FAC blog

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


Latest articles

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

Getting agriculture moving: finance and credit
July 29, 2017 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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

APRA in the news: Ghana Stakeholders brainstorm over new project
April 2, 2017 / APRA blog FAC blog
APRA is a five-year research programme that will focus on different pathways to agriculture commercialisation in sub-Saharan Africa. Based at IDS the project also has regional hubs in Ghana, Kenya and South Africa. Recent discussions amongst the Ghana hub and

Imagined futures: what will rural school leavers being doing in 20 years?
March 29, 2017 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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 / FAC 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

The changing fortunes of former farm workers in Zimbabwe
November 17, 2016 / FAC blog
A recurrent theme is the sense of new freedoms, but also extreme challenges and precarity. Reflections on the past focus on control, ordering and disciplining, but also stability and the certainty of a wage. As the testimonies show, farmers were

Debating Open Data and Land Governance – 6-20 September
September 1, 2016 / FAC blog
In land governance, a sector ripe for abuse and corruption, transparency is critical in ensuring land use and allocation is fair and accountable and that tenure rights can be defended and protected. The opaque nature of land administration systems and

Webinar on 22 June 2016: African Farmer game
June 21, 2016 / FAC blog
  Presenters John Thompson, Senior Research Fellow, Rural Futures Cluster; Institute of Development Studies James Jackson, Designer/Developer; African Farmer Project About the seminar The African Farmer Game (www.africanfarmergame.org) is a computer-based simulation designed to give players the experience of living

Next steps to strengthen global land governance
Next steps to strengthen global land governance
May 11, 2016 / FAC blog
The voluntary guidelines represent a unique example of collaborative “soft law”. The UN Committee on World Food Security offered the opportunity for direct involvement of all stakeholders – including governments, industry and civil society. This was a first for this

India’s seed sector is flourishing. Could African farmers benefit?
January 19, 2016 / FAC blog
Does Africa need India’s seeds? There are good reasons to explore this possibility. India shares some of the diverse agro-ecologies and crops found in Africa, so it is plausible that technologies and methods used by Indian farmers might also be

The perfect package for reducing poverty is made up of different parts
The perfect package for reducing poverty is made up of different parts
July 8, 2015 / FAC blog
Graduating out of poverty This focus on building resilience and enabling households to move out of poverty, and out of programme dependence using a number of interventions, has become the driver of a range of new-generation social protection approaches known

Making irrigation work for Africa: 10 questions decision makers should ask
July 1, 2015 / FAC blog
The good news is that the international community is showing renewed interest in African agriculture. The Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme has ambitions to expand irrigation by a third over the next decade and the private sector is also being

Strengthening land rights in Zambia
Strengthening land rights in Zambia
June 30, 2015 / FAC blog
Consultation and consent The research found a widespread failure to adequately consult. People were likely to be affected by commercial investments, either because there were no national norms for consultation (as in Zambia) or because these existed but were flouted

24 June 2015: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
June 24, 2015 / FAC blog
Made in China 2025 The Chinese government has announced a mandate for the country to produce 90% of its own farm machinery by 2020. This is part of a new government programme called ‘Made in China 2025’ which intends to

Land grabbing in Southeast Asia – what can Africa learn?
June 12, 2015 / FAC blog
Colonial and post-colonial plantations The most significant trend in Southeast Asia appears to be the massive expansion of commercial tree plantations, particularly oil palm and rubber, in Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar (Burma). The ironies are everywhere

Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs III: irrigators
June 5, 2015 / FAC blog
Case 1: I live in Clare A1 resettlement area. My irrigated area is about 1.5ha. I started this project early 2004. We used to have a co-operative garden back in the communal area, before we came to the resettlement, so

Global land grabbing: new papers & special issues
June 2, 2015 / FAC blog
  The conference website has 68 papers already posted, and there are expected to be around 100 presentations on all dimensions of land and environmental change in the region at the event. Another new set of resources comes in a