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pdf Researching Land and Commercial Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa with a Gender Perspective: Concepts, Issues and Methods

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 132
Helen Dancer and Dzodzi Tsikata
October 2015

This paper offers critical reflections on the concepts, issues and methods that are important for integrating a gender perspective into mainstream research and policy-making on land and agricultural commercialisation in Africa. It forms part of the Land and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa (LACA) project undertaken by the Future Agricultures Consortium between 2012 and 2015 and informs the case studies conducted across three countries: Kenya, Ghana and Zambia. The paper compares key gender issues that arise across three different models of agricultural commercialisation: plantation, contract farming and small- and medium-scale commercial farming.

It further discusses how concepts and research methods deriving from the literature on gender and agriculture may be applied to mainstream research. The paper highlights the need for an integrated approach to researching gender and agrarian change in Africa. In particular, the existing gender literature provides a rich legacy for researchers of all disciplines to inform their research design and analysis. The authors argue for a more systematic evaluation of the gender implications of agricultural commercialisation across interconnected social levels: household, local community and the wider political economy.

Default Perseverance in the Face of Hardship: Chinese Smallholder Farmers’ Engagements in Ghanaian Agriculture

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 130
Lu Jixia, Yu Lerong and Henry Tugendhat
August 2015

This paper uses qualitative research methods to study small-scale Chinese farmers in Ghana, in contrast to research generally found in mainstream media and academic literature which focuses on large-scale Chinese farms in Africa. Through field-based observations of three small Chinese-run farms, this article explores how some Chinese expatriates are engaging in agricultural development in Ghana. We argue that this engagement contributes diverse new agricultural products to the local market. Furthermore, we find that the activities of these farmers are driven by increasing numbers of Chinese migrants in Africa, and that instead of being powerful competitors, they are in fact squeezed into the margins of the local market. They meet the needs of a specific niche market through perseverance and learning from failure. In doing so, they face unfamiliar challenges from both the natural climate and the social environment, and they are at a disadvantage in this process compared to local farmers who have over the years developed better adaptive mechanisms. Looking ahead, a decline in the specialised market for Chinese goods caused by a decline in Chinese migrant labour presents real challenges for the future viability of small Chinese farms in Ghana.

Default Blurring the Lines between Aid and Business in the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre in Zimbabwe

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 129
Tang Lixia, Lu Yan, Zhao Wenjie, Langton Mukwereza and Li Xiaoyun
August 2015

In recent years, tremendous attention has been given to China’s burgeoning agricultural engagements in Africa. Due to limited access to these engagements, most discussions have focused on macro-level discourse analysis as well as political and economic analysis on its impacts. Little research of an anthropological nature has been undertaken at the micro-level operation of ongoing projects, taking note of the nature of interactions between the donors and local counterpart staff within a given cultural setting. This article focuses on a Chinese- Zimbabwe Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre (ATDC) to provide insights into the daily activities, interactions and cultural encounters with locals. Ethnographic methodologies are used to examine the Chinese and Africans’ activities, ideas and dialogues at the Demonstration Centre to present through empirical observations how China’s macro strategy is implemented in actual practices of staff and local partners at the ATDC in Zimbabwe.

Default The Challenges of China’s Food and Feed Economy

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 131
Lu Jixia, Li Xiaoyun and Fu Gonghua
September 2015

China’s transformation from a net food exporter to a net food importer has occurred in a very short period of time and this has implications for both China and the world. This paper argues that there is strategic and practical significance in China-Africa agricultural cooperation, as the current import structure of food and other agricultural products is imbalanced and China’s food supply-demand imbalances will continue to expand. This raises the possibility of political and economic crisis for China and threatens those poor countries who are relying on international food markets. Africa possesses substantial areas of arable land that can be developed and utilised; thus, China-Africa agricultural cooperation can potentially enhance African nations’ productive capacity and contribute to local food security, through which it can indirectly improve global food security and stabilise the international food market under China’s increasing food demand context.

Default Copying the Extension System of China and Beyond: Implementing the Chinese Agriculture Technology Demonstration Centre in Ethiopia

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 128
Gubo Qii, Lerong Yui, Dawit Alemuii, Seth Cookiii and Xiaoyun Lii
August 2015

The Chinese Agriculture Technology Demonstration Centre (ATDC) in Ethiopia is an aid project on agricultural technology cooperation between China and Ethiopia. The process of cooperation is the art of improvising on the ground when the original project plan doesn’t quite match reality. This study analyses the logic behind the improvising of implementation on the ground. It found that the running of this project is not following project management procedures and log-frame indicators but is instead based on the experiences of agricultural extension in China. Through Chinese experts, as individualactors, ATDC brought in the approach of top-down planning, assumption of package support and integration of commercial functions which can be found in the reformed extension system in China. The Chinese experts carry this working approach – along with its assumptions and principles – to Ethiopia, without considering the lack of any parallel institution and culture there at the beginning. This results in many challenges for implementing the ATDC activities and novel reactions by the ATDC experts, which also reflect the individual’s working style in the Chinese extension system. Though the technologies are still present inside the ATDC after many efforts, a request to extend the cooperation phase from the Ethiopian side implies an appreciation of the approach and its results to some extent.

Default Travelling Technocratic Rationality: Historical Narratives of China’s Agricultural Development and their Implications for China- Africa Agricultural Cooperation

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 127
Xu Xiuli, Li Xiaoyun and Qi Gubo
August 2015

Contemporary China-Africa agricultural cooperation (CAAC) has been internally dominated by three streams of narrative: promotion of food security for state building in the post-war landscape; productivity enhancement through technocratic modernisation; and promotion of aid sustainability through business engagement in the new era of globalisation. This paper explores the domestic drivers and strategies underpinning these narratives, as well as their respective implications for CAAC, using a historical review approach. The paper summarises three elements entrenched in the narratives of CAAC – state leadership, productivity-centrism and the governmentbusiness nexus – which are examples of travelling technocratic rationality. These differentiate China’s aid, focusing on developmental state building, from the established aid consensus, with its marriage of orthodox neoliberalism and a new institutionalism.

Default Mixed Starts and Uncertain Futures: Case Studies of Three Chinese Agricultural Investments in Zimbabwe

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 125
Tang Lixia, Zhao Wenjie, Langton Mukwereza and Li Xiaoyun
July 2015

Chinese agricultural investments in Africa have grown significantly in the past two decades, but there remains very little empirical research on the nature of these investments. This paper aims to address this knowledge gap by looking at three different types of Chinese investors in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector: a National State Owned Enterprise (SOE), a Provincial SOE and a private company. Collectively, their experiences not only challenge the pervasive view that Chinese companies are progressing at unstoppable rates in African markets, but also raise deeper questions about the importance of company structures, financial stability and the environments in which they operate.

Default Rising Powers and Rice in Ghana: China, Brazil and African agricultural development

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 123
Kojo Sebastian Amanor
July 2015

This paper examines the nature of Chinese and Brazilian investments in agricultural development by focusing on the irrigated rice sector in Ghana. It examines this through a historic perspective that traces policy towards the rice sector in Ghana, and the influence ofvarious actors in developing this sector. Investment in the development of commercial rice originated in the 1970s when China developed smallholder demonstration rice projects and the government of Ghana pursued a policy of promoting large scale commercial rice production and smallholder contract farming on irrigation projects, tied to inputs suppliers and food marketers and processors. The paper then traces the changing fortunes of the irrigated rice sector under structural adjustment and government support for private sector investment in irrigated rice development in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This resulted in new investors entering rice production in Ghana, including Brazilian interests, and renewed interests from Chinese investors. It argues that the main trends in commercial rice production have been towards contractual relations in which accumulation occurs through control over supplies of inputs and marketing and that these are defined by the policies of the Ghanaian government. Although Brazilian companies have contributed towards innovation in this sector, they lack support from Brazilian agribusiness and agricultural development institutions. As a result of this their access to technology is constrained by the nature of Ghanaian markets and research establishments, and the lack of institutional embedding of Brazilian technologies within these. However, there are attempt by the Brazilian state to build up markets for machinery and develop joint research, although this occurs outside of rice. Although Chinese companies are absent from the development of rice, they have expressed interests in its future developments and are attemptingto build up interactions between inputs supply, seed development and production, which will effectively embed Chinese technologies within Ghanaian research institutions and markets. The future of commercial rice production by these rising powers is likely to develop through expansion of seed development, inputs and machinery markets, and food trading and processing, rather than through a dramatic expansion in large estates. In this Chinese and Brazilian interventions are not markedly different from other agribusiness models.

Default The Political Economy of State Business Relations in Chinese Development Cooperation in Africa

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 120
Jing Gu
June 2015

The growing involvement of the Chinese state and business in Africa has generated significant debate about China’s Africa strategy and its benefits for Africa’s development. Chinese policymakers have become increasingly oriented toward improving African countries’ agricultural productivity. This paper focuses on how state-business interactions influence agricultural development outcomes, using Zimbabwe as a country of study. It explores the question of how far the State can control business and direct development by identifying the key relationships that influence the decision-making processes of state and business actors within China and its African engagement. The paper challenges the conventional wisdom of homogenised, unitary relations, and argues that these relations are, in practice, heterogeneous, as a result of the Chinese state being disaggregated into a multiplicity of provincial relations and central state agencies, and because of tensions arising between commercial market and political interests. The active role of African governments in agricultural schemes is also affecting outcomes. The findings of a brief ethnographic analysis of four state-business schemes in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector suggest that where African agriculture is concerned, a wide range of Chinese agencies are involved, with businesses being driven by either market forces or national state interests, which together make outcomes increasingly less generalisable.

Default Interpreting China-Africa Agricultural Encounters: Rhetoric and Reality in a Large Scale Rice Project in Mozambique

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 126
Zhang Chuanhong, Li Xiaoyun, Oi Gubo and Wang Yanlei
July 2015

In recent years, China’s burgeoning agricultural investment in Africa has attracted tremendous attention from media, academics and policymakers worldwide. The macro-level discussions around the nature and significance of these engagements have been debated and well documented within a vast body of literature. However, little research had been done concerning the local encounters through a particular project, which constitutes a very important angle in understanding how success or failure of a development model is produced. In this article, the authors went beyond apolitical economic approach and examined how local encounters construct and reshape the practice of a particular agricultural investment project using actor-oriented approaches. The perspectives of both Chinese actors and their African counterparts were explored and analysed based on a large-scale Chinese rice project in Mozambique. The research found that the optimistic rhetoric of state actors and investors fell short of the reality of the many unacknowledged structures and chance events. However, despite the unintended outcomes, the rhetoric persists due to the project’s significance – not only in its potential for economic profit, but also in terms of its political prestige.

pdf A Chinese Pesticide Enterprise in Ghana: Motivations, Impacts, Challenges and Local Interactions Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 124
Yu Lerong, Lu Jixia, Henry Tugendhat and Li Xiaoyun
July 2015

This working paper explores the motivations, impacts, challenges and interactions of a successful Chinese pesticide enterprise in Ghana. In the context of much China-Africa literature focusing on state-backed Chinese business initiatives in Africa, this paper takes an ethnographic approach to explain the rise of a private sector Chinese agrochemicals company in Ghana. This is significant because of the frugal amount of literature that does cover Chinese migrant businesses in Africa, very few studies look at agricultural firms in particular. The main conclusion of this research is that the pushfactors from China’s domestic market and opportunities from Ghana’s agrochemicals market are important driving forces for Chinese pesticide enterprises to ‘go out’. Furthermore, diversified strategies are necessary to deal with local market environments based on business and social networks that intertwine formal and informal relations.

Default Africa’s Land Rush: Rural Livelihoods and Agrarian Change Popular

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Edited by Ruth Hall, Ian Scoones and Dzodzi Tsikata
Published by James Currey
July 2015

Discount flyer (PDF)

AfricaLandRushAfrica has been at the centre of a "land grab" in recent years, with investors lured by projections of rising food prices, growing demand for "green" energy, and cheap land and water rights. But such land is often also used or claimed through custom by communities. What does this mean for Africa? In what ways are rural people's lives and livelihoods being transformed as a result? And who will control its land and agricultural futures?

The case studies explore the processes through which land deals are being made; the implications for agrarian structure, rural livelihoods and food security; and the historical context of changing land uses, revealing that these land grabs may resonate with, even resurrect, forms of large-scale production associated with the colonial and early independence eras.

The book depicts the striking diversity of deals and dealers: white Zimbabwean farmers in northern Nigeria, Dutch and American joint ventures in Ghana, an Indian agricultural company in Ethiopia's hinterland, European investors in Kenya's drylands and a Canadian biofuel company on its coast, South African sugar agribusiness in Tanzania's southern growth corridor, in Malawi's "Greenbelt" and in southern Mozambique, and white South African farmers venturing onto former state farms in the Congo.


Ruth Hall is Associate Professor at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa; Ian Scoones is a Professorial Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex and Director of the ESRC STEPS Centre; Dzodzi Tsikata is Associate Professor at the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana, Legon.


1  Introduction: The Contexts and Consequences of Africa's Land Rush by Ruth Hall, Ian Scoones and Dzodzi Tsikata
2  State, Land and Agricultural Commercialisation in Kwara State, Nigeria by Joseph A. Ariyo and Michael Mortimore
3  Recent Transnational Land Deals and the Local Agrarian Economy in Ghana by Joseph Awetori Yaro and Dzodzi Tsikata
4  Large-Scale Land Acquisitions in Ethiopia: Implications for Agricultural Transformation and Livelihood Security by Maru Shete and Marcel Rutte
5  Land Deals and Pastoralist Livelihoods in Laikipia County, Kenya by John Letai
6  Land Deals in the Tana Delta, Kenya by Abdirizak Arale Nunow
7  The State and Foreign Capital in Agricultural Commercialisation: The Case of Tanzania's Kilombero Sugar Company by Emmanuel Sulle and Rebecca Smalley
8  Trapped between the Farm Input Subsidy Programme and Green Belt Initiative: Malawi's Contemporary Agrarian Political Economy by Blessings Chinsinga and Michael Chasukwa
9  Agrarian Struggles in Mozambique: Insights from Sugarcane Plantations by Gaynor Paradza and Emmanuel Sulle
10  South African Commercial Farmers in the Congo by Ruth Hall, Ward Anseeuw and Gaynor Paradza

pdf The Contexts & Consequences of Africa's Land Rush Popular

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Africa's Land Rush Introduction lo-res.pdf

by Ruth Hall, Ian Scoones and Dzodzi Tsikata

This is the introductory chapter of the book Africa's Land Rush: Rural Livelihoods & Agrarian Change. It can be downloaded free of charge.

The full book is available to buy from the publishers, James Currey.


Default Large scale land deals in Southern Africa: voices of the people Popular

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Ruth Hall, Joseph Gausi, Prosper Matondi, Theodor Muduva, Camilo Nhancale, Dimuna Phiri and Phillan Zamchiya
Published by the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies
June 2015
Open access – freely downloadable as a PDF file

This book presents case studies of large-scale land deals in Southern Africa. It aims to provide an accessible and vivid window into the lived realities and responses of rural people who are affected by such deals. For this reason, we have paid particular attention to what local people say, and have quoted their experiences and responses to the land deals.

largescale500The book emerges from an action research project implemented by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape, South Africa, in partnership with non-governmental organisations in five Southern African countries: LandNet in Malawi, Kuwuka Juventude Desenvolvimento e Advocacia Ambiental in Mozambique, Legal Assistance Centre in Namibia, Zambia Land Alliance in Zambia and Ruzivo Trust in Zimbabwe.

Our joint project, entitled Commercialisation of Land and ‘Land Grabbing’ in Southern Africa: Implications for Land Rights and Livelihoods in Southern Africa, involved not only documenting what was happening on the ground but also action research, together with the communities, in negotiations, lobbying and meetings with investors and with government institutions.

We hope that this book, its case studies and the testimonies from the people affected, will prove to be a useful resource to popularise knowledge of big commercial land deals in the region, among policymakers, activists, farmers’ organisations and other civil society bodies. It can be used to debate why land deals are happening, how they affect rural communities, and the gaps in national laws, policies and institutions that govern land rights. We hope that reading this book, and using it in training and workshops, will help to strengthen activism and advocacy for just land laws and policies, and their full and transparent implementation.

pdf Chinese Training Courses for African Agriculture: Transformational Knowledge? Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 122
Henry Tugendhat
July 2015

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has launched one of the largest training course programmes in the world as part of its international cooperation programme with Africa. In these training courses, China’s foremost universities, state bureaux, and private companies transfer their knowledge to 10,000 African government officials per year. The courses cover everything from the management of health epidemics to customs office administration, all drawing from China’s most recent socio-economic development experiences. In 2013, agriculture-related topics made up a significant 15 percent of total training courses, covering courses on both policy and technology.

There has been a strong narrative, from Chinese government officials and their African counterparts alike, that what is particularly appealing about China is that its agricultural sector has similarities with that of many African countries. They talk of China’s diversity of climates to match the many African environments, as well as China’s dependence on smallholder farming. The logical conclusion from such narratives would appear to be: what worked for China, must work for Africa. In this context, the MOFCOM training courses consist of one of the most direct forms of knowledge transfer from Chinese experts to African state leaders and policymakers. Many of the Chinese experts involved are not just qualified in the theory of what they teach, but have had first-hand experiences of effecting the change that brought about China’s own agricultural achievements.

As such, this paper seeks to understand how China’s agricultural training courses have affected agricultural practices in the African countries where they train. This looks at how the training courses work, how transferable this knowledge really is for African agricultural contexts, and finally, what these training courses really achieve in the broader context of China-Africa relations. Ghana and Zimbabwe are focused on as key case studies for this paper, and fieldwork was also conducted with training institutions and lecturers in China.

This paper is part of our project on China and Brazil in African Agriculture.

pdf Jumping into the Sea: Chinese Migrants’ Engagement in Non-Traditional Agricultural Commodities in Ethiopia Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 121
Seth Cook and Dawit Alemu
July 2015

This paper explores the nature and extent of Chinese migrants’ involvement in the demand and supply of non-traditional agricultural commodities in Ethiopia, shares the perspectives of the different actors involved, and discusses the implications of this presence for Ethiopian development.

The focus here is not simply on the food and agriculture sector; the study also aims to shed light on the Chinese migrants involved in that sector. For instance, who are they and where do they come from in China? Why do they come to Ethiopia, and how do they end up in the food and agriculture sector? How do their business networks operate? What are their aspirations, and do they see Ethiopia as a permanent home?

This paper is part of our project on China and Brazil in African Agriculture.

pdf Pathways for irrigation development in Africa – insights from Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique (Summary) Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 119 (Summary version)
Naomi Oates, Guy Jobbins, Beatrice Mosello and John Arnold
June 2015

This paper summarises the findings of a rapid review to determine the policies and practices that have shaped irrigation performance over the last 50 years in three African countries: Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique.

The research combined a review of national (sector) level trends with short case studies of specific irrigation schemes. Evidence was drawn from the literature, supplemented by in-country key informant interviews and brief site visits. The review considers changes in policy and their drivers; linkages between policy, practice and performance; factors determining scheme performance; and key issues for future policymaking.

Full details can be found in the main working paper.

pdf Pathways for irrigation development in Africa – insights from Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 119
Naomi Oates, Guy Jobbins, Beatrice Mosello and John Arnold
June 2015

Irrigation has played an important role in agricultural modernisation around the world. In Africa, however, agricultural production has increased very slowly over the last fifty years, barely keeping pace with population growth. After a period of relative neglect, the international community is showing renewed interest in African irrigation as a means to tackle food insecurity, increasing water scarcity and climate change. Calls for increased investment present an opportunity to learn from past experiences in order to chart plausible pathways for future development.

This working paper reviews the policies and practices that have shaped irrigation development in Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique of the last fifty years. The research combines an analysis of sector trends with case studies of specific irrigation schemes, considering linkages between policy, practice and performance, drivers of change, and key issues for future policymaking.

A summary version of this paper is also available.

pdf Gender implications of agricultural commercialisation: The case of sugarcane production in Kilombero District, Tanzania Popular

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Future Agricultures Working Paper 118
Helen Dancer and Emmanuel Sulle
May 2015

Since the global food crisis of 2008 the Tanzanian government, amongst other African governments, has made food security through increases in agricultural productivity a policy priority. The emphasis in Tanzania is on commercialisation, with a particular focus on large-scale rice and sugarcane production. Gender equity within African agricultural production is a critical issue; yet limited empirical research exists on the gender implications of agricultural commercialisation now taking place in the region.

This paper presents findings from fieldwork conducted in Kilombero District of Tanzania in 2013 and 2014. The research takes the country’s largest sugar producer – Kilombero Sugar Company Ltd – as its focus and analyses the socio-economic implications of the commercialisation of sugarcane production from a gender perspective. The findings demonstrate the significance of gender relations in the development of commercial agricultural business models, local socio-economic development and land titling measures. They also illustrate the pressures and benefits for relationships and resource-sharing within households in the transition from food crops to sugarcane production.

pdf Utafiti wa wakulima wa nje wa miwa Kilombero: Taarifa ya Mrejesho wa Wadau Popular

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Kilombero stakeholder report_Swahili Version.pdf

Emmanuel Sulle na Rebecca Smalley
Mei 2015

Andiko hili ni muhtasari wa utafiti uliofanywa na watafiti kati ya mwaka 2013 na 2014 juu ya wakulima wa nje wa miwa na kipato chao katika maeneo yaliyo karibu na Kampuni ya Sukari ya Kilombero, Tanzania. Hili andiko linakusudia kutoa mrejesho kwa wahojiwa na watu wengine wanaopenda kujua masuala haya, pamoja na wadau wengine na kutoa fursa ya kupashana habari, kutoa malalamiko ya washiriki, na kuwasilisha matokeo ya utafiti na mapendekezo yetu.

(See the English version of this report)