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


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Changing gender relations after land reform in Zimbabwe
May 16, 2018 / Our blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland There have been a number of excellent publications on shifts in gender relations after land reform. A piece in Agrarian South by Patience Mutopo, Jeannette Manjengwa and Manase
Promoting Ethiopia’s Rice Industry for Import Substitution
May 11, 2018 / Our blog
Prepared by Dawit Alemu Image:P1100852  (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) With the considerable increase in rice consumption in Africa, sourced mainly from imports, and the burden this is creating on meagre foreign currency reserves, a number of initiatives are currently being implemented
Agriculture, Diversification, and Gender in Rural Africa: Longitudinal Perspectives From Six Countries
May 2, 2018 / Our blog
Written by Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt Image: CIAT (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) The past decade and a half have witnessed a push for smallholder-based agriculture among policymakers, donors and civil society as the way to lower poverty and increase food production. Concurrently, policies and
The gaze from space: how satellites can deceive
May 1, 2018 / Our blog
There has been a proliferation of studies using remote sensing analyses of land use in Zimbabwe published recently. I seem to get sent loads to review. One by Simbarashe Jombo, Elhadi Adam and John Odindi came out recently in Land Use
Agricultural change in Africa: How cookbooks and recipes got a bum rap
April 24, 2018 / Our blog
Written by Jim Sumberg Image: C. Schubert (CCAFS).jpg For at least three decades, agricultural research and extension in Africa has been castigated for being top-down and non-participatory and burdened by an overly simplistic, linear, research-centric model of change. This critique
Groundnut marketing in Malawi: a review of farmer experiences
April 20, 2018 / Our blog
By Mirriam Matita et al Image: Groundnut harvesting 5 (CC BY-SA 2.0) As part of APRA’s research in Malawi, field work was conducted in Mchinji and Ntchisi districts to document farmer’s experiences of agricultural commercialisation since the 1980s, particularly of
Reconfiguring rural authority after land reform
April 18, 2018 / Our blog
Grasian Mkodzongi’s excellent paper – ‘I am a paramount chief, this land belongs to my ancestors’: the reconfiguration of rural authority after Zimbabwe’s land reforms’ – recently won the Ruth First prize in the Review of African Political Economy. The paper explores
Reconfigured Agrarian Relations in Zimbabwe
March 26, 2018 / Our blog
Although the story of my life is not apparent in this book, this is a culmination of the twists and turns in my professional career, after 2000.  As an agribusiness credit manager, serving the largely white commercial farmers of Zimbabwe
Kilombero Stories
March 21, 2018 / Our blog
Written by Colin Poulton Kilombero Valley in central Tanzania has attracted attention due to the presence of several large-scale agribusiness investments. However, in August 2017, an APRA team that visited the valley were struck by other forms of agricultural commercialisation
Military muscle and populist promises: authoritarian populism in southern Africa
March 20, 2018 / Our blog
Last week I was at an amazing gathering at the ISS in The Hague, which brought together nearly 300 activists and academics to discuss the origins and implications of authoritarian populism. A short reflection on some of the themesemerging was published
Land reform and transformative social policy
March 19, 2018 / Our blog
A new article published by UNISA is out by Freedom Mazwi, Rangarirai Muchetu and Musavengana Chibwana based on the major district level survey carried out by the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies. It focuses on the social policy dimensions of
This is a possibility, but that’s a real opportunity
March 16, 2018 / Our blog
Written by Jim Sumberg. Image: Dominic Chavez_World Bank Our IFAD and APRA-funded work on youth and the rural economy in Africa has brought into focus the notion of a “landscape of opportunity”. Our assumption is that a better understanding how rural
Mining and agriculture: diversified livelihoods in rural Zimbabwe
March 15, 2018 / Our blog
Easther Chigumira has recently published an excellent paper in The Journal of Rural Studies, Political ecology of agrarian transformation: The nexus of mining and agriculture in Sanyati District, Zimbabwe. It’s well worth a read if you can get past the pay-wall. Here

Panic, privilege and politics: South Africa’s land expropriation debate
March 9, 2018 / Our blog
South Africa’s land reform policy is a mess. A combination of incompetence, poor policy and scandal have meant that there has been little progress in years. The parliamentary High Level Panel report effectively dissects the problems. But in recent days, the land
NEW BOOK: Land reform in Zimbabwe: challenges for policy
February 7, 2018 / Our blog
Zimbabwe’s land reform continues to be controversial, but in the post-Mugabe era there is at least the prospect of sensible policies to get agriculture and rural economies moving. In the coming months there will be hordes of consultants and advisers

Ten priorities for getting agriculture moving in Zimbabwe
February 1, 2018 / Our blog
Agriculture is taking centre stage in plans for the revival of Zimbabwe’s ailing economy under the new leadership of Emmerson Mnangagwa. Getting agriculture moving in Zimbabwe is a big task. The radical land reform of 2000 has left many outstanding
Plantations, outgrowers and commercial farming in Africa: agricultural commercialisation and implications for agrarian change
January 26, 2018 / Our blog
Whether or not investments in African agriculture can generate quality employment at scale, avoid dispossessing local people of their land, promote diversified and sustainable livelihoods, and catalyse more vibrant local economies depends on what farming model is pursued. In this

At Davos, can Zimbabwe re-engage with the global economy on its own terms?
January 23, 2018 / Our blog
As Emmerson Mnangagwa heads for the snowy slopes of Davos, Switzerland to rub shoulders with the global capitalist and political elite at the World Economic Forum, he must not forget the more radical ambitions of his background. His recent discussion over
Zimbabwe urgently needs a new land administration system
January 16, 2018 / Our blog
Zimbabwe urgently needs a new system of land administration to harness development in the agricultural sector. The country’s land use and ownership have been significantly reconfigured by the fast-track land reform programme undertaken during Robert Mugabe’s rule. Today, following the

Settling the land compensation issue is vital for Zimbabwe’s economy
January 12, 2018 / Our blog
In his inaugural address the new President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, confirmed that land reform was both historically necessary and irreversible. He also made a commitment to compensate farmers who were forced off their land during the fast track land
Zimbabweland’s festive top 20, 2017
December 20, 2017 / Our blog
This has been quite a year for Zimbabwe. No-one would have guessed in January that by the end of the year there would have been a (not) coup, and a new president. The ongoing succession drama appeared to be endless,

Two speeches for ‘new era’ Zimbabwe
December 13, 2017 / Our blog
Over the last few weeks I have been in Zimbabwe, visiting our field research sites in Mvurwi, Matobo and Masvingo. It has been an exciting period, with fast-moving developments. The euphoria of November has given way to the realism of

“The path to prosperity starts with land reform”, says the Economist
November 27, 2017 / Our blog
It’s not often that the Economist magazine sings the praises of radical land reform. But on October 12th, the Banyan column on Asia proclaimed: “the path to prosperity starts with land reform”. The article caught my attention, and I read on.
Youth, smart phones and tractors in Africa – a new agrarian class?
November 15, 2017 / Our blog
Written by, Lidia Cabral and Jim Sumberg   Farming mechanisation is back on the policy and research agenda. Although some old debates – on roles of the state and on appropriate type and scale of technology – remain relevant, there are
Why governance constraints are holding back young people in rural Zimbabwe
November 13, 2017 / Our blog
In the last blog I looked at what young people aged 16-18, studying at three schools in land reform areas in Zimbabwe, imagined they would be doing in 20 years. This blog focuses on their perceptions of constraints to getting there. Many
What next for young people in Zimbabwe’s land reform areas?
November 7, 2017 / Our blog
As discussed in the blog series earlier this year, we have been investigating inter-generational questions in land reform areas. 17 years on, young people born after the land reform are leaving school, and thinking about what next? Will this be farming, or

Confronting authoritarian populism: challenges for agrarian studies
October 24, 2017 / Our blog
Last week I was in Russia at the fascinating fifth BRICS Initiative in Critical Agrarian Studies conference. Throughout the event we heard about the emergence of particular styles of authoritarian populist regimes, including in the BRICS countries, but elsewhere too. Based on

Tractor-powered modernisation for the few
October 16, 2017 / Our blog
Tractors are back in the spotlight as a prime symbol of a modernisation vision for African agriculture. Are they the answer to low productivity and food insecurity? Are they the mark of a rising class of modern farmers, ready to
Roads, belts and corridors: what is happening along Africa’s eastern seaboard?
October 12, 2017 / Our blog
The eastern seaboard of Africa from Kenya to Tanzania to Mozambique has become a major focus of attention. The ports – from Bagamoyo to Beira – are seen as the gateway to Africa, a place where great riches can be

Interdisciplinary puzzles: some lessons from Zimbabwe
October 4, 2017 / Our blog
Just out in Human Ecology is a new open access paper – People, patches and parasites: the case of trypanosomiasis in Zimbabwe. It presents the results of a project looking at the socio-ecology of disease in Africa – part of the Dynamic Drivers of
Decent work for all? We need to talk about rural informal employment!
September 28, 2017 / Our blog
The idea that there are universal rights in relation to work, and a universal standard that delineates acceptable from unacceptable work, has an impressive pedigree. Rooted in Article 23 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights; solidified in the

Land and agriculture in Zimbabwe following land reform
August 17, 2017 / Our blog
In May, I was invited to give a talk on Zimbabwe’s land reform and its aftermath by a great new student initiative at SOAS (School of African and Asia Studies) focused on agriculture and development in Africa. The event was

Land, livelihoods and small towns
August 5, 2017 / Our blog
In early June, I was invited by the Africa Research Institute in London to a panel discussion held to launch a new ARI Counterpoints piece by Beacon Mbiba on ‘missing urbanisation’ in Zimbabwe. Beacon’s piece raised some important questions about

A new land administration system for Zimbabwe
July 29, 2017 / Our blog
The Zimbabwe Land Commission, established as a result of the new national Constitution, has a major task ahead of it. It is vital that an independent Commission looks at the range of land issues in the round. The complexities presented

Getting agriculture moving: finance and credit
July 29, 2017 / Our blog
Getting the agricultural sector financed is a key challenge in Zimbabwe, and links concretely to land administration challenges discussed in previous blogs in this series. Making both places and people bankable is a priority, but responses have to be geared

Beyond the freehold title obsession: generating land tenure security
July 29, 2017 / Our blog
Zimbabwe has a regime of multi-form tenure, with multiple tenure types associated with different areas of land (freehold, lease, permit, communal and state land). This provides a flexibility in tenure arrangements, with each appropriate to different uses. For any form

Agricultural commercialisation – where it’s hot and where it’s not
Agricultural commercialisation – where it’s hot and where it’s not
July 29, 2017 / Our blog
Greater agricultural commercialisation, through engagement with value chains, is seen by many as the only viable way forward for small-scale farmers in Africa. In this view, increased commercialisation has the potential to deliver significant income and livelihoods benefits to rural

Medium-scale farming for Africans: The ‘Native Purchase Areas’ in Zimbabwe
June 29, 2017 / Our blog
The Native Purchase Areas were established as a result of the 1930 Land Apportionment Act, following the recommendations of the 1925 Morris Carter Commission. They were designed as compensation for the fact that Africans were not allowed to purchase land

Land dispute resolution in Zimbabwe
June 29, 2017 / Our blog
The reconfiguring of land use and ownership through land reform has inevitably generated a range of disputes. Having a clear, transparent approach for dispute resolution is essential. This is a key task for the Zimbabwe Land Commission, as this third

The pros and cons of commercial farming models in Africa
June 22, 2017 / Our blog
Colonialism brought large-scale farming to Africa, promising modernisation and jobs – but often dispossessing people and exploiting workers. Now, after several decades of independence, and with investor interest growing, African governments are once again promoting large plantations and estates. But

Tobacco and contract farming in Zimbabwe
May 29, 2017 / Our blog
How does commercial agriculture – and particularly contract farming – affect agrarian dynamics? We have been looking at this question in work in Mvurwi area in Mazowe district over the last few years. New work under the Agricultural Policy Research

What prospects for the next generation of rural Zimbabweans?
May 2, 2017 / Our blog
After the brief interlude last week, this blog concludes the series of five pieces on youth in the new resettlement areas. Our studies across Zimbabwe have shown how school leavers imagine their futures, but also how in practice these visions

Combating neglected tropical diseases: more than just drugs and vaccines
April 29, 2017 / Our blog
Neglected tropical diseases have been in the news this week. A big meeting at the World Health Organisation in Geneva has resulted in big pledges from the UK aid progamme and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to banish the

Diverse life courses: difficult choices for young people in rural Zimbabwe
April 29, 2017 / Our blog
To get a sense of how livelihoods are composed, we must look over time, and get a picture of emerging life courses. Across the 25 detailed interviews we undertook there is huge variety, just among the 20-31 year olds who

How are the children of Zimbabwe’s land reform beneficiaries making a living?
April 29, 2017 / Our blog
How have young people who grew up on farms allocated to their parents as part of the ‘fast-track’ land reform fared in the period after leaving school? In our studies, we have explored the life courses of those who are

Imagined futures: what will rural school leavers being doing in 20 years?
March 29, 2017 / Our blog
What do young people imagine they will be doing in the future and what obstacles lie in their way? These were questions we posed to a total of 84 Form IV students in 3 schools in or very near to

Young people and agriculture: implications for post-land reform Zimbabwe
March 29, 2017 / Our blog
‘Youth’ have recently become the centre of development debates, particularly around African agriculture. A poorly defined category of young people – maybe adults, sometimes children – youth are presented in relation to a dizzying array of policy narratives. To get

The future of medium-scale commercial farms in Africa: lessons from Zimbabwe
March 1, 2017 / Our blog
Important changes are afoot in the size structure of farms in Africa. The rise of ‘medium-scale’ farms is often pointed to. From studies in Kenya, Ghana, Zambia and elsewhere, carried out by Michigan State University, a pattern of consolidation of

What is the future for medium-sized commercial farms in Zimbabwe?
February 2, 2017 / Our blog
Zimbabwe’s land reform created two ‘models’ for resettlement farms – one relatively small-scale, the A1 schemes, and one medium to large-scale, the A2 farms. A1 farms now cover (very) approximately 4.2 m ha including around 150,000 farms and A2 farms

“No condition is permanent”: small-scale commercial farming in Zimbabwe
January 15, 2017 / Our blog
In this week’s blog, I want to present two cross-generational case studies of Purchase Area (now small-scale farming area) farms, based on interviews carried out earlier this year in Mushagashe and Dewure SSCFAs in Masvingo Province. They are not in