FAC blog

Opinions and comments from Future Agricultures researchers on agricultural politics, science and society in Africa

Latest articles

Omicron for Christmas: what was the experience in rural Zimbabwe?
January 26, 2022 / FAC blog
The Omicron wave peaked in Zimbabwe just before Christmas. With people moving about for the festive season and large numbers coming back from South Africa and elsewhere for the holidays, the fear was that the spread would be dramatic, with
Transforming the rice sector in Ethiopia: Lessons from APRA Programme
January 25, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

A multi-phase assessment of the effects of COVID-19 on food systems and rural livelihoods in Nigeria
January 17, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
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
Hard pressed but not crushed: A story of resilience and adaptation to COVID in Ghana
January 12, 2022 / APRA blog FAC blog
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
As Omicron sweeps through Zimbabwe, how are people responding?
January 10, 2022 / FAC blog
It was just a few weeks ago that our last report noted the arrival of a new variant identified in South Africa. In the interim Omicron has swept through the country. This initially resulted in panic, with a rush to
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 / APRA blog FAC blog
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
The story of Ghana’s cocoa and oil palm commercialisation outcomes retold at a national dissemination workshop
December 20, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

Beyond impressive results: Are we ready to act?
December 20, 2021 / APRA blog Events FAC blog
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,

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

Ogun State community meetings push for policy on medium-scale farming
December 13, 2021 / APRA blog Events FAC blog
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

New COVID uncertainties in Zimbabwe
December 10, 2021 / FAC blog
The unfolding drama of the pandemic continues. With a new variant identified in the region (Omicron) thanks to the effective work of South African genomics monitoring, Zimbabwe has been subjected to international travel restrictions. However, despite the global concern about
Prospects for smallholder commercialisation in Malawi
December 8, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

APRA Malawi research team shares research findings
December 6, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

Streetwise explanations for extremely low new COVID-19 cases in Malawi
December 2, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
From September, throughout October and as we now enter November, Malawi has seen its new daily COVID-19 cases sharply reduce to an all-time low. In fact, zero new daily COVID-19 cases have become very common during this period as reported
COP26: Some reflections from Glasgow
November 30, 2021 / FAC blog
The COP26 marathon is finally over and on Saturday the Glasgow Climate Pact was agreed. Over ten pages there is lots of urging, noting, inviting, acknowledging, stressing and so on, but few decisions, beyond agreeing to meet again next year

Changing norms for land and labour on cocoa farms in Western Ghana: Flexibility rules
November 29, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
When in the 1880s farmers in southern Ghana began to plant cocoa, their main concerns were finding land to plant and mobilising labour to do so. The issue of finding land remained paramount until at least the 1990s, when the

A multi-phase assessment of the effects of COVID-19 on food systems and rural livelihoods in Ethiopia: The case of Fogera Plain
November 25, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
The COVID-19 pandemic has not only led to the loss of human life and resulted in an unprecedented challenge to public health, but has also seriously affected food systems and work opportunities.Following the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in
Stakeholders’ take on inclusive agricultural value chains in Tanzania: Feedback from a national workshop
November 22, 2021 / APRA blog Events FAC blog
The Tanzanian government, in its efforts to provide food, income, employment and foreign income to its population, is committed to improving the country’s rice and sunflower value chains. This commitment was reiterated at a national feedback workshop held on 26th

APRA Nigeria team shares research findings in Kaduna State
November 17, 2021 / APRA blog Events FAC blog
To disseminate their research results and the policy implications that arise from the APRA Nigeria Work Stream 1 (WS1) research, project team gathered community members in two areas of Kaduna State on the 15th-16th November 2021. These events were the

Agricultural commercialisation in Africa, COVID-19 and social difference
November 15, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
African policymaking has turned to agricultural commercialisation as an engine of growth in the 21st century. But the effects have not been the same for everyone, entrenching long-term social difference based on gender, wealth, age and generation, ethnicity and citizenship.
The role of small-scale processors in supporting agricultural commercialisation among smallholder rice farmers in East Africa: Lessons from Ethiopia and Tanzania
November 10, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
Until recently, attention to upgrading the rice value chain has been limited in many of Eastern Africa’s rice-producing countries. Yet, it is this mid-stream section (the millers and traders) – the so-called ‘hidden middle’ – which is essential to sustaining

COP 26 Blue Zone, Glasgow (Ian Scoones)
COP26: why a more sophisticated debate on livestock and the climate is needed
November 8, 2021 / FAC blog
Last week I was in Glasgow at COP26, shuttling between events in the Blue Zone and the fringe across the city. It was overwhelming, with a cacophony of conflicting voices and views. The first week including a flood of announcements

Zimbabwe’s bumper harvest: what explains the success?
November 4, 2021 / FAC blog
As farmers turn to the next season with the beginning of the rains, the country is in a good position having reaped a bumper harvest in 2020/21. An estimated 2.7 million tonnes of maize were produced, triple the amount in
How are different groups affected by the changing land tenure systems in Ghana’s oil palm growing districts?
November 1, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
Oil palm is Ghana’s second most important cash crop after cocoa, and the sector is an important contributor to the country’s economy. The production of cash crops in Ghana has largely been dominated by small-scale farmers in mostly rural areas

Precarious prospects? Agricultural commercialisation and climate change in semi-arid Tanzania
October 29, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
Commercialisation has long been considered a path out of poverty for farmers across Africa, as elsewhere in the global South; it is also increasingly seen as a means to strengthen farmers’ resilience to climate change. A study carried out in

Lessons from Zimbabwe’s tobacco farmers for the COP26 climate change talks
October 28, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
Zimbabwe holds important lessons for the COP26 global climate change talks. This blog, originally published in The Conversation, reflects on the findings of APRA Working Paper 64.

Commercialisation of quality seeds could enhance rice yields in Tanzania
October 25, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
Research finds that the productivity of Tanzania’s rice sector could improve due to commercialisation of new varieties.This blog comes against a backdrop of studies, programmes, interventions, and activities by the public and private sectors which work towards commercialisation of rice,

Biodiversity and climate change: why tree planting schemes may not be the answer
October 18, 2021 / FAC blog
The first phase of the delayed Biodiversity Convention of the Parties (COP15) ended last week. There has been much talk of linking the twin crises of biodiversity and the climate. Grand plans for protecting 30% of the planet by 2030

Moving up, or out? The political economy of agricultural value chains and commercialisation in Africa
October 14, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
Some initial – and selective – reflections on 11 case studies of agricultural value chains and commercialisation across sub-Saharan Africa demonstrate that the policy choices to promote a value chain depend, to a large extent, on its importance to the
Why are farmer-based organisations so weak in southwestern Ghana’s oil palm growing communities?
October 12, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
Oil palm, the second most important industrial crop in Ghana, holds the potential to improve farmers’ livelihoods and alleviate rural poverty. It is a quintessentially commercialised crop, being cultivated for sale in local and foreign markets as well as industrial

Monocrop or diversified enterprise portfolio? Lessons for inclusive commercialisation from Singida Region, Tanzania
October 6, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
Many people have attributed the Singida Region in Tanzania’s rapid development during the last twenty years to the evolution of the sunflower value chain. The successes of this value chain’ development include increased oilseed production, expanding processing capacity and declining

The politics of control in Zimbabwe’s COVID times
October 4, 2021 / FAC blog
The COVID-19 situation in Zimbabwe has improved since our last report, with infection rates and deaths declining in all areas. The alert level has been reduced to Level 2, with restrictions relaxed. At the same time, the vaccination drive has
Holistic adoption of System of Rice Intensification can increase yields: A case of Mngeta, Kilombero District, Tanzania
September 27, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
This blog highlights the findings of APRA Working Paper 66, which discusses the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) interventions and their potential effects on paddy yield and commercialisation in Kilombero district, Tanzania. The study compared the adoption of SRI interventions

Does livestock enhance or reduce crop commercialisation? A case of Singida in Central Tanzania
September 22, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
Livestock is an important component of mixed crop-livestock farming systems in Singida Region in Tanzania, contributing to household income, and reducing poverty in the region. The use of ox-plough to perform farm operations, such as ploughing, and the application of

Challenging simplistic land degradation and restoration narratives in Zimbabwe
September 20, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

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

Dynamic drivers of land use change in Zimbabwe
September 13, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

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

Worker-peasants and peasant-workers: new labour regimes in rural Zimbabwe
September 6, 2021 / FAC blog
Much academic debate about rural farm labour has focused on the idea of linear transitions in labour regimes through processes of agricultural commercialisation. This sees farmworkers as either moving towards a class of wage-labour, profiting from modernising, efficient, large-scale agricultural

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

Enhancing nutrition for a stronger, sustainable post-COVID-19 rice sector in Africa
August 31, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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
Does sunflower commercialisation empower women in Singida, Tanzania?
August 26, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

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

Building sustainable post COVID-19 value chains for Africa’s rice sector: Outcomes of an East African Dialogue
August 19, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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
End of the road? The future of smallholder farmers in Malawi
August 16, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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.

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

COVID-19 spreads to rural Zimbabwe
August 9, 2021 / FAC blog
The third COVID-19 wave has firmly arrived in Zimbabwe’s rural areas. This is no longer the ‘rich person’s disease’ of those based in town. The number of cases and sadly deaths has surged across our rural study areas in the
Positioning Tanzania in the regional market for rice: Lessons from the East Africa Rice Conference
August 5, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

Environmental impacts of commercial rice production in Kilombero Valley, Tanzania
August 2, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

Land reform in England?
July 29, 2021 / FAC blog
Illustration by Nick Hayes for Landscapes of Freedom This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland Access to land is not only a concern in places like Zimbabwe. In England, less than 1% of the population own half the land