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 MechanisationMarch 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 PlainMarch 12, 2019 / APRA Briefs News
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.
Analysing the pathways that young people employ to get started in commercial agriculture should provide valuable and policy-relevant insights about opportunities and challenges for Africa’s rural youth. This paper presents a summary of findings on how young people engage with or are affected by agricultural intensification and commercialisation in Techiman, North District, Ghana in order to better understand the pathways that particular groups of young people seek to construct livelihoods in or around agricultural commercialisation hotspots, and the outcomes associated with these efforts.
Written by Lidia Cabral.
This paper considers the current policy debate on agricultural mechanisation in Africa, situating this in the context of long-standing disputes on appropriate technology and roles for the state. Present calls for mechanisation, and tractorisation in particular, by national governments and international development agencies emerge in a different context, where there are new sources of technology and where development discourse emphasises sustainability and the role of the private sector. Yet, as before, recipes for agricultural mechanisation remain contentious and alliances between aid and business are once again driving policy. This time, however, Southern powers like China, India and Brazil are competing for space. The paper highlights the contentious nature of mechanisation in scholarly debate, policymaking and international development cooperation between North and South.
In addition to this paper’s focus on the broader politics of mechanisation, the policy study also looks at the experiences with mechanisation in three selected countries – Ghana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – all of which have been recently supported by SSC with Brazil, China and India. While the country cases undertake an in-depth analysis of the mechanisation trajectories of the three African countries and their domestic political economy, this paper takes a broader view of the history of mechanisation in Africa and its recurrent debates, and situates the return to tractors in the context of the new aid–business nexus.
Written by Toendepi Shonhe.
This paper examines postcolonial agricultural mechanisation in Zimbabwe in the context of recent land reforms. It pays particular attention to the central role played by state-capital relations – with notable links to international finance – in shaping a resurgence in tractor usage following Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). Moreover, the economy-wide crisis triggered by land reform shaped the emerging agricultural mechanisation.
This study examines the decline in tractor supply by the government, and the growth and dominance of large-scale commercial farms as a source of second-hand tractors for smallholder and medium-scale farmers. This paper relies on archival sources as well as empirical data collected in Mvurwi through surveys, focus group discussions, tracker studies and in-depth interviews. While the tractors imported by the government from Brazil on concessional terms have become a major source of tractor services for the resettled farmers in Mvurwi, resettled farmers are also reinvesting proceeds from the sale of agricultural commodities predominantly in agricultural mechanisation, creating a new source for tractor hiring services and agrarian transformation. Although patronage politics has shaped the distribution of tractors and the establishment of tractor service cooperatives, there is no evidence of concrete political gains resulting from these investments.
Working Paper 20: Building Livelihoods: Young People and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa: Ghana Country StudyMarch 11, 2019 / Working Papers
Written by Thomas Yeboah.
This paper is concerned with how rural young people in Ghana engage with or are affected by two processes closely associated with rural and economic transformation – agricultural intensification and agricultural commercialisation. The objective was to develop a better understanding of steps and pathways by which particular groups of young people seek to construct livelihoods in or around agricultural commercialisation hotspots, and the outcomes associated with these efforts. The research reported in this paper draws on in-depth interviews conducted with 35 rural youth in the Tuobodom and Adutwie communities in the Techiman North District of Brong Ahafo Region, Ghana, an area that we define as a ‘commercialisation hotspot’.
The overall conclusion of the study is that, whether or not a young person wants to be there, being in an area of intensive agricultural commercialisation compared to one with limited commercialisation is probably as good as it gets.
Working Paper 19: Zinc Roof of Mango Tree? Tractors, Modernisation and Agrarian Transformation in MozambiqueMarch 11, 2019 / Working Papers
Written by Lidia Cabral.
This paper analyses the design and implementation of Mozambique’s National Agriculture Mechanisation Programme and wider mechanisation policy, looking at the models devised for service provision, actors involved, their motivations and expectations, and access to machinery by the small-scale ‘family sector’. The paper also discusses the role played by mechanisation in processes of agrarian change and social differentiation in rural Mozambique and, specifically, its part in efforts by the state to nurture a modern agribusiness entrepreneur.
An investment or growth corridor is a geographical area of a country or group of countries surrounding a major transport route, which supports economic activity either end of, and along, the route. Drawing on APRA’s work studying growth corridors in East Africa, this brief focuses on the Lamu Port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor, presenting an overview of the corridor’s infrastructural plan and its place within the region’s politics, as well as its implications for those who live and work along the corridor’s planned route – including smallholders, fishers and pastoralists.
Download: APRA Policy Brief 14
Malawi is a predominantly agrarian economy. With around 85 percent of the country’s population relying on agriculture for their livelihoods, it is estimated that the sector makes up as much as 35 percent of GDP, 80 percent of export earnings, and 70 percent of total rural income. Underpinning both Malawi’s industrial and manufacturing sectors, agriculture is integral to any concerted effort aimed at achieving inclusive growth, and therefore lies at the heart of Malawi’s political economy. This brief, which is based on a longer paper1, examines the evolution and political economy of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi since the 1960s, from both a historical and a contemporary perspective.
Download: APRA Brief 13