Corridors Mini-Series: Agricultural Commercialisation along Mozambique’s Growth Corridors

People cannot eat gas, oil or coal

Since he took office in 2015, president Filipe Nyusi has sought to redirect the attention of Mozambicans, from the prospect of wealth associated with the exploration of natural resources, to increasing agricultural production and productivity. In his words: “the people do not eat gas, oil or eat coal.”

Along the Beira and Nacala corridors, in addition to the renovation of the main roads and railways connecting the ports to the hinterland, agricultural commercialisation infrastructure projects have been undertaken. Through a number of different arrangements – such as catalytic funds, international private investments or NGO-funded agribusiness projects – new agribusinesses have taken off and traditional cash crops such as cashew nuts, tobacco and sugar are being revitalised.

President Nyusi’s view – shared with the planners at the Ministries of Agriculture and Food Security and the Ministry of Land, Environment and Rural Development – is that, with the commitment of international capital, Mozambican investors and smallholders, this infrastructure will help to unlock the agricultural potential of districts along the corridors and contribute towards the goal of ending hunger by 2030. Official statistics already show a continuous growth in agricultural production over the past three agricultural campaigns. This seems to indicate that Mozambicans are responding to calls to increase production and productivity.

Demonstrating agricultural production

Farmer’s agricultural commercialisation in Ribáuè, Nacala corridor

In August 2018, president Nyusi visited Chiúta district in Tete province, where he was informed by the audience of the districts’ problems with widespread hunger – in contradiction to information about the district that he had heard at a recent agricultural fair. The president then assigned the deputy minister of agriculture to visit various neighbourhoods in Chiúta district, to uncover the reality of the situation.

While agricultural fairs are a common practice in the work of extension officers and agricultural development projects, fairs organised for high-profile visitors, such as government ministers, often bend the truth of their success in achieving agricultural development. Anxious local government officials, eager to show that there are making progress towards central government’s goals, often resort to ‘borrowing’ successful crops or farming fields. Just like president Nyusi’s visit, former governor of Sofala province, Helena Taípo, abruptly interrupted a visit to an agricultural fair in Nhamatanda district, where she found that products being exhibited had been brought in from the neighbouring province of Manica.

In July 2018, I attended an agribusiness fair in Ribáuè district along the Nacala corridor, and no such questions were posed. The fair was the first in a series of five to be organised in northern Mozambique, by a private company with support from the provincial and district governments, the multinational Export Marketing Group (ETG) and Innovation for Agribusiness (InovAgro) – a Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation funded project.

In his speech after visiting the fair, the Nampula’s provincial governor Victor Borges, was happy to have seen “production, processing, links to the market and those who supply inputs and finance the production [process]…” and was pleased that the fair was showing “what we do, the path we want to take in the fight for food and nutrition security, and the wellbeing of all of us.” Agricultural fairs not only provide an opportunity for networking and the exchange of knowledge, but they are also opportunities to display the agricultural potential of the respective district or province and visiting dignitaries are less inclined to question the origin of the produce exhibited.

Market access flyer announcing agribusiness fairs in northern Mozambique

By projecting an image of successful agricultural production, local government officials present evidence which can be used to continue to attract national and international capital. In the meantime, smallholders engage with diverse agricultural initiatives that help them further diversify their income generation options.

We want the market

Over the past 3 years, Nhamatanda district along the Beira corridor has witnessed the construction of important commercialisation infrastructure. A processing plant in Tica – composed of three 1000 t silos, two 300 t transitory silos and two store houses – was built and unveiled by president Nyusi in 2015. And in September 2018, president Nyusi laid the first stone for the paving of the Tica–Búzi– Nova Sofala road, stretching 134 km and connecting central and northern Mozambique – a route that is often impassable during the raining season.

However, the grain silos are prohibitively expensive for smallholders, who are often unable to meet the minimum requirement of 5 t of produce to have access to the silos. The storehouses also follow storage procedures, including fumigation, which may mean that stored produce may not be readily available in case of need.

In Ribáuè district, no recent commercialisation infrastructure has been built, but the upcoming conclusion of the rehabilitation of the Nampula-Cuamba road that links the provinces of Nampula and Niassa will help reduce the cost of transport and cut the time for travel between Cuamba, Nampula and the port of Nacala. Smallholders continued demands for ‘the market’ suggest that recently built agricultural infrastructure is still to produce significant effects in the livelihoods of smallholders.

When discussing ‘the market’, smallholders are making reference to the rehabilitation of feeder roads that allow easier access to their fields, as well as the desire for an efficient agricultural market information system that would enable better planning according to price and demand. In the meantime, old networks of warehouses built with local material and a limited number of smaller conventional store houses – built with support of donor-funded projects – are being used.

Smallholders and retailers interviewed along the corridor share the view that the rehabilitation of the main rail and road lines has brought more NGO projects to the district and with them more extension workers and suppliers of inputs. It has also made traditional commercialisation routes that link them to key markets in the respective provincial capital cities, such as Maquinino market in Beira city and Aresta and CFM in Nampula city, more accessible.

Section of Nacala corridor rail line

Selective impacts

So far, the impacts of corridors are mixed on the ground. Mozambican smallholders in Nacala and Beira corridor areas are not even close to feeling the positive effects. Access to new infrastructure for agricultural commercialisation is selective. With large companies and investors primarily benefiting, the possibilities for Mozambique to unlock its agricultural potential along the so-called agricultural corridors remains limited. Smallholders therefore continue to wait for ‘the market’ in the form of reliable market information, appropriate warehouses and storage infrastructure and, most importantly, feeder roads that can connect areas of high agricultural potential to the main corridor roads and railway lines.

Written by Euclides Gonçalves, Kaleidoscopio – Research in Culture and Public Policy

Corridors Mini-Series: Accumulation and Contested Commercialisation in Tanzania

Tanzania, like many other African countries, needs significant investment in agriculture to achieve key development goals – poverty alleviation, economic growth and industrialisation, food security and improved nutrition. Since the late 2000s, the Tanzanian government, in partnership with donor agencies and the private sector, launched several initiatives, including the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT). This is a public-private partnership aimed at producing “inclusive, commercially successful agribusinesses that will benefit the region’s small-scale farmers.”

SAGCOT was launched in May 2010, and it is touted as Kilimo Kwanza (Agriculture First) in action. It covers one third of the most fertile Tanzanian mainland, and lies alongside Tanzania’s central rail, highway and power backbone – which runs from the port of Dar es Salaam to the country’s borders with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Zambia.

Planned routes and infrastructure in the SAGCOT growth corridor

Yet, despite its adoption of inclusive agricultural commercialisation models – such as an outgrower production approach – the SAGCOT initiative is contested by smallholder producer groups and land rights activists due to its potential threats to rural villagers’ land. Indeed, SAGCOT’s initial ambitious targets of establishing 25 large-scale plantations of rice and sugarcane by 2015 have not been realised.

SAGCOT’s targets have not been met because of the difficulties of accessing village lands and criticisms levelled against the large-scale agricultural commercialisation model. Acknowledging these challenges, implementers of SAGCOT refocused their strategies toward smallholder production, while still pushing for large-scale estates on state-owned lands.

Livestock business along the SAGCOT route

Outgrower model

SAGCOT’s blueprint states:

Building on existing operations and planned investments, the clusters are likely to bring together agricultural research stations, nucleus larger farms and ranches with outgrower schemes, irrigated block farming operations, processing and storage facilities, transport and logistics hubs, and improved ‘last mile’ infrastructure to farms and local communities.

SAGCOT’s blueprint calls these enclaves ‘hubs’ and outgrowers ‘spokes’. This SAGCOT model of course mimics the agricultural commercialisation models that African countries inherited from colonial times – many of which were continued by independent states.

Existing investments within SAGCOT use a similar model. For example, the SAGCOT blueprint cites the outgrowing scheme operated by the Kilombero Sugar Company Limited (KSCL), started back in the 1960s, as the model to replicate.

KSCL started as a private investment company that was later nationalised after the implementation of the Arusha Declaration in 1967. Since then, the government has operated the company in partnership with outgrowers until its privatisation in 1998. The company, which is now largely owned by Associated British Foods Plc, has maintained its working relationship with outgrowers.

Indeed, the outgrowing model benefits some – largely richer farmers – and the production of sugar is crucial for the local and national economy. However, estates offer few and often poor quality job opportunities, as they largely depend on migrants and seasonal workers due to increasing mechanisation.

The terms of inclusion in the outgrower commercialisation model are often constrained. The impacts of the partnership between smallholder producers and large-scale processors are highly differentiated on gender lines, with only a few low quality permanent jobs on offer at plantations and fewer of these jobs going to women than men.

While outgrowing offers some tangible backward and forward linkages supporting the local and national economy, lack of comprehensive policy, legal and institutional frameworks governing outgrower schemes limit opportunities. As a result, these partnerships often benefit investors and elites more, and can have significant negative implications for other marginalised land users, such as pastoralists and poor outgrowers.

Part of the Kilombero Sugar Company irrigation infrastructure


Without checks and balances, the rushed implementation of SAGCOT could have had disastrous implications for many rural communities. SAGCOT’s plans to establish large-scale plantations energised actors to seek an opening up of investment opportunities. For example, the Rufiji Basin Development Authority – the state autonomous body established to facilitate development of the Rufiji Basin – has created partnerships with some foreign investors, and has secured both former state-owned lands to establish estates operating with outgrowing schemes.

The authority continues to lobby communities to allocate land for large-scale investments in the corridor. However, reportedly, not all communities have consented to these requests to conduct land use planning and annex some village lands for investments. What’s more is more concerning is that, several authority officials have been accused of corruption, as well as dishonest consultation with communities during the public awareness-raising activities.

The strengthening of political and civic space in the past few decades has led to increased awareness of local land rights by villagers in the SAGCOT area. This has increased accountability of politicians’ and bureaucrats’ actions on the ground. However, it is unclear, how this situation will unfold in the next few years of SAGCOT’s implementation under the current regime which focuses on industrialisation and infrastructure development coupled with claims of fading civic space.[1]

Yet, since SAGCOT occupies one of the most fertile regions with existing and planned infrastructure, the area will remain a crucial site for growth, accumulation and contestation among various land users, bureaucrats and investors. How the government may prioritise investments in agriculture that enable and facilitate production by legitimate land owners – small producers will be key in attaining meaningful poverty eradication, food security and avoid further contestation over access to land and other resources.

Written by Emmanuel Sulle



Corridors Mini-Series: Anticipating Lamu’s New Corridor on Kenya’s Coast

The day starts early in Lamu, an ancient archipelago on Kenya’s northern coast. Fishermen, sailors and boat makers can be seen striding towards the sea, where moon-powered tides and sea waves are the undisputed masters. Hours later, their skiffs return from the shallow waters surrounding the mouth of the archipelago on Manda and Pate islands. They approach the main island, Amu, with a bountiful catch of tuna, red snapper and prawns.

This routine has been repeated for over 1000 years, during which time Lamu’s stretches of lagoon, creek, and the open sea beyond the reefs have provided local Swahili communities with a network of highways for the exchange of goods and ideas. But since the 19th century, wider trends – British colonisation of East Africa, the consequent shift of power from the coast to the hinterland city of Nairobi, and the post-colonial dominance of non-coastal elites – have greatly transformed Lamu’s cultural and economic significance. In Lamu, these questions have returned with renewed intensity, since the ambitious and Lamu Port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor, or LAPSSET project, was launched in 2012.

Lamu County, whose largest island, Amu, was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, is an integral part of the proposed LAPSSET corridor, estimated to cost US$ 25 billion. This is because several proposed LAPSSET infrastructure components will come together in Lamu: a new modern port of 32 berths, an airport, a series of highways, a standard-gauge railway and an oil pipeline. There are also plans to construct an oil refinery, a Special Economic Zone and a new metropolis city, with the capacity to accommodate approximately 1.1 million people, up from the 2009 recorded population of 112, 252 people. This population growth is expected to be driven by opportunities for industrial, logistics and tourism development that will be generated by the new corridor.

To support the anticipated future metropolis of Lamu, plans are also underway to create new sources of energy and an adequate infrastructure for the supply of water. At Kwasasi, near Manda Bay (the port site), private investors (Gulf Energy and Centum Investments) have formed a special-purpose project company called Amu Power, which is building a 981.5 megawatt, coal-fired electricity-generating plant.

Planned route and developments for LAPSSET corridor

In an upcoming publication, whose field research was supported by APRA and the Open Society Foundation, I show how these projects reflect the high-modernist impulses of their promoters (government bureaucrats and private investors), some of whom genuinely expect their plans to transform Lamu and other ‘backward’ parts of Northern Kenya.

In the paper, I contend that, as LAPSSET’s promoters imagine Lamu’s future, Lamu’s residents are reenacting anticipations of that future on the ground, creating new and entrenching old networks of patronage, alliance, and mobilisation in the process. The conclusion is that LAPSSET shapes and is being shaped by ‘economies of anticipation’, as people struggle to make claims over land and resources.

One way in which these anticipations have been articulated has been through wider demands for communal safeguards, community consultation, environmental protection, and the fate of customary natural resource management; demands that have, at times, appalled local administrators of the national government, one of whom simply asked: “why don’t they want development?”

This is because, for government officials and private investors, LAPSSET will increase Kenya’s GDP by 8%–10%, while economic activities generated by the new transport infrastructure will essentially create a ‘new’ country in a historically marginalised ‘frontier’. ` “For a simple understanding of LAPSSET,” a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Cyrus Njiru explained, “one needs to look at the Mombasa-Nairobi-Kampala corridor…then visualize LAPSSET as a new parallel axis.”

View of Amu Island from Manda Island, both on Kenya’s Lamu archipelago

Project variations and local complexities

Despite the rhetoric of transformation, a number of factors have delayed the implementation of the ambitious project. These include ongoing conflict in South Sudan, whose vast oil reserves provided the main impetus behind LAPSSET in 2010-2013; the decision by oil giant Total to transport Uganda’s crude oil via Tanzania, and not through the planned LAPSSET corridor; the recent fall in global oil prices and on-going insecurity in Lamu associated with Somalia-based Al-Shabaab. These delays have been compounded by local anticipations – where the implementation of LAPSSET is being made, sustained and disrupted in its ‘everyday’ interactions with a diverse set of actors, producing varied and complex outcomes.

In particular, renewed meanings of land as property, driven by land speculation practices that have been generated by LAPSSET’s promised future, are conflicting with meanings of land as a cultural resource, or as ethnic territory. Ideas of belonging are informed by ethnicity, and land and ethnicity have both influenced the politics of redistribution. Lamu has a substantial population of people with origins from other parts of Kenya, particularly the Kikuyu community that forms a majority of residents on the mainland parts of the county.

For the Bajuni community, or those considering themselves as the ‘indigenous’ or ‘host’ communities of Lamu, LAPSSET’s promise of a future growth in population, as people migrate into Lamu from other parts of Kenya in search of opportunities in trade and employment, is generating a nervous politics of belonging, driven by fears of future marginalisation. A local Bajuni politician stated, ‘we will not even be able to vote into office our own [Bajuni] people.’ On the other hand, this fear is informed by years of minimal access to technology, agro-commercialisation and formal education, and, as a result, a Bajuni farmer expressed concern that ‘it is people from elsewhere [with formal education and skills, and therefore influence], not us the locals, that will be employed at the port and the other companies that will come.’

LAPSSET is also intersecting with pre-existing territorial restructuring processes, especially increased intensification of land use, related especially to the spread of rain-fed agriculture, and other claims of community-based land ownership, such as the establishment of ranches and conservancies. The latter constitute locally-driven mechanisms by some actors to lay claims in the context of increasing competition over land and land-based resources, which has spiked in the context of the uncertain future of LAPSSET.

Construction of the Lamu-Garisa-Isiolo Highway

This, together with land-speculation activities, was revealed in June-July 2014, after gunmen linked to Somalia-based Al-Shabaab attacked Mpeketoni town and its environs on the mainland areas, and killed close to 90 people. The president, Uhuru Kenyatta, claimed that land speculation, or claims of a ‘Lamu land grab’ had motivated the attacks, and revoked formal titles that were allegedly issued to a total of 22 companies between 2011 and 2012 – the time during which LAPSSET’s agenda was taking shape. These title deeds, an audit by the Ministry of Lands claimed, covered 500,000 acres of land, or 70% of all land in Lamu that is available for settlement.

Some of the land included plots where 12 of the proposed 32 berths of the new port would be built. Further investigations by the National Land Commission, the commission that is tasked by Kenya’s 2010 constitution to allocate public land, recommended the retention of only one title deed, regularising six, and reverting the rest back to the government. Since 2016, the government has reallocated this land as individually-owned plots to local residents, while some of it has been reserved for LAPSSET activities.

Wider lessons

The case of LAPSSET in Lamu, and in Northern Kenya more widely, provides valuable insight into local reactions to large-scale infrastructure projects in previously marginalised rural regions. Using the case-study of LAPSSET in Lamu, the anticipations that this large-scale infrastructure project has generated on the ground suggest that local reactions can sometimes be complex and varied, separate from analyses that have emphasised dispossession of rural communities, the expansion of bureaucratic power, and/or local resistance, as the main outcomes. Instead, LAPSSET is continuously being debated, anticipated and negotiated by multiple actors with diverse interests, and with increasingly varied and unpredictable consequences.

Written by Ngala Chome – a doctoral candidate in African History, Durham University. His email address is

Photo credits: Ngala Chome

APRA Brief 14: Participation, Voice and Governance in African Investment Corridors

An investment or growth corridor is a geographical area of a country or group of countries surrounding a major transport route, which supports economic activity either end of, and along, the route. Drawing on APRA’s work studying growth corridors in East Africa, this brief focuses on the Lamu Port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor, presenting an overview of the corridor’s  infrastructural plan and its place within the region’s politics, as well as its implications for those who live and work along the corridor’s planned route – including smallholders, fishers and pastoralists.

Download: APRA Policy Brief 14

APRA Brief 13: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialistion in Malawi

Malawi is a predominantly agrarian economy. With around 85 percent of the country’s population relying on agriculture for their livelihoods, it is estimated that the sector makes up as much as 35 percent of GDP, 80 percent of export earnings, and 70 percent of total rural income. Underpinning both Malawi’s industrial and manufacturing sectors, agriculture is integral to any concerted effort aimed at achieving inclusive growth, and therefore lies at the heart of Malawi’s political economy. This brief, which is based on a longer paper1, examines the evolution and political economy of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi since the 1960s, from both a historical and a contemporary perspective.

Download: APRA Brief 13

APRA Brief 12: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa

This brief seeks to identify key factors that influence the strength and composition of coalitions in favour of and against policies that promote agricultural commercialisation, or that influence the commercialisation trajectory that unfolds within a country or sector. It also recognises the importance of ideas and interests in determining which policies are adopted and implemented. Specifically, the brief seeks to illustrate the influence of three sets of factors on agricultural commercialisation, and their interaction with one another. The three sets of factors are (1) the relationships between politicians and rural citizens arising from the domestic political settlement; (2) geographical factors; and (3) the influence of international actors.

Download: APRA Policy Brief 12

Corridors Mini-Series: The Political Economy of Agricultural Growth Corridors in Eastern Africa

A new wave of agricultural commercialisation is being promoted across Africa’s eastern seaboard, by a broad range of influential actors – from international corporations to domestic political and business elites. Growth corridors, linking infrastructure development, mining and agriculture for export, are central to this, and are generating a new spatial politics as formerly remote borders and hinterlands are expected to be transformed through foreign investment and aid projects.

In our work stream 3 study for APRA, based on work in Kenya, Mozambique and Tanzania, we have been asking: what actually happens on the ground, even when corridors as originally planned are slow to materialise? Do the grand visions play out as expected? Who gets involved and who loses out?

Three contrasting cases

Three country cases each explore ‘political economy’ themes from different angles:

  • Research into the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) focuses on contestations – especially over land and market opportunities – and the types of resistance and agreement that are reached between interest groups, including state–capital alliances and diverse groups of local people on the ground.
  • Research into the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor in Kenya focuses on what happens as the promises of corridor development unfold in the coastal county of Lamu. This research also examines the diverse ‘economies of anticipation’ that are articulated by different groups – from farmers to civil society groups to government officials – as the terms of inclusion are negotiated even in advance of any big investments.
  • Research into the Nacala and Beira corridors in Mozambique looks at the political economies of creating corridors through the everyday practice of extension agents, NGO officers and government officials. ‘Acts of demonstration’, such as projects, shows and visits, generate a visibility for new corridor activity.

Emphasising the diverse politics and practices of corridor-making – and the complex interactions between states, capital and local communities – all three cases focus attention on the classic questions of political economy:  who owns what, who gains what, and what they do with it? The main focus of the APRA corridors studies is on the processes of differentiation that result, identifying the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. This in turn points to a new dynamic of accumulation resulting from corridors, as new forms of capital intervene (or are expected to) in previously marginal agrarian and pastoral settings

Processes of corridor-making: emerging findings

Here are the six key findings from our studies:

  • The form and design of the corridor matters. We contrast a linear, ‘tunnel’ model – involving a limited set of actors usually involved in enclave-based export production – with a more informal ‘network’ model that allows a wider range of actors to be included.
  • Business configurations of investments are important. Large investments in agriculture in the form of centrally-managed estates or plantations may offer limited opportunity for positive ‘spill-over’ or ‘linkage’ effects in the wider economy, especially if labour is hired from outside the region, as is often the case. By contrast, investments that explicitly include an outgrower element – whereby smallholder farmers produce on contract for a core estate or processing plant – offer potentials for different production relations, depending on the terms of incorporation.
  • Local context and negotiations alter plans. Neither a state-driven modernist plan nor enclave capitalism results. Local contexts and political negotiations instead generate many hybrid forms, as different visions compete and converge. State plans for corridor commercialisation – often presented as a vision of an extractivist ‘tunnel’, with limited connections to wider economies – frequently fall apart.  The realities of rural Africa on the margins intervene, transforming economic prospects and forcing projects to morph into a new project more closely aligned with local capital interests.
  • Winners and losers. At the local level, alliances between local elites, investment capital and the state results in new patterns of differentiation, creating winners and losers. Ethnic politics is often central, as claims over resources are contested between indigenous groups and a state promoting a national development project. Those able to benefit from new investments – such as through outgrower schemes – are often those who are already better off, with corridors reinforcing existing patterns of inequality.
  • ‘Performing’ corridors in ‘demonstration fields’. A variety of projects are constructed involving networks of actors – local and external – who are able to make the most of the rhetoric surrounding the corridor development, even with little action actually occurring on the ground. Such demonstrations are proclaimed as development successes, and certain people, practices, technologies and infrastructures are enlisted by state and business players, as well as NGOs.
  • Diverse pathways of commercialisation emerge. Agricultural initiatives range from the establishment of estates/plantations, to the creation of block farms and cooperative groups, to contract farming arrangements – or emerge through infrastructure development, including roads and rail that change market opportunities and relations. However, outcomes are not necessarily as planned, as actors get involved, new networks are created and new opportunities arise.

Implications for policy and practice

Practical and policy implications differ greatly by context. Below we offer a generic set of implications for agricultural growth corridors in eastern Africa based on our findings:

  • Policy appraisal must include political economy analysis to explore the potential winners and losers. External capital/infrastructure investment mobilises local interests, including local capital and the state, creating new patterns of differentiation. This means appraisal must go beyond the standard economic assessment to a wider social and political analysis.
  • The design of a corridor – and the associated business models promoting agricultural investment – make a big difference. Opportunities for a more networked organisation, avoiding the limitations of a ‘tunnel’ design, need to be explored, especially around the design of transport infrastructure that can benefit local economies.
  • Terms of inclusion and exclusion in corridors are mediated through a range of local institutional and political processes. For example, land speculation and the revitalisation of older conflicts over resources may occur as a result of corridor development. Benefits may be unevenly shared in already unequal societies, with women and poorer households missing out.
  • Processes for negotiating corridor outcomes require the mobilisation of less empowered actors – including women and poorer people – and their organisation around clear guidelines – such as those within the FAO Voluntary Guidelines on land tenure – that ensure terms of incorporation into corridor investments are not disadvantageous.
  • Support for legal literacy and advocacy, as well as the organisation of disadvantaged groups, will help people to be able to articulate demands. This requires building on local organisations and networks to help counter the power of appropriation of local elites in alliance with the state and investment capital.

As state-capital alliances forge grand visions for development corridors across Africa’s eastern seaboard, the processes of corridor-making will come under greater scrutiny. The issues raised by our research suggest the need to focus on a more inclusive, ‘networked’ form of corridor, avoiding the dangers of extractive ‘tunnel’ visions designed for extraction. If corridors are to benefit the majority, through investments in infrastructure, new technologies and markets, then attention to political economy is vital, whether in relation to wider structural political interests or practical engagements on the ground.

Written by Ngala Chome, Euclides Gonsalves, Ian Scoones and Emmanuel Sulle

This blog is the first in a mini-series of APRA blogs, which focus on the branch of APRA’s work stream 2 studies examining the development of growth corridors in East Africa, and thier implications for agricultural commercialisation. See below for links to the rest of the mini-series, which will be published throughout the week beginning 11/02/2019, alongside a number of events linked to APRA’s work on growth corrdiors. See Future Agriculture’s social media channels on Twitter (@FutureAgrics) and Facebook (@futureagricultures) for more information on these and upcoming APRA events.

Corridors mini-series links:

‘Anticipating Lamu’s New Corridor on Kenya’s Coast’ (LAPSSET corridor)

‘Accumulation and Contested Commercialisation in Tanzania’ (SAGCOT corridor)

‘Agricultural Commercialisation along Mozambique’s Growth Corridors’ (Beira and Nacala corridors)


Shortages and Price Distortions in Zimbabwe

The commercialisation of agriculture is a function of state policy and the macro-economic conditions of the country. Interviews with Zimbabwe’s medium-scale farmers, held in January 2019, revealed that economic conditions in the country are negatively affecting the viability of agricultural production in the countryside. For tobacco farmers such as Mr CC, who grows maize and tobacco on 8 ha in Mvurwi the 2017/8 seasonal results were poor despite productive yields. The situation has worsened during the current season, as fuel shortage present challenges in harvesting  the crop.

Tobacco farmers in Zimbabwe’s Mvurwi district


In Mr CC’s words:

This crop is due for harvesting from this week. I spent the whole of last week looking for diesel for my tractor, which I use to ferry tobacco from the field to the barns. Yesterday I went as far as Guruve 60 km away and still came back empty handed. This spells real disaster as an overripe tobacco leaf is difficult to cure to the quality likely to attract good prices at the auction floors. Moreover, delayed reaping of the tobacco leaf creates pressure for the limited barn capacity I have whenever we will secure the fuel. (Personal Interview, 14 January 2019)

Mr CC and his wife were concerned that the costs of farming had gone up significantly since the last season, as the Zimbabwean currency had lost so much value on the black market, yet traders seem to be basing their pricing structure on this unofficial value. Zimbabwean monetary authorities insist that the black market rate for tobacco must match the official currency rate of Zimbnd$1:US$1, but in reality, the black market rate is 1US$:Zimbond$3.

Simply put, whereas Zimbabwean farmers received an average price of US$2.89/kg in the first 39 days of the 2017/8 marketing season, farmers were effectively paid US$0.96/kg, if the black markets distortions are factored in. According to the Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board (TIMB), a government institution responsible for the production and marketing of the tobacco, medium-scale farmers face an average production cost of US$3.05/kg when tobacco lands at the auction floors. Medium-scale farmers therefore face a loss of US$2.05/kg if the current foreign exchange regime is maintained.

Our research also revealed that even though farmers are paid in Zimbond dollars, tobacco merchants involved in contract farming and private auction floor purchases of tobacco are paid in hard currency (US$) which is retained by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) and allocated for use in other critical areas of need. Put differently, the loss experienced by the farmers is directly linked to foreign currency retention by the RBZ, who allocate this to other sectors deemed to be in greater need.

Tobacco is Zimbabwe’s biggest foreign exchange earner, contributing 23% of total exports. In 2018, the country produced a record high of 250 million kg of tobacco and earned earning a total of US$892 million from 184 million kg. Mr CC planted 3 ha of tobacco and sold 10,500 kg (as shown in Table 1, see farmer number 18 on the table), and sold the crop at an average price of US$3.80/kg – he therefore earned Zimbond$40,000. However, due to the distortions in exchange rates, his earnings were reduced to US$13,300 – not enough to buy inputs for the following season.

Mr. CC is also a maize grower. In the 2017/8 framing season, he planted 5 ha of maize, got a total yield of 40 t and sold 38 t at an average price of US$390/t, which is now paid in local Zimbond dollars.. This earned him Zimbond$14,820, valued at US$4,940 and therefore translates to a price of US$130/t In Mr CC’s view, the monetary policies imposed by the government are undermining agricultural viability. The boom in tobacco production from 2009 was triggered by the liberalisation of agricultural marketing policies, where farmers were allowed 100% access to foreign currency earnings from the sale of agricultural produce . The proposed 20% retention of foreign currency for the following season is generally viewed as inadequate by the farmers.

In the food crop sector, Zimbabwe’s command agriculture introduced a maize selling price of US$390/t in 2016. This price was higher than the maize price offered in Malawi (US$304.2/t), South Africa (US$219/t) and the US (US$132/t).

Table 1: Agricultural production and sales for 2017/8 farming season

Source: Mvurwi medium-scale farm survey 2019

Regarding the appropriateness of the policy, government is aware of the negative effects of the current foreign exchange regime and is therefore working on new approaches to remedy the situation. However, no immediate solutions have been established.

If farmers are not afforded full access to their foreign currency earnings, the boom in tobacco and maize farming experienced from 2009 and 2016 will be reversed, leading to the collapse of the agricultural sector and a further fall in industrial capacity. In any economy already reeling from over 90% unemployment and a largely informal workforce, such an eventuality will spell doom for any foreseeable prospects of recovery.

Written by Toendepi Shonhe

Photo credit: Toendepi Shonhe



Malnutrition Amidst Flourishing Farming: What is the Way-Out?

Traditionally, farming provides foods, money and shelter to several rural households and enables support for other members of the society – subsistence farming provided this support for a long time before the advent of commercial farming. Traditional farming focused on food crops and reliance on indigenous knowledge, traditional tools, organic fertiliser and cultural beliefs. This type of farming promotes the cultivation of crops grown wildly, particularly fruits and vegetables which, became a staple of the food culture of the families in rural areas.

In this type of farming, women are actively engaged in off-farm activities including processing food crops into various culturally acceptable foods, snacks and other non-consumable food items. The cultivation of maize for example encouraged women involvement in producing indigenous snacks like boiled or roasted maize, adun, masa or kokoro among others. These snacks are in addition to established food items like pap, tuwo, agidi, among other maize based meals. This creates economic opportunities for the women, empowering them by conferring some level of decision-making. Though the extent of the contribution of this empowerment on the dietary intake and nutrition situation of the early farming households cannot be established due to a paucity of data, the low prevalence of non-communicable diseases suggest a good nutritional profile.

How did the status quo change?

Reports have consistently shown that food producing households constitute the poorest and most food-insecure group in Nigeria. Pockets of studies have also shown a higher risk of malnutrition in farming households, with adverse consequences on health, work performance and productivity. Though farming remains a way of life in Nigeria, it is failing to lift farming households out of poverty and the worrisome effects of malnutrition. New technologies, innovations and ideas are daily thrust into the agricultural sector, but with little impact on economic, health and nutritional wellbeing. The commercialisation of agriculture is one of the many programmes introduced to revolutionise the agricultural sector, seeking to increase yields and enhance the income of farming households.

Has the commercialisation of agriculture yielded the promised result?

Based on anecdotal evidence, I would say yes; however, several unintended consequences have arisen, making many farming households worse off than they were prior to commercialisation. In 2018, a visit to a pastoral community in south-west Nigeria attested to this ugly truth. The community has benefitted from interventions to boost local milk production, shorten the milk chain and enhance the income of the pastoral households. The intervention yielded many community development indicators: mud houses and thatched roofs are disappearing and more houses are changing to brick and long span aluminium roofing; and motorcycles are becoming common assets, suggesting improvement in the socioeconomic status of the community. Household heads (primarily men) have wonderful stories to share about the lifestyle and economic improvement spurred by the project. However, the presence of women and children at the visit pointed to some neglected indicators – the children, for example, look sickly, displaying clear signs of malnutrition.

How did it happen?

A possible explanation to the observed scenario is the neglect of the gender consideration in the project. Traditionally, women are involved in collecting milk and processing it into to various snacks, such as wara – a local cheese – as well as fura de nunu – a local beverage made by combining milk with cereals. In the course of processing and preparation, these drinks or snacks also constitute part of the usual dietary intake of household members. These activities allow women to be economically active and enhance their decision-making power about what food to purchase and how to care for their children – as well as contributing to the family’s nutrient intake.

But commercialisation interventions, which have linked the dairy company directly with the pastoral families, has caused a shift in women’s roles: the men became the milk collectors and suppliers and the women depend solely on what they get from the men for household food needs.

Is the case always like this?

No. events over the years have shown the need for the various stakeholders involved in commercialisation to work together, such that all segments of the communities affected are able to benefit from agricultural interventions. This suggests the need for the agricultural experts to work with counterparts in nutrition, water and sanitation, child care, social development and other sectors to ensure a robust intervention is planned and implemented.

The Food and Agriculture Organization recognised this need and developed a 10-step approach to ensure that interventions in agricultural sector enhance nutrition situation of the beneficiaries. One of the key areas is the incorporation of nutrition promotion and education. In Nigeria, poor education and limited access to health extension workers mean that farming households have little opportunity to learn about good dietary practices. Agricultural extension workers could serve as a link to reaching these households and this calls for the need to enhance the nutrition knowledge and understanding of these extension workers. Nutrition education for farming households could focus on increased utilisation of several neglected crops, thereby promoting dietary diversity, adopting appropriate feeding and food preparation that minimises food nutrients losses, promoting personal hygiene and sanitation to reduce risks of infections which aggravates malnutrition, and adoption of practices that promotes the shelf life of food crops, fruits and vegetables thereby making them available all year round.

Is this approach feasible in Nigeria?

Yes, efforts by the Federal Ministry of Agricultural and Rural Development and some states’ Ministries of Agriculture are tweaked towards addressing the dietary gaps with innovations in agricultural sectors. To this end, training and re-training of agricultural extension workers and women in agriculture have been prioritised. Several nutrient-dense crops varieties have been integrated into the Nigerian food system and more interventions are underway following the development of the Agricultural Sector Food and Nutrition Security Strategy in Nigeria. Every new commercial agricultural intervention must include approaches that ensure the nutrition and health of the beneficiaries and other stakeholders would be promoted in an environmentally-friendly and sustainable way. To this end, Nigeria is on the right path though we may not be move at an expected speed.

Written by the APRA Nigeria team

Photo credit: FAO and S. Nguyen

Photo caption: In north-east Nigeria, farmers receiving seeds

Working Paper 18: A Historical Analysis of Rice Commercialisation in Ethiopia: the Case of the Fogera Plain

This paper presents a historical analysis of rice commercialisation and its impacts on local livelihoods and rural economies in Ethiopia, drawing insights from the experience of the Fogera Plain, a dynamic farming area in Amhara Region to the west of Lake Tana. This background paper begins with a brief overview of the history of rice introduction into the country, assesses the extent of agro-ecological suitability for the production of the crop, and then examines the current status of rice research and development based on a review of relevant literature and secondary data. This is followed by a presentation of the results from a reconnaissance study on rice commercialisation carried out by the authors and local partners in the Fogera Plain during 2017–18, which considered: (1) the changing dynamics of the farming system, trends in rice production, processing, and marketing practices and support services, and (2) rice commercialisation and the observed livelihood outcomes. The conclusion provides a brief summary of the key trends and findings, along with a list of emerging research questions.