FAC blog

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


Latest articles

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

The political economy of the maize value chain in Nigeria
July 22, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

Rice set to improve Uganda’s food and nutrition security
July 19, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

Covid-19 and food security: What is the way forward?
July 15, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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
Zimbabwe faces a COVID-19 surge: what is happening in the rural areas?
July 12, 2021 / FAC blog
Vaccination drive at Hippo Valley sugar estate This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland The increase in COVID-19 cases in Zimbabwe has been significant in the weeks since our last blog. This has been matched by an increase in
Roadmap for Rwanda’s rice sector development
July 8, 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

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

How is ‘China’ helping to transform ‘Africa’? The need for a more sophisticated debate
July 1, 2021 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland How is China helping to transform African economies? There are many different narratives cast around in public and policy debate: China as the new imperial power, China as the radical developmentalist,

Social issues impacting household food security in the epoch of COVID-19
June 28, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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
Gender transformative change critical for nurturing an equitable rice sector in Africa
June 24, 2021 / FAC blog
In this blog, originally published for the CGIAR Gender Platform, gender experts present evidence and policy lessons on gender and youth integration in rice-based agri-food systems from Africa.

Gender and social differentiation in the context of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi
June 21, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

COVID-19 and economic transformation in rural Zimbabwe
June 14, 2021 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland Zimbabwe’s COVID-19 situation looks uncertain, with localised outbreaks and a rise in infections south of the Limpopo in South Africa. On June 11 there were 191 new cases (including 82 that
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 / 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

How land reform transformed small towns in Zimbabwe
June 7, 2021 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland Our recent paper – small towns and land reform in Zimbabwe – out in the European Journal of Development Research (open access) – explores some of the themes discussed last time for the Zimbabwe setting.

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

Small towns and agricultural development in Africa
May 26, 2021 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland The most recent Africa Agriculture Status Report from AGRA, ‘Feeding Africa’s Cities: Opportunities, Challenges, and Policies for Linking African Farmers with Growing Urban Food Markets’ and led by MSU’s Steve Haggblade, makes

Disseminating science amid COVID-19 restrictions: lessons from Ghana
May 24, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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
Rural livelihoods in the pandemic: notes from Zimbabwe
May 20, 2021 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland Half a million people have now been vaccinated in Zimbabwe, but this is still only 3.5% of the population. The Chinese Sinopharm vaccine has now been fully approved by the WHO
At the mercy of politics? The groundnut value chain in Malawi
May 17, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

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

Beyond the silver bullet solution: towards a ‘systems agronomy’ perspective
May 10, 2021 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland The previous two blogs (here and here) have discussed the Pfumvudza conservation agriculture programme that has become a high-profile, politicised intervention during the last season. In a very wet year, the results have

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

Conservation agriculture: latest experiences from Zimbabwe
May 4, 2021 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland In the last blog, I introduced the Pfumvudza programme in Zimbabwe, a version of conservation agriculture that has been heavily promoted across the country during the last season. In this blog, I look

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

The political economy of cocoa value chain in Ghana
April 26, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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

Can the Pfumvudza conservation agriculture programme deliver food security in Zimbabwe?
April 22, 2021 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland. It looks like it’s going to be a good harvest this year in Zimbabwe. Early crop assessments suggest that there will be a bumper crop of maize, perhaps the highest since the

COVID-19 and the disappearing tobacco in Zimbabwe: Makoronyera and the new value chains
April 20, 2021 / APRA blog FAC blog
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
FAO recognises farmer-led irrigation as a major contributor to agricultural development
April 15, 2021 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland. Buried deep in a long report on water and agriculture by FAO – the flagship state of food and agriculture report of 2020 – there is a really important section, signalling a big