A list of articles authored, or co-authored by FAC members and published in peer-reviewed journals.
From agricultural research to 'product development': What role for user feedback and feedback loops?
James Sumberg, Jonas Heirman, Cara Raboanarielina and Abdoulaye Kaboré
Outlook on Agriculture, December 2013
Agricultural research for development (AR4D) is often discussed in terms of abandoning 'business as usual'. One important element of the reframing of agricultural research is an emphasis on the development of useful 'products', which immediately brings 'users' to centre stage. In this paper the authors review the literature on user involvement from the field of new product development (NPD). They then propose a conceptual model of feedback and feedback loops within AR4D and use this model to analyse examples of feedback generation in rice research in West Africa. On the basis of this initial analysis they conclude that, while there are many ongoing activities that could potentially provide useful feedback, in the majority of cases this potential is probably not being realized. Unless feedback is approached much more systematically, the promise of AR4D as a means of generating useful products for farmers and others will probably remain unfulfilled.
Full title: When a Good Business Model is Not Enough: Land Transactions and Gendered Livelihood Prospects in Rural Ghana
Dzodzi Tsikata and Joseph Awetori Yaro
Feminist Economics, December 2013
Recent large-scale commercial agriculture projects in developing countries have raised concerns about the effects on natural resource-based livelihood activities of local people. A significant weakness in the emerging literature is the lack of a gender perspective on implications for agrarian livelihoods. This article explores the gendered aspects of land transactions on livelihood prospects in the Northern Region of Ghana. Drawing on qualitative research from two commercial agriculture projects, the article examines how pre-existing gender inequalities in agrarian production systems, as well as gender biases in project design, are implicated in post-project livelihood activities.
The article concludes that a good business model of a land deal, even one that includes local communities in production and profit sharing, is not sufficient to protect women's livelihood prospects if projects ignore pre-existing gender inequalities and biases, which limit access to opportunities.
Full title: Land Grabbing, Large- and Small-scale Farming: what can evidence and policy from 20th century Africa contribute to the debate?
Elena Baglioni and Peter Gibbon
Third World Quarterly, Vol 34, Issue 9, 2013
Special Issue: Global Land Grabs
This article examines the contemporary phenomenon of ‘land grabbing’ in relation to the history of plantation and large- and small-scale farming (PF, LSF and SSF) in sub-Saharan Africa. It looks at the extent of PF and LSF over the 20th century, as well as the policy narratives that have justified, supported or circumscribed their development.
Many characteristics of the current land rush and its interpretation reveal elements of continuity with some of the general trends marking the history of PF and LSF up to recent years. In particular, the heterogeneity of PF and LSF, subsuming quite different relations to SSF, and the pivotal role played by the combination of private capital (whether foreign, domestic or combined) with the state represent organisational continuities. Meanwhile continuities in supporting narratives centre on the prevalence of generic prescriptions for either LSF/PF or SSF. Refuting these generic prescriptions is a precondition for more nuanced analysis and policy proposals.
by James Sumberg and Christine Okali
Innovations Journal, Special Edition on Youth Economic Opportunities
In this essay we argue that entrepreneurship-based policy and programmes to address the jobs challenge facing young people in rural Africa need to be much more firmly grounded. Specifically, in terms of expectations, design and implementation they must take explicit account of the highly diverse and changing rural and social realities within which young people both find themselves and help to fashion. We will develop this argument through an exploration of the notion of “opportunity space”, and demonstrate the benefit of putting an appreciation of social difference and social relations at centre stage.
Sumberg, James; Thompson, John; Woodhouse, Philip
Outlook on Agriculture (2013) Volume 42, Number 2, June 2013 , pp. 81-83(3)
The context in which agronomy research takes place has changed fundamentally over the last 40 years, with important implications for the discipline. Systematic study of the new politics of agronomy is particularly important in an era when the whole basis of global and sustainable food security is under question. One critical challenge is to analyse the forces driving claims on the universality of technology and approaches.
Samuel Asuming-Brempong, John K. Anarfi, Samuel Arthur and Seth Asante
American Journal of Experimental Agriculture (2013), ISSN: 2231-0606,Vol.: 3, Issue.: 3 (July-September)
Smallholder commercialisation may be broadly defined as the situation where farmers of small individual and family farms have greater engagement with markets, either for inputs, outputs, or both. A key premise of commercialization as a development strategy is that markets provide increased incomes to households who are able to maximize the returns to land and labor through market opportunities, using earned income for household consumption in ways that are more efficient than subsistence production. This study assesses the characteristics of smallholder farmers in Ghana using tomato and pineapple production as a case study; analyses the relationship between commercialization and smallholder land holdings; assesses the determinants of commercialization of smallholder agriculture, as well as the benefits or otherwise of smallholder farmers from commercialization; and discusses how commercialization affects household food security among smallholder farmers. Descriptive statistics, correlations and regression analysis are used to describe the characteristics of smallholder farmers and determine the key factors that influence household decision to undertake commercialization among both tomato and pineapple farmers. Based on the study, it was found that 96.3 percent of the respondents in the study communities are farmers; and they fall between the ages of 15 and 59 years (91%), which indicates that they are relatively young. The key determinants of commercialization among tomato farmers are land productivity and labour productivity. Similarly, the main determinants of commercialization among pineapple smallholder farmers are land productivity and savings. The study recommends that both public and private agencies work should together to facilitate the move of smallholder farmers from mainly subsistence to commercialization because it comes with several benefits, including higher household incomes, and improvements in household food security.
by Stephen Whitfield
Climatic Change, June 2013
Drawing on social constructivist approaches to interpreting the generation of knowledge, particularly Stirling’s (Local Environ 4(2):111–135, 1999) schema of incomplete knowledge, this paper looks critically at climate-crop modelling, a research discipline of growing importance within African agricultural adaptation policy. A combination of interviews with climate and crop modellers, a meta-analysis survey of crop modelling conducted as part of the CGIAR’s Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) programme in 2010, and peer-reviewed crop and climate modelling literature are analysed. Using case studies from across the crop model production chain as illustrations it is argued that, whilst increases in investment and growth of the modelling endeavour are undoubtedly improving observational data and reducing ignorance, the future of agriculture remains uncertain and ambiguous. The expansion of methodological options, assumptions about system dynamics, and divergence in model outcomes is increasing the space and need for more deliberative approaches to modelling and policy making. Participatory and deliberative approaches to science-policy are advanced in response. The discussion highlights the problem that, uncertainty and ambiguity become hidden within the growing complexity of conventional climate and crop modelling science, as such, achieving the transparency and accessibility required to democratise climate impact assessments represents a significant challenge. Suggestions are made about how these challenges might be responded to within the climate-crop modelling community.
Response to ‘Combining sustainable agricultural production with economic and environmental benefits’
James Sumberg, Jens Andersson, Ken Giller and John Thompson
The Geographical Journal, Vol 179, Issue 2, pages 183-185, June 2013
We suggest that a recent commentary piece in The Geographical Journal on Conservation Agriculture (CA) and the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) (Kassam and Brammer 2012 was misleading because it drew very selectively from the literature, and presented its conclusions as both widely accepted and uncontroversial. Kassam and Brammer's intervention in the continuing debates around CA and SRI can be understood as a manifestation of the new ‘contested agronomy’. While Kassam and Brammer call on geographers to do research that will promote the spread of CA and SRI, we suggest that this misconstrues and devalues the potential contribution of geography and social science more generally to agricultural development.
SUMBERG, J., ANDERSSON, J., GILLER, K. and THOMPSON, J. (2013), Response to ‘Combining sustainable agricultural production with economic and environmental benefits’. The Geographical Journal, 179: 183–185. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00472.x
by James Sumberg and Gountiéni Damien Lankoandé
Development Policy Review, Volume 31, Issue 3, pages 255–271, April 2013
This article examines the ‘heifer-in-trust’ or ‘livestock-in-kind credit’ model through a social-protection lens. Specifically it seeks to engage with debates about the use of asset-based strategies to support graduation from social protection. Drawing on project experience with dairy goats in Ethiopia and dairy cattle in Tanzania, the article concludes that while the asset-ness of livestock may in principle allow them to make a unique contribution to livelihood transformation and thus graduation, the most obvious target group is least likely to be able to handle the demands and risks associated with livestock assets.
by Laura Pereira
Sustainability 2013, 5(3), 1234-1255
The food system is facing unprecedented pressure from environmental change exacerbated by the expansion of agri-food corporations that are consolidating their power in the global food chain. Although Africa missed the Green Revolution and the wave of supermarket expansion that hit the West and then spread to Asia and Latin America, this is unlikely to continue. With a large proportion of sub-Saharan African countries’ GDP still heavily reliant on agriculture, global trends in agri-food business are having an increasing impact on African countries. South Africa, a leader in agribusiness on the continent, has a well-established agri-food sector that is facing increasing pressure from various social and environmental sources.
This paper uses interview data with corporate executives from South African food businesses to explore how they are adapting to the dual pressures of environmental change and globalisation. It shows that companies now have to adapt to macro-trends both within and outside the formal food sector and how this in turn has repercussions for building sustainable farming systems—both small and large-scale. It concludes with the recognition that building a sustainable food system is a complex process involving a diversity of actors, however changes are already being seen. Businesses have strategically recognised the need to align the economic bottom line with social and environmental factors, but real sustainability will only happen when all stakeholders are included in food governance.