Here you can review the full body of academic work published in the APRA project.
This brief presents a critical discussion of the political economy of agricultural commercialisation in Zimbabwe, focusing on the post-2000 period – when major land redistribution brought about dramatic agrarian structural transformation in the country. Understanding shifts in production and commodity marketing, and how these have had an impact on commercialisation patterns, helps to reveal how power, state practice, and capital all influence accumulation for the different groups of farmers in divergent settlement models.
This brief is based on a longer working paper, which examines the political economy of agricultural commercialisation in Ghana from 2000–2018. The relationship between a changing political landscape and agricultural policy in Ghana is neither fully understood nor explored; this brief argues that prevailing agricultural commercialisation policies are selected by powerful policy actors, who provide useful resources for policy implementation and whose narratives are consistent with policymakers interests. The brief therefore advocates a strengthening of civil society groups to ensure that pro-poor policies are put in place in Ghana.
Given the highly climate-sensitive character of agricultural production, climate change has obvious and important ramifications for agricultural commercialisation, which in turn has a bearing on poverty, gender empowerment, and food and nutrition security. The nature and extent of climate change implications for agricultural commercialisation will depend on: the magnitude of the climate impacts that farmers have to deal with; and, the extent to which sustainable intensification processes can be pursued in ways which strengthen, rather than weaken, adaptive capacity and resilience in the face of climate change. This brief provides a summary of a longer working paper, which offers a review of recent literature on the implications of climate change for agricultural commercialisation and APRA’s research in this area.
This paper examines the political economy of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi over the past three or so decades both in a contemporary and historical perspective. Drawing insights from Keeley and Scoones (2003) and Chinsinga and Poulton (2014), the underlying argument of this paper is that the twists and turns in the country’s agricultural commercialisation processes have been shaped and influenced to a very large extent by the changing configurations of political elites and their underlying interests, incentives and motivations, including the influence of donors, especially since the transition to democracy in May 1994.
Much of the existing literature on the political economy of agricultural policy in Africa, including studies by the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) and Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA), adopts a case study approach to explore the dynamics of policymaking and implementation. These studies highlight numerous local, national and international factors that influence policy outcomes, but this raises the question as to whether any consistent patterns can be discerned across cases. This paper focuses on the policy that influences the process of agricultural commercialisation. Poulton (2017a: 4) defines agricultural commercialisation as occurring ‘when agricultural enterprises and/or the agricultural sector as a whole rely increasingly on the market for the sale of produce and for the acquisition of production inputs, including labour’.
APRA seeks to generate new evidence on agricultural commercialisation pathways in rapidly changing rural contexts in Africa, assessing outcomes in relation to poverty, women’s empowerment and food and nutrition security. In Malawi, APRA intends to study the role of groundnut commercialisation in promoting different livelihoods using a tracker study in groundnut farming areas, based on data collected in the 2006/07 agricultural season (School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) et al., 2008). The 2006/07 dataset is the benchmark or baseline that will be used as a reference point in the present APRA study. This study intends to track every member of the households in the 2006/07 dataset in Malawi’s Mchinji and Ntchisi districts, to understand the role of agricultural commercialisation in their current livelihoods.
This brief is based on a working paper, which seeks to inform future APRA research. In so doing, the brief helps to address debates about the feasibility of developing smallholder agriculture through commercialisation. In particular, it seeks to address the following broad questions: How has thinking about agricultural development evolved since 2010? How has the context for smallholder commercialisation evolved in this period? Second, the brief asks: how much growth has been seen in agriculture and agricultural productivity since 1990? And how much does agricultural growth correlate with changes in national income, poverty and nutrition?
This brief highlights key features of the political landscape that affect the prospects for and the outcomes of agricultural commercialisation in Tanzania. It contends that the evolving nature of Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), helps to explain observed agricultural policy and performance and sheds light on the current and potential future trajectory of agricultural commercialisation in the country. The brief focuses on the presidency of Jakaya Kikwete (2005 to 2015) and the transition to the presidency of John Magufuli, who succeeded him in 2015.
This brief aims to summarise existing understandings of rural transformation and transitions in Africa. Agricultural development takes place within the wider context of overall economic development. In the process, changes in agriculture — such as the increased commercialisation of farms in general, and smallholdings in particular — interact with changes in the rest of the rural and urban economies. Development therefore usually brings about a structural transformation of the economy, from one dominated by agriculture to one in which manufacturing and services make up the bulk of activity; while the majority of the population become increasingly urban. The brief will focus on four key areas: the rural non-farm economy; rural–urban links; migration out of rural areas; and social protection.
This paper examines the political economy of agricultural commercialisation in Ghana from the year 2000 to 2018. Agriculture is a major economic activity in Ghana, contributing about 20 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employing 42 percent of the economically active population (GSS 2016). Over the past three decades, the agricultural sector averagely grew at about 5 percent per annum, making Ghana’s agricultural sector one of the top performers in Africa, and contributing to poverty reduction and food security (Wiggins and Leturque 2011; Sarpong and Anyidoho 2012).The paper is structured into five sections. Section 2 presents the agricultural policy context which highlights features of the agricultural sector, contribution of agriculture to the economy of Ghana and political changes. Section 3 presents theoretical perspectives that will be relied upon for the analysis, while Section 4 discusses the main policies and how they have been shaped by various narratives, actors and interests. Finally, Section 5 presents the main conclusions from the analysis.
This paper reviews thinking about agricultural development in Africa since 2010, and the record of agricultural development in the continent since 1990. In many respects, the context for agricultural development has changed for the better since 1990. Renewed growth with urbanisation is creating markets for farmers, especially for higher-value produce. The deficit on agricultural trade provides scope for substituting domestic for imported production. The opportunities for increased commercialisation are clear, in domestic and international markets. The means to produce and market more are greater than in the past. The political priority to agricultural development is promising. However, substantial challenges arise in overcoming the disadvantages that smallholders face in rural markets, the need to generate decent jobs for the large youth cohorts stepping into the job market, and making agriculture environmentally sustainable and climate-smart.
Much of the debate about agricultural commercialisation offers simplistic, dichotomous comparisons between, for example, large and small-scale farming, or export-oriented and domestic markets. There is often an assumption that there is one ideal type of commercialisation that can be realised through investment and policy intervention. Yet in practice, there are diverse ways that different people engage with processes of agricultural commercialisation along value chains, from production to processing to marketing. This range of pathways will have both risks and benefits for different groups of people, often differentiated by gender. Our research will examine the consequences of different types of commercialisation, contrasting, for example, smallholder, contract farming and large-estate arrangements, and pathways of commercialisation, examining commercialisation over time and the outcomes for different people. A comparative research design, across six countries and between different cropping/livestock systems, will enable the APRA Programme to draw out wider recommendations that will help inform and guide investment and policy decisions around agricultural commercialisation in Africa into the future. In practical research terms, the agenda described above requires that a range of indicators are specified in relation to our five main outcome areas. This document compiles five separate papers, each one reviewing the established literature on a specific outcome area and then providing a justification for the proposed indicators to be applied in the APRA studies. Access the full paper via the link below:
Working Paper 14: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Ethiopia: Discourses, Actors and Structural ImpedimentsJuly 30, 2018 / Working Papers
Written by Dawit Alemu and Kassahun Berhanu
This country review aims to identify the key dynamics, actors and associated discourses of agricultural commercialisation in Ethiopia. To this end, we aim to shed light on the forces and factors that influence policy processes and the contexts in which the political and bureaucratic establishments operate. Moreover, we examine the incentives generated by the mode of operation of existing working systems by inducing involved actors to expedite the venture of agricultural commercialisation.
Using evidence gathered in Asia and Latin America, this brief draws out lessons in smallholder commercialisation that may be instructive for sub-Saharan Africa. The brief provides a summary of a longer report on agricultural production, as well as a review of recent literature on commercialisation in Asia and Latin America. For Asia and Latin America, the review considers the prevalence of smallholder farming, trends seen in the growth of production, and the forms and processes that smallholder commercialisation has taken. Some have argued that Brazil’s vast farms, worked by machines using advanced technology, are the best way to transform African agriculture. But this model is only feasible for countries with abundant land, plenty of capital and little labour. However, Asia – with its small farms, abundant labour and limited capital – may prove more instructive for contemporary sub-Saharan Africa.
The first in our series of APRA briefs gives an overview of ‘agricultural commercialisation’ — it gives a brief analysis of the various players and stakeholders involved, and situates the broader concept of agricultural commercialisation within a specifically African context. In particular, this brief runs through key terms and concepts that are central to APRA’s work, and gives a more detailed examination of agriculture’s engagement with and influence on the process of commercialisation, across differing levels of scale (smallholders, medium-scale and large-scale farmers). Lastly, the brief presents a succinct breakdown of the various measurements used to calculate the extent of commercialisation within a given area.
Written by Toendepi Shonhe
Debates on Zimbabwe’s agricultural development have centred on different framings of agriculture viability and land redistribution, which are often antagonistic. Yet, emerging evidence of agricultural commercialisation pathways shows complex and differentiated deepening and stagnations across settlement models. Normative– political constructions of ‘good’, ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’, as advocated by large-scale farmers and some bureaucrats, are countered by proponents for redistribution, mainly the landless rural peasants, keen on social and economic justice as well as democratic land ownership. Across the divide, commercialisation of agriculture is seen as efficient and poverty-reducing. This paper explores how these contrasting debates have played out in Zimbabwe over time, and what interests are aligned with different positions. The paper locates the discussion in a critical examination of the politics of agrarian change and presents a political economy and policy process review of winners and losers in commercialisation.
Written by Steve Wiggins, Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and Joseph Yaro
APRA’s cross-cutting theme on rural transitions, nonfarm rural economies and rural–urban links intends to address two sets of issues. One concerns the way in which commercialisation of agriculture interacts with the development of the rural non-farm economy (RNFE), the links between rural and urban areas and, indeed, overall processes of economic growth and transformation. It is expected that growth of agriculture and better links between urban and rural areas can create profound transformations of the rural economy. Just how this takes place depends on several factors, including the nature of agricultural growth and commercialisation (Hall et al. 2017), the nature of urbanisation (Gollin, Jedwab and Vollrath 2016, rural location (Wiggins and Proctor 2001), infrastructure (Allen et al. 2015), the scale of towns (Baker 1990), and social relations (Potts 2000).
Written by Andrew Newsham, Sarah Kohnstamm, Lars Otto Naess and Joanes Atela
This paper presents a review of recent literature on the implications of climate change for agricultural commercialisation, focusing chiefly on sub-Saharan Africa, and incorporating evidence, where relevant, from around the world. Climate change is one of the crosscutting themes of the Department for International Development (DFID)-funded Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) consortium.1 APRA is intended to produce new data and insights into agricultural commercialisation processes, and their impacts and outcomes with regard to rural poverty, empowerment of women and girls, and food and nutrition security. In addition to outlining our rationale and aims, this introduction sets out (a) the approach we have taken to classifying climate impacts upon agricultural commercialisation, and (b) the structure.
Working Paper 10: Partnerships, Platforms and Policies: Strengthening Farmer Capacity to Harness Technological Innovation for Agricultural CommercialisationMarch 13, 2018 / Working Papers
Written by Hannington Odame and Dawit Alemu
Innovation capacity presupposes capacity to harness science, technology and innovation (STI) for agricultural commercialisation. Agricultural commercialisation requires an enabling policy environment on STI issues such as the impact of climate change, nutrition, improved seed and inputs, emerging technologies, infrastructure, research and extension, and financing. These issues are consistent with the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024 (African Union Commission undated). This paper uses three STI revolution storylines (case studies on rice, information and communications technology (ICT) and cocoa) to highlight the enabling factors that make STI a vehicle for agricultural commercialisation.
Working Paper 8: Social Difference and Women’s Empowerment in the Context of the Commercialisation of African AgricultureJanuary 25, 2018 / Working Papers
Written by Helen Dancer and Naomi Hossain
This paper was commissioned to support the research design activities of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Consortium, generating new evidence on pathways to agricultural commercialisation, on the theme of social difference and women’s empowerment. First, the paper explores methodological approaches and key concepts that underpin the analysis of social difference, as people move along different pathways to commercialisation. It analyses social difference in terms of gender, age, wealth, ethnicity and indigeneity, while placing special emphasis on APRA’s focus of women’s empowerment. Second, the paper draws on three key outcome criteria – which we identify as power relations, structures and mechanisms, and distribution of resources – to analyse APRA’s hypotheses and research questions through a lens of social difference. Third, the paper explores avenues for inquiry at the level of household and community, sectoral changes and political-economic factors, bringing attention to the interconnections between individual, social structures and wider political-economic developments, and makes recommendations for research questions in these areas.
Written by Steve Wiggins
This paper aims to draw out lessons from experiences of smallholder commercialisation in Asia and Latin America that may be instructive for sub-Saharan Africa. It addresses the following questions: To what extent has agriculture in Asia and Latin America been commercialised? What forms of commercialisation have been seen? What scale of farms have been able to commercialise? For smallholders, what kinds of supply chains have been created to link them to markets, as well as to suppliers of inputs and services? What have been the drivers of commercialisation of smallholders? How important have public policies been in shaping the processes seen? What have been the outcomes of smallholder commercialisation? How well-distributed have been the processes and their outcomes? Has smallholder commercialisation contributed to broad-based agricultural and rural development? Have any groups suffered losses from commercialisation by others?
Working Paper 6: What is Agricultural Commercialisation, Why is it Important, and how do we Measure it?December 19, 2017 / Working Papers
Written by Colin Poulton
Agricultural commercialisation occurs when agricultural enterprises and/or the agricultural sector as a whole rely increasingly on the market for the sale of produce and for the acquisition of production inputs, including labour. It is an integral and critical part of the process of structural transformation (see section 1.1), through which a growing economy transitions, over a period of several decades or more: from one where the majority of the population live in rural areas and depend directly or indirectly on semi-subsistence agriculture for an important part of their livelihood to one where the majority of the population live in urban areas and depend on employment in manufacturing or service industries for the major part of their livelihood.
Written by Colin Poulton
The objective of this review is to highlight key features of the political landscape that are considered to affect both the prospects for and the outcomes of agricultural commercialisation in Tanzania. It will highlight key dynamics and actors that subsequent empirical work within the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme should pay attention to.
Working Paper 4: Gender and Rural Livelihoods: Agricultural Commercialisation and Farm Non-Farm DiversificationDecember 19, 2017 / Working Papers
Written by Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt
This paper uses a cross-country comparative perspective in analysing gendered patterns of agricultural commercialisation and rural livelihoods. A first research question addresses whether female farm managers are in fact excluded from agricultural commercialisation (and by implication incomes) when compared to their male counterparts. Whether the sources of this exclusion can be found in the functioning of markets themselves or factors inherent to the household constitute an important sub-question. Secondly, the paper analyses if and how access to non-farm incomes varies by gender and by extension, whether incomes from the non-farm sector can compensate for poorer access to agricultural incomes among female farm managers. Thirdly, how the prospects vary for commercialisation and livelihood diversification among the two different types of femaleheaded households (de facto and de jure) will be considered. Finally, the income-generation patterns of those women who live in male-headed households will be addressed. The analysis in what follows will be guided by these questions, and positioned in relation to existing theoretical and empirical research frontiers and gaps.
Written by Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt
This paper takes a village-level perspective, drawing on an earlier study that used the same data, which suggested that patterns of pro-poor agricultural growth were highly spatially concentrated to particular villages. Qualitative fieldwork in these villages has since aimed to identify any common institutional explanations for such growth, viz. gendered rights to land and markets. This paper follows up on the trends found in the quantitative data and aims to operationalise the concept of pro-poor agricultural growth to distinguish between patterns of longer-term growth (from 2002 onwards) and more recent patterns of growth found since 2008. The purpose is to compare such patterns to shed light on the drivers of commercialisation in different village settings and in different time periods, to identify which markets and which crops hold the largest promise for pro-poor agricultural growth.
Working Paper 2: Food Security, Nutrition and Commercialisation in Sub-Saharan Africa – a Synthesis of Afrint FindingsOctober 16, 2017 / Working Papers
Written by Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt
The paper uses data from the Afrint database covering roughly 2,100 smallholders in six African countries: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, surveyed in 2002, 2008 and 2013. It addresses key aspects of food and nutrition security and their linkages to commercialisation. Following a presentation of the data at the country level, regional comparisons will be made, discussing the linkages between food security outcomes and particular commercialisation pathways for the final wave of panel data (2008–13).
Written by Rebecca Smalley
This Working Paper describes and critically reviews the recent emergence of agricultural growth corridors and other types of corridor with a prominent agricultural component. It offers a descriptive overview and poses some political economy questions. It focuses on four projects on the eastern seaboard of Africa: the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT); the Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor (BAGC); the Nacala development corridor in Mozambique; and the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor based in Kenya.