Latest articles

Should Aid Subsidise Foreign Business to Invest in African Agriculture
December 11, 2018 / FAC blog
Promoting private sector investment in order to achieve global development goals is a persistent (if controversial) theme in the 21st century. From Paul Collier’s recent anti-NGO polemic (“If you want to help Africa, let business lead the way”) to DFID’s
Can Rice Commercialisation Transform Agrarian Society in Ethiopia?
November 27, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
Driving through the Fogera Plain on a sunny September morning, lush paddy fields strewn out in front of us, it is hard to imagine we are in Ethiopia – the land of teff, a native grain crop which has been

Nigeria: Vieiwing Iwara’s Cocoa Sector Through a Gendered Lens
November 22, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
The commercialisation of agriculture is pivotal in the development of rural economies, and ultimately helping farmers to escape poverty. In Nigeria, cocoa production is paramount for raising farmers’ income and economic status. The commercialisation of subsistence agriculture can help to

When Pastoralism Meets Oil: Learning From Oil Finds in Turkana, Kenya
November 16, 2018 / FAC blog
Eastern Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies. Foreign capital has streamed into this region over the past ten to fifteen years – into large infrastructure programmes consisting of roads, railways, ports and pipelines, and into

The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Zimbabwe
November 15, 2018 / FAC blog
The Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium has recently produced a series of papers on the political economy of agricultural commercialisation. The paper on Zimbabwe by Toendepi Shonhe argues that “debates on Zimbabwe’s agricultural

Isene Village, Tanzania: A Story of Sunflowers and Empowerment
November 12, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
It is often the case that when crops or enterprises become commercialised, women lose out as men step in and take control of resources as well as selling produce. Unless such practices are addressed, emerging opportunities for female empowerment will

An Interview with APRA Nigeria Researcher, Thomas Jayne
November 5, 2018 / News
In a recent interview for SciDev.net, APRA Nigeria researcher Thomas Jayne discusses the state of agricultural commercialisation in Africa, with specific reference to emerging technological innovations. “There’s a lot more capital moving into agriculture than there used to be,” Jayne
APRA at the 19th NAAE Conference
November 5, 2018 / FAC blog
It is an accepted fact that agriculture in Nigeria has suffered as a result of the oil ‘resource curse effect’ and inappropriate policies and institutions, such as weak market institutions. Although the discovery of crude oil has lessened the country’s
APRA Brief 11: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Ethiopia: Discourses, Actors and Structural Impediments
November 5, 2018 / APRA Briefs Publications
This brief examines the political economy of agricultural commercialisation in Ethiopia, by analysing the changing political landscape and electoral trends spanning the past three decades. It gives an overview of the emphasis placed on agriculture, and the promotion of agricultural
APRA Brief 10: Women’s Empowerment and the Commercialisation of African Agriculture
November 1, 2018 / APRA Briefs Publications
This brief presents a summary of key issues in research on women’s empowerment, drawn from an APRA working paper commissioned to support the design of APRA’s research on pathways to agricultural commercialisation in Africa. In the context of African agriculture,
APRA Brief 9: Partnerships, Platforms and Policies: Strengthening Farmer Capacity to Harness Technological Innovation for Agricultural Commercialisation
November 1, 2018 / APRA Briefs Publications
This brief uses three STI revolution storylines based on case studies from Ethiopia, Zambia, and Ghana to highlight the enabling factors that make STI a vehicle for agricultural commercialisation. The storylines based on the three case studies were identified considering
Policy and Advocacy Forum: Empowerment of Women in Agriculture
October 30, 2018 / News
On 6 September 2018, APRA Malawi team member Loveness Msofi Mgalamadzi attended the ‘Policy and Advocacy Forum: Empowerment of Women in Agriculture’, held in Lilongwe, Malawi. This one-day meeting was organized by the Civil Society Agricultural Network (CISANET), with support
Zimbabwe: Farm Labour After Land Reform
October 29, 2018 / FAC blog
A paper by myself, the late BZ Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba and Chrispen Sukume is just out in Development and Change (available open access). We asked, “What happens to labour when redistributive land reform restructures a system of settler colonial agriculture?” The

APRA-Afrint Public Seminar, IDS
October 23, 2018 / Events
  On 3 October, the Institute of Development Studies hosted a joint event between the APRA and Afrint projects, bringing together researchers from both fields for a public seminar and launch of the Afrint project’s latest publication.    The event
Malawi Tracker Study: Experiences from the Field
October 22, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
The APRA Malawi team is finally in the field after months of meticulous preparations to get the ‘tracker’ study going. The subject of this tracker is groundnut commercialisation in Malawi’s central districts of Ntchisi and Mchinji. The goal is to

APRA Nigeria Stakeholder Meeting, Abuja
October 19, 2018 / News
On 11 September, APRA Nigeria researchers met with a number of stakeholders at Yar’Adua Centre in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Stakeholders from all sectors relevant to the APRA research programme were represented, including 15 State Ministry officials, 9 industry group representatives
APRA-Afrint Public Seminar, IDS
October 16, 2018 / News
On 3 October, the Institute of Development Studies hosted a joint event between the APRA and Afrint projects, bringing together researchers from both fields for a public seminar and launch of the Afrint project’s latest publication. The event kicked off
Zimbabwe’s latest crisis: it’s the economy – and politics, stupid!
October 15, 2018 / FAC blog
The images of economic crisis in Zimbabwe are all too familiar. Queues for petrol and cash, commodity hoarding, parallel markets in currency, rising inflation and so on. It all seems reminiscent of the dark days of the mid 2000s, in

The Cult of the African Youth Entrepreneur
October 12, 2018 / FAC blog
What image does the phrase ‘Africa’s youth employment challenge’ bring to mind? Is it, for example, an image of social unrest and violence; or of young migrants risking everything to get to Europe? Or an image of family and personal
Ethiopia: Enriching Livelihoods with Rice Research
October 5, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
The history of rice in Ethiopia Beginning in the 1970s, the production of rice in Ethiopian agriculture has expanded steadily across the country, with the total land area under rice cultivation rising from about 10,000 ha in 2006, to over

Failed Promises: the Decline of Cooperative Membership in Malawi
September 27, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
Most smallholder farmers in Malawi are seeing their livelihoods and overall social-economic status getting worse. The reasons for this regrettable trend are many and are well documented. However, one of the main reasons that has been given more attention is

Food Security: Gender, Geography and Off-Farm Employment
September 24, 2018 / News
Eradicating hunger and achieving food security remains a key developmental issue, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of the empirical literature focuses on agriculture-based interventions, although it is well known that rural households undertake a range of income-generating activities to provide
Open for Business: What Does Investment Look Like on the Ground?
September 18, 2018 / FAC blog
Last week I was at the at the African Studies Association of the UK (ASA) conference in Birmingham. I was co-hosting, with my colleague Jeremy Lind (whose earlier blog this one draws from), a fantastic stream of five panels and
Conducting a Tracker Study: a Tough Nut to Crack
September 17, 2018 / FAC blog
To enjoy a nut, you must first crack open the hard outer shell – the Malawi APRA research team have found one such nut and, as detailed in this blog, hope to have gathered the tools required to crack its
Designs on the range: corridors, grabs and extractions at the pastoral margins
September 10, 2018 / FAC blog
The past ten years have seen the spread of large-scale investments in infrastructure, resources and land across pastoral areas of eastern Africa. In the past these areas were insignificant to states in the region and large capital from beyond –

Groundnut commercialisation trends in Malawi
September 6, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
According to World Atlas, 2017, Malawi is one of the major exporters of groundnuts in Africa. Malawi has a history of supplying groundnuts to the global market and its yields compete with regional competitors. Groundnut is the most important legume

Medium-scale farms in Africa: history lessons from Zimbabwe
September 5, 2018 / FAC blog
‘Medium-scale’ farms are seen as potential drivers of future agricultural growth in Africa. In Zimbabwe, much hope is vested in A2 farms allocated at land reform becoming productive, with hopes pinned on investment following the election. The A2 farms, averaging around 100 ha in

ASAUK Conference 2018
September 5, 2018 / News
The University of Birmingham will host the 2018 African Studies Association of the UK (ASAUK) Conference, where a number of APRA researchers will form discussion panels across numerous conference streams. Running from 11–13 September, the conference will host 202 panels
Ethiopia: commercial farming, investment and policy
August 31, 2018 / FAC blog
Incentivising investment In contrast to previous government initiatives, Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II: 2015–2020) clearly promotes the commercialisation of the agricultural sector. In so doing, policymakers have officially recognised the potential for commercial farming to increase agricultural
Streamlining the communication of research for agricultural commercialisation
August 21, 2018 / FAC blog
On 16 and 17 July 2018, the Bankers Association of Malawi conducted the first agri-business conference of its kind to be held in Malawi, at the Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe. The theme of the conference was agricultural commercialisation
Zimbabweland blog catch up
August 17, 2018 / FAC blog
Zimbabweland is taking a break for the next few weeks. By the end of this time we will know the outcome of the Constitutional court case brought by the MDC Alliance disputing the presidential (not parliamentary) election results. Maybe there

Advocating policy based on evidence
August 15, 2018 / FAC blog
I recently attended a fascinating conference aimed at strengthening the use of evidence in policymaking. Dubbed ‘Evidence to Action 2018’, the conference was organised by the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED) between 26 and 27 July 2018 at
Public Seminar
August 7, 2018 / Events
Join us at the Institute of Development Studies on 3 October 2018, for a public seminar entitled The Dynamics of Agricultural Commercialisation, Diversification and Rural Change in sub-Saharan Africa. Researchers from APRA and the Afrint Project of Lund University will present
Recipes for success?
August 3, 2018 / FAC blog
What is a cookbook full of recipes – a collection of rigid instructions, or a source of guidance and inspiration? The answer depends largely on the skill, experience and confidence of the cook. Agricultural research and extension should find different
Agribusiness Conference in Malawi: ‘No financing, no growth for agribusinesses and value addition’
August 1, 2018 / News
On 16-17 July 2018, stakeholders from various sectors in Malawi assembled at Bingu International Conference Centre in Lilongwe, to discuss how the financial sector can help to propel agricultural commercialisation and value addition in Malawi. The conference presented an opportunity
APRA Outcome Indicators Paper
July 30, 2018 / Research Papers
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
Reinvestment of agricultural proceeds shaping mechanisation in Zimbabwe
July 25, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
Historically, Zimbabwe’s agricultural mechanisation efforts have been shaped by state-capital relations, in which powerful and connected groups tended to benefit. After the Fast Track Land Reform, technological innovation is now being reconfigured by accumulation from below on the back of

Freedom farming: historical continuities with land occupations in Zimbabwe
July 25, 2018 / FAC blog
Land invasions are not new phenomena. Resistance to land encroachment, and capture of land through ‘freedom farming’ (madiro) has been a feature of rural struggles over land, especially since the imposition of the Native Land Husbandry Act of 1952, rising

APRA in Mozambique: the mechanisation debate
July 24, 2018 / News
On 19 July 2018, Lídia Cabral (Institute of Development Studies) and Euclides Gonçalves (Kaleidoscopio, Mozambique) presented findings from the APRA policy studies on agricultural mechanisation and development corridors, respectively, at a conference on ‘Public Policies and Agribusiness’ organised by the
Scarcity narratives: will Zimbabwe join the global land rush?
July 19, 2018 / FAC blog
Narratives of scarcity dominate policy discourses about resources, including land. This was certainly the case during the peak of the global land rush, as we show in a paper (open access, and part of a forthcoming special issue on the

APRA Nigeria: Experiences and voices from Ogun and Kaduna States
July 18, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
The household survey for APRA-Nigeria work stream (WS) 1 and 3 ran between April 9 and May 25, 2018. In Ogun State, the survey was carried out in three Local Government Areas (LGAs): Ijebu East, Imeko Afon, and Obafemi Owondo.

Streamlining data collection in sub-Saharan Africa
July 10, 2018 / FAC blog
How can we efficiently and consistently collect household-level data that help examine pathways to agricultural commercialisation in empowering women, reducing rural poverty and improving food and nutrition security in sub-Saharan Africa? In APRA, we found an answer to this question
Rural electrification in Tanzania
July 4, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
Until recently, the quality of rice milling in Mngeta division, Tanzania was very poor, equating to extremely low shares of revenue for farmers selling rice in the local market. Traders often bought paddy directly at the farm gate, to be

Navigating Fast Track: From Bust to Boom in Mvurwi, Zimbabwe
June 28, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
Background Commercial farming in the Mvurwi farming area in Zimbabwe – one of the hotspots for white-led commercial agriculture dating back to the 1930s – was expected to go bust after the implementation of Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme

Land invasions in Zimbabwe: a complex story
June 22, 2018 / FAC blog
The Land Reform Deception: Political Opportunism in Zimbabwe’s Land Seizure Era by Charles Laurie, is now out in paperback. The book delves into the period of Zimbabwe’s land invasions from 2000. It is based on lots of in-depth interviews from

Are medium-scale farmers driving agricultural transformation in Africa?
June 13, 2018 / FAC blog The Future of Small Farms
For many years, we’ve been trying to understand the implications of shrinking farm sizes for millions of rural African households. Driven by population growth and growing land scarcity, most African farm households are witnessing the gradual sub-division of their farms
Zimbabwe’s 2018 election: what do the manifestos say about land?
June 12, 2018 / FAC blog
The Zimbabwe election has been set for July 30, and some of the manifestos have been published. What do they say about land and agriculture? There are many parties standing and plenty of independents, but only two parties count: ZANU-PF,

Do we over-emphasise the importance of youth aspirations?
June 7, 2018 / FAC blog
By Jim Sumberg In 1977, Kenneth Roberts of Liverpool University suggested it was a mistake to over-emphasise the role of aspirations and choice in determining how young people in the UK entered the labour market. Specifically, he wrote: “neither school
From the Fogera Plain: how one man helped to build a regional industry
May 31, 2018 / FAC blog
With few services and a lack of basic necessities, life for farmers in rural Ethiopia is challenging enough. This is to say nothing of life 4 decades ago, when Tegegne Gizachew was born in the Fogera Plain region of Ethiopia.
Labour and Zimbabwe’s new agrarian structure
May 24, 2018 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland Walter Chambati, acting director of the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies, has probably contributed more than anyone to our understanding of how wage labour relations have