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Research Papers

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The Research Paper series reports findings to the research community. It is intended to contribute new analysis to agricultural issues in Africa and FAC publishes five to ten Research papers annually.


pdf Uganda’s Dilemmas in the Transition to Modern Commercial Agriculture: Implications for the Poverty Reduction Agenda Popular

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Leocardia Nabwire
February 2015

This paper draws on field data from farming households in Kabale and Kisoro districts of Uganda and early findings from monitoring the implementation of the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture (PMA) and the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy and Investment Plan (DSIP) to investigate: (1) whether Uganda’s agricultural modernisation strategies constitute the right mechanism and target of transforming smallholder subsistence agriculture into highly productive commercial farming; and (2) whether the generation and promotion of modern farm inputs pursued is sufficient to increase household farm output and incomes, or whether there is need for more rigorous market/economic incentives.

Several key findings emanate from this study. First, the overall logic of agricultural modernisation as laid out in the PMA/DSIP (increase household farm output and income) still holds, but there are weaknesses within the implementation process, with most of the pillars that seek to address agricultural marketing problems not being visible on the ground. Overall, progress in generating and promoting knowledge on modern farm inputs (hybrid seed, fertiliser and pesticide) is good. However, smallholder farmers lag behind in the adoption of these inputs despite the high demand for them. The low adoption levels of these inputs coupled with low literacy levels, small land sizes, low asset endowments and low access to credit limit the capacity of smallholder subsistence farmers to produce surplus for the market.

Second, results on market participation show that smallholder farmers have significantly lower production volumes and lower market participation. Yet households that had higher total crop output also had considerable market surplus and reported greater market participation. These results point to the strong relationship between output level, market participation and exiting poverty, and indicate the role that access to productive assets, which improve a household’s capacity to produce marketable surplus, can play in poverty reduction. Chief among this paper’s recommendations is the need to mainstream input and output marketing issues within all intervention areas and the development of more differentiated strategies according to target groups.

This paper was produced with support from the Early Career Fellowship Programme.

Default The Role of Indigenous Gums and Resins in Pastoralists’ Livelihood Security and Climate Change... Popular

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Full title: The Role of Indigenous Gums and Resins in Pastoralists’ Livelihood Security and Climate Change Adaptation in Garba Tula Area of Northern Kenya

Yasin Mahadi S. Salah
February 2014

The current study investigates the role of indigenous gums and resins in pastoralists’ livelihood security and climate change adaptation in Garba Tula area of northern Kenya. The communities in the area are heavily dependent on natural resources which are influenced by prevailing climatic conditions. In recent years droughts have increased in frequency and magnitude, constraining the livestock sector which is the mainstay of the pastoral communities in Garba Tula. Due to dwindling income from the livestock sector as a result of drought, community members are exploring complementary and alternative livelihoods to survive. One of the activities that has taken precedence in filling the gap in Garba Tula is exploitation of the abundant gums and resins found in the area. This study asks to what extent income from livestock is diversified or complemented by other livelihood strategies, in particular activities that act as climate change adaptation mechanisms.

This paper was produced with support from the Early Career Fellowship Programme.

Default An investigation into the marginalisation of adolescent girls from the agrarian structure... Popular

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Full title: An investigation into the marginalisation of adolescent girls from the agrarian structure and its impacts on their livelihoods in Africa: Experiences from Zimbabwe

Manase Kudzai Chiweshe
February 2014

The paper provides a nuanced and grounded understanding of how young girls relate to agriculture with special emphasis on land ownership, labour, participation in agricultural policy making. In particular, it questions how agriculture can enhance young women’s empowerment. It is based on research carried out in five districts across Zimbabwe. The study was initially a qualitative inquiry in Mazowe concentrating on in depth interviews, focus group discussions and life histories of adolescent girls. In the process of finishing this fieldwork there was an opportunity to increase the scope of the study to include four other districts across Zimbabwe. The research was done under the auspices of Ruzivo Trust from December 2012 to January 2013. This included a quantitative survey and qualitative case studies with adolescent youths in Gokwe South, Chimanimani and Goromonzi.

This paper was produced with support from the Early Career Fellowship Programme.

Default Market Structure and Price: An empirical analysis of Irish potato markets in Kenya Popular

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Nancy M. Laibuni and John M. Omiti
February 2014

In many developing countries, Kenya included, food markets are characterised by information asymmetry, inadequate storage and transport infrastructure and weak physical and institutional market organisation. This study seeks to examine recent trends in domestic Irish potato prices in the production markets of Nakuru and Eldoret and the consumption markets of Nairobi and Mombasa, and investigate the relationship between market structure and price of Irish potato in the different markets. Monthly market data from January 1998 to May 2011 is used. The results show that there is a general rise in the price of potatoes. The farm-gate share of wholesale market prices for ware (fresh) potato increased in Nakuru and Eldoret to 52 percent in 2010 from 35 percent in 2009. These percentage shares suggest that there exist large marketing margins that are accrued by middlemen and brokers. Potato markets are oligopolistic in nature; a few market participants in the form of rural brokers, urban brokers and transporters have the market power. There are barriers to entry at the urban market centres where brokers provide the link between wholesalers and retailers. In many cases, brokers and transporters determine the market price for each potato consignment. The markets are integrated and price transmission does occur; however it is incomplete, the results showed that long run price transmission proportions range between 25 and 59 percent, implying that, the spatial arbitrage conditions are wanting in the markets that were examined. Proposed interventions include facilitation and up-scaling of market information sharing; investment in physical infrastructure (including storage and roads) to facilitate trade; and provision of incentives to encourage public-private partnerships in storage, distribution and marketing. From a policy perspective, efforts should be made to facilitate arbitrage through the improvement of storage and physical market infrastructure.

This paper was produced with support from the Early Career Fellowship Programme.

Default An integrated approach towards moderating the effects of climate change on agriculture: A policy... Popular

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Full title: An integrated approach towards moderating the effects of climate change on agriculture: A policy perspective for Zimbabwe

Denboy Kudejira
February 2014

This study was undertaken to provide a succinct assessment of the linkages between agricultural policy reform in Zimbabwe and the challenges that climate change poses to smallholder farmers in the country. The study is motivated by a lack of analysis of how post-independence agrarian reform processes in Zimbabwe may affect adaptation to climate change in the agricultural sector. The key driving factor behind land redistribution has largely been to enhance equity in the ownership of arable land. So far there has been less focus on assisting beneficiary farmers to adapt to climate change, which is increasingly becoming a reality and further aggravating the stresses already associated with smallholder production, including small farm sizes, informal land tenure, poorly developed infrastructure and unpredictable and uneven exposure to markets. The paper reveals that while the current status of land reforms has enabled previously disadvantaged peasants to acquire land, smallholders still face production challenges such as tenure insecurity, inadequate technical support, poorly developed infrastructure, limited access to markets and the effects of HIV/AIDS. These factors also remain key concerns for farmers in the face of the risks posed by climate change. The study found that smallholder farmers would benefit from climate change adaptation goals that focus on irrigation development, appropriate soil and water conservation technologies and sustainable utilisation of forest resources. While the government has been investing heavily in input support to smallholder famers, this paper argues for a more systemic targeting in resource allocation which is anchored on crop diversification in response to productivity trends across the agro-ecological zones of the country. A ‘market-oriented’ climate change adaptation approach which guarantees high returns to farmers who grow adaptable crop varieties like small grains should be considered, rather than the current situation where emphasis is put on cash crops like cotton and tobacco. Finally, the paper suggests a multi-sectoral and inter-disciplinary approach that involves government ministries, community based organisations, the private sector and other non-state actors. This would ensure a holistic approach in achieving climate change adaptation policy goals, and also help address other socio-economic challenges that smallholder farmers currently face.

This paper was produced with support from the Early Career Fellowship Programme.

Default Transnational Large Scale Agricultural Firms in Gambella Regional State, Ethiopia Popular

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Full title: Transnational Large Scale Agricultural Firms in Gambella Regional State, Ethiopia: Local Potentials, Opportunities and Constraints for Market Linkage and Contractual Farming Schemes

Adil Yassin
January 2014

Even though Transnational Corporations (TNCs) yield a huge potential in supporting the local economy, this opportunity is not realised yet. Concerns on weak market linkage with TNCs are not keenly explored in the literature, if weak linkages result from TNCs failure to utilise local market opportunities or if it is associated with weak local capacity with regard to labour availability, institutional capacity, market demand, and legal support. This study, based on annual import data, discovered that that there is potential demand for TNCs’ products (particularly rice, palm oil, maize, sugar and wheat) to establish forward linkage. Hence, high foreign currency expenditure might be cut, if imports can be substituted by TNCs supply to local market. The government, however, seems to focus on acquiring foreign currency more than reducing its expenditure through local transaction with TNCs. On the other hand, local economy’s capacity in providing inputs for TNCs is weak indicating challenge in backward linkage. Since the introduction of TNCs in Gambella, five years down the line, the most dominant and visible linkage happened in the form of labour [unskilled] employment. The volume of jobs created is insignificant compared to other countries’ standards. Thus far, due to the poor performance of TNCs, government’s expectation of employment generation, infrastructure development, market linkage and foreign currency acquisition are not realised adequately; as a result, it has regarded them as ‘failed’ projects. An absence of linkages with the local economy may lead to enclave development in the near future where there is limited market or economic benefit. Contract Farming (CF), if managed well, can be a viable means to enhance linkage with the local economy. However, there are considerable challenges to establish and facilitate CF in the Gambella region. Undefined land tenure system in the region, less government emphasis on CF in low land areas, TNCs business interest and financial problems, quality of farmers products and lack of modern inputs, and limited experience in CF, among others, are the main current and future challenges. It is concluded that weak linkage happens from both corners due to: lack of TNCs realisation and interest of local potentials and inadequate local capabilities.

This paper was produced with support from the Early Career Fellowship Programme.

Default Leaping and Learning case studies Popular

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Leaping and Learning case studies.pdf

This set of 41 case studies accompanies the Leaping and Learning research report.



Default Leaping and learning: linking smallholders to markets Popular

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Agriculture for Impact research report
by Steve Wiggins and Sharada Keats
May 2013

This report provides a comprehensive review of the existing literature on smallholder-centred market-based interventions.

Smallholder farms in sub-Saharan Africa number around 33 million, represent 80% of all farms in the region, and contribute up to 90% of food production in some sub-Saharan African countries. Developing smallholder agriculture can be effective in reducing poverty and hunger in low income countries, but only through sustainable access to markets can poor farmers increase the income from their labour and lift themselves and their families out of poverty.

Most poor farmers are not linked to markets for a variety of reasons: remoteness, low production, low farm-gate prices, and lack of information, to name a few. Addressing and overcoming these market failures in order to increase smallholder farmers’ access to markets was the subject of this research project.

In short, the project aimed to answer the question:

how can smallholders in sub-Saharan Africa use a combination of agricultural growth and links to markets to raise their incomes and reduce poverty and hunger?

What follows is a summary of the considerations, conclusions and recommendations that resulted from the synthesis and exploration of existing material, case studies and workshops.

Default Small farm commercialisation in Africa: Reviewing the issues Popular

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Research Paper23.pdf

FAC Research Paper 23
by Steve Wiggins, Gem Argwings-Kodhek, Jennifer Leavy & Colin Poulton

Small farmers in Africa have long been engaged with markets. Whenever villages have been connected to urban or overseas markets, smallholders have produced surpluses for them — at times prompting remarkable transformations in rural economies. The opportunities to engage with markets for small farmers are increasing — making questions that arise about smallholder commercialisation all the more important. This review looks at the debates, evidence and policy implications associated with these new opportunities.

Default Not Ready for Analysis? A Critical Review of NRA Estimations for Cotton and other Export Cash Crops Popular

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Claire Delpeuch and Colin Poulton

Research Paper 22

This paper discusses the estimation methods used in Anderson and Masters (2009) to calculate nominal rates of assistance (NRAs) for cotton and other traditional export cash crops in sub- Saharan Africa (SSA) and offers alternative estimates for cotton for a sub-set of countries, on the basis of a standardised approach, alternative data sources and correcting some basic but important errors concerning processing ratios.

Default Can State Capacity for Agricultural Development be Compared Across Countries? Insights from Africa Popular

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Claire Delpeuch and Colin Poulton
June 2011

Research Paper 21

Recent years have witnessed a renewed recognition both of the importance of agricultural development to growth and poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa and of the important role that the state has to play in stimulating market development in rural areas (Poulton et al. 2006; World Bank 2007). However, there is an “agricultural development paradox” during the early stages of rural development in that “the need for pro-poor state services is high when state failure is profound” (Kydd 2009, p453).

This raises important questions: what are the key dimensions of state capacity for agricultural development and how can they be measured? These questions are of interest to development organisations seeking to design and to monitor the impact of “capacity building” interventions. Increasingly, researchers are also likely to be interested in comparing (changes in) state capacity across countries. This raises the question of whether the rather intangible concept of capacity can be compared in this way.

This brief presents some reflections on this question. It investigates the concept of state capacity for agricultural development in Africa (section 2), then considers both direct (section 3) and indirect (section 4) approaches for measuring state capacity for agricultural development across countries.

Default The Role and Performance of Ministry of Agriculture in Nyeri South District Popular

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Research Paper18.pdf

Booker Owuor, Beatrice Wambui, Gem Argwings-Kodhek and Colin Poulton
December 2009

Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy with many urban, and most rural folk deriving their livelihoods directly or indirectly from agriculture. The performance of the sector is therefore refl ected in the performance of the whole economy. Growth in the agricultural sector translates directly to the improvement in living standards of many farm families. Nyeri South District has a vibrant agricultural sector that provides the main source of livelihood for over 82% of its residents. Three commodities with varied histories - tea, coff ee and dairy - are the main agricultural enterprises. Eff ective realization of the agricultural sector’s goals in the district depends on reviving these commodities in a sustainable manner. For this to be achieved however, the structure, capacity and coordination capabilities of the agricultural sector ministries must be up to the task.

Default The Role and Performance of the MoA and Rural Development in Nyeri South District Popular

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Research Paper17.pdf

The Role and Performance of the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development in Nyeri South District

June 2010

The workshop was held in the CDF Hall, Othaya, Nyeri South district, on 5th February 2010. The main objectives of the workshop were to disseminate and seek validation of the main findings of research into “The Role and Performance of the Ministries of Agriculture and Rural Development” in the district. This research was conducted during November and December 2009 and the resulting report can be downloaded from www.future-agricultures.org

Default Workshop Report on the Ministry of Agriculture at the District Level in Malawi Popular

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Research Paper12.pdf

FAC's Malawi team
October 2009

This workshop was held on 23rd October 2009 at Panjira Lodge in Dedza district. The workshop brought together officials working in the agricultural sector from Thyolo, Dedza and Rumphi districts. The participants included District Agricultural Development Officers, Subject Matter Specialists from the Extension Sections including the Agricultural Extension Development Officers (AEDOs), Directors of Planning and Development, NGO Officials, Agro-dealers and farmer representatives. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MoAFS) Headquarters was represented by the Chief Economist responsible for Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E).

Default Reclaiming Policy Space: Lessons from Malawi’s 2005/2006 Fertiliser Subsidy Programme Popular

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Research Paper6.pdf

Blessings Chinsinga
July 2007

This paper is based on research work carried out the under auspices of the Politics and Policy Processes theme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC). It demonstrates that political context matters in agricultural development policy issues, using as illustration the case of the fertilizer subsidy programme (FSP) launched in Malawi in the 2005/2006 growing season.

Default The Political Economy of Ministry of Agriculture at the District Level: The Case of Rumphi District Popular

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Research Paper15.pdf

Blessings Chinsinga
March 2008

The main motivation of this research is to understand the functioning of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) at district level and beyond in a changing context shaped by political and market liberalization in which policy reforms have been greatly driven by the economic reform agenda of the IMF and World Bank (Omamo & Farrington, 2004). These reforms were designed to reduce the role government, cut back on public sector expenditures, improve balance of payments, reduce government deficits, enhance macroeconomic performance and help developing countries achieve higher economic growth rates. Referred to as structural adjustment programmes (SAPs); the key elements of policy reforms included macroeconomic restructuring, privatization of government agencies, liberalization of markets, removal of the government from the agricultural markets and elimination of subsidies. In the agricultural sector, SAPs “forced African governments to dismantle public agricultural research and extension programmes and drop whatever protection and incentive mechanisms existed for their small farmers” (UK Food Group, 2008: 9). The main goal of the SAPs was “to convert the role of the state into that of facilitator and regulator of the private sector” (Omamo and Farrington, 2004: 1). The MoAs would thus act merely as part players and not as the principal architects and drivers of agricultural policies and policy reforms.

Default Ministries of Agriculture: Structures, Capacity and Coordination at District Level in Malawi Popular

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Research Paper13.pdf

Blessings Chinsinga
February 2008

This study was carried out under the auspices of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) politics and policy processes sub-theme. Building on the earlier work of the sub-theme on the debates about the Ministries of Agriculture (MoAs) in developing countries, the study was intended as an entry point for grasping the functions, structures, rules, financial and human capacities of MoAs in Africa.

Default Democratic Politics and State Capacity Building: Ministries of Agriculture in Malawi and Kenya Popular

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Research Paper14.pdf

October 2009

Although fluctuating in intensity, debates about the role of the state remain fundamental to strategies for rural development and poverty reduction. Under structural adjustment African states were scaled back to play a minimalist public goods provider role, motivated in large part by the weakness and over-extension of the state prior to that. Whilst there is now broad recognition that a more activist, coordinating role is required to stimulate market development (World Bank, 1997, Dorward et.al. 2004), this places extra demands on the capacity of the state. Meanwhile, most African states are almost two decades into a transition to democracy. Whilst the median voter in most of these states is rural and poor, it remains unclear as to whether democratic politics can generate the incentives for the creation of “developmental” states that will serve the needs of such voters.

Default The Role and Performance of the Ministry of Agriculture in Rachuonyo District Popular

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Research Paper16.pdf

Geophrey O. Sikei, Booker W. Owuor and Colin Poulton
June, 2008

A widely accepted objective of agricultural development is to achieve sustainable intensification. With many people especially in the rural areas deriving their livelihoods directly or indirectly from agriculture, the performance of the sector is therefore reflected in the performance of the whole economy. Growth in agriculture is expected to have a greater impact on a larger section of the population than any other sector. For effective realization of the sector’s goals, the structure, capacity and coordination capabilities of the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) cannot be overlooked.

Default The Role and Performance of the Ministry of Agriculture in Eldoret West District Popular

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Research Paper19.pdf

Booker W. Owuor, Job O. Ogada, Colin Poulton, and Gem Argwings-Kodhek
June 2010

Agriculture is the backbone of Kenya’s economy. Well managed, agriculture can be the single source that will spearhead the economy and alleviate poverty among the over 80 percent of Kenya’s population dependant on it. The sector has been fragmented into 10 ministries that all came out of a large Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) that is still seen as the parent Ministry and is viewed as the main player in the sector. This study was aimed at gaining a better understanding of how the sector is managed, and to critically examine the structure, capacity and coordination capabilities of the Ministry of Agriculture in Eldoret West District.