APRA blog

Agricultural technology, food security and nutrition in Ghana
January 31, 2023

Written by: Lisa Capretti, Amrita Saha, Farai Jena and Fred Dzanku Agricultural technologies play an important role in helping smallholders to increase their yields and incomes, and therefore tackle poverty and food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using new panel data for oil palm producers in Ghana from the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) consortium,… Read more »

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© IFAD/Bernard Kalu
How important is farm size to agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa?
December 1, 2022

The finding that smallholder farms are more productive than medium- to large-scale farms has long been documented, and has led to smallholder-led agricultural and development strategies in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). However, evidence for this assertion has been largely limited to data from farms operating 5ha and below. More recent evidence from Nigeria suggests that productivity varies widely within farms, regardless of farm size. This blog examines our recent study, utilizing data over a wider range of farm sizes over two years in Nigeria to further investigate how productivity relates to farm size.

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© IFAD/Bernard Kalu
Ethiopia’s import dependence on rice-exporting countries: implications for policy and development responses
November 24, 2022

With the current instability in global grain markets – mainly due to the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, the war in Ukraine, and climatic events impacting rice production – major rice-producing Asian countries have been considering steps to protect their domestic markets. This blog reflects on the possible implications of export bans or taxation measures taken by rice exporting countries on rice production and marketing in Ethiopia, along with the extent of policy and development interventions made by policymakers to mitigate the impacts.

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Boosting commercialisation through the production of commercial tree crops in Nigeria
November 7, 2022

Farming in Nigeria has been historically dominated by small-scale farms (SSFs). However, recent evidence suggests that medium-scale farmers (MSFs) are becoming increasingly prominent. One pathway for MSF growth in Nigeria has been identified as the expansion of land area under commercial tree crop plantations, such as cocoa, cashew, oil palm, kola nut, and coconut. However, very little is currently known about the factors that drive this expansion. Our recently published journal paper aimed to fill this gap.

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How does agricultural commercialisation affect livelihoods in Zimbabwe?
September 27, 2022

The question of how agricultural commercialisation affects livelihoods has been central to the recently completed APRA programme, which, along with Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania, had work going on in Zimbabwe. The team, led by Chrispen Sukume and involving Godfrey Mahofa, Vine Mutyasira and others – supported by a large team of enumerators and others drawn especially from Agritex – explored some key questions at the top of policymakers’ minds. Does commercialisation (i.e., regular sales) of tobacco, soya and maize result in improved incomes and accumulation of assets, and so reductions in poverty? How does the focus on cash crops influence seasonal hunger and food insecurity? Do women benefit from this process of commercialisation?

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Making the most of the media
July 6, 2022

To disseminate policy-relevant messages based on the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) research at country and regional levels, the Information and Communication and Engagement (ICE) team encouraged country teams to build relationships with the media from early on in the programme. This is not something with which APRA researchers had much experience of and the approach was taken up by only a few teams. Nevertheless, with ICE support, those teams that pursued active engagement with the media proved very successful. APRA ICE Insight 2 reflects on the APRA programme’s engagements with the media to identify what went well and key lessons on what could have been improved.

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Communicating new evidence through working papers and briefs
July 2, 2022

Through in-depth, interdisciplinary, comparative research across nine countries, the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) has generated high-quality evidence and policy-relevant insights on more inclusive pathways to agricultural commercialisation. To disseminate its research findings and policy messages, APRA had a multi-format strategy to produce a portfolio of mutually-reinforcing publications to inform a broad spectrum of actors. APRA ICE Insight 3 evaluates APRA’s publication outputs to understand what went well, and to identify what improvements could have been made.

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Investing in social media pays big dividends
June 27, 2022

Over the past six years, the use of social media has been a vital part of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA’s) communications strategy in raising awareness of the programme’s activities and outputs. The Impact, Communication and Engagement (ICE) team has been responsible for tracking the impact of social media activities, including sharing APRA’s publications and news on events, and promoting APRA’s key research messages. APRA ICE Insight 1 explores this impact, what went well, and what could be improved as future programmes plan their own social media efforts.

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Raising the profile of agricultural policy research
June 20, 2022

Throughout the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium, country research teams were encouraged to engage at district and national levels. Towards the end of APRA, during the latter part of 2021, each country team held final district and national-level events in order to share research findings and highlight policy implications. APRA ICE Insight 6 evaluates APRA’s national engagement to understand what went well, and to identify what improvements could have been made.

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e-Dialogues spark debate on the dynamics of agricultural commercialisation
June 16, 2022

In early 2022, as the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) was coming to an end, an e-Dialogue series, Towards an Equitable and Sustainable Transformation of Food Systems, was held in partnership with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Foresight4Food. These virtual events were designed to replace an international conference that was part of APRA’s original end-of-programme plan before the COVID-19 crisis prevented large, physical gatherings. APRA ICE Insight 4 looks at their impact, what worked well, and what could have been improved.

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The power of blogs to share research and communicate policy lessons
June 9, 2022

Over the course of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme, researchers produced over 150 publications, including Working Papers, Briefs, COVID-19 Papers, Journal Articles and several books. The intended audience of these publications varied, from the academic community to national and regional policymakers and other stakeholders. However, a key approach taken by APRA’s Information, Communication and Engagement (ICE) team to further the reach of these publications was to support the researchers to publish weekly blogs. APRA ICE Insight 5 explores the use of the blogs to identify what went well, and what could have been improved to expand their impact even further.

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Changing farm structure and agricultural commercialisation in Nigeria
June 6, 2022

Much of sub‐Saharan Africa, including Nigeria, is experiencing major changes in farmland ownership patterns. Among all farms below 100ha in size, the share of land on small‐scale farms (SSFs) under 5ha has declined over the last two decades. Medium‐scale farms (MSFs) (typically defined as farm holdings between 5 and 50ha) account for a rising share of total farmland, and the number of these farms is growing rapidly.

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Agricultural commercialisation and rural employment
May 26, 2022

The seasonal nature of agricultural production under rainfed conditions in most parts of rural Ghana, as in other sub-Saharan countries, makes employment in small-scale agriculture alone inadequate for improving the wellbeing of most rural households. Boosting commercial agriculture could be the key to generating employment – not only within agriculture but also in the non-agricultural sector due to linkages between the farm and non-farm economy. Within this context, this blog reflects on the findings of APRA Working Paper 92, and addresses the following questions: What is the association between agricultural commercialisation and rural employment? What are the returns to agricultural employment in a high agriculture commercialisation zone, and how does it compare with non-agricultural employment? Are farm and non-farm employment counterparts or competitors in a high agriculture commercialisation zone?

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Diversification and food security in crop-livestock farming systems of Singida Region, Tanzania
May 25, 2022

Diversification is a key strategy for coping with risks associated with climate change and variability among households in Africa’s semi-arid areas. The extent of diversification varies across households, but the crop and livestock enterprises undertaken comprise of at least one crop and one livestock species. As found in a recent APRA study, the nature of crop-livestock diversification in the farming systems of the semi-arid Singida Region, central Tanzania, has varying impacts for farmer food security. The research saught to answer the following policy-relevant questions: (i) How important is diversification in the crop-livestock farming systems of the Singida Region? (ii) What are the prominent crops and livestock species diversified by households in these farming systems? (ii) What is the degree of risk associated with different crop-livestock portfolios? (iii) How does crop-livestock diversification affect food security?

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Agricultural commercialisation and rural employment
May 23, 2022

The seasonal nature of agricultural production under rainfed conditions in most parts of rural Ghana, as in other sub-Saharan countries, makes employment in small-scale agriculture alone inadequate for improving the wellbeing of most rural households. Boosting commercial agriculture could be the key to generating employment – not only within agriculture but also in the non-agricultural sector due to linkages between the farm and non-farm economy. Within this context, this blog reflects on the findings of APRA Working Paper 92, and addresses the following questions: What is the association between agricultural commercialisation and rural employment? What are the returns to agricultural employment in a high agriculture commercialisation zone, and how does it compare with non-agricultural employment? Are farm and non-farm employment counterparts or competitors in a high agriculture commercialisation zone?

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Medium-scale farming as a policy tool for agricultural commercialisation and small-scale farm transformation in Nigeria
May 12, 2022

Land ownership patterns are changing in sub-Saharan Africa. In Ghana, Kenya and Zambia, medium-scale farms (MSFs), of between 5 and 100ha now account for more land than large-scale investors. Most African countries’ national agricultural investment plans and policy strategies officially view smallholder farming as the primary means of achieving agricultural growth, food security and poverty-reduction goals. However, many governments have adopted land and financial policies that implicitly encourage the rise of MSFs. APRA Policy Brief 32 investigates various questions around the formation, productivity and local impacts of MSFs in Nigeria; the main findings are summarised here.

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What are the gender-focused challenges within agriculture and commercialisation, and how can we approach tackling these?
May 5, 2022

Agriculture remains the dominant employment activity among most households in Ghana, which currently engages 61% of the economically active population aged 15 years and above. However, returns to agrarian livelihood remain lower than gains from other sectors of the economy. APRA Working Paper 90 explores this reality, and the differential outcomes that emerge as a result of gender disparities in the country as well as potential pathways to addressing them.

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Far from inclusive: smallholder farmer commercialisation in Malawi
April 21, 2022

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, the second of a two-part series, explores the answers to these questions as they pertain to Malawi, based on the findings of a recent APRA paper, Patterns and drivers of agricultural commercialisation: evidence from Ghana, Nigeria, and Malawi.

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A tale of two countries: patterns and drivers of smallholder commercialisation in Ghana and Nigeria
April 19, 2022

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 countries? The current blog, the first of a two-part series, draws answers to these questions from a recent APRA study on the Patterns and drivers of agricultural commercialisation: evidence from Ghana, Nigeria, and Malawi. Findings from the study are based on household-level data from two rounds of Ghana’s Living Standard Surveys (GLSS6 in 2012/13 and GLSS7 in 2016/17); and the two rounds of Nigeria’s General Household Surveys (GHS-Panel) in 2010/2011 (GHS-Panel 1) and 2015/2016 (GHS-Panel 3).

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Women and youth in rice and sunflower commercialisation in Tanzania: Inclusiveness, returns on household labour and poverty reduction
April 14, 2022

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 aimed to ensure sustainable commercialisation and involvement of women and youth in the commercialisation process. Despite these efforts, women and youths’ involvement in the rice and sunflower commercialisation process is constrained – likely because of a lack of land and financial capital. Land access problems among women and youth in Tanzania are, for instance, largely the result of cultural restrictions on the ownership of ancestral land. Regarding financial capital, women and youth cannot access loans from commercial banks because of their low ownership of assets used by banks as collateral. This blog reflects on the findings of APRA Working Paper 30, APRA Working Paper 59 and APRA Brief 33, which seek to understand the reality of women and youth’s involvement in these value chains.

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Polygamy and agricultural commercialisation in Malawi
April 13, 2022

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, and remains unequal in its benefits as a result of gender inequalities that exits in the country. In this second blog of our two-part series on marital issues’ effects on agricultural commercialisation, we turn our attention to polygamy and its role in limiting women’s empowerment. Read the previous blog in this series, which focuses on marital issues in singular marriages as well as the experiences of male- versus female-headed households, here.

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Marriage and agricultural commercialisation in Malawi
April 7, 2022

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 that despite the fact that most households engage in some degree of agricultural commercialisation, its benefits remain limited. In this blog, we explore how marital issues affect agricultural commercialisation, specifically with regards to women’s involvement, and, in reverse, how commercialisation impacts marital relations. We use data collected by the APRA Malawi team, dwelling much on the qualitative data collected through focus group discussions, key informant interviews and life histories.

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APRA e-Dialogue summary: Strategies and pathways for supporting more equitable and resilient food systems in Africa
March 31, 2022

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 began with APRA presentations highlighting specific outcomes across East and West Africa, before expert commentary… Read more »

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Artisanal Palm Oil Processing in an Industrial Enclave in Ghana: Resilience, Resistance and Elision
March 29, 2022

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 the focus of our recent publications, APRA Working Paper 85 and Policy Brief 29. While the impacts of the two processing models are not linear, we highlighted the impacts of industrial mills on the expansion of artisanal processing in producing areas. We studied the relationships between the two spheres of production in two districts in the Western region of Ghana, a major oil palm producing frontier. Acknowledging the importance of rural diversity, complexity, and difference in agriculture-based off-farm activities, we examined the effect of community and household level factors on palm oil processing incidence and intensity as well as the impact of processing on food (in)security. These issues are addressed using a mixed methods approach that includes a qualitative study and a survey of 802 households in 23 communities.

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Cocoa can still provide a living, but it’s a struggle
March 17, 2022

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 to plant cocoa. They needed to do little other than plant seedlings then wait to harvest the pods. When trees aged, or soil fertility declined, or swollen shoot viral disease attacked the trees, they could abandon the old groves and move to establish new stands of cocoa in virgin forests. But now, as new lands become scarce and money grows ever tighter, research must examine if it is still possible to make a living from cocoa in the region and if so, how. This blog reflects on the findings of APRA Working Paper 84 and APRA Brief 30, which seek to answer this question.

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Hired labour use, productivity, and commercialisation: the case of rice in the Fogera Plain of Ethiopia
March 15, 2022

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 explores the characteristics of rural labour markets, trends in hired labour use and the impact of hired labour on smallholder farmers’ rice productivity and commercialisation.

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Mixed fortunes for central Malawi’s farmer producer organisations
March 10, 2022

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 all have in common is their mission to transform their members’ farms into commercially successful enterprises, characterised by high productivity and high profitability. APRA Working Paper 82 explores the effectiveness of FPOs in enhancing smallholder commercialisation in central Malawi. This blog reflects on the paper’s findings.

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Climate-smart agriculture practices as a pathway to livelihood improvement in central Malawi
March 8, 2022

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 crop productivity, resilience to crop failures, income, and the overall food security of smallholder farming households. The pathways to households’ adoption of CSA technologies and the resulting impacts of these technologies on other aspects of the households’ livelihoods and practices were explored in APRA Working Paper 81. This blog explores the key findings of this paper, and how the adoption of CSA practices can be encouraged in central Malawi.

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Cocoa in Ghana: a smallholder sector
March 3, 2022

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; in some sectors small-scale farmers continue to predominate. This includes cocoa, where several studies show a movement over time towards smaller holdings and the emergence of smallholders as the dominant and most efficient farmers; a result of changing patterns of forest frontier settlement, farm ecology, and commodification of agriculture. These changes, investigated in APRA Working Paper 80, have also radically transformed the nature of investments in and returns to cocoa over time.

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Did enforcement of farm-gate minimum prices lead to a maize marketing crisis in Malawi?
March 1, 2022

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. The government tasked the Malawi Police Service with ensuring that all traders in the agricultural sector adhered to the set measures, and traders that did not comply were persecuted. By May 2021, 109 traders had been arrested across the country, and those prosecuted had to pay a fine of MK60,000 (US$75) or be jailed for 9 months. The Malawi Police Service was applauded for enforcing farm-gate set prices, but what were the implications on grain marketing in the local markets?

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Cocoa Commercialisation in Nigeria: Issues and Prospects
February 24, 2022

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 threatening cocoa commercialisation. Nonetheless, concerted efforts of successive governments to revive the sector and resilience of cocoa farmers, despite declines in production witnessed in recent years, have sustained cocoa production in Nigeria. Pre- and post-independence regimes leveraged on cocoa as a source of foreign earnings, which was short-lived with the advent of discovery of petroleum in early 70s. APRA Working Paper 79 explores these trends, issues and prospects around cocoa commercialisation in southwestern Nigeria to understand how cocoa commercialisation might progress and serve those involved in it in future.

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Do smallholders face disadvantages to reaping gains from rice commercialisation in Ethiopia?
February 22, 2022

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 to emphasise this relationship. In retrospect, this initiative has been hugely successful, as the region where rice has been introduced has been transformed from heavily relying on food aid to becoming a thriving commercial centre. This transformation owes much to the increase in the production, consumption and commercial value of rice. However, it appears that the benefits of rice commercialisation have been unequally distributed. This seeming paradox is central to APRA Working Paper 78, which finds that farmers with very small amounts of farm land devote high proportions of their land to rice production. Yet, these same farmers have lower levels of commercialisation – in other words, they do not reap the benefits of selling rice to the market.

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Drawing lessons and policy messages from APRA research in Tanzania
February 17, 2022

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 on 2 December, 2021. This blog shares the presentations, discussions and lessons emerging from this feedback session, which took place virtually and included APRA researchers based at Sokoine University of Agriculture, Nairobi-based Dr Hanington Odame, and Mr Alex Mangowi, representing the FCDO office in Tanzania.

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The effects of COVID-19 on local food systems and rural livelihoods: An e-Dialogue overview
February 15, 2022

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 – and nowhere was this more evident than in sub-Saharan Africa.

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The differential effects of COVID-19 on food systems and livelihoods in Africa
February 9, 2022

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 status of tens of millions of people. With border closures and mobility restrictions imposed by governments to curb the spread of the virus, access to markets and trading were disrupted, thereby affecting the livelihoods and well-being of poor farming households across the region who rely on these activities to survive. In collaboration with a range of local and international partners, the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC), with support of the UK Foreign, Development and Commonwealth Officer/UKAid, conducted a series of studies over 2020-21 to track how responses to the crisis were affecting local food systems, value chains and rural livelihoods across the region.

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COVID-19 underlines frailties in Zimbabwe’s food systems
February 8, 2022

Zimbabwe enforced its first lockdown on 30 March 2020 in an attempt to contain the further spread of COVID-19. On that day, the Ministry of Health and Child Care had officially recorded eight confirmed cases and a single death. The government had declared the COVID-19 crisis a national disaster a few days earlier, on 27 March 2020, allowing it to focus state resources towards fighting the pandemic. Several statutory instruments and a raft of measures were developed to support the lockdown, which closed most sectors of the economy, including informal markets, while allowing only a few ‘essential services’ to operate. To examine how COVID-19 affected food systems and rural livelihoods, APRA Zimbabwe conducted a series of rapid assessment studies. The results of the three survey rounds are presented in A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Zimbabwe.

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Assessing the impacts of COVID-19 on food systems and livelihoods in Mngeta division, Tanzania
February 8, 2022

Since the onset of COVID-19, which was first announce in Tanzania early in March 2020, consecutive waves of the pandemic have resulted in a series of health, social and economic impacts. This was revealed in A Multi-Phase Assessment of The Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Tanzania, which was based on data collected from farmers in Mngeta division in Kilombero District to gain knowledge on the real time impact of the pandemic on that rural community. The data were collected from 100 farmers at three intervals; July 2020, October 2020 and February 2021. Key informants including rice processors, village executive officer, traders and extension officers were also interviewed.

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A way forward for Ethiopia’s rice sector: Outcomes of a national event
February 3, 2022

This blog is the second in our two-part series on the APRA Ethiopia team’s recent national event, entitled “Rice Sector Transformation Event in Ethiopia – Lessons from APRA Programme”, which aimed to discuss the country’s rice sector, including the trends in the production, import and consumption of rice, the key challenges facing the sector, and the policy and development lessons for addressing the identified challenges. The previous blog reflected on the key findings and takeaways of the synthesis presentation given during the event, which was followed by a lively discussion among the speakers and attendees around the pathways to improving Ethiopia’s rice sector. This blog presents the key topics and conclusions of these discussions.

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Food insecurity and cost of living in Kenya’s rural population amid relaxation of COVID-19 containment measures
February 1, 2022

After Kenya confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on March 12, 2020, the country underwent a series of movement restrictions and closures to stymie the spread of COVID-19 infections. The containment measures helped to slow the local spread of coronavirus, but with negative consequences for the country’s food system and livelihoods. Thus, we would expect improvements in people’s food security and overall livelihoods after relaxation of the containment measures, which began gradually in July 2020. The APRA Kenya research team conducted three rounds of mixed-method, comparative assessments to investigate the impact of COVID-19 and associated containment measures on the food system and the sub-set of the country’s population that is largely dependent on agriculture. The results of the three survey rounds are presented in A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Kenya.

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Agrarian change and rural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa: Emerging challenges and regional realities
January 27, 2022

On 20 January 2022, an e-dialogue was convened to analyse the dynamics of agricultural commercialisation and agrarian change across East, West, and Southern Africa. The programme began with participants engaging in three parallel regional presentations and discussions, and culminated in a continental-level panel involving expert commentators and audience questions.

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Transforming the rice sector in Ethiopia: Lessons from APRA Programme
January 25, 2022

The APRA Ethiopia team held a national event to discuss the country’s rice sector, including the trends in the production, import and consumption of rice, the key challenges facing the sector, and the policy and development lessons for addressing the identified challenges. This blog presents the key discussion points and takeaways resulting from this event, titled “Rice Sector Transformation Event in Ethiopia – Lessons from APRA Programme”. The event, held on 29th November 2021 at the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research (EIAR), was a critical presentation of the APRA Ethiopia team’s research over the last five years.

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A multi-phase assessment of the effects of COVID-19 on food systems and rural livelihoods in Nigeria
January 17, 2022

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nigeria, there have been serious concerns about the impact of the pandemic on agri-food systems, given that most of the population depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. These concerns are compounded by the fragile state of the country’s health and food systems. This blog summarises the findings of APRA’s A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Nigeria, which studied the differential impacts of the pandemic on agricultural commercialisation, food and nutrition security, employment, poverty, and well-being in rural households. The assessment was designed to help gain timely insights into how the COVID-19 crisis was unfolding in various parts of Nigeria and how rural people and food and livelihood systems were responding.

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Hard pressed but not crushed: A story of resilience and adaptation to COVID in Ghana
January 12, 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic has killed and destroyed – not only lives – but livelihoods as well. The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted food systems in Ghana since its emergence in the country in March 2020. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, the socio-economic burden imposed by COVID-19, particularly through restrictions on social and commercial activities, appears to be more devastating than the actual health burden of the virus in many countries. The story of the disruptive consequences of the crisis on food systems and livelihoods have been told worldwide. Yet, these stories are not the same for all societies and sectors. The recent APRA publication ‘A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Ghana’ explores these differential effects in Ghana. This blog explores the findings of this report.

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A multi-phase assessment of the effects of COVID-19 on food systems and rural livelihoods in Zambia: The case of small-scale farmers surrounding Mkushi Farming Block
January 6, 2022

Following the identification of the first COVID-19 case in Zambia on 18 March 2020, the government announced some lockdown measures intended to prevent the spread of pandemic. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has not only led to loss of human life and negatively affected health systems in the country, it has also disrupted local food systems and rural livelihoods. This blog reflects on the findings of APRA’s A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Zambia, which highlights a case study on small-scale farmers surrounding the Mkushi Farming Block in Central Province of Zambia. The study focused on documenting and understanding the impacts of the pandemic at the household level in terms of changes in farming activities, availability and cost of services for agricultural production, labour and employment, marketing, transport services, food and nutrition security, and poverty. It also reviewed the COVID-19 health guidelines and ‘lockdown’ measures imposed by the state authorities, and how they may have contributed to these observed changes over time.

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The story of Ghana’s cocoa and oil palm commercialisation outcomes retold at a national dissemination workshop
December 20, 2021

Together with stakeholders from public and private institutions countrywide, the APRA Ghana family gathered at ALISA Hotel in Accra to discuss the key findings emerging from three streams of APRA studies since 2016. Historically, cocoa and oil palm have remained Ghana’s major export crops, providing employment for the country’s burgeoning labour force, contributing about 3% to its GDP, accounting for between 20-25% of total export receipts, and supporting rural livelihoods across the forest belt of the nation. In addition to rubber, oil palm and cocoa remain the most commercialised crops in Ghana. Throughout the research, the team sought to understand the welfare outcomes of the choice of output commercialisation channels adopted by farmers.

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Beyond impressive results: Are we ready to act?
December 20, 2021

In its efforts to disseminate the results of a five-year research project, the APRA Malawi team held a national dissemination event at Ufulu Gardens in Lilongwe on 30 November 2021. The event brought together stakeholders from government, donor, civil society, media and research and academic institutions working in the realm of agricultural commercialisation in the country. At this event, the team shared results of a longitudinal tracker study of agricultural commercialisation and livelihood trajectories in Malawi. More information on this event can be found in the first of this two-part blog series, here.

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Can agrarian transformation in Ethiopia’s Fogera Plain be scaled? Lessons from a national engagement workshop
December 16, 2021

Ethiopia is facing a decline in national rice self-sufficiency and rice imports, which cost the country about US$200 million in 2019. However, there is a pathway to reversing this trend and recovering the national rice sector… The solution? An effective policy framework. This was the conclusion reached at a national engagement event held by the APRA Ethiopia team to discuss the country’s rice value chain with key stakeholders. The meeting, held on 29 November 2021, was convened by APRA Ethiopia to share the team’s research findings from studies on the transformation of the national rice sector with government officials, fellow researchers, development partners and more.

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Ogun State community meetings push for policy on medium-scale farming
December 13, 2021

Following the conclusion of their research into the opportunities and challenges of medium-scale farming as a pathway to inclusive agricultural commercialisation and improved livelihood outcomes for farming families across Nigeria, researchers on the APRA Nigeria Work Stream 1 (WS1) team have been engaging farmers, community leaders and policymakers to discuss the findings of its studies. These engagements have included dissemination events in Kaduna State and, even more recently, two stakeholder meetings in Ogun State held at the palace of His Royal Majesty, the Onimeko of Imeko on 22 November 2021 and in Ijebu East local government headquarters, Ogbere on 23 November 2021. These events have been held with the aim to share findings and develop policy insights, and include in that process those with the ability to incorporate the findings into actionable policy measures, as well as those impacted by any resulting policies.

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Prospects for smallholder commercialisation in Malawi
December 8, 2021

This blog is based on APRA Working Paper 75, which presents a historical and contemporary agrarian inquiry into the reality of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi. The study’s key message is that smallholder agricultural commercialisation is possible, but it cannot be attained on a sustainable basis in the context of the contemporary agrarian set-up. This blog looks beyond the study’s findings to identify a pathway forward for Malawi’s smallholder farmers.

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APRA Malawi research team shares research findings
December 6, 2021

Since 2016, the APRA Malawi team has been working to understand the underlying factors of smallholder commercialisation in the groundnut value chain in Mchinji and Ntchisi. Now, following the publication of their research findings, the team is turning its attention to dissemination efforts to share these critical findings with those most impacted by them. In this campaign, APRA Malawi researchers Blessings Chinsinga and Mirriam Matita presented findings to 29 stakeholders from the government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), civil society networks and additional stakeholders at a national dissemination workshop on 30th November 2021. Among these attendees, 10 were women and 19 were men.

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