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

APRA Brief 28: COVID-19 and Social Differentiation in African Agriculture
November 22, 2021 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

Written by: Helen Dancer and Imogen Bellwood-Howard

This brief presents a summary of key findings from a multi-country study of social differentiation in African agricultural value chains in the context of COVID-19. It aims to understand how trends in the politics and participation of different actors in agriculture have contributed to patterns of social differentiation, and how these patterns have interacted with the shock of COVID-19. It brings attention both to the implications of political decision-making and the effects of the pandemic on value chain structures and those working within the sector.

A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Malawi
November 22, 2021 / COVID Country Report Impact Assessment Publications

Written by: Mirriam Matita and Masautso Chimombo

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions to national and global economies with devastating effects on food systems and livelihoods across the globe. These effects of the pandemic on poverty, hunger, and malnutrition, among others, are likely to be greater among low and middle-income countries like those in sub- Saharan Africa, including Malawi. This is because even before the COVID-19 pandemic began the proportion of people facing poverty, and food and nutrition insecurity were already high. It is, therefore, imperative to understand the effects of COVID-19 on food systems and rural livelihoods. Using a multi-stage ‘rapid assessment’, this study provides real-time insights into how the COVID-19 crisis unfolded in Malawi and how rural people and food and livelihood systems respond.

APRA Working Paper 75: Agricultural Commercialisation and Rural Livelihoods in Malawi: A Historical and Contemporary Agrarian Inquiry
November 16, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Blessings Chinsinga, Mirriam Matita, Masautso Chimombo, Loveness Msofi, Stevier Kaiyatsa and Jacob Mazalale

This study was carried out to understand the underlying dynamics of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi, especially among smallholder farmers. Despite various concerted efforts to accelerate agricultural growth and transformation, the progress among smallholder farmers has been less satisfactory. Most of the smallholder farmers do not engage with markets on a consistent and sustainable basis. Consequently, the aim of this paper was to demonstrate that there is no one ideal type of agricultural commercialisation that can be realised through investment and policy intervention.

A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Ethiopia: The Case of Fogera Plain
November 15, 2021 / COVID Country Report Impact Assessment Publications

Written by: Dawit Alemu and Abebaw Assaye

The COVID-19 pandemic has not only led to the loss of human life and resulted in an unprecedented challenge to public health, but has also seriously affected food systems and work opportunities. As a global pandemic, COVID-19 has impacted food systems and livelihoods as a result of both economic and health challenges that emanate from domestic public policy measures, and also actions taken by other countries, mainly in the form of trade restrictions. Following the confirmation of the first COVID-19 case in Ethiopia on 13 March 2020, and concerns about the sharp increase in cases, the federal government declared a state of emergency on 8 April 2020 which lasted for five months. This paper presents the assessment of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and its prevention measures on agricultural commercialisation, food and nutrition security, labour and employment, as well as poverty and well-being in rural Ethiopia.

A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Zimbabwe
November 9, 2021 / COVID Country Report Impact Assessment Publications

Written by: Vine Mutyasira

The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to affect agri-food systems around the world and lay bare its fragility, worsening the welfare of millions of smallholder farmers whose livelihoods are anchored on agricultural activities. For the vast majority of sub-Saharan Africa, COVID-19 has coincided with a number of other macroeconomic shocks, which have also exacerbated the impacts of the pandemic on food security, nutrition and general livelihoods, as well curtailed policy responses and mitigation strategies. In Zimbabwe, the COVID-19 pandemic struck at a time the country was experiencing a worsening economic and humanitarian situation. This study focused more on community and household dynamics and response measures to cope with the pandemic. This paper presents a summary of findings emerging from a series of rapid assessment studies undertaken by the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme in Mvurwi and Concession areas of Mazowe District in Zimbabwe to examine how COVID-19 is affecting food systems and rural livelihoods in our research communities.

APRA Working Paper 74: The Role of Small-Scale Processors in Supporting Agricultural Commercialisation Among Smallholder Rice Farmers in East Africa: Lessons from Ethiopia and Tanzania
November 9, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Dawit Alemu, Aida Isinika, Hannington Odame and John Thompson

Until recently, attention to rice value chain upgrading has been limited in many rice-producing countries of Eastern Africa. Yet, it is this mid-stream section (the millers and traders) – the so-called ‘hidden middle’ – which is essential to sustaining the capacity of rice value chains to contributing to food security in the region, as it fulfils a crucial intermediary role between supply and demand. In this paper, we focus on the role of rice processors as key actors in rice sector development in East Africa along with what challenges and opportunities they face, drawing on primary data generated from surveys and key informant interviews in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

APRA Working Paper 73: Land and Labour Relations on Cocoa Farms in Sefwi, Ghana: Continuity and Change
November 8, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Joseph Yaro, Joseph K. Teye and Steve Wiggins

When in the 1880s farmers in southern Ghana began to plant cocoa, their main concerns were finding land to plant and mobilising labour to do so. The issue of finding land remained paramount until at least the 1990s, when the land frontier of forest to clear for cocoa finally closed. The last forests to be planted were in the old Western Region and particularly in Sefwi, now the Western North Region. This paper examines how farmers in Sefwi obtained land and mobilised labour in the late 2010s, and how that has changed since the 1960s.

APRA Research Note 5: Agricultural Commercialisation in South-Western Ghana
October 28, 2021 / APRA research note Publications

Written by: Louis Hodey and Fred Dzanku

The Agricultural Policy Research in Africa study in Ghana consists of three work streams. This report contains results of the analyses of Work Stream 1 (WS1) baseline and endline survey datasets for Ghana. Oil palm commercialisation arrangements and outcomes are the focus of WS1 in Ghana. Case studies have been carried out in two districts – Ahanta West and Mpohor – in Western Region. This report highlights the changes between 2017 and 2019 for five APRA indicators, including agricultural commercialisation (input and output), employment, poverty (income, subjective poverty and household asset ownership), food security and women empowerment.

APRA Working Paper 72: Land Tenure and Oil Palm Commercialisation
October 28, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Esther Naa Dodua Darku and Alexander Nii Adjei Sowah

Oil palm is the second most important cash crop after cocoa, and the sector is an important contributor to the Ghanaian economy. The production of cash crops in Ghana has largely been dominated by small-scale farmers in mostly rural areas since the 1800s. The high value placed on cash crops often leads to better livelihood outcomes for cash crop farmers. However, the ability to sustainably participate in oil palm cultivation depends on secure access to land. One of the major challenges of small-scale farming in Africa is the land tenure system that affects the ability of farmers to make long-term financial and technical/technological commitments that will help farmers fully maximise the economic potential of the land. This paper examines different land tenure arrangements in five oil palm growing communities in south-western Ghana, and how different rules for land access affect different social groups. We focus specifically on the gendered aspects of access to land and their implications on equitable participation in the oil palm economy of these communities.

APRA Working Paper 71: The Drivers of Medium-Scale Farms and the Emerging Synergies and Contradictions Among Socially-Differentiated Farmers in Northern Ghana
October 12, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Joseph Yaro, Ibrahim Wahab, Gloria Afful-Mensah and Michael Ben Awenam

Since the turn of the century, agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa has been undergoing rapid transformation. Ghana is experiencing an agrarian revolution with increasing farmland sizes, increased mechanisation of production and external input usage, and high levels of commercialisation. In this paper we show the growth of farm sizes, the major drivers of increasing farm sizes, and emerging relations between different scales of farmers. The paper discusses the synergies and contradictions emerging from the processes of agricultural commercialisation in the context of rising farmland sizes and the implications for different social groups.

APRA Working Paper 70: The Rise of Medium-Scale Farms in the Northern Savannah of Ghana: Farmland Invasion or an Inclusive Commercialised Agricultural Revolution?
October 12, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Joseph Yaro, Ibrahim Wahab, Gloria Afful-Mensah and Michael Ben Awenam

Agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing rapid transformation involving major changes in farmland ownership and farm scales from small to medium farms, with the widespread use of mechanisation and agro-inputs. Generally, households are increasing their farm sizes while others are dropping out of agriculture as the non-farm economy grows in both rural and urban areas. This study examined the changes in farmland sizes in two districts in the north of Ghana where agricultural extensification is still possible. Specifically, the study addressed the questions of the historical agrarian context; the magnitude and character of farm structure changes; the emerging spatial manifestation of farms; and the use of factors of production among the emerging socially differentiated farmers.

APRA Working Paper 69: Politics, Power and Social Differentiation in African Agricultural Value Chains: The Effects of COVID-19
October 4, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Imogen Bellwood-Howard and Helen Dancer

Since the structural adjustment policies of the 1980s, policymaking at a national and continental level has increasingly turned to agricultural commercialisation as the foundation for Africa’s long-term nutrition and food security. However, socio-economic inequalities, land tenure and food insecurity, as well as livelihood and income precarities remain widespread challenges. The effects of shocks, such as COVID-19, have overlaid emergent and entrenched patterns of social differentiation that shape access to resources, markets, and other opportunities for those involved in commercial agriculture. This paper considered the impacts of COVID-19 on value chains in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, to ask: 1) What can political settlements analyses tell us about agricultural value chains and responses to COVID-19 in the countries studied? 2) How are structures and power relations throughout the value chains and actors’ responses to COVID-19 related to social differentiation in the context of African agriculture?

APRA Working Paper 68: Explaining the Weakness of Associational Life in Oil Palm Growing Communities in Southwestern Ghana
October 4, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Dorothy Takyiakwaa, Prince Selorm Kodzo Tetteh and Kofi Takyi Asante

As the second most important industrial crop in Ghana, oil palm holds the potential of improving farmers’ livelihoods and alleviating rural poverty. For smallholder farmers, collective action through farmer-based organisations (FBOs) could provide a pathway to inclusive participation in agricultural commercialisation. There is ample evidence in the literature that collective action can help smallholders gain access to credit, improved inputs, or even networks of social support. Thus, collective action is widely recognised as a viable pathway out of poverty for the agrarian poor. However, our findings show that FBOs were either weak or non-existent. Indeed, we find that economic relations between farmers tend to be more individualised than one would expect to find in rural communities. This paper presents these findings, and explores why this is the case.

APRA Working Paper 67: Sunflower Commercialisation in Singida Region: Pathways for Livelihood Improvement
October 4, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Aida Isinika, John Jeckoniah, Ntengua Mdoe and Kizito Mwajombe

Sunflower commercialisation in Singida Region, Tanzania has been successful. The successes include increased oilseed production, expanding processing capacity and declining rural poverty. Policies and efforts by development agents to promote sunflower commercialisation have increased the number of actors and service providers. Accumulation from sunflower and other enterprises, including livestock, have not only improved livelihoods, but also contributed to household economic diversity. This paper examines the interactions between activities involved in sunflower production and other livelihood strategies. For example, the paper examines local dynamics in policy and business contexts that have shaped livelihood options available and people’s choices of which option they undertake, and the corresponding outcomes, and reasons for such commercialisation trajectories. The study aims to inform local, regional, and national strategies, to pursue more inclusive and sustainable agriculture development, and widen options and pathways for men and women in Mkalama and Iramba districts of Singida Region.

APRA Working Paper 66: Yield and Commercialisation Effects of SRI Interventions in Mngeta, Kilombero District, Tanzania
September 21, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Devotha B. Mosha, Gilead Mlay, Colin Poulton and Amrita Saha

This paper discusses System of Rice Intensification (SRI) interventions and its potential effects on paddy yield and commercialisation in Mngeta division, Kilombero district in Morogoro region, Tanzania. SRI is an innovative agroecological methodology that aims to improve yields and farmers’ profits by creating the most suitable environment for the rice plant to grow. It comprises the precise set of cultivation practices specifically required for careful management of biophysical needs of the rice plant for producing high yields. To assess the effects, we compare between trained and non-trained farmers, as well as between farmers who are members of SRI associations and non-SRI members, on aspects of adoption of SRI interventions, paddy productivity and yields. In turn, the effects of SRI is evaluated in terms of its influence on rice yield per hectare and commercialisation at household level.

APRA Working Paper 65: Livestock, Crop Commercialisation and Poverty Reduction Among Rural Households in the Singida Region, Tanzania
September 21, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Ntengua Mdoe, Gilead Mlay, Gideon Boniface, Aida Isinika and Christopher Magomba

Livestock is an important component of mixed crop-livestock farming systems in the Singida Region in Tanzania, directly or indirectly contributing to household income, food security and poverty reduction among rural people in the region. This paper examined the effect of livestock on crop commercialisation and farmers’ livelihoods in the region. The complementarity between crops and livestock in the farming systems of Singida needs to be recognised, enhanced and utilised not only by farmers and livestock keepers, but also by local government authorities and development practitioners.

APRA Working Paper 64: Commercial Tobacco Production and Climate Change Adaptation in Mazowe, Zimbabwe
September 20, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Andrew Newsham, Toendepi Shonhe and Tsitsidzashe Bvute

There has been an increasingly well-documented, rapid rise in tobacco production over the last couple of decades in Mazowe, Zimbabwe, despite growing public health concerns about lung cancer and nicotine’s addictive capacities in the wealthier countries of the West – even affecting the South African market. This has been accompanied by a shift away from its production almost completely on large-scale farms towards predominantly small-scale farms. To date, less consideration has been given to the implications of climate change for tobacco production. Given the hopes that it can make a serious contribution to poverty reduction and food security, it is of increasing importance to understand these implications, to identify the most relevant and/or effective adaptation options and to assess the viability of their successful adoption. This paper presents a fine-grained, qualitative bottom-up analysis of the implications for commercial tobacco production of climate change impacts in Zimbabwe.

APRA Working Paper 63: Rice Commercialisation Effects in Mngeta, Kilombero District, Tanzania: Identifying the Underlying Factors
September 7, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Aida Isinika, Gilead Mlay, Ntengua Mdoe, Gideon Boniface, Christopher Magomba and Devotha Kilave

Rice production is the most dominant farming system in Kilombero valley in Morogoro region, Tanzania, accounting for more than 80 per cent of cultivated land within the valley. This paper examines changes in rice commercialisation and livelihood outcomes for different categories of farmers in the Mngeta division, Kilombero District, Tanzania. Understanding the underlying factors of agricultural commercialisation enables policymakers to ensure that policy interventions promote inclusive and equitable involvement of all farmers and other value chain actors, especially women and youths, who have been excluded from most development initiatives in the past.

APRA Brief 27: Commercialising Pastoralist Livestock Systems in East Africa
August 23, 2021 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

Written by: Andy Catley

Across East Africa’s vast rangelands, pastoralist livestock systems have been commercialising since the early 1900s. Commercialisation has varied widely within and between areas, but now includes substantial livestock exports, regional and cross-border trade, and supply to domestic markets. This policy brief examines some of the key features of pastoralism that affect how commercialisation evolves in pastoralist societies, and why poorer producers often benefit least from new market access. The policy brief draws on a substantial body of research and programme evaluations, and two new APRA research reports on pastoral livestock commercialisation in south-east Ethiopia (Gebresenbet, 2020) and northern Kenya (Roba, 2020).

The politics of mechanisation in Zimbabwe: tractors, accumulation and agrarian change
August 16, 2021 / Publications

Written by: Toendepi Shonhe

This article explores whether mechanisation affects patterns of accumulation and differentiation in Zimbabwe’s post land reform where policy consistently disadvantages smallholders. Is the latest mechanisation wave any different? The article considers dynamics of tractor access and accumulation trajectories across and within land use types in Mvurwi area. Larger, richer and well-connected farmers draw on patronage networks to access tractors and accumulate further. Some small to medium-scale farmers generate surpluses and invest in tractors or pay for services. Thus, accumulation from above and below feeds social differentiation. Tractor access remains constrained yet mechanisation is only part of the wider post-2000 story.

Agricultural commercialisation and changing labour regimes in Zimbabwe
August 16, 2021 / Publications

Written by: Toendepi Shonhe, Ian Scoones and Felix Murimbarimba

This paper explores the emerging labour regimes and the consequences for agricultural commercialisation across multiple land-use types in post land reform Zimbabwe. The livelihoods of farmworkers, including those still resident in former labour compounds, are explored. The paper examines patterns of employment, land access, crop farming, asset ownership and off-farm activities, highlighting the diversification of livelihoods. The old pattern of wage-employed, permanent farmworkers is increasingly rare, as autonomous, flexible combinations of wage work, farming and a range of entrepreneurial and informal activities emerge. The paper thus engages with the wider debate about the changing nature of ‘work’ and ‘employment’, alongside discussions about the class implications of ‘working people’ and ‘fractured classes of labour’ in transforming agrarian economies. Without a captive, resident workforce, commercial agriculture must mobilise labour in new ways, as the farm work and workers have been refashioned in the new agrarian setting.

APRA Working Paper 62: Agricultural Investment Corridors in Africa: Does Smallholder and Women’s Participation Count?
August 12, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Rebecca Smalley, Emmanuel Sulle, Ngala Chome, Ana Duarte and Euclide Gonçalves

Agricultural development corridors and clusters are highly complex projects that have been driven in Africa by agribusiness and mining corporations, host governments, international donors and development finance institutions. There is interest in whether these projects can support inclusive agribusiness. Evidence shows that involvement of small-scale economic actors in such initiatives is often impeded by a failure to grant them participation or a voice. We therefore investigated if and how recent corridors and clusters in Africa have been able to achieve the meaningful engagement of small-scale economic actors, with a focus on smallholders, including pastoralists, and the women among them.

APRA Working Paper 61: Rice Commercialisation, Agrarian Change and Livelihood Trajectories: Transformations on the Fogera Plain of Ethiopia
August 6, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Dawit Alemu, John Thompson and Abebaw Assaye

Rice was considered a minor crop in Ethiopia, rarely consumed by many households in Sub-Saharan Africa. In recent decades, however, it has become the most rapidly growing staple food source in the country. This paper presents an historical analysis of rice commercialisation and the observed agrarian changes that have resulted from its introduction and spread in Ethiopia. The paper analyses the role of the state, private actors and development partners in promoting improvements in rice production and value chain upgrading, as well as examines the impacts of small-scale commercialisation on local livelihoods and rural economies.

From Field Research to Policy Change – Lessons from FAC and APRA
August 2, 2021 / ALRE Working Paper Publications

Written by: Martin Whiteside

The Institute of Development Studies has led consortia of UK and African organisations in two large programmes of agricultural policy research: the original Future Agricultures Consortium programme, running from 2005 to 2014, and the successive Agricultural Policy Research in Africa programme, from 2016 to 2022. These programmes involved African field research teams, linked to African Universities, and conducting policy-relevant research into key issues relative to the future of agriculture in Africa and inclusive agricultural commercialisation (APRA). A component of both programmes was to use the evidence collected to influence the policy environment in favour of productive, sustainable, and inclusive agriculture. This paper explores what has been learnt in these two programmes about using field research evidence to improve agricultural policy.

Responses of Rice Farmers Engaged in Vegetable Production: Implications of the Collapse of Vegetable Prices in the Fogera Plain
July 27, 2021 / APRA research note Publications

Written by: Dawit Alemu and Tirhas Kinfe

Since the early 1980s, the Fogera Plain has been one of Ethiopia’s major rice production areas. The introduction of rice, its commercialisation and the subsequent increased surplus production has led to the ability of smallholder rice farmers to intensify their production through diverse investments, mainly in supplementary irrigation. This has also enabled rice farmers to diversify crop production, mainly during the off-season, through the production of high-value crops like vegetables. Despite this expansion, a recent visit to the Fogera Plain by the authors revealed that most smallholder rice farmers were not able to sell their onions due to the collapse of local markets. To investigate this collapse further, this paper follows the authors’ investigation of farmer investments in producing onion, their responses to the collapse of the onion market, and the implications for rural livelihood improvement within the Fogera Plain.

Research to Policy Influencing – Lessons from APRA on Efficiency, Effectiveness and Sustainability
July 15, 2021 / ALRE Research Note Publications

Written by, Martin Whiteside

This paper presents some of the learning on efficiency, effectiveness, and sustainability generated by an accompanied learning process; which supported the latter part of a six-year research programme on agricultural commercialisation covering nine African countries and involving multiple research and policy influencing teams.

APRA Working Paper 60: The Political Economy of the Maize Value Chain in Nigeria
July 15, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Paul Amaza, Sunday Mailumo, Asenath Silong

The aim of this case study is to understand the underlying political economy dynamics of the maize value chain in Nigeria, with a focus on how this can contribute to comprehending the drivers and constraints of agricultural commercialisation. The study is informed by theories of political settlements, rents, and policy processes. It asks questions around (1) the key actors and interests: who participates and how do they benefit? (2) Rules and policies: who makes the rules, and who wins and loses? And (3), what are the implications across different social groups?

Working Paper 59: The Influence of Sunflower Commercialisation and Diversity on Women’s Empowerment: The Case of Iramba and Mkalama Districts, Singida Region
July 14, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Devotha B. Mosha, John Jeckoniah, Aida Isinika and Gideon Boniface

There is a growing body of literature that argues that normally women derive little benefit from cash crops. Some of the barriers leading to women having less benefit from cash crop value chains include cultural norms and power differences in access to, and control over, resources among actors in value chains. It is also argued that women’s participation in different forms of collective action help women to increase benefits to them through their increased agency, hence enabling them to utilise existing and diverse options for their empowerment. This paper explores how women have benefited from their engagement in sunflower commercialisation and how culture has influenced changes in access to, and control over, resources, including land, for their empowerment.

Journal Article: Basket of options: Unpacking the concept
July 9, 2021 / Journal articles Publications

E Ronner, J Sumberg, D Glover, KKE Descheemaeker, CJM Almekinders, BIG Haussmann, TW Kuyper, H Posthumus, P Ebanyat, KE Giller. 2021.

How to stimulate technological change to enhance agricultural productivity and reduce poverty remains an area of vigorous debate. In the face of heterogeneity among farm households and rural areas, one proposition is to offer potential users a ‘basket of options’ – a range of agricultural technologies from which potential users may select the ones that are best suited to their specific circumstances. While the idea of a basket of options is now generally accepted, it has attracted little critical attention. In this paper, we reflect on outstanding questions: the appropriate dimensions of a basket, its contents and how they are identified, and how a basket might be presented. We conceive a basket of options in terms of its depth (number of options related to a problem or opportunity) and breadth (the number of different problems or opportunities addressed). The dimensions of a basket should reflect the framing of the problem or opportunity at hand and the objective in offering the basket. We recognise that increasing the number of options leads to a trade-off by decreasing the fraction of those options that are relevant to an individual user. Farmers might try out, adapt or use one or more of the options in a basket, possibly leading to a process of technological change. We emphasise that the selection (or not) of specific options from the basket, and potential adaptation of the options, provide important opportunities for learning. Baskets of options can therefore be understood as important boundary concepts that invite critical engagement, comparison and discussion. Significant knowledge gaps remain, however, about the best ways to present the basket and to guide potential users to select the options that are most relevant to them.

Journal Article: Medium-scale commercial agriculture in Zimbabwe: the experience of A2 resettlement farms
June 15, 2021 / Journal articles

Toendepi Shonhe, Ian Scoones and Felix Murimbarimba. 2021.

The emergence of medium-scale farms is having important consequences for agricultural commercialisation across Africa. This article examines the role of medium-scale A2 farms allocated following Zimbabwe’s land reform after 2000. While the existing literature focuses on changing farm size distributions, this article investigates processes of social differentiation across medium-scale farms, based on qualitative-quantitative studies in two contrasting sites (Mvurwi and Masvingo-Gutu). Diverse processes of accumulation are identified across commercial, aspiring and struggling farmers, and linked to contrasting patterns of agricultural production and sale, asset ownership, employment and finance. The ability to mobilise finance, influenced by the state of the macro-economy, as well as forms of political patronage, is identified as a crucial driver. Contrary to assertions that A2 farms are largely occupied by ‘cronies’ and that they are unproductive and under-utilised, a more differentiated picture emerges, with important implications for policy and the wider politics of Zimbabwe’s countryside following land reform.

Working Paper 58: Understanding Gender and Social Differentiation in the Context of Agricultural Commercialisation and Implications for Livelihoods in Rural Malawi
May 20, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Loveness M. Mgalamadzi, Mirriam Matita, Masautso Chimombo, Blessings Chinsinga, Ephraim Wadonda Chirwa, Stevier Kaiyatsa and Jacob Mazalale

Agricultural commercialisation is widely recognised as a catalyst to economic growth and development in low and middle-income countries. This study investigates gender and social differences in agricultural commercialisation in rural Malawi. Specifically, the paper analyses different levels of agricultural commercialisation among gender and wealth categories; the specific gender and social issues that facilitate or impede agricultural commercialisation among gender and wealth categories; and their implications for commercialisation and livelihoods among gender and wealth categories.

APRA Research Note: The Covid-19 Pandemic and Household Rice Consumption Patterns in Ethiopia: The Case of Addis Ababa
April 30, 2021 / APRA research note Publications

Written by, Dawit Alemu and Gashaw T. Abate.

The outbreak of COVID-19 also resulted in moderate changes to the operation of the domestic rice value chain in Ethiopia. These were caused by changing responses of value chain actors (domestic and others engaged in rice imports) to the COVID-19 prevention measures put in place by the government. These changes increased the price of rice, which favoured rice producers and adversely affected urban consumers. This research note assesses household rice consumption patterns in Addis Ababa by comparing the situation before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, using a representative sample of households.

Working Paper 57: Agricultural commercialisation and the political economy of value chains: Tanzania rice case study
March 31, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by Ntengua S.Y. Mdoe and Glead I. Mlay

This paper presents the political economy of rice commercialisation in Tanzania. It is based on a review of trade policies, regulations, strategies, and programmes implemented since the 1960s to promote rice commercialisation, and the views of key informants. Key findings that emerge from the review of literature and key informant interviews indicate that the performance of the value chain over time has been negatively affected by the combined effects of the policies, regulations, strategies, and programmes implemented concurrently.

Working Paper 56: The political economy of the groundnut value chain in Malawi: Its re-emergence amidst policy chaos, strategic neglect, and opportunism
March 31, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by Blessings Chinsinga and Mirriam Matita

This paper explores the political economy of the groundnut value chain in Malawi. The paper uses a combination of insights from the theoretical perspectives of political settlement, rents and policymaking to examine this value chain. Fused together, these theoretical perspectives underpin a political economy analysis framework, which entails systematically mapping all key actors in an issue area; identifying their interests and recognising their forms of power (political, economic, social, and ideological); understanding their relationships with each other; and appreciating the issues, narratives, and ideas that shape how and why they interact with each other.

Working Paper 55: COVID-19 and the political economy of tobacco and maize commodity circuits: Makoronyera, the ‘connected’ and agrarian accumulation in Zimbabwe
March 31, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by Toendepi Shonhe

This paper analyses the global commodity circuits – value chains – for maize and tobacco in Zimbabwe, in the context of a reconfigured agrarian economy and COVID-19 induced shocks. The study focuses on the political economy dynamics of agricultural commodity circuits to reveal how they can contribute to understanding the drivers and constraints of agricultural commercialisation in Zimbabwe. This paper traces the circuits of maize and tobacco, the two major crops for food security and foreign currency earnings in Zimbabwe.

Working Paper 54: Political economy of the oil palm value chain in Ghana
March 31, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by Kofi Takyi Asante

Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is of strategic importance to the Ghanaian economy. It is the second most important industrial crop after cocoa and is used widely in local food preparation as well as in industrial processing. In spite of its importance, however, oil palm has consistently underperformed since the early twentieth century. This paper conducts a value chain analysis of the crop, foregrounding the political economy factors that shape the performance of the sector. It draws on a combination of in-depth interviews conducted in March 2020 with a variety of value chain actors and a review of the secondary literature. Additionally, between late May and early June 2020, twelve further interviews were conducted as part of a rapid market survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the value chain.

Working Paper 53: The Political Economy of the Cocoa Value Chain in Ghana
March 31, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Joseph Kofi Teye and Ebenezer Nikoi.

The cocoa sector has, historically, been the backbone of the Ghanaian economy. Many households depend directly on the cocoa sector for livelihoods, and aspects of the cocoa industry, such as input supplies to farmers and cocoa pricing, have historically featured prominently in national and local politics. This paper examines the basic underlying political economy dynamics of the cocoa value chain, with particular focus on how the interests, powers and interactions of various actors along the value chain have contributed to agricultural commercialisation in Ghana. The paper also explores the challenges affecting the cocoa value chain, social difference within the chain, and how various segments of the cocoa value chain have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana since March 2020.

Working Paper 52: Agricultural Commercialisation and the Political Economy of Cocoa and Rice Value Chains in Nigeria
March 15, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Emmanuel Remi Aiyede.

Nigeria has sought to diversify its economy away from dependence on oil as a major source of government revenue through agricultural commercialisation. Agriculture has been a priority sector because it has very high growth potential and the greatest potential for employment and export revenue. The cocoa and rice value chains are central to the government’s engagement with agriculture to achieve these objectives. This paper sets out to investigate the underlying political economy dynamics of the commercialisation of the cocoa and rice value chains in Nigeria in terms of smallholder farm households’ shift from semi-subsistence agriculture to production primarily for market, and predominantly commercial medium- and large-scale farm enterprises complementing or replacing smallholder farm households.

Working Paper 51: The Political Economy of the Rice Value Chain in Ethiopia: Actors, Performance, and Discourses
March 15, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Dawit Alemu and Abebaw Assaye.

The goal of this working paper is to identify the core challenges that have contributed to the poor performance of Ethiopia’s rice sector, and highlight approaches to successfully promote the commercialisation of the rice value chain. The authors achieve this by emphasising the underlying political economy dynamics of the rice value chain in Ethiopia, and how these can offer a better understanding of the drivers and constraints of agricultural commercialisation in the country. The paper also discusses the performance of, and challenges faced by, actors involved in the rice value chain. In addition, it looks at the role of development partners in promoting the rice value chain, the role of rice in the rural labour market, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on the various actors.

Working Paper 50: Determinants of Smallholder Farmers’ Livelihood Trajectories: Evidence from Rural Malawi
March 15, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Mirriam Matita, Ephraim Wadonda Chirwa, Stevier Kaiyatsa, Jacob Mazalale, Masautso Chimombo, Loveness Msofi Mgalamadzi and Blessings Chinsinga.

The authors of this paper attempt use quantitative methods to determine the different factors of livelihood trajectories in the context of agricultural commercialisation. To do this, they draw on primary evidence from household surveys conducted over a span of ten years in Mchinji and Ntchisi districts, in rural Malawi. The authors hypothesise that households that are more commercialised are more likely to expand their investments in agriculture and/or take up livelihoods outside of agriculture. Crucially, they find that factors driving livelihood trajectories are not the same for farmers in different pathways, and highlight the need for policymakers to study findings emphasise the need to adopt context-dependent development approaches, in order to provide sustainable relief from poverty for farming households.

Working Paper 49: The Political Economy of Sunflower In Tanzania: A Case of Singida Region
March 15, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Aida C. Isinika and John Jeckoniah.

This paper looks at the challenges and shortcomings facing the sunflower sub-sector in Tanzania. It showcases the political economy of sunflower based on analyses of the performance of the sector over a 30-year period since the early 1990s, also studying the relations between the importers of edible oil, and the local actors of the sunflower value chain (farmers and processors). In addition, the authors discuss how disparities in accessing resources for production were established across gender, age, wealth status, which led to social differentiation. Following this, they examine how restrictions introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected activities and relations along the sunflower value chain.

Regenerative Agriculture: An Agronomic Perspective
March 4, 2021 / Journal articles

Ken Giller, Renske Hijbeek, Jens. Andersson, and James Sumberg.

Outlook on Agriculture

Agriculture is in crisis. Soil health is collapsing. Biodiversity faces the sixth mass extinction. Crop yields are plateauing. Against this crisis narrative swells a clarion call for Regenerative Agriculture. But what is Regenerative Agriculture, and why is it gaining such prominence? Which problems does it solve, and how? Here we address these questions from an agronomic perspective. The term Regenerative Agriculture has actually been in use for some time, but there has been a resurgence of interest over the past 5 years. It is supported from what are often considered opposite poles of the debate on agriculture and food. Regenerative Agriculture has been promoted strongly by civil society and NGOs as well as by many of the major multi-national food companies. Many practices promoted as regenerative, including crop residue retention, cover cropping and reduced tillage are central to the canon of ‘good agricultural practices’, while others are contested and at best niche (e.g. permaculture, holistic grazing). Worryingly, these practices are generally promoted with little regard to context. Practices most often encouraged (such as no tillage, no pesticides or no external nutrient inputs) are unlikely to lead to the benefits claimed in all places. We argue that the resurgence of interest in Regenerative Agriculture represents a re-framing of what have been considered to be two contrasting approaches to agricultural futures, namely agroecology and sustainable intensification, under the same banner. This is more likely to confuse than to clarify the public debate. More importantly, it draws attention away from more fundamental challenges. We conclude by providing guidance for research agronomists who want to engage with Regenerative Agriculture.

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Working Paper 48: The Political Economy of Land Use and Land Cover Change in Mvurwi Area Zimbabwe, 1984–2018
March 1, 2021 / Working Papers

Written by, Caleb Maguranyanga, Keen Marozva, Ian Scoones and Toendepi Shonhe.

An analysis of the variations in land use and land cover over the past four decades in the Mvurwi area, Mazowe district, Zimbabwe illustrates how socio-economic dynamics and natural factors combine to shape environmental change. Land use and cover changes (LULCC) were assessed using a combination of quantitative analysis (satellite imagery) of land cover and a grounded analysis of the social, economic and political factors. Explanations for the changes observed in this study highlight social, economic and political drivers that have changed over time. A simple, linear explanation of land use and land cover change is inappropriate as multiple drivers intersect, and environmental change must always be understood as co-constituted with social dynamics and political economy.

Rapid Assessment of the Impact of Covid-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Sub-Saharan Africa – Synthesis Report 2
January 14, 2021 / APRA research note Evidence Review Publications

Written by, Marco Carreras, Amrita Saha and John Thompson.

This report presents a summary of findings emerging from the second round of a three-wave rapid assessment led by the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) in October-November 2020 to examine how COVID-19 is affecting food systems and rural livelihoods in eight countries – Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It builds on a set of phone-based household surveys and key informant interviews conducted in those countries in June-July 2020, which served as the baseline for this research.1 APRA will continue to monitor the situation as the
response to the pandemic unfolds through the third round of data collection and analysis planned for the first quarter of 2021.

Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Zambia – Round 1 Report
January 11, 2021 / COVID Country Report Impact Assessment

Written by, Chrispin Matenga and Munguzwe Hichaambwa.

To assess the impact of COVID-19 on local food systems and livelihoods, a total of 115 small-scale farming households (102 male- and 13 female headed) were interviewed from five communities (Lilanda, Luang (Mankanda), Masansa, Nshinso and Miloso (Tazara Corridor) surrounding the Mkushi Farm Block in the Central Province of Zambia between 30 September and 6 November 2020. The respondents were selected as a random sample, targeting 20-25 households per community or village. The small-scale farmers in these areas benefit from linkages with commercial farmers in the block.

Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Malawi – Round 2 Report
January 4, 2021 / COVID Country Report Impact Assessment

Written by, Mirriam Matita and Masautso Chimombo.

COVID-19 continues to impact households and economies worldwide. For this reason, in June 2020 APRA started assessing its likely effects on food systems and livelihoods in Malawi. This report presents insights from the second round (R2) of data collection in October 2020. Data was collected from a stratified random sample of 111 households (59 female and 52 male respondents) drawn from an APRA household survey of groundnut producers in Mchinji and Ntchisi districts, Central Region, as well as from eight key informants. One additional round of research is planned for the first half of 2021.

Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Zimbabwe -Round 2 Report
December 18, 2020 / COVID Country Report Publications

Written by, Vine Mutyasira.

In response to COVID-19, the Government of Zimbabwe enforced a nationwide lockdown on 30 March 2020, closing most sectors of the economy, including informal markets. However, with limited cases, lockdown movement restrictions were eased and supermarkets, restaurants and vegetable markets allowed to reopen. Between 3-13 October 2020, a second-round (R2) of surveys was conducted, targeting farming communities in Mvurwi and Concession Areas of Mazowe District, to assess COVID-19 impacts on food production systems, supply chains and general livelihoods. This report summarises insights obtained from the phone-based survey, covering 102 respondents (20 female and 82 male-headed households), and 5 local key informants (councillors and extension officers). Results are compared to the earlier R1 survey carried out in late June/early July.

Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Tanzania – Round 2 Report
December 18, 2020 / COVID Country Report Publications

Written by, Gideon Boniface and C.G. Magomba.

On 8 June 2020, the Government of Tanzania officially declared the country to be free of COVID-19 and all restrictions have since been lifted. As of 3 December 2020, Tanzania had only 509 confirmed cases of the virus and 21 deaths. Nevertheless, neighbouring countries are still facing the threat of the pandemic, all of which are key trading partners. Their continuing COVID-19 control measures have disrupted regional and domestic agricultural markets and affected local livelihoods and food systems. This study analysed the resulting impacts in those systems in several rice-producing communities in Morogoro Region, south-western Tanzania.

Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Kenya – Round 2 Report
December 18, 2020 / COVID Country Report Publications

Written by, John Olwande and Miltone Ayieko.

Since 12 March 2020, when Kenya reported the first COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Health confirmed a total of 45,076 cases and 839 deaths, as of 19 October.1 Despite the rising number of COVID-19 confirmed infections and deaths in Kenya during the third quarter (Q3) of 2020, the national and county governments relaxed some of the restrictions that had been in place during Q2 aimed at controlling the spread of COVID-19. This assessment was aimed at understanding the effects of COVID-19 at household level and attendant policy responses during Q3 of 2020, to inform actions to assure protection of local food systems, rural livelihoods and the supply of adequate, affordable food of acceptable quality to the population.

Impact of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Ghana – Round 2 Report
December 18, 2020 / COVID Country Report Publications

Written by, Louis Hodey and Fred Dzanku.

This study seeks to assess the continuing impact of COVID-19 on food systems and livelihoods in south-western Ghana and provides insights obtained from household-level and key informant data in the second of three surveys conducted during October/November 2020. This second round (R2) survey involved 107 households of oil palm farmers (86 male-headed and 21 female-headed) and 5 key local informants in the Mpohor and Ahanta West Districts of the Western Region.