Publications

The Future Agricultures Consortium produces research in a variety of formats.Several key research series are available for download, circulation and citation.

Use the search field below or review our thematically structured research archive.


Latest articles

Research Note: Value Chain Participants in Smallholder Commercialisation in Mvurwi: Emerging Business Relations
August 29, 2019 / APRA research note

Written by, Vine Mutyasira, Tanaka Murimbarimba and Walter Mushayiwa

Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector has experienced radical transformation following a series of land reform programs and an economic meltdown that started in 2000. The implementation of the Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP) led to widespread disruptions in the sophisticated input supply system, altered agrarian relations and generally caused changes in the functioning of input and commodity markets (Scoones et al., 2018). Severe macroeconomic instability – characterised by high interest rates, shortages of foreign currency and hyperinflation – created an unfavourable environment for private sector participation in the input markets (Mano, Sukume and Rugube, 2003). While the government has attempted to solve problems in the input supply sector through several support and financial packages (Gono, 2008; RBZ 2006), the interventions generally lacked sustainability and the majority of the smallholder farmers still failed to access the critical inputs. Smallholder farmers have often faced challenges in accessing agricultural inputs such as improved seed, chemical fertilisers, veterinary drugs, agricultural mechanisation equipment, as well as agrochemicals such as herbicides and pesticides. These challenges lead to low produce quality, poor yields and general reduction in the area cultivated. Agricultural commodity marketing challenges have also affected the viability of agricultural intensification and limited prospects for agricultural commercialisation among smallholder farmers.

APRA Brief 19: Agribusiness Investment in Agricultural Commercialisation in Ghana: Rethinking Policy Incentives
August 13, 2019 / APRA Briefs

Written by Joseph Teye

Ghana’s recent image as a peaceful and stable country has provided an attractive environment for foreign investors to do business in, reflected by numerous programmes implemented by Ghana and its partners which aim to strengthen foreign investment, particularly in the agricultural sector. However, there is still a lack of understanding of how Ghanaian businesses respond to such incentive packages, as well as the detrimental effect of the barriers to investment. This APRA brief examines the most important factors behind investment in the Ghanaian agricultural sector, the limits of financial incentives and provides a series of recommendations for the government in Ghana to address.

Rethinking technological change in smallholder agriculture
July 24, 2019 / Research article

Written by, Dominic Glover, James Sumberg, Giel Ton, Jens Andersson and Lone Badstue.

The concept of technology adoption (along with its companions, diffusion and scaling) is commonly used to design development interventions, to frame impact evaluations and to inform decision-making about new investments in development-oriented agricultural research. However, adoption simplifies and mischaracterises what happens during processes of technological change. In all but the very simplest cases, it is likely to be inadequate to capture the complex reconfiguration of social and technical components of a technological practice or system. We review the insights of a large and expanding literature, from various disciplines, which has deepened understanding of technological change as an intricate and complex sociotechnical reconfiguration, situated in time and space. We explain the problems arising from the inappropriate use of adoption as a framing concept and propose an alternative conceptual framework for understanding and evaluating technological change. The new approach breaks down technology change programmes into four aspects: propositions, encounters, dispositions and responses. We begin to sketch out how this new framework could be operationalised

Working Paper 26: Changing farm structure and agricultural commercialisation in Nigeria
July 11, 2019 / Working Papers

Written by, Milu Muyanga, Adebayo Aromolaran, Thomas Jayne, Saweda Liverpool-Tasie, Titus Awokuse andAdesoji Adelaja

Evidence is mounting that the rise of medium-scale investor farms and associated changes in the distribution of farm sizes are occurring in many African countries. These changes in the distribution of farm sizes are creating important and wide-ranging impacts at all stages of agricultural value chains. However, these effects remain poorly understood and only examined in a small number of countries to date. A better understanding of the effects of changing farm size distributions are urgently needed to guide policies aimed at achieving agricultural commercialisation and broader economic transformation objectives. This paper provides improved evidence for policies designed to support equitable and poverty-reducing agricultural commercialisation in Nigeria.

Working Paper 25: Building Livelihoods: Young People and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa: Zimbabwe Country Study
June 26, 2019 / Working Papers

Written by Easther Chigumira

This paper is concerned with how young people in the Mvurwi Farming Area in Zimbabwe engage with or are affected by agricultural commercialisation. Mvurwi’s commercialised rural economy offers opportunities for young people to engage in a range of activities as producers, on-farm and off-farm wage workers, and/or as business operators, which allows them to accumulate a range of assets including residential plots, investment in education, household goods, vehicles, and business operations. The study findings show an agile and determined group of young men and women who have consciously turned to the rural economy for a myriad of economic activities to augment revenue streams. Nevertheless, their livelihood opportunities are vulnerable to a number of hazards and, as a result, young people adopt a ‘ducking and diving’ approach to navigate the structural, physical, and individual hurdles or hazards that they encounter in a bid to forge a living within this vibrant rural economy.

Working Paper 24: Building Livelihoods: Young People and Agricultural Commercialisation: Tanzania Country Study
March 28, 2019 / Working Papers

This paper reports on a study of how young people engage in the rural economy in an area where there is a significant level of agricultural commercialisation. The objective was to develop an understanding of the steps and pathways with which particular groups of young people seek to construct livelihoods in or around these hotspots, and the outcomes associated with these efforts.
Findings reveal that, as a rural commercialisation hotspot, Dumila offers young people a variety of different income-generating activities. Young migrants are attracted to the area by the availability of farmland, and the opportunities for both business and on-farm employment. Education is seen as a key to formal employment. Social networks (family and friends) also played a very important role in providing both financial and land resources to support their economic activities.

Working Paper 23: Mechanised Agriculture and Medium-Scale Farmers in Northern Ghana: a Success of Market Liberalism or a Product of a Longer History?
March 28, 2019 / Working Papers

In recent years, the significant uptake of tractor-ploughing services in Ghana has been heralded as a success of market liberal policies. It has been argued that market reforms have enabled medium-scale farmers to expand their operations and invest in tractors, which they also hire out to smallholders, enabling a significant expansion in agricultural outputs of both categories of farmers. However, this argument is based upon the assumption that, with structural adjustment and the rolling back of state services, past policies on mechanisation disappeared and left no footprints in agrarian production.

This paper explores within a political economy framework, the historical dimensions of mechanisation in Ghana and continuities in the agrarian structure between the period of state-led agriculture and market liberalisation. It rejects simplistic understandings of state policies in neo-patrimonial frameworks that associate the expansion of mechanisation with political patronage and diverting state resources for political support. The existence of expanding private markets in tractors after the imposition of structural adjustment in Ghana suggests otherwise.

APRA Brief 18: The political economy of agricultural growth corridors in eastern Africa
March 22, 2019 / APRA Briefs

A new wave of agricultural commercialisation is being promoted across Africa’s eastern seaboard, by a broad range of influential actors – from international corporations to domestic political and business elites. Growth corridors, linking infrastructure development, mining and agriculture for export, are central to this, and are generating a new spatial politics as formerly remote borders and hinterlands are expected to be transformed through foreign investment and aid projects. In our APRA study, we have been asking: what actually happens on the ground, even when corridors as originally planned are slow to materialise? Do the grand visions play out as expected? Who is involved and who loses out? To answer these questions, APRA research into growth corridors has focused on three key examples: the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT), the Lamu Port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor, and the Beira and Nacala corridors in Mozambique.

APRA Brief 17: Tractors, Markets and the State: (Dis)continuities in Africa’s Agricultural Mechanisation
March 22, 2019 / APRA Briefs

Agricultural mechanisation has once again become a topical issue in African policymaking, following the reinstatement of agriculture in the growth and development agenda for the continent since the turn of the century. But the contribution of mechanisation to agricultural growth and food security and, more broadly, an inclusive and sustainable development trajectory is not linear, and the debate around desirable types of mechanisation and role of the state (versus markets) in the process is far from settled. Drawing on research in Ghana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, this brief offers an overview of recent trends in Africa’s agricultural mechanisation and of how the topic has been handled in the policy debate and highlights findings from the three country studies that illustrate how state-sponsored or farmer-led mechanisation are enmeshed in broader processes of agrarian change.

APRA Brief 16: A Historical Analysis of Rice Commercialisation in Ethiopia_The Case of the Fogera Plain
March 12, 2019 / APRA Briefs

This brief presents a historical analysis of rice commercialisation and its impacts on local livelihoods and rural economies in Ethiopia, drawing insights from the experience of the Fogera Plain in the Amhara Region. Fogera is one of the regions which has experienced the largest expansion of rice production and processing in the country. The brief presents a review of historical trends in the introduction of rice in different parts of the country, the changing nature of rice farming systems, the observed agrarian changes, and some of the associated initiatives that have enhanced these trends.

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