FAC blog

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

Latest articles

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

New ‘African Farmer Game’ version played at the 2015 STEPS Summer School
New ‘African Farmer Game’ version played at the 2015 STEPS Summer School
May 22, 2015 / FAC blog
The new version of the single player game includes five contrasting configurations of households in a single village of ten households, each with varying amounts of land, labour and working capital. This increases the amount of inter-household social and economic

The UK election, Africa and Zimbabwe
May 5, 2015 / FAC blog
However, as the African Arguments piece shows, the way ‘international development’ is framed in the manifestos is – with some exceptions – very different to the hey-day of the late 1990s, when the Department for International Development was formed. Today,

BRICS and agriculture: how the new ‘hubs of capital’ are changing development
April 28, 2015 / FAC blog
Emerging dynamics Despite the hyperbole often associated with ‘rising powers’, one thing that struck me from across the presentations was the limits to accumulation and the extension and penetration of new forms of capital. There has been much debate about

Has the ‘impact agenda’ helped agronomy – or harmed it?
April 27, 2015 / FAC blog
Value for money The “new public management” agenda fundamentally changed the terms of trade around publically funded agricultural research. In general, those promoting this agenda saw state institutions as bloated and inefficient, in need of the discipline of the market

23 April 2015: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
April 23, 2015 / FAC blog
New SAIS-CARI papers on China and South-East Africa The SAIS China Africa Research Initiative in Washington DC has published two new working papers on Chinese agricultural engagements in Africa. Tang Xiaoyang writes about ‘Assessing the Impact of Chinese Investment on

China & Brazil in African agriculture series: first 6 papers published
April 20, 2015 / FAC blog
Read the working papers Situating Tian Ze’s role in reviving Zimbabwe’s Flue-Cured Tobacco sector in the wider discourse on Zimbabwe- China cooperation: Will the scorecard remain Win-Win? Future Agricultures Working Paper 115 Langton Mukwereza February 2015 View paper View abstract

Closing the gap: Youth employment and imagined futures in rural Africa
Closing the gap: Youth employment and imagined futures in rural Africa
April 17, 2015 / FAC blog
To increase the work opportunities available to rural young people in Africa, government policy and development programmes tend to highlight two potential pathways:  Agriculture, and the most common line is that taken by Karen Brooks and her colleagues at the

13 April 2015: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
April 13, 2015 / FAC blog
  Mysteries of the China-Africa Development Fund Deborah Brautigam blogs about the China-Africa Development (CAD) Fund, discussing the misconceptions that have surrounded it and some of its key features. She points out that it is not a sovereign wealth fund

ITOCA offers 132 sets of electronic papers for African institutions – apply by 30 June
April 13, 2015 / FAC blog
Eligibility requirements: The institution is located in one of the following countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania or Uganda The Institution has an Agriculture or related fields department or specialises in Agriculture and related fields. The Institution does not

Soil management in Africa: ways forward
April 1, 2015 / FAC blog
Figure 1 offers a very simple, rather crude matrix of contexts. One axis focuses on agro-ecological contexts (from low to high responsive soils and available soil moisture). The other axis focuses on socio-economic contexts (from conditions where returns to inputs

26 March 2015: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
March 26, 2015 / FAC blog
China to help Ghana build a $1bn solar plant China’s Hanergy Group is investing one billion USD to construct a 400-megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Ghana. Hanergy is currently the world’s largest solar power company by market cap and

Policy options for African soils: learning lessons for future action
March 26, 2015 / FAC blog
What would a framework for policy and implementation look like? This is much more contested. A variety of ‘models’ – often with rather implicit policy assumptions – are being, or have been, tested. These include (among many others, and different

The long road to African land rights: next steps
The long road to African land rights: next steps
March 25, 2015 / FAC blog
Land deals, gender, youth and agricultural investment I made a presentation summarising lessons on large-scale land-based investments, outlining the key policy frameworks – the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Voluntary Guidelines on Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in

The visible and invisible battles in Brazil’s agricultural co-operation
March 23, 2015 / FAC blog
A diversity of actors, models and practices No longer the exclusive realm of diplomats and agronomists, today Brazil’s agricultural cooperation frontline is populated by politicians, technocrats, consultants, traders and social movement activists, operating in a seemingly independent fashion and taking

20 March 2015: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
March 20, 2015 / FAC blog
Developing the Meat Grab This paper by Mindi Schneider looks at the dramatic effects of Chinese agriculture’s shift towards meat production and how the state’s narrative of ‘food-security’ is crumbling fast. Schneider suggests looking at this phenomenon through a “meat

Why an integrated approach to soil management is essential
March 19, 2015 / FAC blog
Experience across Africa demonstrates that a ‘one size fits all’ solution is inappropriate. An integrated approach to soils management is required, mixing different inputs in different amounts for different places. Deriving from extensive research we have learned that:  Radical technological

Homefields and outfields: different sites, different response to soil management
March 10, 2015 / FAC blog
These data are from rich Highveld red soils, and the pattern will be different in the majority of sandy or sandy loam soils elsewhere, where loss of organic matter is often more sudden, and very difficult to reverse. Many soils

More than rocket science: the 3 generations of Farmer First
More than rocket science: the 3 generations of Farmer First
March 9, 2015 / FAC blog
The three ‘generations’ of Farmer First The first generation represented by the first book on Farmer First covered farmer innovations preceding 1987. The second book, Beyond Farmer First, covered the period between 1987 and 1992. The third book Farmer First

6 March: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
March 6, 2015 / FAC blog
Sudan seeks stronger ties with Brazilian agriculture Sudan’s Minister for Agriculture has said that their country is seeking to attract greater agricultural investments and trade with agricultural companies from Brazil. He cited their interest in chicken and fish farms as

Soils for life: Some cautionary tales for the International Year of Soils
Soils for life: Some cautionary tales for the International Year of Soils
March 2, 2015 / FAC blog
There is no doubt that changes in soil structure, losses through erosion and soil fertility decline are important issues. But these global figures are derived from some dubious calculations that are often rather meaningless. Aggregated up from multiple small studies,

2 March 2015: China and Brazil in African Agriculture news roundup
March 2, 2015 / FAC blog
Science Agenda for African Agriculture showcased by Embrapa A delegation from the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa has visited EMBRAPA in Brazil “to strengthen the existing collaboration.” The two organisations run the Africa-Brazil Agricultural Innovation Marketplace between themselves since

Introducing our new working paper series on China & Brazil in African agriculture
February 25, 2015 / FAC blog
These contrasts come out strikingly when reading across the papers. The cases also highlight the diversity of engagements grouped under ‘development cooperation’ in agriculture. Some focus on state-facilitated commercial investments; others are more akin to ‘aid projects’, but often with

Land, dispossession and the law
February 17, 2015 / FAC blog
More about land and biofuels Our research on Land Green grabbing: a new appropriation of nature? Image: martey (Flickr)  

‘Quadruple Wins’: learning from DFID’s evaluation of the Future Agricultures Consortium, 2008-2013
‘Quadruple Wins’: learning from DFID’s evaluation of the Future Agricultures Consortium, 2008-2013
February 11, 2015 / FAC blog
These concluded that FAC’s ‘unique, researcher-led network’ model and its approach to analysing and understanding the political economy of agricultural policy processes provides a ‘quadruple win’ leading to positive impacts and outcomes through synergies between four key areas: High-quality research

6 February 2015: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
February 6, 2015 / FAC blog
China seeks higher profile for its GM crops in global markets Article in Xinhua news that quotes a vice-director of the central agricultural working group as saying that China should not let GM markets be dominated by other countries. The

Can the UN’s land guidelines help Uganda’s threatened fisherfolk?
Can the UN’s land guidelines help Uganda’s threatened fisherfolk?
January 30, 2015 / FAC blog
The FAO Tenure Guidelines: can they help? The most significant global response to the land rush of the past decade has been the creation of the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of the Tenure of Land, Forests and Fisheries in

30 January 2015: China and Brazil in African agriculture – news roundup
January 30, 2015 / FAC blog
Southern Africa Beyond the West Conference The journal of Southern African Studies is hosting its 1st Biennial Conference on ‘Southern Africa Beyond the West’ in August 2015 in Livingstone, Zambia. The conference aims to look at the ‘Political, Economic and