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


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Ruia Tractor
Animal vs tractor power: emerging mechanisation dynamics in Mvurwi
March 15, 2019 / Our blog
Debate on agricultural mechanisation has largely been framed as policy choices between markets versus state intervention. Within the market conceptualization, adoption of tractors is seen as a derivative of changes in the costs within factors of production such as land,
Photo credit: Tapiwa Chatikobo.
The politics of land occupations in Zimbabwe
March 13, 2019 / Our blog
How land was invaded and occupied during Zimbabwe’s land reform in 2000 remains a contentious issue. The lack of detailed empirical work uncovering the histories of occupations has hampered the debate, but this is now changing. To date, there have
An Invisible Sugar Subsidy: Distress Cattle Sales by Bodi Agro-Pastoralists in Southern Ethiopia
March 7, 2019 / Our blog
In South Omo in 2011, the Ethiopian government commenced its flagship sugar industrialisation project – one of the most controversial elements of its broader ambitions to build a developmental state. The plantations were planned to cover about 175,000 hectares of
Ghana, cocoa, farming, agriculture, commercialisation, APRA
Cocoa Commercialisation in Ghana: History and Social Values
March 1, 2019 / Our blog
Agricultural commercialisation is by no means new to Africa and emerged in the early 19th century, with the development of export crops for the European market. Since the cocoa industry has developed across various policy epochs, this history can provide
Injera supplier to restaurants
Injera: Is Rice Commercialisation Changing Traditional Ethiopian Recipes?
February 21, 2019 / Our blog
The most traditional food item commonly found on the table of Ethiopians for breakfast, lunch and dinner is injera, which is made from teff. However, there appears to be a change occurring – and not only in the extent of
Corridors Mini-Series: Agricultural Commercialisation along Mozambique’s Growth Corridors
February 14, 2019 / Our blog
People cannot eat gas, oil or coal Since he took office in 2015, president Filipe Nyusi has sought to redirect the attention of Mozambicans, from the prospect of wealth associated with the exploration of natural resources, to increasing agricultural production
Corridors Mini-Series: Accumulation and Contested Commercialisation in Tanzania
February 13, 2019 / Our blog
Tanzania, like many other African countries, needs significant investment in agriculture to achieve key development goals – poverty alleviation, economic growth and industrialisation, food security and improved nutrition. Since the late 2000s, the Tanzanian government, in partnership with donor agencies
Corridors Mini-Series: Anticipating Lamu’s New Corridor on Kenya’s Coast
February 12, 2019 / Our blog
The day starts early in Lamu, an ancient archipelago on Kenya’s northern coast. Fishermen, sailors and boat makers can be seen striding towards the sea, where moon-powered tides and sea waves are the undisputed masters. Hours later, their skiffs return
Corridors Mini-Series: The Political Economy of Agricultural Growth Corridors in Eastern Africa
February 11, 2019 / Our blog
A new wave of agricultural commercialisation is being promoted across Africa’s eastern seaboard, by a broad range of influential actors – from international corporations to domestic political and business elites. Growth corridors, linking infrastructure development, mining and agriculture for export,
Shortages and Price Distortions in Zimbabwe
February 7, 2019 / Our blog
The commercialisation of agriculture is a function of state policy and the macro-economic conditions of the country. Interviews with Zimbabwe’s medium-scale farmers, held in January 2019, revealed that economic conditions in the country are negatively affecting the viability of agricultural
Malnutrition Amidst Flourishing Farming: What is the Way-Out?
February 4, 2019 / Our blog
Traditionally, farming provides foods, money and shelter to several rural households and enables support for other members of the society – subsistence farming provided this support for a long time before the advent of commercial farming. Traditional farming focused on
Tanzania, rice, SRI, system of rice intensification, agriculture, farming, farm
‘SRI’ in Kilombero Valley: Potential, Misconception and Reality
January 25, 2019 / Our blog
The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has been promoted in rice growing areas worldwide – including Tanzania’s Kilombero district – aiming to reduce the cost of production while improving farm-level productivity, and thereby increasing household income and food security. Kilombero
Waste to Wealth: Indigenous Cocoa Farmers in Nigeria
January 17, 2019 / Our blog
The subject of poverty, particularly among rural households, has been a dominant discourse among academics in Nigeria for over three decades – despite the economic potential that abounds in the country’s agricultural sector, and the cocoa sector in particular. Often,
APRA Annual Review Workshop 2018
January 7, 2019 / Our blog
It has successfully happened again! Following Cape Town in 2017, the APRA Annual Review Workshop train landed in Accra, Ghana from 3–6 December 2018. This year, the City Escape Hotel in Prampram (an eastern suburb town located 34 kilometres from
Zimbabweland’s top 20 posts of 2018
December 18, 2018 / Our blog
The most popular blogposts published in 2018 are listed below. Debates in Zimbabwe have been dominated by the July election and their aftermath, and several popular blogs covered this period, both before and after the elections. The deepening economic crisis and
Should Aid Subsidise Foreign Business to Invest in African Agriculture
December 11, 2018 / Our blog
Promoting private sector investment in order to achieve global development goals is a persistent (if controversial) theme in the 21st century. From Paul Collier’s recent anti-NGO polemic (“If you want to help Africa, let business lead the way”) to DFID’s
Can Rice Commercialisation Transform Agrarian Society in Ethiopia?
November 27, 2018 / Our blog
Driving through the Fogera Plain on a sunny September morning, lush paddy fields strewn out in front of us, it is hard to imagine we are in Ethiopia – the land of teff, a native grain crop which has been
Nigeria: Vieiwing Iwara’s Cocoa Sector Through a Gendered Lens
November 22, 2018 / Our blog
The commercialisation of agriculture is pivotal in the development of rural economies, and ultimately helping farmers to escape poverty. In Nigeria, cocoa production is paramount for raising farmers’ income and economic status. The commercialisation of subsistence agriculture can help to
When Pastoralism Meets Oil: Learning From Oil Finds in Turkana, Kenya
November 16, 2018 / Our blog
Eastern Africa is home to some of the world’s fastest growing economies. Foreign capital has streamed into this region over the past ten to fifteen years – into large infrastructure programmes consisting of roads, railways, ports and pipelines, and into
The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Zimbabwe
November 15, 2018 / Our blog
The Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium has recently produced a series of papers on the political economy of agricultural commercialisation. The paper on Zimbabwe by Toendepi Shonhe argues that “debates on Zimbabwe’s agricultural
Isene Village, Tanzania: A Story of Sunflowers and Empowerment
November 12, 2018 / Our blog
It is often the case that when crops or enterprises become commercialised, women lose out as men step in and take control of resources as well as selling produce. Unless such practices are addressed, emerging opportunities for female empowerment will
APRA at the 19th NAAE Conference
November 5, 2018 / Our blog
It is an accepted fact that agriculture in Nigeria has suffered as a result of the oil ‘resource curse effect’ and inappropriate policies and institutions, such as weak market institutions. Although the discovery of crude oil has lessened the country’s
Zimbabwe: Farm Labour After Land Reform
October 29, 2018 / Our blog
A paper by myself, the late BZ Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba and Chrispen Sukume is just out in Development and Change (available open access). We asked, “What happens to labour when redistributive land reform restructures a system of settler colonial agriculture?” The
Malawi Tracker Study: Experiences from the Field
October 22, 2018 / Our blog
The APRA Malawi team is finally in the field after months of meticulous preparations to get the ‘tracker’ study going. The subject of this tracker is groundnut commercialisation in Malawi’s central districts of Ntchisi and Mchinji. The goal is to
Zimbabwe’s latest crisis: it’s the economy – and politics, stupid!
October 15, 2018 / Our blog
The images of economic crisis in Zimbabwe are all too familiar. Queues for petrol and cash, commodity hoarding, parallel markets in currency, rising inflation and so on. It all seems reminiscent of the dark days of the mid 2000s, in
The Cult of the African Youth Entrepreneur
October 12, 2018 / Our blog
What image does the phrase ‘Africa’s youth employment challenge’ bring to mind? Is it, for example, an image of social unrest and violence; or of young migrants risking everything to get to Europe? Or an image of family and personal
Ethiopia: Enriching Livelihoods with Rice Research
October 5, 2018 / Our blog
The history of rice in Ethiopia Beginning in the 1970s, the production of rice in Ethiopian agriculture has expanded steadily across the country, with the total land area under rice cultivation rising from about 10,000 ha in 2006, to over
Failed Promises: the Decline of Cooperative Membership in Malawi
September 27, 2018 / Our blog
Most smallholder farmers in Malawi are seeing their livelihoods and overall social-economic status getting worse. The reasons for this regrettable trend are many and are well documented. However, one of the main reasons that has been given more attention is
Open for Business: What Does Investment Look Like on the Ground?
September 18, 2018 / Our blog
Last week I was at the at the African Studies Association of the UK (ASA) conference in Birmingham. I was co-hosting, with my colleague Jeremy Lind (whose earlier blog this one draws from), a fantastic stream of five panels and
Conducting a Tracker Study: a Tough Nut to Crack
September 17, 2018 / Our blog
To enjoy a nut, you must first crack open the hard outer shell – the Malawi APRA research team have found one such nut and, as detailed in this blog, hope to have gathered the tools required to crack its
Designs on the range: corridors, grabs and extractions at the pastoral margins
September 10, 2018 / Our blog
The past ten years have seen the spread of large-scale investments in infrastructure, resources and land across pastoral areas of eastern Africa. In the past these areas were insignificant to states in the region and large capital from beyond –
Groundnut commercialisation trends in Malawi
September 6, 2018 / APRA News Our blog
According to World Atlas, 2017, Malawi is one of the major exporters of groundnuts in Africa. Malawi has a history of supplying groundnuts to the global market and its yields compete with regional competitors. Groundnut is the most important legume
Medium-scale farms in Africa: history lessons from Zimbabwe
September 5, 2018 / Our blog
‘Medium-scale’ farms are seen as potential drivers of future agricultural growth in Africa. In Zimbabwe, much hope is vested in A2 farms allocated at land reform becoming productive, with hopes pinned on investment following the election. The A2 farms, averaging around 100 ha in
Ethiopia: commercial farming, investment and policy
August 31, 2018 / Our blog
Incentivising investment In contrast to previous government initiatives, Ethiopia’s Growth and Transformation Plan II (GTP II: 2015–2020) clearly promotes the commercialisation of the agricultural sector. In so doing, policymakers have officially recognised the potential for commercial farming to increase agricultural
Streamlining the communication of research for agricultural commercialisation
August 21, 2018 / Our blog
On 16 and 17 July 2018, the Bankers Association of Malawi conducted the first agri-business conference of its kind to be held in Malawi, at the Bingu International Convention Centre in Lilongwe. The theme of the conference was agricultural commercialisation
Zimbabweland blog catch up
August 17, 2018 / Our blog
Zimbabweland is taking a break for the next few weeks. By the end of this time we will know the outcome of the Constitutional court case brought by the MDC Alliance disputing the presidential (not parliamentary) election results. Maybe there
Advocating policy based on evidence
August 15, 2018 / Our blog
I recently attended a fascinating conference aimed at strengthening the use of evidence in policymaking. Dubbed ‘Evidence to Action 2018’, the conference was organised by the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED) between 26 and 27 July 2018 at
Recipes for success?
August 3, 2018 / Our blog
What is a cookbook full of recipes – a collection of rigid instructions, or a source of guidance and inspiration? The answer depends largely on the skill, experience and confidence of the cook. Agricultural research and extension should find different
Reinvestment of agricultural proceeds shaping mechanisation in Zimbabwe
July 25, 2018 / Our blog
Historically, Zimbabwe’s agricultural mechanisation efforts have been shaped by state-capital relations, in which powerful and connected groups tended to benefit. After the Fast Track Land Reform, technological innovation is now being reconfigured by accumulation from below on the back of
Freedom farming: historical continuities with land occupations in Zimbabwe
July 25, 2018 / Our blog
Land invasions are not new phenomena. Resistance to land encroachment, and capture of land through ‘freedom farming’ (madiro) has been a feature of rural struggles over land, especially since the imposition of the Native Land Husbandry Act of 1952, rising
Scarcity narratives: will Zimbabwe join the global land rush?
July 19, 2018 / Our blog
Narratives of scarcity dominate policy discourses about resources, including land. This was certainly the case during the peak of the global land rush, as we show in a paper (open access, and part of a forthcoming special issue on the
APRA Nigeria: Experiences and voices from Ogun and Kaduna States
July 18, 2018 / Our blog
The household survey for APRA-Nigeria work stream (WS) 1 and 3 ran between April 9 and May 25, 2018. In Ogun State, the survey was carried out in three Local Government Areas (LGAs): Ijebu East, Imeko Afon, and Obafemi Owondo.
Streamlining data collection in sub-Saharan Africa
July 10, 2018 / Our blog
How can we efficiently and consistently collect household-level data that help examine pathways to agricultural commercialisation in empowering women, reducing rural poverty and improving food and nutrition security in sub-Saharan Africa? In APRA, we found an answer to this question
Rural electrification in Tanzania
July 4, 2018 / Our blog
Until recently, the quality of rice milling in Mngeta division, Tanzania was very poor, equating to extremely low shares of revenue for farmers selling rice in the local market. Traders often bought paddy directly at the farm gate, to be
Navigating Fast Track: From Bust to Boom in Mvurwi, Zimbabwe
June 28, 2018 / Our blog
Background Commercial farming in the Mvurwi farming area in Zimbabwe – one of the hotspots for white-led commercial agriculture dating back to the 1930s – was expected to go bust after the implementation of Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme
Combining capital and labour to help farmers commercialise in Mvurwi, Zimbabwe
June 25, 2018 / Our blog
Written by Toendepi Shonhe Patterns of agricultural commercialisation have changed over time in Zimbabwe – as the APRA Zimbabwe team observed during field studies in 2017, family farming in subdivided farms is on the increase across differentiated settlement models in the
Land invasions in Zimbabwe: a complex story
June 22, 2018 / Our blog
The Land Reform Deception: Political Opportunism in Zimbabwe’s Land Seizure Era by Charles Laurie, is now out in paperback. The book delves into the period of Zimbabwe’s land invasions from 2000. It is based on lots of in-depth interviews from
Are medium-scale farmers driving agricultural transformation in Africa?
June 13, 2018 / Our blog The Future of Small Farms
For many years, we’ve been trying to understand the implications of shrinking farm sizes for millions of rural African households. Driven by population growth and growing land scarcity, most African farm households are witnessing the gradual sub-division of their farms
Zimbabwe’s 2018 election: what do the manifestos say about land?
June 12, 2018 / Our blog
The Zimbabwe election has been set for July 30, and some of the manifestos have been published. What do they say about land and agriculture? There are many parties standing and plenty of independents, but only two parties count: ZANU-PF,
Do we over-emphasise the importance of youth aspirations?
June 7, 2018 / Our blog
By Jim Sumberg In 1977, Kenneth Roberts of Liverpool University suggested it was a mistake to over-emphasise the role of aspirations and choice in determining how young people in the UK entered the labour market. Specifically, he wrote: “neither school