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


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17 September: China and Brazil in African agriculture: news roundup
September 17, 2013 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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 / Our 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

12 April 2013: China and Brazil in African Agriculture – news roundup
April 12, 2013 / Our blog
Joint Annual Meeting of the African Union The 6th Joint Annual Meeting of the African Union’s ministers of finance, planning and economic development called for a focus on industrialisation and discussed means to bring this about. Agriculture was discussed briefly

When evidence is thin, policy makers should learn from ancient mariners
When evidence is thin, policy makers should learn from ancient mariners
April 4, 2013 / Our blog
So, the argument is as follows: Evidence-based policy discourse that focuses on ‘what works, where and for whom’ presupposes the existence of evidence about ‘what is, what has been and what is likely to be’. In some key policy domains

Can the BRICS help Africa feed itself?
March 25, 2013 / Our blog
One example of so-called South-South development co-operation is Brazil’s efforts to support agricultural development and food security in Africa. Brazil, a world-leading trader of a range of agricultural commodities (including beef, poultry, ethanol and soybean), has become known as a

“Donors go home!” Money and politics in African agriculture
March 20, 2013 / Our blog
African governments have been criticised for their lack of political will in investing more in agriculture, and for a gap between rhetoric and action. Can donors be accused of the same thing? After the food crisis of 2007/8, John Barrett

Extending the extension debate
March 20, 2013 / Our blog
Blessings Chinsinga questioned the very paradigm of private demand-led extension. In Malawi, he said, most farmers could not afford to ‘demand’ private extension services. And the idea that the private sector would provide its own extension agents has not materialised.

Clash of beliefs
March 19, 2013 / Our blog
In Uganda, during the process of setting up National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), there was a crucial split between two groups: a ‘radical’ coalition (associated with the World Bank and Ministry of Finance) which advocated radical reform to extension services

Rural communities and politics: not voiceless or docile
March 19, 2013 / Our blog
Many major changes are shaping the politics of African agriculture. Large scale land deals; food price volatility; large-scale land deals by external countries and companies; a growing urban population; and demographic changes are all having an impact. Despite the challenges,

The FAO Voluntary Guidelines: setting sail?
March 14, 2013 / Our blog
Regional discussions: what do States make of the guidelines? On 12–14 February 2013, FAO brought together 78 professionals from Anglophone countries to a Technical Awareness Raising Workshop on the Voluntary Guidelines in Kigali, Rwanda. This was the second of 10

How are China and Brazil changing agricultural development in Africa?
March 11, 2013 / Our blog
These working papers are the first publications from the CBAA project. Other planned outputs are a geo-referenced database of agricultural co-operation projects in the four countries, in-depth case studies comparative analysis, and implications for the future of aid and investment

Contested agronomy: low-level evidence, high-level claims
Contested agronomy: low-level evidence, high-level claims
February 13, 2013 / Our blog
We can think of both agronomic research results and impact claims as being distributed along a continuum of levels: in Africa, for example, from the level of the trial plot to that of the sub-continent (see picture). The foundational level