Written by: Louise Clark
This case study explores how APRA evidence is informing an emerging debate on medium-scale farmers (MSFs) through stronger empirical evidence of the broad variation across different contexts. This research has generated healthy internal debate between APRA teams which is contributing new insights to understanding the drivers of farm size growth and the conditions that enable ‘stepping up’, as well as the policy implications for SSFs who are ‘hanging in’ or ‘dropping out’ of agricultural production.
ALRE Research Note 6: ALRE Report on Evidence Demand on Inclusive Agricultural Commercialisation in AfricaJune 9, 2022 / ALRE Research Note Publications
Written by: Louise Clark and Joe Taylor
The Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme has generated new evidence and insights into different pathways to inclusive agricultural commercialisation. As part of APRA, the Accompanied Learning on Relevance and Effectiveness (ALRE) team worked to understand how evidence demand enabled researchers to identify and refine the most relevant and insightful policy messages; in turn encouraging them to go beyond mere analysis of the context and problem and consider how their evidence offered potential solutions to specific policy questions. Insights on evidence demand from ALRE-facilitated activities and events are outlined in this paper.
ALRE Research Note 5: Lessons Learnt From Delivering the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) ProgrammeJune 6, 2022 / ALRE Research Note Publications
Written by: Louise Clark and Martin Whiteside
The Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme was a six-year (2016–2022), £7 million research initiative of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC), to produce high-quality evidence to inform policy and practice on future agricultural commercialisation options and investments in sub-Saharan Africa. This document summarises the key lessons learnt during the six years of the APRA programme, to provide advice for the future planning of evidence to policy programmes.
Journal Article: Does Women’s Engagement in Sunflower Commercialization Empower Them? Experience From Singida region, Tanzania June 1, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
Written by: Devotha B. Mosha, John Jeckoniah and Gideon Boniface
Empowering women within sunflower value chains can create significant development opportunities for them and generate benefits for their families. This paper asks whether women’s engagement in sunflower commercialization influences their levels of empowerment. The paper uses data from a 2018 study conducted by Agricultural Policy Research in Africa. A cross-sectional research design was used, and data were collected using mixed methods involving primary, qualitative, and quantitative methods as well as secondary data from the literature. A total of 600 farm household heads and 205 focus group participants (7–15) from 15 villages were selected for the study. Qualitative and quantitative data were subjected to content and econometric analysis respectively, with the help of Microsoft Excel and Statistical Package for the Social Sciences programs. The findings revealed that female household heads tend to benefit less than men from sunflower commercialization. Sunflower commercialization had a positive but insignificant influence on women’s empowerment: the study found that low levels of access to and control over productive resources resulted in low agricultural productivity, which affects empowerment levels. However, household commercialization involving all crops did have a positive and significant impact on the empowerment of women because non-cash crops were more likely to be retained by women, even when commercialized. This calls for policies that support and promote a diversified portfolio of livelihood options for women farmers in Singida region.
ALRE Working Paper 6: Rice: APRA’s Contribution to Informing and Influencing Policy Debates Around Rice in East AfricaMay 30, 2022 / ALRE Working Paper Publications
Written by: Joe Taylor and Melanie Connor
Rice production across Africa varies in many aspects due to socio-political, climatic, and environmental differences in the region. The research and outreach activities of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme aimed to generate policy-relevant insights on more inclusive pathways to agricultural commercialisation, particularly in East Africa, where in-depth mixed methods research was conducted by partners. This Working Paper explores these efforts to identify their impact and any lessons learned for improvement in future programmes.
ALRE Working Paper 5: Accompanied Learning: Reflections on How ALRE Enhanced APRA’s Relevance and EffectivenessMay 30, 2022 / ALRE Working Paper Publications
Written by: Louise Clark
This case study explores the claim that the Accompanied Learning for Relevance and Effectiveness (ALRE) approach contributed to stronger relevance and effectiveness of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) research programme. This report outlines the accompanied learning function of the ALRE team and how this ‘critical friend’ role supported APRA research teams in defining and reviewing their impact pathways, identifying and refining emerging evidence ‘nuggets’, and considering how to frame these insights to gain traction with specific policy debates and discourse.
APRA ICE Insight 6: Raising the Profile of Agricultural Policy Research: National Engagement as a Pathway to ChangeMay 30, 2022 / APRA ICE Insight Publications
Written by: Susanna Cartmell, Alice Mutimer, Sophie Reeve and Olivia Frost
Throughout the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium, country research teams were encouraged to engage at district and national levels. Towards the end of APRA, during 2021, each country team held final district and national level events in order to share research findings and highlight policy implications. This report evaluates APRA’s national engagement to understand what went well, and to identify what improvements could have been made.
APRA Working Paper 93: Changing Farm Structure and Agricultural Commercialisation: Implications for Livelihood Improvements Among Small-Scale Farmers in NigeriaMay 23, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Milu Muyanga, Adebayo B. Aromolaran, Thomas S. Jayne, Saweda Liverpool-Tasie, Titus Awokuse, Adesoji Adelaja, Elijah Obayelu, Fadlullah O. Issa, and Yanjanani Lifeyo
Research in several African countries shows the rapid rise of a medium-scale farming (MSF) sector. While national development policy strategies within the region officially regard the smallholder farming sector as an important (if not the main) vehicle for achieving agricultural growth, food security, and poverty reduction objectives, the meteoric rise of emergent farmers warrants their inclusion in efforts to understand the changing nature of farm structure and food value chains in Africa. The main objective of this working paper is to examine MSF as a potential pathway towards increased agricultural commercialisation.
APRA Working Paper 92: Livelihood Outcomes of Agricultural Commercialisation, Women’s Empowerment and Rural EmploymentMay 23, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Fred Mawunyo Dzanku and Louis Sitsofe Hodey
Across Ghana, mixed-crop-livestock enterprises dominate the farming systems with most farmers producing both food staples and non-food cash crops. However, this paper focuses mainly on oil palm-producing farmers because oil palm is Ghana’s second most important industrial crop (aside from cocoa). However, it has a more extensive local value chain that allows for artisanal processing and thus, has huge potential for rural employment generation and poverty reduction. Oil palm is also one of the priority crops under Ghana’s Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy. This paper reviews the livelihood outcomes with regards to agricultural commercialisation and how this particularly relates to women’s empowerment and rural employment in the oil palm sector in Ghana.
APRA Working Paper 91: Effects of Commercialisation on Seaonsal Hunger: Evidence from Smallholder Resettlement Areas, Mazowe Distrct, ZimbabweMay 12, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Chrispen Sukume, Godfrey Mahofa and Vine Mutyasira
Agricultural transformation towards intensive commercial production is a key facet of current development strategies pursued by African governments, aimed at improving welfare outcomes of farm households. However, in Zimbabwe, there is concern that increased commercialisation, especially through tobacco production, may have resulted in increased food and nutrition insecurity in the smallholder farming sector. Using data from two rounds of surveys conducted in 2018 and 2020 of smallholder farmers, this study examined the impacts of cash crop and food-based commercialisation pathways on seasonal food insecurity in rural households of Mazowe district.
Journal Article: Livestock, Crop Commercialization and Poverty Reduction in Crop-Livestock Farming Systems in Singida Region, TanzaniaMay 12, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
Written by: Ntengua Mdoe, Glead Mlay, Aida Isinika, Gideon Boniface and Christopher Magomba
Livestock is an important component of crop-livestock farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This paper examined the effect of livestock on crop commercialization and poverty reduction among smallholder farmers in crop-livestock farming systems in Singida Region, Tanzania. It was hypothesized that livestock enhances crop commercialization and reduce poverty among smallholder farmers in the Region. Data for the analysis were extracted from the Agricultural Policy Research for Africa (APRA) data set of 600 households selected randomly from random samples of eight and seven villages in Iramba and Mkalama districts respectively. Descriptive
statistics were used to compare ownership of livestock, use of ox-plough and livestock manure, crop productivity, crop commercialization and poverty levels across different categories of farmers. Econometric analyses were used to determine if livestock had a significant effect on crop commercialization and poverty levels, controlling for other variables that might have an effect. The results of descriptive analyses show differences in ownership of livestock, use of ox-plough and livestock manure, crop productivity, crop commercialization and poverty levels across different categories of farmers while the results of econometric analysis show that livestock enhanced crop commercialization. Apart from livestock, a range of other factors have worked together with livestock to drive the crop commercialization process. Regarding the impact of commercialization, the findings show that farmers have gained higher productivity (yield), signifying the potential of crop commercialization to reduce poverty. In general, evidence from the results show decline in poverty as crop commercialization increases from zero to medium level. Although crop commercialization has positively impacted on crop productivity (yields) and poverty, the results show existence of socio-economic disparities. Male-headed households (MHH) and households headed by medium-scale farmers (MSF), young farmers and livestock keepers were less poor than their counterpart femaleheaded households (FHH) and households headed by small-scale farmers (SSFs), older farmers and non-livestock keepers. These social differences are consequences of differences in the use of ox-plough, livestock manure and other productivity enhancing inputs. Exploiting the synergy between crop and livestock in crop-livestock farming systems needs to be recognized and exploited in efforts geared towards enhancing crop commercialization and reducing poverty among smallholder farmers in crop-livestock farming systems in Tanzania and elsewhere in SSA.
Journal Article: Choice of Tillage Technologies and Impact on Paddy Yield and Food Security in Kilombero Valley, TanzaniaMay 11, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
Written by: Glead Mlay, Ntengua Mdoe, Aida Isinika, Gideon Boniface and Christopher Magomba
This paper analyses choice of alternative tillage technology options and their impact on paddy yield and food security in Kilombero valley of Morogoro Region, Tanzania. The results show that the choice of any tillage technology option combining hand hoe with animal traction and/or tractor is influenced by characteristics of household head (sex, age and education), access to extension, dependency ratio, land size and livestock assets. As hypothesized the three improved tillage technology options above the hand hoe enhance paddy yield and improve household food security. Factors other than tillage technology options that influence paddy yield and food security are characteristics of household head(sex, age and education), access to extension, use of fertilizer and herbicides, dependency ratio, farm size and livestock assets. The study recommends promotion of tillage technology options involving use of animal traction and yield enhancing inputs.
Written by: Martin Whiteside
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 initiated a remarkable pivot within APRA in which a new COVID focussed research programme was rapidly designed, approved and launched. The first APRA COVID-19 blogs appeared in April 2020, a comprehensive synthesis of existing learning on epidemics was published in May, and the first of three rounds of an eight-country, 800-farmer multi-phase survey, was completed in July. Over a period of two years 33 publications, 77 blogs, extensive social media, numerous in-country seminars and one international e-Dialogue were used to communicate the findings. The publications were downloaded over 10,000 times and the blogs over 16,000 times with coverage in national newspapers in most of the focus countries. This Working Paper explores these efforts to identify their impact and any lessons to be learned for improvement in future programmes.
ALRE Working Paper 3: African Media Coverage: APRA’s Contribution to Understanding of Agricultural ChangeMay 5, 2022 / ALRE Working Paper Publications
Written by: Martin Whiteside
The Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme made significant efforts to engage with the local/national media as a way of disseminating research findings and consequent policy implications. This was assisted by early planning as part of the Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis process and excellent support from the Information, Communication and Engagement team throughout the programme. Overall, this engagement was very successful with significant coverage of APRA’s research activities and some headline results across countries. This Working Paper reflects on APRA’s engagement with the media, its effectiveness and lessons learnt from media engagement over the programme’s duration.
The Effects of COVID-19 on Food Equity and Nutrition Security in sub-Saharan Africa: Lessons from a Multi-Phase AssessmentMay 4, 2022 / COVID Country Report Publications
Written by: Leah Salm, Nick Nisbett and Alexandra Lulache
The COVID-19 pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa has elicited reactions that are also seen worldwide: widespread and indefinite health effects, and deep reverberations on almost all parts of daily life, from livelihoods, to freedom of movement and the availability of foods and services. As was seen in previous health crises such as that of HIV or Ebola, the effects of the pandemic are mediated by pre-existing power structures, vulnerabilities, and systems of support, which lead to differentiated outcomes for people and communities, often to the detriment of the poorest groups. This study examines the impact of COVID-19 on commercialising farmers across sub-Saharan Africa, with a deeper focus on Nigeria and Malawi, from a food equity perspective.
A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa – Synthesis Report 3May 4, 2022 / COVID Country Report Publications
Written by: Amrita Saha, Marco Carreras and John Thompson
Since it began in early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to considerable concerns about the viability of local food systems and rural livelihoods across sub-Saharan Africa. This paper presents the results of a three-round assessment of the effects of COVID-19 on the farming, labour and marketing practices, food and nutrition security, and well-being of over 800 male- and female-headed rural households in eight countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In this paper, we argue that when we closely examine the lived experiences of people in different country contexts, results suggest that the immediate restrictions and strict control measures imposed by governments at the start of the pandemic on social and commercial activities acted as a major shock to the well-being of many rural households and communities. Furthermore, while some households and communities were able to find ways to cope or adapt to the COVID-19-related disruptions, for others the pandemic coincided with a number of other shocks and stresses (extreme weather events, locust infestations, conflict and insecurity, or a combination of these), exacerbating some of the observed risks.
Written by: Alice Mutimer, Susanna Cartmell, Sophie Reeve and Olivia Frost
Over the course of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme (2016-22), researchers produced over 150 publications, including Working Papers, Briefs, COVID-19 Papers, Journal Articles and several books. The intended audience of these publications varied, from the academic community to national and regional policymakers and other stakeholders; but their value is multiplied when they engage a broader audience. A key approach taken by APRA’s Information, Communication and Engagement team to further the reach of these publications was to support the researchers in publishing weekly blogs. Ranging in length from 700 to 1,000 words, these blogs condensed the key insights and messages from longer, more technical publications, particularly highlighting valuable findings and policy takeaways, into a shorter, more accessible and relevant format. With over 200 blogs published since 2018, these outputs have proved highly valuable in promoting APRA publications and events, receiving multiple viewings from a diverse audience and leading to significant subsequent downloads of the related research outputs. This report explores the use of blogs throughout the APRA programme to identify what went well and what could have been improved to expand their impact even further.
Written by: Sophie Reeve, Susanna Cartmell, Alice Mutimer and Olivia Frost
In early 2022, the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC), in partnership with the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Foresight4Food, held an e-Dialogue series: Towards an Equitable and Sustainable Transformation of Food Systems. This followed an earlier, highly successful series organised with the same partners in the second half of 2020 on What Future for Small-Scale Farming? The latest series included three online Zoom sessions led by APRA over January-March 2022 on topics including COVID-19 and its effects on local food systems and rural livelihoods, and transition pathways and strategies for supporting more equitable and resilient food systems in Africa. These virtual events were designed to replace an international conference that was part of APRA’s original end-of-programme plan, before the COVID-19 crisis prevented large, physical gatherings. The three e-Dialogues brought together APRA researchers and expert commentators from across sub-Saharan Africa, as well as a wider audience. The objective of these dialogues was to examine evidence and lessons from APRA’s six-year collaborative research programme (2016-22) analysing the dynamics of agricultural commercialisation processes, agrarian change and rural transformation in the region. This report looks at their impact, what worked well, and what could have been improved.
Written by: Olivia Frost, Susanna Cartmell, Sophie Reeve and Alice Mutimer
Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) has been a six-year research programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC), aiming to identify the most effective pathways to agricultural commercialisation that empower women, reduce rural poverty and improve nutrition and security in sub-Saharan Africa. Through in-depth, interdisciplinary, comparative research across nine countries, APRA has generated high-quality evidence and policy-relevant insights on more inclusive pathways to agricultural commercialisation. To disseminate its research findings and policy messages, APRA had a multi-format strategy to produce a portfolio of mutually-reinforcing publications to inform a broad spectrum of actors. This report evaluates APRA’s publication outputs to understand what went well, and to identify what improvements could have been made.
Written by: Susanna Cartmell, Olivia Frost, Alice Mutimer and Sophie Reeve
To disseminate policy-relevant messages based on APRA research at country and regional levels, the Information and Communication and Engagement (ICE) team encouraged country teams to build relationships with the media from early on in the programme. This is not something with which APRA researchers had much experience and, subsequently, the approach was taken up by only a few teams. Nevertheless, with support from the ICE team, those teams that pursued active engagement with the media proved very successful. This report reflects on the APRA programme’s engagements with the media to identify what went well and key lessons on what could have be improved.
Written by: Sophie Reeve, Alice Mutimer, Susanna Cartmell and Olivia Frost
Over the past six years, the use of social media, including Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp, has been a vital part of APRA’s Communications Strategy in raising awareness of the programme’s activities and outputs. Since 2016, APRA’s social media profile has been embedded within the Future Agricultures Consortium’s (FAC) well-established online channels – including Facebook and Twitter – with the view to increase FAC’s followings and enhance APRA’s visibility. The Impact, Communication and Engagement team has been responsible for developing APRA’s Digital Strategy and tracking the impact of social media activities, including sharing APRA’s publications and news on events, and promoting APRA’s key research messages. This report explores this impact, what went well, and what could be improved as future programmes plan their own social media efforts.
APRA Working Paper 90: Agricultural Commercialisation Pathways and Gendered Livelihood Outcomes in Rural South-Western GhanaMay 4, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Fred Mawunyo Dzanku
It is widely assumed that agricultural commercialisation leads to increased incomes and therefore better livelihood outcomes for farmers, including smallholders. But are the gains from commercial agriculture equitably distributed? Are there pathways to agricultural commercialisation that are more effective than others in empowering women and improving their nutrition security? Do non-crop livelihood options matter for rural households in vibrant crop commercialisation zones, and what is the influence of gender in this scenario? In this paper, household panel data from 1,330 farm households in south-western Ghana is used to address these salient questions.
APRA Working Paper 89: Impact of Commercialisation Pathways on Income and Asset Accumulation: Evidence from Smallholder Farming in ZimbabweMay 4, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Godfrey Mahofa, Vine Mutyasira and Chrispen Sukume
Smallholder agricultural commercialisation has been seen as an important pathway out of rural poverty in developing countries. However, little empirical evidence is available in sub-Saharan Africa that examines the relationship between commercialisation pathways taken by farmers and welfare outcomes, such as farm income and asset accumulation. This paper fills this gap by taking advantage of data from two rounds of surveys conducted in 2018 and 2020 of smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe.
APRA Working Paper 88: Agricultural Commercialisation, Gender Relations and Women’s Empowerment in Smallholder Farm Households: Evidence from ZimbabweMay 4, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Godfrey Mahofa, Chrispen Sukume and Vine Mutyasira
Agricultural commercialisation has been identified as an important part of the structural transformation process, as the economy grows from subsistence to highly commercialised entities that rely on the market for both inputs and for the sale of crops. However, this process is likely to leave some sections of society behind, particularly women. Little empirical evidence is available in sub-Saharan Africa that examines the relationship between commercialisation and women’s empowerment. This paper fills this gap and uses data from two rounds of surveys of smallholder farmers conducted in Zimbabwe to show that agricultural commercialisation reduces women’s empowerment, while crop diversification improves women’s empowerment.
Written by: Blessings Chinsinga, Mirriam Matita, Masautso Chimombo,
Loveness Msofi and Stevier Kaiyatsa
Agricultural commercialisation has the potential to provide a number of beneficial outcomes, including higher incomes and living standards for smallholder farmers. However, for these outcomes to be achieved, commercialisation must be inclusive and broad-based so as to link a large proportion of smallholders in rural areas to commercial, highly profitable value chains. In Malawi, where smallholder farmers contribute about 80 per cent to total food production and 20 per cent to total agricultural export earnings, agricultural commercialisation is especially imperative. While several activities have been undertaken to promote smallholder agricultural commercialisation over the past three decades, progress has not been satisfactory. Most smallholder farmers do not engage with markets on a consistent or sustainable basis. The main goal of the study on which this briefing paper is based was, therefore, to understand and track the underlying dynamics of smallholder agricultural commercialisation over time, and to identify policy recommendations to address the issues that exist in its uptake.
APRA Brief 35: The Dilemma of Climate-resilient Agricultural Commercialisation in Tanzania and ZimbabweMay 4, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Written by: Andrew Newsham, Lars Otto Naess, Khamaldin Mutabazi, Toendepi Shonhe, Gideon Boniface, and Tsitsidzashe Bvute
The implications of climate change for agricultural commercialisation – and the implications of agricultural commercialisation for climate change – are profound. On the one hand, agricultural production is, by nature, highly sensitive to climate change and variability. On the other, commercial agricultural production for international food markets is one of the lead sectors for generating greenhouse gas emissions that are driving anthropogenic climate change. This presents the following conundrum: the burden of the changing climate falls most heavily on smallholder farmers in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, where agricultural commercialisation is seen as an important route out of poverty. What, then, are the prospects for climate-resilient, commercially-viable smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan African countries which are facing this dilemma? We have explored this question through APRA research produced in Singida, Tanzania, and Mazowe, Zimbabwe.
APRA Brief 34: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation: Insights from Crop Value Chain Studies in Sub-Saharan AfricaApril 28, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Written by: Lars Otto Naess and Blessings Chinsinga
Agricultural commercialisation is seen as one of the most important avenues for fundamental structural transformation and development in sub-Saharan Africa, and is assumed to help enhance a wide array of household welfare indicators among rural households whose livelihoods directly derive from agriculture. Over recent years, sub-Saharan African countries have experimented with different models of agricultural commercialisation but, while there have been some success stories, the performance track record of agricultural commercialisation has generally been dismal. While there is a growing literature on drivers and obstacles for commercialisation at regional and national levels, less is known about how these factors play out in particular value chains, where there is still a need to better understand what drives or hinders the success of commercialisation. A set of APRA studies were carried out to address this gap, exploring the dynamics of crop value chains as a way of understanding the drivers, obstacles and pathways to agricultural commercialisation. A total of 11 case studies were carried out over 2020–21 in six countries, namely Ethiopia (rice), Ghana (oil palm and cocoa), Malawi (groundnuts), Nigeria (maize, cocoa and rice), Tanzania (rice and sunflower) and Zimbabwe (tobacco and maize). This briefing paper summarises some of the key findings from these studies.
ALRE Working Paper 2: Publishing Evidence: APRA’s Contribution to Knowledge on the Pathways to Inclusive Agricultural Commercialisation in AfricaApril 25, 2022 / ALRE Working Paper Publications
Written by: Martin Whiteside
Overall, it is considered that the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme has contributed a significant body of additional, rigorous, trusted and accessible published knowledge on the effect of agrarian change on women, youth and poorer households, which is both available and being accessed. In relation to performance indicators, APRA has massively overachieved its publications and download numbers. It has exceeded its stakeholder-assessed quality benchmark and looks set to meet its peer-reviewed publication target. This Working Paper explores APRA’s contribution to published knowledge, the significance of this contribution, its accessibility and the lessons to be learned from the programme’s experiences.
Written by: Ian Scoones, Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene
Farmer-led irrigation is far more extensive in Zimbabwe than realised by planners and policymakers. This paper explores the pattern of farmer-led irrigation in neighbouring post-land reform smallholder resettlement sites in Zimbabwe’s Masvingo district. Across 49 farmer-led cases, 41.3 hectares of irrigated land was identified, representing two per cent of the total land area. A combination of surveys and in-depth interviews explored uses of different water extraction and distribution technologies, alongside patterns of production, marketing, processing and labour use. In-depth case studies examined the socio-technical practices involved. Based on these data, a simple typology is proposed, differentiating homestead irrigators from aspiring and commercial irrigators. The typology is linked to patterns of investment, accumulation and social differentiation across the sites. The results are contrasted with a formal irrigation scheme and a group garden in the same area. Farmer-led irrigation is more extensive but also more differentiated, suggesting a new dynamic of agrarian change. As Zimbabwe seeks to boost agricultural production following land reform, the paper argues that farmer-led irrigation offers a complementary way forward to the current emphasis on formal schemes, although challenges of water access, environmental management and equity are highlighted.
Written by: Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge and Felix Murimbarimba
This article explores the livelihood challenges and opportunities of young people following Zimbabwe’s land reform in 2000. The article explores the life courses of a cohort of men and women, all children of land reform settlers, in two contrasting smallholder land reform sites. Major challenges to social reproduction are highlighted, reflected in an extended ‘waithood’, while some opportunities for accumulation are observed, notably in intensive agricultural production and agriculture-linked business enterprises. In conclusion, the implications of generational transfer of land, assets and livelihood opportunities are discussed in the context of Zimbabwe’s agrarian reform.
Journal Article: Tobacco Farming Following Land Reform in Zimbabwe: A New Dynamic of Social Differentiation and AccumulationApril 7, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
Written by: Toendepi Shonhe, Ian Scoones, Vine Mutyasira and Felix Murimbarimba
Tobacco has been central to the agrarian economy of Zimbabwe since the early 1900s, when it became the backbone of the new settler economy following colonisation. Since the land reform of 2000, tobacco has taken on a new impetus, with production now often exceeding that generated by white commercial farming in the 1990s. Today, tobacco is being produced predominantly by smallholders, with those on resettlement land being especially important. Tobacco production is supported by a range of buying companies, auction houses, transporters and contract arrangements, and small-scale farmers are thus tightly connected to a global commodity chain. This article explores tobacco production in A1 (smallholder) resettlement schemes in Mvurwi area, Mazowe district, a high-potential area to the north of Harare. The article is based on a combination of surveys and in-depth interviews with farmers carried out between 2017 and 2019. The article explores who are the winners and losers in the changing dynamics of smallholder tobacco production in these land reform sites and how different groups of farmers combine tobacco with other crops and with off-farm enterprises. Drawing on a simple typology of producers derived from the analysis of survey data from 310 A1 farmers, we examine the role of tobacco in complex patterns of accumulation and social differentiation, looking at class, gender and age dynamics. The conclusion discusses how the tobacco boom is reshaping the agrarian economy and its underlying social relations. This is a highly dynamic setting, influenced by how tobacco production is incorporated into farming systems, how its production is financed, how and where it is marketed and how it is combined with other crops and other income-earning opportunities.
Written by: Ntengua Mdoe, Aida Isinika, Gilead Mlay, Gideon Boniface, Christopher Magomba, John Jeckoniah and Devotha Mosha
Rice is Tanzania’s third most important staple crop after maize and cassava, and produced by more than 1 million households who are mostly small-scale farmers. Meanwhile sunflower is the most important edible oil crop in Tanzania, also grown mostly by small-scale farmers. Over the last two decades, rice and sunflower have increasingly become important sources of income. This can be attributed to efforts by the government, in collaboration with development agencies, to commercialise rice and sunflower production to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty among actors in both value chains. There have also been efforts aimed at ensuring sustainable commercialisation and involvement of women and youth in the commercialisation process. Despite these initiatives, women and youth involvement in the rice and sunflower commercialisation process is likely to be constrained by their limited access to land and financial capital. Looking at government policy to promote commercial rice and sunflower production for poverty reduction, this brief examines the extent to which households headed by women and youth have been able to participate in the commercialisation process of the two value chains.
Journal Article: Is Agricultural Commercialisation Sufficient for Poverty Reduction? Lessons from Rice Commercialisation in Kilombero, TanzaniaApril 7, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
Written by: Aida Isinika, Gilead Mlay, Ntengua Mdoe, Gideon Boniface and Amrita Saha
Agricultural commercialisation is widely promoted as a solution for poverty alleviation among smallholder farmers because it has been associated with rising cash income, improved nutrition and living standards. In Tanzania, agricultural commercialization is an important component for agricultural transformation to meet national goals and achieve global sustainable development goals. This paper uses data from Mngeta division in Kilombero district, a major rice-producing area in Tanzania, to demonstrate that attaining higher commercialisation may not be enough to ensure poverty reduction among small-scale farmers and medium-scale farmers. The findings show that rice commercialisation in the study area was driven by intensification and extensification through sustainable rice intensification technologies and animal-drawn technologies, respectively. Nonetheless, the majority of medium-scale farmers who employed animal drawn technology for area expansion and scored the highest rice commercialisation index, surprisingly, scored the highest multidimensional poverty index, representing a higher poverty level than small-scale farmers. This demonstrates that while increased cash income through commercialisation is necessary, it is not sufficient to ensure poverty reduction. Hence more needs to be done to address institutional and cultural factors that impede initiatives to translate higher income to livelihood improvement and facilitate inclusive poverty reduction.
Written by: Louis Hodey, Mirriam Matita and Amrita Saha
Farm households differ in terms of their access to land, capital, labour, skills, as well as access to external services – hence, it is no surprise that the processes of agricultural commercialisation are experienced unevenly across different groups and geographies. This report examines patterns and drivers of agricultural commercialisation in three African contexts: Ghana, Nigeria, and Malawi. We focus on four questions: First, what have been the broad patterns of agricultural commercialisation across different regions/zones and crops? Second, what have been the observable differences across groups of households – namely by gender and farm type? Third, how has the incidence of poverty changed across the years? Finally, and importantly, what are the drivers of agricultural commercialisation? With this focus, this report presents consolidated evidence across three African contexts, drawing attention to key trends and findings as a basis for further research.
APRA Brief 32: Medium-Scale Farming as a Policy Tool for Agricultural Commercialisation and Small-Scale Farms Transformation in NigeriaApril 6, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Written by: Milu Muyanga, Thomas S. Jayne, Adebayo B. Aromolaran, Lenis Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie, Adesoji Adelaja, Titus Awokuse, Oluwatoba J. Omotilewa, Justin George, Fadlullah O. Issa and Abiodun E. Obayelu
Recent evidence suggests that the changing structure of land ownership in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the major new trends affecting African agri-food systems. Research in several African countries shows a rapid rise of medium-scale farms (MSFs) of 5–50ha. MSFs have become an important force for increasing agricultural production, particularly in countries with significant unutilised arable land and potential for area expansion, such as Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia. Most African countries’ national agricultural investment plans and policy strategies officially regard the smallholder farming sector as the main vehicle for achieving agricultural growth, food security, and poverty reduction objectives. However, many governments have adopted land and financial policies that implicitly encourage the rise of emergent MSFs. Given the documented rise in MSFs in many African countries, the APRA Nigeria Work Stream 1 team developed a research agenda focused on understanding the potentially complex ways in which these farms affect the productivity and commercialisation potential of small-scale farms (SSFs). We investigated the characteristics of MSFs, the processes that produces them, their relative importance in the agricultural commercialisation process, the relationship between farm scale and productivity, and whether MSFs influence the behaviour and welfare of the millions of SSF households around them. Our findings are based on two years of survey data on MSFs and nearby SSFs in 2019 and 2021 in Ogun and Kaduna states. This policy brief summarises our main findings, drawing upon several APRA-supported reports.
Journal Article: ‘Demonstration Fields’, Anticipation, and Contestation: Agrarian Change and the Political Economy of Development Corridors in Eastern AfricaApril 6, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
Written by: Ngala Chome, Euclides Gonçalves, Ian Scoones, and Emmanuel Sulle
In much of Eastern Africa, the last decade has seen a renewed interest in spatial development plans that link mineral exploitation, transport infrastructure and agricultural commercialisation. While these development corridors have yielded complex results – even in cases where significant investments are yet to happen – much of the existing analysis continues to focus on economic and implementation questions, where failures are attributed to inappropriate incentives or lack of ‘political will’. Taking a different – political economy – approach, this article examines what actually happens when corridors ‘hit the ground’, with a specific interest to the diverse agricultural commercialisation pathways that they induce. Specifically, the article introduces and analyses four corridors – LAPSSET in Kenya, Beira and Nacala in Mozambique, and SAGCOT in Tanzania – which are generating ‘demonstration fields’, economies of anticipation and fields of political contestations respectively, and as a result, creating – or promising to create – diverse pathways for agricultural commercialisation, accumulation and differentiation. In sum, the article shows how top-down grand-modernist plans are shaped by local dynamics, in a process that results in the transformation of corridors, from exclusivist ‘tunnel’ visions, to more networked corridors embedded in local economies, and shaped by the realities of rural Eastern Africa.
APRA Working Paper 87: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation: Insights from Crop Value Chain Studies in Sub-Saharan AfricaMarch 17, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Blessings Chinsinga and Lars Otto Naess
This paper is a synthesis of findings from 11 value chains case studies in six countries across sub- Saharan Africa, carried out as part of the APRA programme during 2020–21. The countries and their respective value chains case studies included: Ethiopia (rice), Ghana (oil palm and cocoa), Malawi (groundnuts), Nigeria (maize, cocoa and rice), Tanzania (rice and sunflower) and Zimbabwe (tobacco and maize). A political economy analysis (PEA) framework was used to examine the performance of the selected value chains in the six countries. The starting point for the studies was that the success of the value chains is driven by a combination of several factors, in particular related to the relative importance of a crop in the country’s political settlement, the relative influence of different actors, and, ultimately, its ability to generate and distribute rents. In this synthesis, we ask the following questions: (1) What are the drivers and obstacles to commercialisation in the value chains? (2) What are the key factors affecting rents and outcomes, and for whom? And, (3) what are the future prospects for the value chains?
APRA Working Paper 86: Returns to Commercialisation: Gross Margins of Commercial Crops Grown by Smallholders in Sub-Saharan AfricaMarch 10, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Steve Wiggins, Marco Carreras and Amrita Saha
What are the returns to smallholders when they grow commercial crops for sale in rural Africa? The gross value of production per hectare is sometimes reported, with some recent estimates ranging from as much as US$10,000/ha for irrigated vegetables in Zimbabwe to as little as US$250 for sunflower grown on semi-arid land without irrigation in central Tanzania. Gross value, however, takes no account of the costs farmers incur in growing their crops. In this paper, we use gross margin (GM) analysis to take account of those costs and give a truer estimate of the returns to farmers.
APRA Working Paper 85: In the Shadow of Industrial Companies: Class and Spatial Dynamics of Artisanal Palm Oil Processing in Rural GhanaMarch 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Gertrude Dzifa Torvikey and Fred Mawunyo Dzanku
This paper is concerned with the multiple opportunities and challenges of artisanal palm oil processing and the potential multiplier effects on local economies. It examines the effect of the presence of large oil palm plantations and their industrial processing mills on artisanal palm oil processing in two districts in the Western region of Ghana. Although artisanal and industrial processors have co-existed for a long time in the same catchment areas, little is known about the impact of this relationship on artisanal processing. Acknowledging the importance of rural diversity, complexity, and difference in agriculture-based off-farm activities, this paper also examines the effect of community and household level factors on palm oil processing incidence and intensity as well as the impact of processing on food (in)security.
APRA Brief 31: Spillover Effects of Medium-Scale Farms on Smallholder Behaviour and Welfare: Evidence from NigeriaMarch 3, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Written by: Lenis Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie, Ahmed Salim Nuhu, Titus Awokuse, Thomas Jayne, Milu Muyanga, Adebayo Aromolaran and Adesoji Adelaja
Many countries across Africa are seeing an increasing share of farmland being classified as medium-scale farms (MSFs). MSFs are defined as farms operating between 5–100ha. MSFs co-exist with small-scale farms (SSFs, defined as farms below 5ha), who still constitute the majority of households in rural areas of Africa. While there is growing literature documenting the drivers of the rise of MSFs and their characteristics empirical evidence on how this rise in MSFs impacts neighbouring SSFs is still thin. This study addresses these observed gaps in the literature. We developed a theoretical model to explain some mechanisms through which spillovers on SSFs can be generated from the existence of MSFs around them. We empirically tested for evidence of these spillovers with data from Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation. By exploring the spillover effects of MSFs on a broader set of SSF outcomes, including input use, productivity, commercialisation and welfare (captured via several measures of household income and poverty status), this paper provides a more comprehensive view of spillover effects.
Journal Article: Changing Farm Size Distributions and Agricultural Transformation in Sub-Saharan AfricaMarch 3, 2022 / Journal articles Publications
Written by: Thomas Jayne, Ayala Wineman, Jordan Chamberlin, Milu Muyanga and Felix Kwame Yeboah
We review the literature on the distribution of farm sizes in sub-Saharan Africa, trends over time, drivers of change in farm structure, and effects on agricultural transformation, and present new evidence for six countries. While it is widely viewed that African agriculture is dominated by small-scale farms, we show that medium-scale farms of 5 to 100 hectares are a non-trivial—and rapidly expanding—force which is influencing the nature and pace of food systems transformation in many countries. The increased prevalence of medium-scale holdings is associated with farm labor productivity growth and underappreciated benefits to smallholder farmers. However, the rise of African investor farmers may also be contributing to escalating land prices and restricted land access for local people. A better understanding of these trends and linkages, which requires new data collection activities, could help resolve longstanding policy debates and support strategies that accelerate agricultural transformation.
APRA Brief 30: Ghana’s Cocoa Farmers Need to Change Gear: What Policymakers Need to Know, and What They Might DoMarch 1, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
Written by Kojo Amanor, Joseph Yaro, Joseph Teye and Steve Wiggins
Cocoa farmers in Ghana face increasing challenges. In the past, many of them could make a living from cocoa thanks to the advantages – ‘forest rents’ – that initially apply when forest is cleared to create cocoa farms: fertile soils, few pests and diseases. With time, however, weeds invade, pests and diseases build up, and trees age. To maintain production requires more labour, more inputs and more skill. In the past, farmers would often abandon older groves and seek new forest to clear. As they did so, the frontier for cocoa farming moved westwards across Ghana to the remaining high forest. But by 2000 or so, no new forest was available. Farmers now have to manage aging stands of trees, clear weeds and parasites, and combat pests, fungi and diseases. In Suhum District in the east and in Juaboso District in the far west of Ghana, we talked to farmers. They understood the challenges they faced, and knew how to deal with some of them. But many were not farming their cocoa as well as they could, losing yields and income as a result. This brief provides a basis for policymakers to move forward in responding to the current challenges facing cocoa farmers.
Written by: Fred Dzanku and Louis Hodey
Oil palm is the most important export crop in Ghana, aside from cocoa. Compared with cocoa, however, oil palm has a more extensive local value chain, including greater opportunity for local industrial and artisanal processing into palm oil and other products, which creates a high potential for employment generation and poverty reduction; as a result oil palm is classified as a priority crop. The selection of oil palm as a priority crop aims to promote agricultural commercialisation through domestic agroindustry development and exports. In spite of this, the oil palm economy has still not achieved its potential, and this begs the question, why? Although it is known in general that commercialisation potential and its benefits are not equally distributed across groups, it is not clear how and why different subgroups (women, men, youth) might benefit differently from the oil palm economy. This brief addresses why different groups of smallholders (women, men, youth) benefit unequally from oil palm value chains, and how returns to oil palm production and marketing could become more inclusive.
Jeremy Lind, Doris Okenwa and Ian Scoones
The rush for land and resources has featured prominently in recent studies of sub-Saharan Africa. Often happening alongside regional projects to upgrade and expand infrastructure, this urgency to unlock untapped economic potential has generated heated debate around the social and environmental impacts, as well as consequences for livelihoods, rights and benefit sharing.1 More than ever before, the gaze of global investment has been directed to the pastoral drylands of Africa. This matters because of the varied land and natural resource uses, social organisation and the histories and legacies of development that are unique to these areas. Given ecological uncertainty and the patchy distribution of resources, adaptability and flexibility have been the basis for sustaining lives and livelihoods in the drylands (Catley et al. 2013b; Mortimore and Adams 1999; Scoones 1994). The introduction of this book is Open Access, and can be accessed below:
APRA Working Paper 84: The Struggle to Intensify Cocoa Production in Ghana: Making a Living from the Forest in Western NorthFebruary 22, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Joseph Yaro, Joseph Kofi Teye and Steve Wiggins
Since cocoa began to be cultivated in the 1880s in southern Ghana, it has created jobs, incomes and prosperity for the many farmers growing the crop. Until recently, cocoa farmers could make use of highly favourable conditions when clearing forests to plant cocoa. They needed to do little other than plant seedlings then wait to harvest the pods. When trees aged, or soil fertility declined, or swollen shoot viral disease attacked the trees, they could abandon the old groves and move to establish new stands of cocoa in virgin forests. Over the decades, the frontier for new cocoa farms moved west across the country. By the 2000s, however, the last available forests in Western Region were being taken up and the frontier closed. With no new land available for cocoa, farmers would need to maintain and renew their groves to preserve their incomes, and to intensify production if they wanted to earn more from cocoa. At the same time, farmers faced increasing attacks from pests, fungi, parasites and the deadly threat of swollen shoot – while their trees aged and needed replanting. As a result of a lack of technical knowledge and capital, farmers struggled to respond to these challenges, continue cocoa production and intensify further. This study explores if it is still possible to make a living from cocoa in the region and if so, how.
APRA Working Paper 83: Hired Labour Use, Productivity, and Commercialisation: The Case of Rice in Fogera Plain of EthiopiaFebruary 21, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications
With the expansion of rice production in Ethiopia’s Fogera Plain, the rural labour market, highly characterised by the casual unskilled labour supply, has flourished. This is mainly associated with the nature of rice production, where certain agronomic practices demand a significant investment of time and thus family labour may not be sufficient. This has created an opportunity for rice farmers to hire labour when they need for extra help, and also for unskilled labourers to gain casual employment. This paper explores the characteristics of rural labour markets, trends in hired labour use and the impact of hired labour on smallholder farmers’ rice productivity and commercialisation using data collected from 723 randomly selected smallholder rice farmers in the Fogera Plain.
APRA Working Paper 82: Interrogating the Effectiveness of Farmer Producer Organisations in Enhancing Smallholder Commercialisation – Frontline Experiences From Central MalawiFebruary 10, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Masautso Chimombo, Mirriam Matita, Loveness Mgalamadzi, Blessings Chinsinga, Ephraim Wadonda Chirwa, Stevier Kaiyatsa and Jacob Mazalale
Many years of significant investment into the production and adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies and practices in agriculture have not yielded the desired results. Most smallholder farmers in Africa remain trapped in poverty. Having realised that addressing production challenges alone is not enough to impact the lives of poor smallholder farmers, resources and attention have now shifted to the marketing side of agriculture. Organising farmers into farmer producer organisations (FPOs), like clubs, associations and cooperatives, has been one of the strategies aimed at commercialising smallholder agriculture. In Malawi, smallholder farmers have been organised into FPOs of various types and sizes. This qualitative study interrogated the effectiveness of FPOs in Malawi in meeting their objectives, including the objective of enhancing commercialisation of smallholder farmers through increased access to farm inputs, markets, and agricultural extension and advisory services.
APRA Working Paper 81: Use of Climate-Smart Agriculture Practices and Smallholder Farmer Market Participation in Central MalawiFebruary 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Mirriam Matita, Ephraim Wadonda Chirwa, David Zingwe and Jacob Mazalale
In the past few decades, climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has been promoted to improve food security and raise incomes as a strategy for sustainable agricultural development. The adoption rates among smallholder farmers, particularly in Africa, remain low and have varied in different contexts. We investigated the market participation spill over effects from the adoption of CSA practices in central Malawi. We tested the hypothesis that the extent of the use of CSA practices in the past 10 years can lead to production surpluses that enable smallholder farmers to participate in markets and thereby increase agricultural incomes. The findings suggest, among others, the need to intensify efforts to promote CSA adoption specifically over a longer period for benefits of the technologies to materialise. The adoption of CSA practices over time enhances crop market participation – an important aspect required for production sustainability as well as for transforming agriculture towards greater market orientation among smallholder farmers.
APRA Working Paper 80: Long-Term Change, Commercialisation of Cocoa Farming, and Agroecosystems and Forest Rehabilitation in GhanaFebruary 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers
Written by: Kojo Amanor, Joseph Yaro and Joseph Teye
Cocoa production has a long history in Ghana, originating in the late nineteenth century. Since then, cocoa production has seen significant changes. Originally, cocoa was cultivated in newly cleared forests in which many forest trees were preserved as shade trees. Cocoa is ideally suited to these conditions and produces high yields with minimum investment in labour and inputs. However, over time, as the forest conditions change, the cost of cultivating cocoa has increased and yields have declined. As long as new forest frontiers exist, farmers have continued to move into these areas, which have displaced older areas of cultivation, since the costs of production are significantly lower in the new frontiers. In recent years, however, new forest frontiers have declined and most cocoa farmers have been forced to rehabilitate and replant cocoa in open land. This study examines the rational of frontier development; changes in land relations, labour relations and use of technology; and the impact of these factors on different categories of farmers, including women and youth. This is developed through two comparative case studies drawn from the older cocoa frontier of the Eastern Region, and the more recent frontier of Western North Region.
Written by: Kehinde Adesina Thomas, Adeola Olajide and Molatokunbo O. Olutayo
Despite the setback in the Nigerian agricultural sector’s development and its declining cocoa production in recent years, the nation still has potential to regain its production capacities in the cocoa sub-sector. In fact, cocoa farmers included in the study, across their gender disaggregation, opined that cocoa farming still has a bright future in the study area if attendant challenges are promptly addressed, because the interest and drive to expand production still exists among farmers. Thus, this paper explores the issues and prospects around cocoa commercialisation in southwestern Nigeria.