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APRA blog

Challenging simplistic land degradation and restoration narratives in Zimbabwe
September 20, 2021

In the last blog, I reviewed the results of our land use analysis using a combination of Landsat satellite imagery, document/archival analysis and field interviews from Mvurwi area in northern Zimbabwe from 1984 to 2018, now out as APRA Working Paper 48. There are some important wider implications that emerge from such an analysis that gets to grips with longitudinal environmental and land use change and its intersecting drivers. In this blog, I identify four themes.

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APRA features at the Second Scientific Conference held at the Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania
September 16, 2021

The Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) participated in a scientific conference at Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA), Tanzania from 24th May–27th May 2021. Themed ‘Agricultural Technologies, Productivity and Market Competitiveness in Tanzania: Towards an Upper-Middle Income Economy’, the conference provided a platform for scholars to interact and exchange knowledge on the application of science, innovation, and technology in the country’s socio-economic transformation. This blog highlights APRA Tanzania researchers’ contributions to the conference.

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Dynamic drivers of land use change in Zimbabwe
September 13, 2021

What are the drivers of land use change and how do they interact over time? Are the changes, uni-directional and linear, or are the dynamics more complex? This is the question we posed for our study site in Mvurwi in northern Zimbabwe for the period 1984 to 2018, now published in APRA Working Paper 48. This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland.

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Influence of rice commercialisation on poverty reduction levels in Kilombero Valley, Tanzania
September 9, 2021

The commercialisation of smallholder agriculture has been considered a key strategy for sustainably reducing poverty and achieving equitable growth across many countries in sub-Saharan Africa. In Tanzania, linking farmers to markets is pursued as an important strategy towards commercialisation and agricultural transformation under the National Development Programme and current Five-year Development Plan for the period 2016 – 2021 and the national vision up to 2025. This blog examines changes in rice commercialisation and poverty levels of different farmer categories that have occurred between 2017 and 2019, as presented in APRA Working Paper 63, based on the findings from Mngeta division, Kilombero Valley in Morogoro region, Tanzania, where rice is the most important food and cash crop.

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Are smallholder farms or medium-scale farms more productive in Nigeria?
September 2, 2021

In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), support for smallholder-led agricultural strategy has been motivated by the stylised fact that smallholder farmers are more productive. This stylised fact is known as inverse relationship (IR) between farm size and productivity, which has been widely observed in developing countries around the world. Broadly, the IR suggests that smaller farms are more productive than larger farms. However, documented evidence of IR in SSA is largely limited to farms operating 5ha or less. This blog looks to a recent study of a greater range of farm sizes in Nigeria to better understand the reality of productivity as it relates to farm size.

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Enhancing nutrition for a stronger, sustainable post-COVID-19 rice sector in Africa
August 31, 2021

In the second blog of a series following APRA’s participation in an Independent Food Systems Dialogue on sustainable value chains for Africa’s rice sector in a post-COVID 19 context, we examine the nutrition-related outcomes of the dialogue. The event, which was held on July 29th, 2021, was attended by participants from African countries including Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, and United Republic of Tanzania, as well as representatives of nations all over the world.

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Does sunflower commercialisation empower women in Singida, Tanzania?
August 26, 2021

This blog explores the findings of APRA Working Paper 59, which investigates the influence of sunflower commercialisation and diversity on women empowerment in Singida region, Tanzania. This study assesses the assumption that women engagement along Tanzania’s sunflower value chain empowers them socially, economically, and politically, and its contribution to their sense of individuality, self-respect, and confidence.

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Rice commercialisation, agrarian change and livelihood trajectories: Transformations on the Fogera Plain of Ethiopia
August 23, 2021

This blog summarises APRA Working Paper 61, which explores the commercialisation of rice in Ethiopia since its introduction in the early 1970s. This process has evidenced wider agrarian changes that have contributed to the emergence and development of diverse livelihood options. The paper presents the role of increased rice commercialisation for the observed agrarian changes and the livelihood trajectories, based on both primary and secondary data sources generated from the Fogera plain.

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Building sustainable post COVID-19 value chains for Africa’s rice sector: Outcomes of an East African Dialogue
August 19, 2021

This blog reflects on the recent East Africa Independent Food Systems Dialogue, which brought together rice producers, the research and academic community, donors and investors, the private sector and farmers which aimed to discuss and develop pathways to building sustainable value chains in Africa’s rice sector.

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End of the road? The future of smallholder farmers in Malawi
August 16, 2021

This paper reflects on the findings of APRA Working Paper 56 and APRA Working Paper 58 to understand the reality of smallholder farming in Malawi, and what the future can be expected to hold for individuals involved in this sector. Further, the authors assess why the current outlook of smallholder farming is as it is, and seeks to understand the policy landscape that could carve a space for small-scale farmers in Malawi’s agricultural future.

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Unmasking the socio-economic potential of rice in Burundi: Outcomes of the East Africa Rice Conference 2021
August 12, 2021

As part of the 2021 East African Rice Conference (EARC), national workshops were held in six African countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. EARC aimed to identify policy reforms to transform Africa’s rice sector through scientific innovations, and the national events provided an opportunity to assess such opportunities in each of the six countries, individually. The final blog of our series on these national workshops reflects on Burundi’s event.

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Positioning Tanzania in the regional market for rice: Lessons from the East Africa Rice Conference
August 5, 2021

As part of the 2021 East African Rice Conference (EARC), national workshops were held in six African countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. EARC aimed to identify policy reforms to transform Africa’s rice sector through scientific innovations, and the national events provided an opportunity to assess such opportunities in each of the six countries, individually. In this blog, the fifth in our series on these national workshops, we reflect on the Tanzanian event.

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Environmental impacts of commercial rice production in Kilombero Valley, Tanzania
August 2, 2021

In Kilombero Valley, Tanzania, rice is increasingly becoming a commercial crop. However, although research findings show that commercial rice production is beneficial, it is also associated with increasing use of modern implements, such as tractors, and use of agrochemicals, such as herbicides. This blog, based on APRA Working Papers 30 and 37, highlights the potential environmental impacts of rice commercialisation in the region, and recommends actions that could be taken to mitigate these impacts.

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The political economy of the maize value chain in Nigeria
July 22, 2021

This blog explores the findings of APRA Working Paper 60, investigating the political economy of the maize value chain in Nigeria. This study focused on how the political economy dynamics can contribute to understanding the drivers and constraints of agricultural commercialisation in the country, and the government’s role in enhancing this process.

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Rice set to improve Uganda’s food and nutrition security
July 19, 2021

Written by: Mr. Paul Lubega, Japan International Cooperation Agency, Uganda As part of the 2021 East African Rice Conference (EARC), national workshops were held in six African countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. EARC aimed to identify policy reforms to transform Africa’s rice sector through scientific innovations, and the national events provided an… Read more »

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Covid-19 and food security: What is the way forward?
July 15, 2021

Covid-19 is having a major impact on livelihoods and food security across the globe, with women and those who work in informal economies often the hardest hit. This is the focus of our latest Research for Policy and Practice Report on ‘The impact of Covid-19 on livelihoods and food security’ and upcoming UN Food Systems Summit independent dialogue.

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Roadmap for Rwanda’s rice sector development
July 8, 2021

As part of the 2021 East African Rice Conference (EARC), national workshops were held in six African countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. EARC aimed to identify policy reforms to transform Africa’s rice sector through scientific innovations, and the national events provided an opportunity to assess such opportunities in each of the six countries, individually. In the third blog of our series exploring the outcomes of each of these national workshops, we turn our attention to Rwanda.

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Inclusive and sustainable rice system to transform Kenya’s food system: Lessons from the East African Conference
July 6, 2021

As part of the 2021 East African Rice Conference (EARC), national workshops were held in six African countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. EARC aimed to identify policy reforms to transform Africa’s rice sector through scientific innovations, and the national events provided an opportunity to assess such opportunities in each of the six countries, individually. In the second blog of our series exploring the outcomes of each of these national workshops, we turn our attention to Kenya.

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Social issues impacting household food security in the epoch of COVID-19
June 28, 2021

Written by: Loveness Msofi Mgalamadzi The COVID-19 pandemic has affected lives and livelihoods around the world, and Malawi is no exception. This blog explores the social and food security issues arising from the implementation of COVID-19 preventive measures at household level in the country. Introduction The COVID-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented impacts that have… Read more »

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Gender and social differentiation in the context of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi
June 21, 2021

This blog summarises the findings of APRA Working Paper 58, observing agricultural commercialisation in Malawi and how it differs among various gender and social groups. This study found that female-headed and poorer households are at a disadvantage compared to their male-headed and wealthier counterparts due to differential access to resources and control over decision-making. The following blog provides a deeper look into this reality, and assesses the impact of gender and wealth on several aspects of commercialisation.

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EARC 2021 participants at the International Livestock Research Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Key messages and required actions for Ethiopian rice sector development: Outcomes of a national rice conference
June 10, 2021

As part of the 2021 East African Rice Conference (EARC), national workshops were held in six African countries: Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. EARC aimed to identify policy reforms to transform Africa’s rice sector through scientific innovations, and the national events provided an opportunity to assess such opportunities in each of the six countries, individually. This blog explores the outcomes of Ethiopia’s national workshop, which was held in parallel in Addis Ababa and Bahir Dar.

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From field research to policy influencing – what have we learned?
June 3, 2021

The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) has led consortia of UK and African organisations in two large programmes of policy research on the future of agriculture in Africa and inclusive commercialisation since 2005. This blog explores what we have learned about policy influencing through these programmes.

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Disseminating science amid COVID-19 restrictions: lessons from Ghana
May 24, 2021

The findings of a recent APRA Ghana research project were shared with a range of stakeholders at a dissemination event on Wednesday, 17 March 2021 in Takoradi, Ghana. This workshop included a discussion of the team’s research and the implications of these findings. The outcome of discussions will be incorporated into subsequent analyses and reports on the APRA project, and contribute to informing policy and practices related to rural development, empowerment of women and girls, and food and nutrition security. This will ensure that this research is used to inform effective and relevant policy.

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At the mercy of politics? The groundnut value chain in Malawi
May 17, 2021

This blog highlights the findings of APRA Working Paper 56, observing the groundnut value chain in Malawi in both historical and contemporary perspectives through qualitative tools of inquiry. This study found that this value chain has experienced notable recovery in terms of productivity, but remains primarily informal and struggles to re-enter the lucrative formal global export markets. The following blog explores why this is the case, as well as examining the socio-economic importance of this crop and what can be done to support it in reaching its full potential moving forward.

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Political economy of agricultural input subsidies in Tanzania: Who benefitted from the National Input Voucher Scheme?
May 13, 2021

This blog explores the programmes implemented in Tanzania to promote rice commercialisation since the country’s independence in 1961, as found in the course of a recent APRA study for Working Paper 57, as well as their impact on different socio-economic groups. Specifically, this blog is about agricultural input subsidy programmes implemented since 1967 to support smallholder farmers as part of the ujamaa (“socialism”) model of economic development. It focuses on the National Input Voucher Scheme (NAIVS), the biggest agricultural input subsidy programme implemented in Tanzania.

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APRA Ghana presents research findings in a dissemination workshop
May 6, 2021

Key findings emerging from APRA’s research in Ghana were presented to representatives of oil palm farmers and oil palm processing companies, agricultural extension officers, district and regional directors of agriculture, and the media at a workshop on 17 March 2021 at the Takoradi Library & Office Complex.

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Political economy of rice commercialisation in Tanzania: Socioeconomic impact of trade policies, strategies and programmes
April 29, 2021

This blog summarises the findings of APRA Working Paper 57, as the authors discuss the policies, strategies and programmes implemented since Tanzania’s independence in 1961 to promote rice commercialisation and reduce poverty and food insecurity among smallholder rice farmers, and their impact on different socio-economic groups based on findings from literature review and key informant interviews.

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The political economy of cocoa value chain in Ghana
April 26, 2021

This blog presents the findings of APRA Working Paper 53, which adopted the political settlement framework to analyse the political economy dynamics of Ghana’s cocoa value chain. Researchers Joseph Kofi Teye and Ebenezer Nikoi discuss these findings, which indicate that policies implemented in this value chain have gone through several shifts in relation to changing agrarian political economy and distribution of power among interest groups, and highlight the steps that can be taken to harness the cocoa sector’s potential to contribute to economic development in Ghana.

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COVID-19 and the disappearing tobacco in Zimbabwe: Makoronyera and the new value chains
April 20, 2021

In this blog summarising APRA Working Paper 55, Toendepi Shonhe discusses the growing prevalence of informal tobacco aggregators, their impact on farmers’ wealth accumulation potential and the changes in this value chain since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shonhe also assesses how Zimbabwe’s government can address the challenges in the chain.

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The Policy Context of the Oil Palm Sector’s Underperformance in Ghana
April 12, 2021

In this blog summarising his research in the newly published APRA Working Paper 54, APRA researcher Kofi Takyi Asante highlights both the historical importance and the future potential of the oil palm industry in Ghana. He outlines the findings from the paper, explains the political and societal factors that have prevented this value chain from reaching its full potential in the past, and provides insight on how the Ghanaian government can engage stakeholders and take advantage of regional and global demand for this commodity to improve the outlook for this sector moving forward.

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Agricultural livelihood paths and their determinants: the role of smallholder farmer commercialisation in central Malawi
March 25, 2021

In this blog summarising APRA Working Paper 50, the APRA researcher Mirriam Matita explores the results of a recent study into the role of smallholder agricultural commercialisation in livelihood trajectories in central Malawi, and examines the longer-term policy implications of such findings.

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Challenges to commercialisation of the rice and cocoa value chains in Nigeria
March 22, 2021

In this blog summarising his research in the newly published in APRA Working Paper 52, APRA researcher Emmanuel Remi Aiyede highlights the challenges facing the rice and cocoa sector in Nigeria. He outlines the findings from the paper, how COVID-19 has impacted the value chains, and provides policy advice on how Nigerian governments can improve the outlook for these two core agricultural crops.

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Sunflower commercialisation in Tanzania: Everybody benefits but with social difference
March 18, 2021

In this blog, based on research shown in the newly published APRA Working Paper 49, the authors explore the social impacts of sunflower commercialisation in Tanzania. They highlight the key findings from their research, and outline changing livelihoods are affecting different actors in the sunflower value chain. They then offer policy advice to the government and development partners on the most sustainable way forward.

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The political economy of rice value chain in Ethiopia: actors, performance, and discourses
March 15, 2021

This blog summarises APRA Working Paper 51, which shows the importance of rice in Ethiopia since its introduction the 1970s covering trends in terms of actors engaged, domestic consumption and policy attention. The authors identify the key challenges that have contributed to the poor performance of Ethiopia’s rice sector, along with suggestions on how to promote its commercialisation. They also look at how COVID-19 has affected the sector.

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Vaccine politics in Zimbabwe
March 15, 2021

This blog was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland. If you didn’t know already, vaccines are political. And in southern Africa perhaps particularly so as the Chinese, Russians, Indians and the so-called international community through the COVAX facility jostle for position, each trying to show their benevolence towards Africa, reaping soft power diplomatic benefits in return. In… Read more »

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Cocoa farming: Experiences beyond the Osun River bank, Ogun State, Nigeria
March 8, 2021

In this blog, the APRA Nigeria Work Stream 2 team examined the different types of land ownership (leasing and borrowing), and the impact of a new generation of young farmers beyond the Osun river bank. They also investigated the effect structured marketing systems, labour arrangements for the large force of migrant workers, and challenges to cocoa production in the area. The APRA team also gave their thoughts on the field trip.

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The political economy of land use land cover change in Mvurwi, Zimbabwe, 1984—2018
March 4, 2021

In this blog summarising APRA Working Paper 48, the authors explore the effects of variable rainfall and the land reforms of 2000 alongside other political and economic factors, to determine how land use land cover in Mvurwi, Zimbabwe has changed between 1984 and 2018. The study complements the longitudinal analysis of agricultural commercialisation in APRA Working Paper 35.

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Emerging dynamics as result of COVID-19 in Mngeta Division in Morogoro, Tanzania
March 1, 2021

This blog uses data from recent APRA surveys to examine the changing situation among farmers resulting from the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The authors look at how the farmers are responding to such changes, how their livelihoods have altered, and what the government and development partners can do to help.

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The triple drivers of rice commercialisation in Fumbisi Valley, northern Ghana (2)
February 25, 2021

This blog looks at how the triple drivers of mechanisation, weedicide/herbicides and improved seeds play an integral role in rice commercialisation in northern Ghana. The author explores how, and why, they are so important, alongside other factors such as market demand, roads and other infrastructure, state policy, and land availability.

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Rising farm sizes in the Fumbisi Valley of northern Ghana (1)
February 22, 2021

In our new two-part series on agricultural commercialism in the Fumbisi Valley of northern Ghana, this blog looks at the growing farm sizes, why rice is so popular, and details the different categories of farms. Part two, available on 25 February, assess the triple drivers of rice commercialisation in the area.

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Added challenges for the rice sector in Ethiopia caused by COVID-19
February 18, 2021

This blog uses new APRA research to explain how COVID-19 has increased the pressure on the Ethiopian rice sector. The authors provide details the APRA study, the impact on rice production, before examining the decline in household rice production and looking at the way forward for the industry.

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Impact of COVID-19 on food systems and rural livelihoods in south-western Ghana
February 15, 2021

This blog highlights the findings of a recent study that seeks to estimate the impact of COVID-19 on food systems and livelihoods in south-western Ghana and provides insights based on household-level and key informant data gathered in the first and second rounds of three expected surveys.

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COVID-19 preventative measures disrupt small-scale farmer production, marketing and livelihoods in Zambia
February 11, 2021

This blog highlights how COVID-19 preventative measures have affected small-scale farmers surrounding the Mkushi farm block in Zambia, focusing particularly how such measures have disrupted production, marketing and livelihoods. The authors then look at how the government and cooperating partners can help to make life easier.

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The unintended consequences of COVID-19 lockdowns in Nigeria (2)
February 8, 2021

This blog presents a snapshot of the efforts of Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) to help stakeholders to track the initial impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic on agricultural commercialisation, food and nutrition security, labour and employment, and poverty and well-being in rural Nigeria.

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The rich people’s virus? Latest reflections from Zimbabwe
February 8, 2021

This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland. A few weeks back Oxfam released a major report, ‘The Inequality Virus’, documenting the way COVID-19 has affected different populations and parts of the world. The now well-established impacts on the already-marginalised are presented, alongside how the rich have benefited. But the debate in Zimbabwe is… Read more »

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Can relaxed COVID-19 restrictions ease food insecurity among the rural population in Kenya?
February 4, 2021

In our latest blog, John Olwande and Miltone Ayieko of the Tegemeo Institute examine the results of recent APRA studies and assess the impact of an easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions in Kenya on the livelihoods of small-scale farming households.

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Perceptions and misconceptions of smallholder farmers of COVID-19 in central Malawi
January 28, 2021

This blog focuses on the perceptions of Malawians in the rural districts of Mchinji and Ntchisi towards COVID-19 and their perception of risk and vulnerability based on the qualitative APRA interviews. It highlights the difficult task faced by authorities in Malawi as they try to curb the threat of the pandemic across the country.

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Analysing the impact of COVID-19 on food systems and livelihoods in Africa
January 21, 2021

To better understand the impact that COVID-19 is having on food systems and rural livelihoods in the region, APRA researchers have been conducting a rolling series of telephone-based household surveys and key informant interviews. This blog is based on the findings of these two reports, that were written by Amrita Saha, Marco Carreras and John… Read more »

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COVID-19 and price uncertainties in grain marketing in Malawi
January 14, 2021

In the third and final blog of the series on grain marketing in Malawi, APRA researcher Stevier Kaiyatsa looks at the contributing effects of COVID-19 on grain price instability, the implication of this, and what the Malawian government can do to tackle the problem. Part one examined the role played by small-scale traders in the… Read more »

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How small-scale traders exploit farmers in Malawi
January 11, 2021

In the second of a three-part blog series on grain marketing in Malawi, APRA researchers Stevier Kaiyatsa and Mphatso Susuwele examine the methods used by some small-scale traders are taking advantage of farmers who produce a market surplus, and what the government should do to help. Part one looked more closely at the vital role… Read more »

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