FAC blog

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


Latest articles

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

Panic, privilege and politics: South Africa’s land expropriation debate
March 9, 2018 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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