Latest articles

A new framework for thinking about technological change
August 7, 2019 / FAC blog
Global development is all about creating change for the better.  One thing is certain:  if we want to address the climate breakdown while achieving a high quality of life for all of the Earth’s citizens, it will take a transformation
A recap of the JPS Annual Summer Writeshop in Critical Agrarian Studies in Beijing
August 7, 2019 / News
What are the structural barriers that hinder the growth of vibrant, well-networked Global South young researchers working in critical agrarian studies along scholar-activist tradition? Can a global network of Global South young researchers working in critical agrarian studies and along

The Future of Cocoa Production in Nigeria: An Account of Adegeye’s Extensive Research Experiences
August 1, 2019 / FAC blog
Cocoa farming is a profitable cash crop due to its economically diverse value chain products, as well as the international acceptance of that. Players and actors in cocoa value chain are the direct beneficiaries of this venture.  Nonetheless, Nigerian cocoa
In memory of Professor Ephraim Wadonda Chirwa
July 29, 2019 / APRA blog News
Professor Ephraim Chirwa, the Director of Research-Africa of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme and a founding member of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC), passed away after a sudden illness on the morning of 15 July 2019. An
What are ‘appropriate technologies’? Pathways for mechanising African agriculture.
July 26, 2019 / FAC blog
Capital goods are essential for agriculture, whether for tillage, irrigation or threshing. Mechanisation of agriculture is therefore seen as a core aim for agricultural development, and is widely pushed as a route to increasing production and efficiency. But what scale
Analysing the dynamics of change: Using longitudinal, panel and cross-sectional studies to investigate complex social, environmental and technological issues
July 25, 2019 / APRA blog News
Due to financial and capacity limitations, a great deal of development-related research involves conducting single studies at one point in time. These ‘snapshots’ can provide useful insights into the people and conditions examined and the impacts of particular processes and
APRA at the EEA Conference: Analysing the Importance of Rice to the Ethiopian Economy
July 22, 2019 / APRA blog News
APRA engagement at the 17th Ethiopian Economics Association (EEA) Conference on the Ethiopian Economy The Ethiopia Team of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) participated in the 17th International Conference of the
Can smallholders farm themselves into commercialised agriculture?
July 16, 2019 / FAC blog
This blog is based on Working Paper 26. Smallholder farmers form the bulk of agricultural producers in sub-Saharan Africa, constituting more than 90 percent of the farming community in this region, but they are mostly poor and face food insecurity.
APRA Contributes to a Pivotal International Conference on the State of the Ethiopian Economy
July 12, 2019 / APRA blog News
The Ethiopia Team of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) is preparing for their participation in the 17th International Conference of the Ethiopian Economics Association (EEA) on the Ethiopian Economy (https://www.eeaecon.org/), which
Collective Action within Poor Farming Communities in Western Ghana
July 10, 2019 / FAC blog
Attempts to improve rural livelihoods tend to emphasise private sector and informal economic arrangements or social protection mechanisms, in the hope that these would spur local self-help initiatives among the poor. Underlying such thinking is the assumption that success in
Why radical land reform is needed in the UK
July 8, 2019 / FAC blog
Half of the land is owned by 1% of the people. Getting information on who owns what land it is nigh on impossible. Tax arrangements favour land speculation. Ordinary people cannot get access to land to grow food. Where is
Responding to uncertainty: who are the experts?
July 1, 2019 / FAC blog
Uncertainties are everywhere, part of life. But how to respond? Who are the experts? These are questions that we are debating this week at an ESRC STEPS Centre symposium. But they are also questions very pertinent to daily life in Zimbabwe,
Evidence uptake and use to transform Africa: Lessons from the “Utafiti Sera” model
May 29, 2019 / FAC blog
APRA members from Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi and Nigeria attended a two-day convening meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, which was organised by Partnership for African Social and Governance Research (PASGR). The main objective of the meeting was to bring together 120 participants
Youth engagement with commercialisation hotspots in Zimbabwe
May 23, 2019 / FAC blog
My interest in youth and agriculture commercialisation stemmed from two pivotal moments in the past decade. One from an ‘accidental finding’ from a 10-year longitudinal study of land beneficiaries of the Fast Track Land Reform (FTLRP) in Sanyati District, Zimbabwe
Are African youth innovative?
May 22, 2019 / FAC blog
This is the question that we address in a new article published in the Journal of Rural Studies. Entitled ‘Are African rural youth innovative? Claims, evidence and implications’, the paper is open access and free to download. Our interest in
A lever for agricultural commercialisation? A critical look at the agricultural extension system in Malawi.
May 20, 2019 / FAC blog
In this assessment, we ask the question: is the extension services system in Malawi doing enough to facilitate agricultural commercialisation among smallholder farmers? This question arrives amidst concerns that commercial agriculture in Malawi, especially among small-scale farmers, has not really
The Chinese Belt and Road Initiative: what’s in it for Africa?
May 15, 2019 / FAC blog
The huge Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) Forum recently concluded in Beijing. 37 heads of state attended, along with droves of policy advisors and numerous thinktanks and research institutes, including IDS where I work. Monica Mutsvanga, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services,
Challenging desertification myths
May 10, 2019 / FAC blog
Tales of desertification across the world’s drylands are a recurrent theme in policy. This week’s blog reviews an excellent book that takes issue with many of the assumptions around desertification – The End of Desertification? Disputing Environmental Change in the Drylands.
Seeing Conflict at the Margins: understanding community experiences through social research and digital narrative in Kenya and Madagascar.
May 8, 2019 / APRA blog News
This month a new website is being launched for a project called ‘Seeing Conflict at the Margins: understanding community experiences through social research and digital narrative in Kenya and Madagascar.’ Their activities and some links are introduced below – for
APRA involved at the event: Towards a Pan-African Transformation: Innovative Approaches to Evidence uptake and use in Africa.
May 3, 2019 / APRA blog Events News
Date: 02 May 2019 – 03 May 2019 CABE Africa (https://www.cabe-africa.org/) are hosting Utafiti Sera, a policy research community of practice, via PASGR (Partnership for African Social & Governance Research). Hannigton Odame of APRA is conducting a presentation: “Charting the
It is impossible to commercialise agriculture in Malawi: A quick political economy audit
May 3, 2019 / FAC blog
Introduction Agriculture is the mainstay of Malawi’s economy; it contributes between 30 to 40 % of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); employs 85 % of the workforce; accounts for about 60 % of rural income; and, contributes about 90 %
EVENT – APRA Public Debate on the Character of the Agrarian Question in the Contemporary Africa
May 3, 2019 / APRA blog Events News
The event will take place on 14 May 2019, from 13:00-15:00 at the University of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa.
Cyclone Idai hits Agriculture in Beira Corridor: Preparing for the Future
May 1, 2019 / FAC blog
ESA: “This Copernicus Sentinel-1 image indicates where the flood waters are finally beginning to recede west of the port city of Beira in Mozambique. The image merges three separate satellite radar images from before the storm on 13 March, from
PLAAS hosting new roundtable: ‘What is the character of the Agrarian Question in contemporary Africa?’
April 30, 2019 / APRA blog Events News
The APRA South Africa Hub at the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) is hosting a roundtable on the question: ‘What is the character of the Agrarian Question in contemporary Africa? Perspectives from East, West and Southern Africa’?
Building Livelihoods: Young People and Agricultural Commercialisation – Tanzania Country Study
April 18, 2019 / FAC blog
With many African young people living in rural areas, their economies are characterised by small manufacturers and high rates of youth unemployment. Unemployment has been a major concern especially for graduates who seek formal employment in the urban areas. However,
Consultation, Involvement, and Ownership: Key Messages from a Dissemination event on Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia-Transport (LAPSSET) study.
April 17, 2019 / APRA blog News
On 14 February 2019, in partnership with the Rift Valley Forum, the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) of the University of Western Cape, and APRA conducted a panel discussion to disseminate a new report – ‘Participation, Voice
Credit: Neil Palmer (CIAT)
So Near Yet So Far: Some Reflections on Land Reforms in Southern Africa
April 12, 2019 / FAC blog
Land is the most critical productive asset in southern Africa, yet it remains a subject of unending contestations. The protracted land efforts in most of these countries have not yielded acceptable outcomes to all stakeholders. The land question is very
Credit: Milu Muyanga
The Changing Face of African Agriculture: Farm Size Distributions in Sub-Saharan Africa
April 10, 2019 / FAC blog
In Jeffrey Herbst’s seminal book, States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control, African states and local traditional authorities are struggling over control of land.  Herbst’s prescient observation, written in 2000, continues to unfold in dramatic ways
Agricultural Commercialisation Pathways and Household Outcomes: The Tale of Four Oil Palm Output Sales Arrangements in South-Western Ghana
April 3, 2019 / FAC blog
The availability of well-developed markets for agricultural output is crucial for boosting commercialisation and reducing poverty in rural sub-Saharan Africa. Oil palm, Ghana’s most important traditional export crop besides cocoa is widely produced in south-western Ghana, particularly the Ahanta West
Farmers shelling groundnuts_ Credit Linvell Chirwa
At what level is market participation by smallholder farmers considered commercial farming?
March 27, 2019 / FAC blog
There is consensus in literature that smallholder agriculture commercialisation occurs when farmers produce more output per unit of land and labour by using improved technologies, such as improved seed and inorganic fertiliser; produce greater surpluses; and, increase their market participation,
Irrigating Africa: can small-scale farmers lead the way?
Irrigating Africa: can small-scale farmers lead the way?
March 22, 2019 / FAC blog
Ian Scoones, University of Sussex We often hear that irrigation in Africa is too limited, and that the key to a “green revolution” on the continent is to expand to levels seen in Asia. But what if there is much
Credit Neil Palmer - CIAT
Youth engagement with commercialisation hotspots in Ghana
March 21, 2019 / FAC blog
Youth unemployment and underemployment are key development challenges facing many developing countries, especially in Africa. In working to address these challenges, there is a belief among policymakers and development practitioners that the rural economy – built around agriculture, but encompassing
Models for integrated resource assessment: biases and uncertainties
March 20, 2019 / FAC blog
What are the most appropriate ways of understanding changes in natural resource change in rural areas, particularly in the context of climate change? How can we make use of data that is patchy and uncertain? How can models help decision-making
Ruia Tractor
Animal vs tractor power: emerging mechanisation dynamics in Mvurwi
March 15, 2019 / FAC blog
Debate on agricultural mechanisation has largely been framed as policy choices between markets versus state intervention. Within the market conceptualization, adoption of tractors is seen as a derivative of changes in the costs within factors of production such as land,
Photo credit: Tapiwa Chatikobo.
The politics of land occupations in Zimbabwe
March 13, 2019 / FAC blog
How land was invaded and occupied during Zimbabwe’s land reform in 2000 remains a contentious issue. The lack of detailed empirical work uncovering the histories of occupations has hampered the debate, but this is now changing. To date, there have
An Invisible Sugar Subsidy: Distress Cattle Sales by Bodi Agro-Pastoralists in Southern Ethiopia
March 7, 2019 / FAC blog
In South Omo in 2011, the Ethiopian government commenced its flagship sugar industrialisation project – one of the most controversial elements of its broader ambitions to build a developmental state. The plantations were planned to cover about 175,000 hectares of
Ghana, cocoa, farming, agriculture, commercialisation, APRA
Cocoa Commercialisation in Ghana: History and Social Values
March 1, 2019 / FAC blog
Agricultural commercialisation is by no means new to Africa and emerged in the early 19th century, with the development of export crops for the European market. Since the cocoa industry has developed across various policy epochs, this history can provide
Injera supplier to restaurants
Injera: Is Rice Commercialisation Changing Traditional Ethiopian Recipes?
February 21, 2019 / FAC blog
The most traditional food item commonly found on the table of Ethiopians for breakfast, lunch and dinner is injera, which is made from teff. However, there appears to be a change occurring – and not only in the extent of
Corridors Mini-Series: Agricultural Commercialisation along Mozambique’s Growth Corridors
February 14, 2019 / FAC blog
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
Corridors Mini-Series: Accumulation and Contested Commercialisation in Tanzania
February 13, 2019 / FAC blog
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
Corridors Mini-Series: Anticipating Lamu’s New Corridor on Kenya’s Coast
February 12, 2019 / FAC blog
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
APRA Brief 14: Participation, Voice and Governance in African Investment Corridors
February 12, 2019 / APRA Briefs Publications
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
APRA Brief 13: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialistion in Malawi
February 12, 2019 / APRA Briefs Publications
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,
APRA Brief 12: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa
February 12, 2019 / APRA Briefs Publications
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
Corridors Mini-Series: The Political Economy of Agricultural Growth Corridors in Eastern Africa
February 11, 2019 / FAC blog
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,
Shortages and Price Distortions in Zimbabwe
February 7, 2019 / FAC blog
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
Malnutrition Amidst Flourishing Farming: What is the Way-Out?
February 4, 2019 / FAC blog
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
Tanzania, rice, SRI, system of rice intensification, agriculture, farming, farm
‘SRI’ in Kilombero Valley: Potential, Misconception and Reality
January 25, 2019 / FAC blog
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has been promoted in rice growing areas worldwide – including Tanzania’s Kilombero district – aiming to reduce the cost of production while improving farm-level productivity, and thereby increasing household income and food security. Kilombero
Waste to Wealth: Indigenous Cocoa Farmers in Nigeria
January 17, 2019 / FAC blog
The subject of poverty, particularly among rural households, has been a dominant discourse among academics in Nigeria for over three decades – despite the economic potential that abounds in the country’s agricultural sector, and the cocoa sector in particular. Often,
APRA Annual Review Workshop 2018
January 11, 2019 / APRA blog News
From 3–6 December 2018, APRA staff met in Accra, Ghana for the annual APRA review workshop. With the broad scope of the APRA programme – comprising studies being undertaken across six African countries within three work streams – the annual