FAC blog

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


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When Pastoralism Meets Oil: Learning From Oil Finds in Turkana, Kenya
November 16, 2018 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / APRA blog FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / APRA blog FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / APRA blog FAC 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 / APRA blog FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 blog FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / APRA blog FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / APRA blog FAC 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 / FAC 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 / APRA blog FAC 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 / APRA blog FAC 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 / APRA blog FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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
Race and privilege in Zimbabwe: a rural and urban divide
June 6, 2018 / FAC blog
A recent paper in Africa by Rory Pilossof and Jacob Boersema offers a nuanced and differentiated account of ‘white’ attitudes to land reform. Distinguishing urban-based whites and ‘farmers’ (although recognising the blurring and connection between the two), they highlight that there was not

From the Fogera Plain: how one man helped to build a regional industry
May 31, 2018 / FAC blog
With few services and a lack of basic necessities, life for farmers in rural Ethiopia is challenging enough. This is to say nothing of life 4 decades ago, when Tegegne Gizachew was born in the Fogera Plain region of Ethiopia.
Labour and Zimbabwe’s new agrarian structure
May 24, 2018 / FAC blog
This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland Walter Chambati, acting director of the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies, has probably contributed more than anyone to our understanding of how wage labour relations have

Price wars: an oil palm saga in Ghana
May 21, 2018 / APRA blog FAC blog
By Fred Dzanku, William Quarmine and Gertrude Dzifa Torvikey Image: ‘Jukwa Village and Palm Oil Production, Ghana,’ oneVillage Initiative (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)   The grip of the ‘Big Two’ over Ghana’s oil palm processing industry has been loosened by the

Why merely owning land isn’t enough to empower Africa’s women farmers
May 18, 2018 / FAC blog
This post was written by Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt and first appeared on The Conversation Image: UN Women/ Ryan Brown (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) In the agricultural sector – the major employer for poor people in Africa – assets like land and
Changing gender relations after land reform in Zimbabwe
May 16, 2018 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / APRA blog FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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