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Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Africa Project

This project is exploring the political economy of cereal seed systems across five distinct country contexts (Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Ghana and Zimbabwe). Each country has a very different history of research and development in this area; in each setting the importance of the public or the private sector differs, with different actors and interests involved; each country has a different reliance on ‘modern’ hybrid (or sometimes biotech) varieties and associated R&D and supply systems; and each country has a different form and extent of independent informal sector, involving networks of farmer experimenters and seed bulkers and suppliers.

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Displacement and changing labour in Zimbabwe's farms

Zimbabwe's recent land reform had a major impact on farm labour, with much displacement of workers from large-scale commercial farms. However, the scale and implications of this are much disputed and poorly understood. A new paper by Walter Chambati examines the issue with detailed research from Goromonzi district.

Agrarian Labour Relations in Zimbabwe after Over a Decade of Land and Agrarian Reform (pdf) Blog: Ian Scoones: The new farm workers: Changing agrarian labour dynamics following land reform in Zimbabwe Read more...
Land in Zimbabwe: Voices from the Field

26 September 2011 - Ian Scoones

Zimbabwe's political crisis continues with political parties' internal divides exposed by Wikileaks revelations, the coalition government at loggerheads on fundamental issues and the prospect of a violent election period in the coming year. Yet with the stabilisation of the currency and the overhaul of some key economic policies, the agricultural economy in particular has begun to recover. IDS research has been tracking what has been happening in one province since 2000, looking at the changing livelihood prospects of those who gained land in Zimbabwe’s controversial 'fast track' land reform programme.

Today a series of short films are released which provide insights into what is happening on the ground, by offering some voices from the field. Following an overview film, each of the films in the series provides a profile of a particular farm family, exploring how they have invested in the land and their visions for the future. The films are accompanied by two booklets which offer a summary of the wider research findings published in the book Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths and Realities.


FAC's Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Team co-sponsored an international conference on ‘Sustainable Seed Systems in Ethiopia: Challenges and Opportunities’ in Addis Ababa on 1-2 June 2011, co-hosted by the Ethiopian Institute for Agricultural Research (EIAR), in partnership with The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


The Political Economy of Cereal Seed Systems in Zimbabwe: Rebuilding the Seed System in a Post-Crisis

Charity Mutonodzo-Davies August 2010

A decade of economic and political turmoil in Zimbabwe, as well as a period of radical land reform which reconfigured the country’s agricultural sector, dramatically affected its seed system, reducing supply of quality seeds and undermining regulatory control. This paper aims to understand how Zimbabwe can rebuild a seed system appropriate to the post-land reform context by asking questions about the underlying political economy of this process, exploring the important but often overlooked angle of politics of policymaking and identifying the broader political, economic and institutional factors that affect the way the seed system is structured. As Zimbabwe tries to re-establish its formerly vibrant agricultural sector following land reform, perspectives focus on technical and market solutions, with an absence of concrete analysis and debate about political economic aspects. Yet it is these wider dimensions of policy processes, and particularly the politics underlying these, which inevitably carry the day. Therefore, this study maps the national seed system, examines its historical origins and identifies key policy narratives, actors and networks and political interests shaping the Zimbabwean seed system. It highlights how a number of competing narratives co-exist in the current national policy debate, each suggesting a different route to revitalising the seed system. The dominant narrative, supported by powerful national and international actors and associated interests, has been excluding, obscuring and silencing two important alternative narratives. These alternatives highlight the need to rebuild the private sector with all its ancillary structures for input distribution and the importance of agricultural diversification, non-maize pathways and the need to build from the grassroots. The suppressing of alternatives was done through different political economic processes, justified by particular technical arguments that were supported by clear interests. This potentially undermines longer term recovery based on rebuilding the seed system through the private sector and strengthening formal and informal farmer-based seed systems.

Policy Brief 49By Charity Mutonodzo-Davies and Douglas Magunda

Over much of the past decade, the Zimbabwean government and donor organisations have implemented agricultural input support programmes, comprised of private suppliers (seed houses and fertiliser manufacturers), wholesalers and rural agro-dealers, bypassing the previously vibrant market chain. This article argues that these ‘seed relief’ programmes contributed to the collapse of the input supply chain, and therefore hastening the decline of agricultural productivity in Zimbabwe today.

Walter ChambatiApril 2013

This paper begins highlights some key features that shape agrarian labour relations in Zimbabwe, illustrated through the setting of Goromonzi district. The new agrarian structure that forms the basis of the reconfigured agricultural production systems and labour relations is then analysed. This allows for the examination of the labour mobilisation patterns among the different classes of producers resulting from agrarian restructuring. The assessment of the material conditions that farm labourers derive from selling labour in various ways and their responses to the challenges they face precede the conclusions.

The new agrarian labour relations are explored using empirical research in Goromonzi district. Research undertaken by the African Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS) since 2002, including a baseline survey in 2006 of 695 landholders and 173 farm workers in Goromonzi is used to illustrate the outcomes prior to economic stabilisation in 2009.iii The analysis draws from the results of the survey reported in Moyo et al. (2009) and the data referenced as AIAS (2007). Qualitative surveys in Goromonzi in 2012 are used to trace the dynamic changes to agrarian labour relations as further land redistribution occurred and the macro-economic context and agrarian policies shifted. Data was collected through interviews and observations from farm labourers, landholders, farm compounds, traditional authorities and state officials.

Point info 49 Charity Mutonodzo-Davies et Douglas Magunda

Au cours d’une grande partie de ces dix dernières années, le gouvernement zimbabwéen et les bailleurs de fonds ont mis en oeuvre des programmes de soutien en intrants agricoles qui associent des fournisseurs privés (maisons semencières et fabricants d’engrais), des grossistes et des agro-distributeurs ruraux. Ces initiatives ont contourné ainsi la chaîne de commercialisation autrefois dynamique. Le présent article affirme que ces programmes de «secours semencier» ont participé à l’effondrement de la chaîne d’approvisionnement en intrants, accélérant ainsi le déclin de productivité agricole que connaît aujourd’hui le Zimbabwe.

Policy Brief 63by Henry Tugendhat

As Africa attempts to boost agricultural productivity, many countries are turning to Brazil and China for the possibility of alternative approaches and technologies. Both countries have boasted numerous agricultural achievements, and both are increasing their engagements with African partners. The G8/African Union’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition bears some similarities with China and Brazil’s efforts, particularly with its aims to “increase responsible domestic and foreign private investments in African agriculture, take innovations that can enhance agricultural productivity to scale, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities”. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) describes this initiative as targeting the creation of “new jobs and market opportunities for small and large farms in African agriculture,” albeit, with a greater discussion of the importance of smallholders. Brazil and China’s ‘cooperation’ efforts in trade, aid and investments provide some key lessons for the New Alliance.