FAC blog

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


Latest articles

A new way of bringing ‘farms’ and ‘systems’ together
October 21, 2013 / FAC blog
The words ‘farm’ (or ‘farming’) and ‘system’ are used in many combinations, but three of the most common are: a ‘farm system’: referring to the conceptualisation of an individual farm as a system, a set of inter-related, interacting components or

Women and climate change: another special relationship?
October 21, 2013 / FAC blog
It is commonly argued that women undertake the bulk of the work in agriculture, fisheries and livestock keeping, and as a consequence are particularly knowledgeable about the natural resource base. This is the basis of the idea that African rural

Do property rights protect the poor?
October 21, 2013 / FAC blog
These messages are punchy and well articulated. Reading it from the perspective of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture research project I’m currently working on, it was also interesting to get a sense of where most of these land

18 October: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
October 18, 2013 / FAC blog
Japanese NGOs call for review of ProSavana Five Japanese NGOs have called for a suspension of ProSavana and review of the project during a press conference in Tokyo. Their appeal was made following a field visit to Mozambique and involved

Agricultural commercialisation: who wins and who loses?
Agricultural commercialisation: who wins and who loses?
October 16, 2013 / FAC blog
Models of commercialisation The LACA project explores the implications of three models of commercialisation in three case study sites in each country. The first year of the project has involved qualitative research in all 9 study sites. While these models

Old powers and new powers: agriculture and investment in Africa
October 14, 2013 / FAC blog
Our panel was on food and agriculture, and included the inevitable discussion about ‘land grabs’, large and small farm models, and how investment in Africa could be increased, but also guided and regulated. The panel included two investors in farm

Ghana’s beautiful fruit and its commercialising mango farmers
Ghana’s beautiful fruit and its commercialising mango farmers
October 8, 2013 / FAC blog
This is one of the larger commercial mango farms in the area. While mangoes have always been among the traditional crops of the area, ‘the introduction of new varieties of mangoes was in 1996 by ARDA (the US-based Adventist Development

Across Africa: how Future Agricultures works together on Land and CAADP
Across Africa: how Future Agricultures works together on Land and CAADP
October 4, 2013 / FAC blog
Supporting CAADP Future Agricultures CAADP coordinator Sam Asuming-Brempong (left), Regional hub coordinator for Southern Africa, Ruth Hall (centre), and Regional hub coordinator for West Africa, George Kwadzo (right) On the agenda for the meeting was taking stock of the research

2 October: China and Brazil in African agriculture: news roundup
October 2, 2013 / FAC blog
Guinea Bissau to receive Chinese investment in cotton farming A delegation of Chinese entrepreneurs and investors from Liaoning Province have visited Guinea Bissau’s eastern Bafata region with a view to revive cotton farming in the region. The region previously grew

Climate change in Kenya: narratives and dilemmas
September 27, 2013 / FAC blog
Kenya has been ahead of many other countries in developing a national climate change strategy, and agriculture is one of the key critical sectors of interest. The National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) dates from 2010, and the National Climate

25 September: China and Brazil in African Agriculture: news roundup
September 25, 2013 / FAC blog
Pan-African Land Grab Conference The first ever pan-African land grab hearing of its kind took place Johannesburg last month, co-hosted by Future Agricultures. Panellists discussed their experiences from all over the continent, discussing issues of policy failure, transparency and gender

17 September: China and Brazil in African agriculture: news roundup
September 17, 2013 / FAC blog
ProSavana launches website The ProSavana agricultural project in Mozambique has set up a website. Its aim is to be regularly updated with news and information regarding the project, presumably as part of an effort to counter criticisms of transparency. It

Technology for African agriculture: more than just a text message
September 16, 2013 / FAC blog
In fact, the take-over of the technology agenda by the cell phone and SMS promoters was so complete that we were asked to believe that the ‘know how’ and ‘how to’ of African agriculture could be reduced to a series

Africa needs to feed herself first, then the world
September 6, 2013 / FAC blog
The symposium consisted of five topics – Ideology, Technology, the African Farmer, Gender and Youth – with a speaker and respondents for each theme. From the outset, it became apparent that speakers, respondents and the audience were agreed on the

Has a ‘policy space’ for pastoralism been opened up in Kenya?
September 5, 2013 / FAC blog
You can watch the authors explaining the story in this seminar at the Institute of Development Studies in May 2013: Formed in April 2008, the Ministry picked up on a growing recognition that the region’s economic potential had been overlooked.

4 September: China and Brazil in African agriculture: news roundup
September 4, 2013 / FAC blog
111 Ghanaian students awarded scholarships to China 111 Ghanaian students have been awarded scholarships to study in China this year; twice as many as last year. According to the embassy, 549 Ghanaian students have been awarded with Chinese government scholarships

The Pan African Land Hearings could be a model for future dialogue
September 2, 2013 / FAC blog
The location of the hearings in Southern Africa was sobering, said Oxfam’s Marc Wegerif, as 2013 marks the Centenary of the 1913 Land Act. The outcomes of that process are still to be addressed: inequitable land distribution where the communities are

1 September: China and Brazil in African agriculture: news roundup
September 1, 2013 / FAC blog
China-Australia scientific research project on African sorghum A joint Australian and Chinese research project on African sorghum has found it to have a large amount of genetic variation that could support future work on developing drought adaption mechanisms. This research

Trois raisons de repenser la jeunesse, l’agriculture et le développement au Sénégal
Trois raisons de repenser la jeunesse, l’agriculture et le développement au Sénégal
August 28, 2013 / FAC blog
A la fin de la première semaine du mois d’août, le PNUD décidait d’allouer 15 milliards de francs CFA au Sénégal dans le cadre de trois programmes : santé maternelle et infantile, violences basées sur le genre et emploi des jeunes

Three reasons why Senegal needs to rethink youth, farming and development
Three reasons why Senegal needs to rethink youth, farming and development
August 28, 2013 / FAC blog
At the end of the first week of August, the UNDP decided to allocate CFA 15 billion francs to Senegal under three programmes: maternal and child health, gender-based violenceand youth employment integrating the migration variable. On Saturday August 12, the

Our IDS Bulletin on China & Brazil in African agriculture quoted in The Guardian
August 27, 2013 / FAC blog
The Guardian quotes our recent IDS Bulletin in an article on China and Brazil in African agriculture, alongside remarks made by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva. In an article published 27 August 2013, Mark Tran writes: “China and Brazil

20 August: China and Brazil in African Agriculture: news roundup
August 20, 2013 / FAC blog
ProSavana meeting highlights policy objective differences On 8 August, civil society groups and senior politicians met to discuss the ProSavana project. The National Director of Economy in Mozambique’s Ministry of Agriculture gave a speech contradicting ProSavana’s master plan, leaked several

African women speak out on land grabs (Pan African Land Hearings day 2)
August 19, 2013 / FAC blog
The event builds on the academic conferences hosted by the Land Deal Politics Initiative (LDPI): Global Land Grabbing, which took place in April 2011 at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex, UK, and Global Land Grabbing

Invest in African farmers, don’t take their land (Pan African Land Hearings day 1)
August 14, 2013 / FAC blog
The majority of land in Africa is not titled, yet this does not mean it is not the property of the people who hold it. Lamine said, “We want to see consultation with communities, fairness and equity” whenever there are

Can ‘value chains’ and ‘innovation platforms’ boost African agriculture? 11 reasons to be sceptical
August 7, 2013 / FAC blog
What are innovation platforms? In practice, value chain approaches often include the creation of ‘multi-stakeholder platforms’ (also called Inter-Professional Bodies). The idea is that these platforms re-group the various actors in a particular value chain (i.e. everyone from producers through

6 August: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
August 6, 2013 / FAC blog
Brazil & Ghana work together on cowpea yields SciDev.Net also carries an article looking at a Brazil-Ghana joint-research project focused on boosting cowpea yields.(SciDev.Net) Bamboo charcoal technology introduced to Ghana The International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) is promoting

For food security to work, women and men in Africa need more open and flexible policies, not stereotypes
August 2, 2013 / FAC blog
At the same time, there have been parallel – if not conflicting – calls for women to engage in ‘new’, often regional and even global markets, or at least to commercialise their farm production. But longstanding, well-documented concerns about women’s

1 August: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
August 1, 2013 / FAC blog
Comparing Chinese aid with Western aid Li Xiaoyun has had an article published in the China Daily’s African edition looking at the differences and complementarities between Chinese and Western aid (attached). On the same page is an article by Zhang

How China and Brazil are engaging in African agriculture deserves a closer look
How China and Brazil are engaging in African agriculture deserves a closer look
July 15, 2013 / FAC blog
Much recent work on ‘the BRICS in Africa’ has emphasised the geopolitical scale, as these new players engage in areas dominated in the past by western donors and companies. However, as the IDS Bulletin shows, the countries grouped together under

5 July: China and Brazil in African Agriculture – news roundup
July 5, 2013 / FAC blog
Lessons for ProSavana from Mozfoods This FT article looking at ProSavana’s challenges draws on a UK-based company’s experiences in Mozambique to highlight the challenges faced in turning a profit on agricultural developments in the region. The article concludes that finding

Five new articles on the problems of counting and reporting land grabs
July 5, 2013 / FAC blog
This ‘land rush’ has been accompanied by a ‘literature rush’, with a fast-growing body of reports, articles, tables and books with varied purposes, metrics and methods. Land grabbing remains a hot political topic around the world, discussed amongst the highest

Rural young people, agriculture and work in Africa: new thinking about an old problem
July 5, 2013 / FAC blog
Four types of work The basic idea is that work opportunities can be seen to fall into four categories: Protective work, such as food-for-work and labour intensive public works schemes, provides relief from the immediate effects of deprivation. These opportunities

26 June: China and Brazil in African Agriculture – news roundup
June 26, 2013 / FAC blog
Donor conditions on Mozambique and Chinese logging The 19 donors and funding agencies who provide direct financial support to the Mozambique state budget have pledged around $580 mil for 2014, but have warned they want to see progress in corruption

Exposing the political journey of climate change evidence from Exeter to Africa
June 24, 2013 / FAC blog
It was a fascinating process, not just because of the mystery of the sophisticated computer programmes through which vast data sets gradually became simple pictures of the future world, but also because of the way that understandings and meanings became

Is the G8 writing politics out of hunger?
June 14, 2013 / FAC blog
In a blog for the Guardian, Raj Patel argues that the G8’s vision for tackling hunger is ignoring the politics of malnutrition – and that the link between hunger and poverty is being written out of public statements. “One of

11 June: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
June 11, 2013 / FAC blog
China welcomes Japanese aid commitment Following the $32billion aid commitment made by Japan to Africa, the Chinese government has sought to downplay the idea of competition between the two nations. An official spokesperson welcomed the initiative adding that China will

How can the G8 solve hunger?
June 10, 2013 / FAC blog
Tim Lang of City University in London was quoted in the UK Sunday newspaper the Observer as commenting: “We’ve had many summits talking about hunger…, but not enough has happened to change the food system. My worry is that this

5 June: China and Brazil in African Agriculture – news roundup
June 5, 2013 / FAC blog
Extra Funding Needed for ProSavana Mozambican Minister for Agriculture, whilst at TICAD has said that they are planning to secure extra funding for the ProSavana project. Currently Japan is the biggest investor in the project with $11 million USD.(Macauhub) Separately,

Should we worry if Africa’s farmers are getting older?
June 4, 2013 / FAC blog
In African policy debates it is often assumed that rejection of agriculture by rural young people – and their mass migration to urban areas – is the primary cause of the aging farm population. It is further assumed that among

30 May: China and Brazil in African Agriculture – news roundup
May 30, 2013 / FAC blog
WFP signs $1.6m deal with Chinese food-company in Ghana The World Food Programme has signed a $1.6 million deal with Chinese company HNA to provide school meals for children in Ghana. This is part of the government initiated Ghana School

22 May: China and Brazil in African Agriculture – news roundup
May 22, 2013 / FAC blog
Chinese pressure on Zimbabwean debts China has insisted that Zimbabwean companies and state institutions settle outstanding arrears before more loans are released for further infrastructure projects. New commitments include the expansion of a dam and the construction of a new

New ODI report: how smallholder agriculture contributes to food security and nutrition
May 21, 2013 / FAC blog
Some 852 million people were estimated to be undernourished in 2010–12. Micro-nutrient deficiencies, especially of vitamin A, iodine, iron and zinc, are even more widespread, with perhaps as many as two billion persons affected owing to insufficient vitamins and minerals

Why Africa should listen to how South Africa’s food retailers are responding to environmental and social change
May 15, 2013 / FAC blog
This final point raises the interesting question of perspective. The paper’s scope was limited to the opinions of those working in private sector companies, but there are many other important actors in the food system. In particular, the role of

15 May: China and Brazil in African Agriculture – news roundup
May 15, 2013 / FAC blog
Olam to increase investments in Mozambican Cotton Olam’s Mozambique subsidiary has stated that it plans to make “large investments” in Mozambique’s cotton production. No further details on this are given, but the article highlights that Olam already has production agreements

What can we learn from history about large-scale commercial farming developments?
May 13, 2013 / FAC blog
Examining the evidence The LACA (Land and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa) project, begun last year, looks at some of those impacts in more detail. This three-year project studies the socio-economic impacts of commercial agricultural developments, including types of development that

3 May: China and Brazil in African Agriculture – news roundup
May 3, 2013 / FAC blog
Nigerian agricultural research council be more like Embrapa The Nigerian Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, has said that he wants Nigeria to transform its Agricultural Research Council to be more like Brazil’s equivalent, Embrapa. This comes

The 3Ds – a new idea for farming systems research?
May 3, 2013 / FAC blog
Much of the formalisation of farming systems research took place within the CGIAR centres in Nigeria (IITA), Mexico (CIMMYT) and The Philippines (IRRI). USAID and other funders eventually piled in, spawning farming systems research units, projects and training programmes throughout

Large-scale land acquisition: can we overcome transparency’s ‘dirty secret’?
May 1, 2013 / FAC blog
Two main points stood out for us across the different panels. First is the need to pin down what is meant by ‘transparency’. For some, it meant disclosure of information; for others, disclosure plus active participation; in yet other discussions,

3 questions for future food research
April 30, 2013 / FAC blog
The following 5 days were jam-packed with activities that stretched our combined mental capacities to the limit. Prof Mary Scholes was the convenor of the conference and, together with a truly stellar group of senior researchers, she set us a

23 April 2013: China and Brazil in African Agriculture – news roundup
April 22, 2013 / FAC blog
Chinese Firms Criticised in Zimbabwean Tobacco Out-Grower Schemes Chinese firms are said to be rapidly dominating the Zimbabwean tobacco markets and placing increasingly high demands and costs on locally engaged farmers in out-grower schemes. Chinese tobacco firm Tian Ze is