sector, contrary to popular perception, China’s direct participation in other primary sectors, such as forestry and agriculture, is negligible.”

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Senegalese schoolgirl

In February and March 2013, the Senegalese Afrobarometer team conducted a nationwide Survey on a sample of 1200 young Senegalese people aged 18 and above. The sample is representative of the 18+ population and takes into account the distribution by district, sex and place of residence.

As in previous surveys, the Senegalese team inserted some country-specific questions into the standard questionnaire of the African network. These included a question on the extent to which respondents agreed with the following statements:

  1. Q80A_SEN. Promote economic growth by: support to farmers/rural areas versus prioritize industry/urban areas
  2. Q80B_SEN. Promote economic growth by: technology and agricultural inputs versus access to markets
  3. Q80C_SEN. Promote economic growth by: focus on producing cash crops versus food crops
  4. Q80D_SEN. No foreigners to buy land versus foreigners can purchase land
  5. Q80E_SEN. Work in agriculture; produce for consumption or sale.
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China_brazilflagsThis news roundup has been collected on behalf of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project.

For regular updates from the
project, sign up to the CBAA newsletter.

Africa, an emerging ‘green revolution’?

Lidia Cabral is consulted in this article on agricultural development programmes in Africa. She traces some of the key projects that have emerged over the past few years, and introduces some of the research she has been conducting on the ProSavana programme in Mozambique.
(Publico – in Portuguese)

China in Africa: How Sam Pa became the middle man

This op-ed in the Financial Times seeks to unravel a large network of business ventures and connections around a successful Chinese businessman in Africa called Sam Pa (???). The article looks at some of his dealings with government officials and international business colleagues, including his role in a deal he made between Sinopec and Angola’s state oil company Sonangol. It gives an interesting perspective on a high profile Chinese migrant to Africa and the role that brokers may play between the different state and business actors.
(Financial Times)

Brazil to support coffee and soybean projects in Angola

The Brazilian ambassador to Angola has committed Brazilian support to increased agricultural cooperation between the two countries. Embrapa already provides support in Angola’s agronomic and veterinary research institutes, and their mention in this article seems to suggest they would be part of further agricultural cooperation programmes.
(Macau Hub)

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by Gaynor Paradza and Emmanuel Sulle

Africa needs agricultural investments that facilitate inclusive and broad-based growth.  The investments must be transparent and fair in order to respect and protect the land rights of the rural communities and women. 

These issues were highlighted by the Pan African Parliamentarians (PAP) and Southern African Development Cooperation (SADC) Parliamentarians Forum in a workshop co-organized by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, African Land Policy Initiative, International Land  Coalition, the Land Policy Initiative of the African Union, European Parliamentarians with Africa, Oxfam, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Future Agricultures Consortium, Africa Forum  and NEPAD. The Conference was held in Johannesburg from 11-12 August 2014.

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Agricultural research for development, including the consortium of research centres CGIAR, is regularly assessed to ensure money is being wisely spent on effective measures to promote better lives for rural communities. 2014 is the African Union Year of Agriculture and Food Security and the 10th Year of the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme, CAADP, which is also being reviewed for its success in improving food and nutrition security.

On 15th July, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Agriculture & Food for Development debated the impact of CAADP and how to ensure a sustainable future for African agriculture. The event, held at the UK Houses of Parliament, was chaired by Lord Cameron of Dillington and brought together a panel of experts including Dr Yvonne Pinto (Director, Agricultural Learning and Impacts Network (ALINe) and Colin Poulton (SOAS Centre for Development, Environment and Policy), co-authors of ‘African Agriculture: Drivers for Success for CAADP implementation’.

Further information

To find out more about this event, read the background article: CAADP: how can Africa's agricultural development be sustained?

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landhungerUnderstanding livelihood pathways requires sustained fieldwork in particular sites in order to understand what changes and why. Systematic longitudinal studies are sadly rare in many developing country settings. Project grants for a few years are insufficient to sustain the research effort required. Long term studies are especially important when major changes have occurred. We cannot understand their impact unless influences are tracked over time, discovering new pathways as they unfold.

Such long-term work has been ongoing in Masvingo province in Zimbabwe since 2000, led by myself with a team of Zimbabwean colleagues – BZ Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba and Joseph Mahenehene. Over the last 14 years the team has been tracking 400 households across 15 sites, and finding out what has happened to people’s livelihoods in areas taken as part of Zimbabwe’s radical land reform that unfolded from 2000.

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par Rebecca Pointer (PLAAS) et Marion Girard Cisneros (AWEPA)

Les défenseurs de l’agriculture industrielle affirment que les investissements fonciers à grande échelle améliorent la sécurité alimentaire. Or les activistes et chercheurs assurent que ces investissements ont des conséquences néfastes pour la sécurité alimentaire, spécialement de ceux qui ont été expulsés de leurs terres pour faire place à l’agriculture industrielle.

Lundi, lors d’un séminaire au Parlement panafricain, des parlementaires, des chercheurs et des représentants de la société civile et du secteur agroalimentaire se sont réunis pour discuter de quelle sorte tirer profit des investissements fonciers à grande échelle en Afrique.

Selon Constance Mogale, activiste du Land Access Movement d’Afrique du Sud (LAMOSA, un mouvement de la société civile pour l’accès à la terre), la conséquence de forcer des femmes à se déplacer de leurs terres pour faire place aux investisseurs c’est qu’elles ne sont plus en mesure de produire les aliments qui assuraient leur moyen de vie. En plus, le déplacement les ayant laissées dans le dénuement le plus complet, elles peinent à acheter la nourriture produite par l’entreprise commerciale qui a remplacé leur activité. Ceci souligne que, pour les pauvres et les vulnérables, la sécurité alimentaire n’est pas une question de disponibilité d’aliments, mais plutôt d’accès aux aliments. Accroitre la production à travers l’agriculture industrielle n’aide donc pas ceux qui n’ont pas l’argent pour acheter de la nourriture.

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by Rebecca Pointer, Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)

While proponents of corporate farms argue that large scale land investment will enhance food security, activists and academics alike are highlighting how detrimental such land deals could be for the food security of those who are moved off the land to make way for corporate farming.

Speaking at a meeting of the Pan African Parliament yesterday, parliamentarians, civil society, academics and agribusiness came together to discuss how to make large scale land investment work for Africa.

Civil society activists, such as Constance Mogale from the Land Access Movement of South Africa (LAMOSA), highlighted how moving women off land to make way for investors meant that women could no longer produce food to secure their livelihoods. As this leaves affected women all but destitute, they also cannot access the food being produced by the commercial farm which had replaced their activity. Food security for the poor and vulnerable is often not about availability, but about access. Increasing production through commercial farming, therefore, does not help those who do not have cash to purchase their food.

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China_brazilflagsThis news roundup has been collected on behalf of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project.

For regular updates from the
project, sign up to the CBAA newsletter.

Brazil’s strategic partnerships

Alcides Costa Vaz has just published a new article entitled ‘Brazil’s strategic partnerships: origins, agendas and outcomes’: “Over the last 40 years Brazil has pursued strategic partnerships with a wide range of countries. It has done so to gain access to capital and technology, foster regional and inter-regional cooperation, and advance its priorities on the international stage - in particular through multilateral bodies and coalitions. These partnerships will continue to be a valuable tool for Brasilia to manage the intersections of its bilateral and multilateral engagements, reform global governance and consolidate Brazil's profile as an increasingly important global actor.”
FRIDE (pdf)

Chinese technologies enhance water and food security in Africa: UNEP

China has partnered with UNEP to facilitate the transfer of technologies on water resources management and agriculture targeting local communities in sixteen African countries. The project has so far been regarded as a success and phase two covering 2014-2017 will involve the implementation of six projects on water resources protection and dry land farming in river Nile and Lake Tanganyika basin. UNEP signed an agreement with China’s Ministry of Science and Technology in 2008 to enhance the capacity of African countries in climate change adaptation, ecosystems management and disaster reduction.

Tagged in: cbaa-roundup
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Seed selector, Kenya

by Leonard Haggai
Research and Engagement Officer, Future Agricultures East Africa hub

Traditionally Africa’s food production relies on the informal sector to provide 80 percent (Byerlee et al., 2007) of its seed needs. But public seed breeding programmes have largely ignored the informal seed sector in favour of producing varieties for the formal sector, particularly hybrid maize. Delivery of these improved varieties is dominated by private sector actors, namely seed companies and agro-dealers. Increasingly, the formal seed business in Sub-Sahara Africa is big money dominated by public enterprises such as Kenya Seed Company and Ethiopia Seed Enterprise, as well as multinationals including Monsanto, Syngenta, Pannar, and Pioneer Hi-Bred.

Behind these public companies and multinationals are the networks of influential policy and business interests. Will they be inclined to support the growth of both formal and informal seed systems in the region?

Tagged in: issd seeds
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China_brazilflagsThis news roundup has been collected on behalf of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project.

For regular updates from the
project, sign up to the CBAA newsletter.

China’s New White Paper on Foreign Aid

China’s second white paper on foreign aid has been published, wherein China is shown to have provided RMB 89.34 billion in the three years from 2010-2012. The report includes sections on agriculture and environmental protection and the blog below provides an interesting analysis of the report.

Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania criticises Chinese migrants

China’s ambassador to Tanzania, Lu Youqing, gave an interview to Southern Metropolis Daily, in which he talks of the positives that China has brought to the country, such as adding 150,000 jobs locally, and becoming the country’s biggest trading partner. However, he talks of the difficulties with the Chinese migrants that have come to the country and had pejorative dealings with local government officials and others that fail to respect the local laws.
(Southern Metropolis Daily)

China Zimbabwe hybrid rice project

Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Agriculture and a local private consultation firm have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China’s National Hybrid Rice Research and Development Center to start a pilot hybrid rice production project. A team of Chinese technical experts are due to visit Zimbabwe in the third week of July to plan the project. The local firm is tasked with providing land, labour, logistical support and seek government support.

Tagged in: cbaa-roundup
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Lidia Cabral, researcher with our China & Brazil in African Agriculture project, has written a policy brief for the think tank FRIDE assessing the limited success of the EU-Brazil strategic partnership on international development.

In particular, the brief identifies problems with a ‘North/South’ discourse which persists in spite of the changing dynamics of power and influence across continents.

From the brief:

“Much of the debate is infused by a discourse that, by juxtaposing ‘North’ versus ‘South’ and ‘traditional’ versus ‘emerging’ players, places Brazil and the EU on opposing sides. Yet, there are opportunities to build alliances around specific thematic issues, such as the global fight against hunger. With regard to trilateral cooperation, the analysis reveals a mismatch between high-level pledges and motivations on the one hand and on-the- ground operational capacity on the other. It also shows a fading emphasis on this modality of engagement. There is still scope, nonetheless, for joint learning on trilateral cooperation.”

The EU-Brazil partnership on development: a lukewarm affair (FRIDE website)

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by Rebecca Pointer, Information and Communications Officer, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS)

Well-intentioned people the world over see transformation to green ways of doing as absolutely essential. Many argue that by switching to green ways of doing, we can have win-win situations in which we tackle both environmental degradation and poverty, through innovative projects and by conserving wild areas where there still exist.

Yet at the Green Economy in the South conference, which took place from 8-10 July in Dodoma, Tanzania, case study after case study has showed how the language and practices of switching to ‘green’ result in the extraction of resources from Africa to the North, from the poor to the wealthy, all under the guise of philanthropy and development. Processes funded by Northern development agencies, such as REDD+, result in capital accumulating more by dispossessing Africans, enclosing African land, and selling ecological services to the wealthy few who can afford the high price tag.

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