Latest articles

APRA Working Paper 88: Agricultural Commercialisation, Gender Relations and Women’s Empowerment in Smallholder Farm Households: Evidence from Zimbabwe
May 4, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Agricultural commercialisation has been identified as an important part of the structural transformation process, as the economy grows from subsistence to highly commercialised entities that rely on the market for both inputs and for the sale of crops. However, this
APRA Brief 36: Pathways to Inclusive Smallholder Agricultural Commercialisation: Which Way Now?
May 4, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Agricultural commercialisation has the potential to provide a number of beneficial outcomes, including higher incomes and living standards for smallholder farmers. However, for these outcomes to be achieved, commercialisation must be inclusive and broad-based so as to link a large
APRA Brief 35: The Dilemma of Climate-resilient Agricultural Commercialisation in Tanzania and Zimbabwe
May 4, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
The implications of climate change for agricultural commercialisation – and the implications of agricultural commercialisation for climate change – are profound. On the one hand, agricultural production is, by nature, highly sensitive to climate change and variability. On the other,
APRA Brief 34: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation: Insights from Crop Value Chain Studies in Sub-Saharan Africa
April 28, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Agricultural commercialisation is seen as one of the most important avenues for fundamental structural transformation and development in sub-Saharan Africa, and is assumed to help enhance a wide array of household welfare indicators among rural households whose livelihoods directly derive
Protected areas: national assets or shared heritage?
April 25, 2022 / FAC blog
What are the roles of protected areas in national development? Are parks national, even global, assets preserved for posterity and for protecting biodiversity, or are they part of a shared, local heritage, where nature and human use must be seen

ALRE Working Paper 2: Publishing Evidence: APRA’s Contribution to Knowledge on the Pathways to Inclusive Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa
April 25, 2022 / ALRE Working Paper Publications
Overall, it is considered that the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme has contributed a significant body of additional, rigorous, trusted and accessible published knowledge on the effect of agrarian change on women, youth and poorer households, which is
Far from inclusive: smallholder farmer commercialisation in Malawi
April 21, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
What are the trends and patterns emerging in Malawi’s agricultural commercialisation process? What is the influence of these trends on poverty and food security, and the drivers of the process? How inclusive is agricultural commercialisation in the country? This blog,

A tale of two countries: patterns and drivers of smallholder commercialisation in Ghana and Nigeria
April 19, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
What are the emerging patterns of agricultural commercialisation in Ghana and Nigeria? Are there geographical and gender differences in commercialisation among households? How have poverty levels changed over time? What are the key drivers of agricultural commercialisation in the two

Women and youth in rice and sunflower commercialisation in Tanzania: Inclusiveness, returns on household labour and poverty reduction
April 14, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
Over the last two decades, the Government of Tanzania, in collaboration with development agencies, has been supporting rice and sunflower commercialisation to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty among actors in these value chains. At the same time, the support has

Polygamy and agricultural commercialisation in Malawi
April 13, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
Agricultural commercialisation is perceived as a positive step towards development and economic growth in Malawi, as well as a source of household income and livelihoods among local communities. However, the process of commercialisation is hindered by a number of factors,

Journal Article: Irrigating Zimbabwe After Land Reform: The Potential of Farmer-Led Systems
April 7, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
Farmer-led irrigation is far more extensive in Zimbabwe than realised by planners and policymakers. This paper explores the pattern of farmer-led irrigation in neighbouring post-land reform smallholder resettlement sites in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo district. Across 49 farmer-led cases, 41.3 hectares of
Journal Article: Young People and Land in Zimbabwe: Livelihood Challenges After Land Reform
April 7, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
This article explores the livelihood challenges and opportunities of young people following Zimbabwe's land reform in 2000. The article explores the life courses of a cohort of men and women, all children of land reform settlers, in two contrasting smallholder
Marriage and agricultural commercialisation in Malawi
April 7, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
Despite agricultural commercialisation being considered a positive step towards Malawi’s development and economic growth, as well as a source of household income and livelihoods among local communities, there are a number of factors that impede this process. Our research established

Journal Article: Tobacco Farming Following Land Reform in Zimbabwe: A New Dynamic of Social Differentiation and Accumulation
April 7, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
Tobacco has been central to the agrarian economy of Zimbabwe since the early 1900s, when it became the backbone of the new settler economy following colonisation. Since the land reform of 2000, tobacco has taken on a new impetus, with
APRA Brief 33: Is Rice and Sunflower Commercialisation in Tanzania Inclusive for Women and Youth?
April 7, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Rice is Tanzania’s third most important staple crop after maize and cassava, and produced by more than 1 million households who are mostly small-scale farmers. Meanwhile sunflower is the most important edible oil crop in Tanzania, also grown mostly by
Journal Article: Is Agricultural Commercialisation Sufficient for Poverty Reduction? Lessons from Rice Commercialisation in Kilombero, Tanzania
April 7, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
Agricultural commercialisation is widely promoted as a solution for poverty alleviation among smallholder farmers because it has been associated with rising cash income, improved nutrition and living standards. In Tanzania, agricultural commercialization is an important component for agricultural transformation to
Patterns and Drivers of Agricultural Commercialisation: Evidence from Ghana, Nigeria and Malawi
April 6, 2022 / Publications Research Papers
Farm households differ in terms of their access to land, capital, labour, skills, as well as access to external services – hence, it is no surprise that the processes of agricultural commercialisation are experienced unevenly across different groups and geographies.
APRA Brief 32: Medium-Scale Farming as a Policy Tool for Agricultural Commercialisation and Small-Scale Farms Transformation in Nigeria
April 6, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Recent evidence suggests that the changing structure of land ownership in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the major new trends affecting African agri-food systems. Research in several African countries shows a rapid rise of medium-scale farms (MSFs) of 5–50ha. MSFs
Journal Article: ‘Demonstration Fields’, Anticipation, and Contestation: Agrarian Change and the Political Economy of Development Corridors in Eastern Africa
April 6, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
In much of Eastern Africa, the last decade has seen a renewed interest in spatial development plans that link mineral exploitation, transport infrastructure and agricultural commercialisation. While these development corridors have yielded complex results – even in cases where significant
APRA e-Dialogue summary: Strategies and pathways for supporting more equitable and resilient food systems in Africa
March 31, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
On 23 March 2022, representatives from APRA, along with fellow researchers and associates, came together virtually to discuss challenges that currently exist around equity and resilience within African food systems, and potential measures to negate these. The two-hour long session

Artisanal Palm Oil Processing in an Industrial Enclave in Ghana: Resilience, Resistance and Elision
March 29, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
Artisanal and industrial palm oil processing have co-existed within Ghana’s production enclaves for a long time. The relationship between them tends to be complex, reflecting resistance, resilience, and systematic elision of artisanal processors in agricultural and trade policy. This was

APRA Working Paper 87: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation: Insights from Crop Value Chain Studies in Sub-Saharan Africa
March 17, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
This paper is a synthesis of findings from 11 value chains case studies in six countries across sub- Saharan Africa, carried out as part of the APRA programme during 2020–21. The countries and their respective value chains case studies included:
Cocoa can still provide a living, but it’s a struggle
March 17, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
Since cocoa began to be cultivated in the 1880s in southern Ghana, it has created jobs, incomes and prosperity for the many farmers growing the crop. Until recently, cocoa farmers could make use of highly favourable conditions when clearing forests

Hired labour use, productivity, and commercialisation: the case of rice in the Fogera Plain of Ethiopia
March 15, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
Rice production is labour intensive with critical peak periods, which forces smallholder rice farmers to use hired labour in addition to family labour and emergence of rural labour market. This blog presents a summary of APRA Working Paper 83, which

APRA Working Paper 86: Returns to Commercialisation: Gross Margins of Commercial Crops Grown by Smallholders in Sub-Saharan Africa
March 10, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
What are the returns to smallholders when they grow commercial crops for sale in rural Africa? The gross value of production per hectare is sometimes reported, with some recent estimates ranging from as much as US$10,000/ha for irrigated vegetables in
Mixed fortunes for central Malawi’s farmer producer organisations
March 10, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
Malawi’s agriculture sector has a multiplicity of different types of farmer producer organisations (FPOs), operating at different levels. Farmer clubs, farmer associations, and farmer cooperatives are among the various names that FPOs are known as in Malawi, but what they

APRA Working Paper 85: In the Shadow of Industrial Companies: Class and Spatial Dynamics of Artisanal Palm Oil Processing in Rural Ghana
March 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
This paper is concerned with the multiple opportunities and challenges of artisanal palm oil processing and the potential multiplier effects on local economies. It examines the effect of the presence of large oil palm plantations and their industrial processing mills
Climate-smart agriculture practices as a pathway to livelihood improvement in central Malawi
March 8, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) practices, used to promote sustainable agriculture, include technologies for soil fertility improvement, soil and water conservation and agroforestry tree cultivation. Their adoption, whilst patchy across Africa and particularly in Malawi, have the potential to support increases in

APRA Brief 31: Spillover Effects of Medium-Scale Farms on Smallholder Behaviour and Welfare: Evidence from Nigeria
March 3, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Many countries across Africa are seeing an increasing share of farmland being classified as medium-scale farms (MSFs). MSFs are defined as farms operating between 5–100ha. MSFs co-exist with small-scale farms (SSFs, defined as farms below 5ha), who still constitute the
The third and final APRA e-Dialogue: Transition pathways and strategies for supporting more equitable and resilient food systems in Africa
March 3, 2022 / Events News
Starting in October 2021 and running through 2022, the e-Dialogue series on agricultural commercialisation, agrarian change and rural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa has examined a range of topics including the emerging challenges and regional realities of smallholder transformation and COVID-19’s
Journal Article: Changing Farm Size Distributions and Agricultural Transformation in Sub-Saharan Africa
March 3, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
We review the literature on the distribution of farm sizes in sub-Saharan Africa, trends over time, drivers of change in farm structure, and effects on agricultural transformation, and present new evidence for six countries. While it is widely viewed that
Cocoa in Ghana: a smallholder sector
March 3, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
In recent years there has been an increased focus in African agricultural research on the emergence of medium-scale farmers and their role in promoting the uptake of agricultural commercialisation. However, the social composition of farmers varies between food commodity chains;

APRA Brief 30: Ghana’s Cocoa Farmers Need to Change Gear: What Policymakers Need to Know, and What They Might Do
March 1, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Cocoa farmers in Ghana face increasing challenges. In the past, many of them could make a living from cocoa thanks to the advantages – ‘forest rents’ – that initially apply when forest is cleared to create cocoa farms: fertile soils,
News of the e-Dialogue series spreads far and wide
March 1, 2022 / News
In media outlets across East, West and Southern Africa, news surrounding the 'Agrarian change and rural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa: Emerging challenges and regional realities' e-Dialogue has been published and picked up! The event, which we hosted on 20th January

Did enforcement of farm-gate minimum prices lead to a maize marketing crisis in Malawi?
March 1, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
During the 2020/21 growing season, the Government of Malawi made a bold move to protect small-scale farmers from unscrupulous traders who buy farm produce without licenses, use uncertified scales and buy at very low prices below the farm-gate set prices.

Cocoa Commercialisation in Nigeria: Issues and Prospects
February 24, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
Cocoa remains a relevant cash crop in Nigeria and is produced largely by small-scale farmers dominant in the country’s southwest region. Insights from historical trends, from 1807 when the crop was introduced until the millennium era, indicated myriads of challenges

APRA Brief 29: Achieving Inclusive Oil Palm Commercialisation in Ghana
February 22, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Written by: Fred Dzanku and Louis Hodey Oil palm is the most important export crop in Ghana, aside from cocoa. Compared with cocoa, however, oil palm has a more extensive local value chain, including greater opportunity for local industrial and
Journal Article: The Politics of Land, Resources & Investment in Eastern Africa’s Pastoral Drylands
February 22, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
The rush for land and resources has featured prominently in recent studies of sub-Saharan Africa. Often happening alongside regional projects to upgrade and expand infrastructure, this urgency to unlock untapped economic potential has generated heated debate around the social and
APRA Working Paper 84: The Struggle to Intensify Cocoa Production in Ghana: Making a Living from the Forest in Western North
February 22, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Since cocoa began to be cultivated in the 1880s in southern Ghana, it has created jobs, incomes and prosperity for the many farmers growing the crop. Until recently, cocoa farmers could make use of highly favourable conditions when clearing forests
Do smallholders face disadvantages to reaping gains from rice commercialisation in Ethiopia?
February 22, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
The introduction of rice into Ethiopia in the early 1970s provided a potential solution to widespread food insecurity. Moreover, it held high hopes for positive impacts on the incomes and opportunities of smallholders, through increasing commercialisation. Recent national policy continues

Land, Investment & Politics Reconfiguring Eastern Africa’s Pastoral Drylands: Book launch & discussion with the editors
February 22, 2022 / Events News
More than ever before, the gaze of global investment has been directed to the drylands of Africa, but what does this mean for these regions' pastoralists and other livestock-keepers and their livelihoods? Will those who have occupied drylands over generations
APRA Working Paper 83: Hired Labour Use, Productivity, and Commercialisation: The Case of Rice in Fogera Plain of Ethiopia
February 21, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
With the expansion of rice production in Ethiopia’s Fogera Plain, the rural labour market, highly characterised by the casual unskilled labour supply, has flourished. This is mainly associated with the nature of rice production, where certain agronomic practices demand a
APRA researcher appointed to President Biden’s Board for International Food and Agricultural Development
February 17, 2022 / News
Dr. Saweda Liverpool-Tasie, a researcher in the APRA Nigeria Country Team and Associate Professor in the Department of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics (AFRE) at Michigan State University (MSU), has been appointed to the Board for International Food and Agricultural

Drawing lessons and policy messages from APRA research in Tanzania
February 17, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
With a goal to share feedback on their research process and the outcomes of their studies in terms of publications, policy messages, and policy engagements, APRA Tanzania researchers gathered members of the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office in Tanzania

The effects of COVID-19 on local food systems and rural livelihoods: An e-Dialogue overview
February 15, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
As COVID-19 took hold in March 2020, the main focus was on ensuring we stayed healthy and safe from infection. However, it soon became clear that the pandemic would have much further reaching effects than just the disease itself –
APRA Working Paper 82: Interrogating the Effectiveness of Farmer Producer Organisations in Enhancing Smallholder Commercialisation – Frontline Experiences From Central Malawi
February 10, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Many years of significant investment into the production and adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies and practices in agriculture have not yielded the desired results. Most smallholder farmers in Africa remain trapped in poverty. Having realised that addressing production challenges alone is
‘Living under contract’: reflections after 25 years
February 10, 2022 / FAC blog
Contract farming in different forms has become increasingly common in farming systems across the world, not least in Zimbabwe, but does it benefit smallholder farmers or exploit them?

APRA Working Paper 81: Use of Climate-Smart Agriculture Practices and Smallholder Farmer Market Participation in Central Malawi
February 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
In the past few decades, climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has been promoted to improve food security and raise incomes as a strategy for sustainable agricultural development. The adoption rates among smallholder farmers, particularly in Africa, remain low and have varied in
The differential effects of COVID-19 on food systems and livelihoods in Africa
February 9, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
The COVID-19 crisis has caused severe disruptions to agri-food systems across the world. In sub-Saharan Africa, where many people already suffer from shocks and stresses related to climate change, conflict and poverty, the pandemic further threatened the economic and nutritional
APRA Working Paper 80: Long-Term Change, Commercialisation of Cocoa Farming, and Agroecosystems and Forest Rehabilitation in Ghana
February 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Cocoa production has a long history in Ghana, originating in the late nineteenth century. Since then, cocoa production has seen significant changes. Originally, cocoa was cultivated in newly cleared forests in which many forest trees were preserved as shade trees.