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

Working Paper 37: Effect of Choice of Tillage Technology on Commercialisation and Livelihood of Smallholder Farmers in Mngeta Division, Kilombero District, Tanzania
September 29, 2020 / Working Papers

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

This working paper studies the effect of four tillage technology options on rice, commercialisation, yield, and livelihood of smallholder rice farmers in Mngeta Division, Kilombero District, Tanzania. The four combinations include the hand hoe, the hand hoe and ox plough; the hand hoe and tractor; and the hand hoe, ox plough, and tractor. The latter three were found to have a significant and positive effect on rice commercialisation, as well as on the rice yield. The paper also determines that factors such as marshes also play a role in determining the most effective implements for rice farmers in the region.

APRA Brief 26: Inducing agribusiness investment in Malawi: Insights from investors
August 14, 2020 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs

Written by, Henry Chingaipe, Joseph Thombozi and Horace Chingaipe.

Agriculture is key to Malawi’s development strategy, with over 80 per cent of the workforce employed in the sector. However, government investment in agricultural commercialisation has been low, national financial institutions lack agribusiness-friendly policies, and access to land necessary for commercial agriculture has been a challenge. This brief studies the effectiveness of various government and donor incentives aimed towards agribusinesses, and provides several policy recommendations on how to induce business investment in agricultural commercialisation.

Working Paper 36: Small is beautiful? Policy choices and outcomes for agrarian change for resettled farmers in Mvurwi district
July 21, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Terence Chitapi and Toendepi Shonhe.

After the fast-track land reform programme (FTLRP), there have been two prominent farming models in Zimbabwe, the small A1 and the large A2 model, whose distinction is primarily based on farm size. This paper examines the efficacy and capacity of both in terms of meeting household and national food self-sufficiency and contributing to the attainment of rural livelihoods outcomes. This paper observes that there are indications that on average, the ‘small’ farmers have higher land utilisation rates as compared to their ‘large’ counterparts. Yet, the government has still shown a bias towards the latter. The paper determines that broad economic and development policy choices and outcomes may continue to be missed for as long as agricultural production–support interventions do not seriously consider the small farmer and the small farm model.

Working Paper 35: Agricultural Commercialisation in Northern Zimbabwe: Crises, Conjunctures and Contingencies, 1890-2020
July 10, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Ian Scoones, Toendepi Shonhe, Terence Chitapi, Caleb Maguranyanga and Simbai Mutimbanyoka.

This study observes the interconnecting influences, over five time periods from 1890-2020, that have affected pathways of commercialisation, mostly of tobacco and maize, in Mvurwi area in northern Mazowe district, Zimbabwe. Through these periods, this paper looks at the political economy of state-farmer alliances; changes in agricultural labour regimes; the dynamics of markets; rural-urban migration and the role of technology and environmental change, asking how each affects the emergence of different commercial agriculture. Based on a wide range of research methods conducted across communal areas, the paper reflects which pathways of commercialisation have emerged through crises, conjunctures and contingencies.

Working Paper 34: Does rice commercialisation empower women? Experience from Mngeta division in Kilombero District, Tanzania
July 10, 2020 / Working Papers

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

Rice commercialisation in Mngeta division is believed to be the core driver for economic growth, poverty reduction, and improvements in the lives of men and women living there. However, as households engage in agricultural commercialisation, it is expected that the change of gender roles may lead to an empowerment of women or an increase in workload. This study examines to what extent ongoing rice commercialisation initiatives contribute to women’s empowerment. It also outlines whether such commercialisation may occur due to external investment, market specialisation, farm consolidation, or a combination of these factors.

Journal Article: Hard work and hazard: Young people and agricultural commercialisation in Africa
June 16, 2020 / Journal articles

Thomas Yeboah, Easther Chigumira, Innocensia John, Nana Akua Anyidoho, Victor Manyong, Justin Flynn, James Sumberg.

An emerging orthodoxy supports the proposition that the rural economy – built around agriculture but encompassing much more – will serve as sweet spot of employment opportunities for many millions of young people into the foreseeable future. However, our understanding of how rural young people in Africa take advantage of processes of rural transformation or engage with the rural economy is limited. Drawing on qualitative research conducted with 117 rural young people in three country contexts (Ghana, Zimbabwe and Tanzania), this paper reports the findings on the steps and pathways through which young people construct livelihoods in hotspots of agricultural commercialisation. Overall what emerges from a diversity of backgrounds, experiences and pathways is that the commercialised rural economy within which they operate offer them a variety of income earning opportunities. Family and broader social relations are key in enabling young people to access the needed resources in the form of land, capital, and inputs to begin their ventures. Between family and rental markets, there is little evidence that young people’s engagement with crop production is limited by their inability to access land. We also find evidence of asset accumulation by young people in the form of housing, furniture and savings among others, which reflects the combination of relatively dynamic rural economies, enabling social relations, and hard work. However, for many it is a struggle to stay afloat, requiring effort, persistence, and an ability to navigate setbacks and hazards. Our findings challenge a number of assumptions underlying policy and public discourse around rural young people and employment in Africa. We highlight some key implications for policy seeking to promote youth employment in rural Africa.

Journal Article: Agricultural corridors as ‘demonstration fields’: infrastructure, fairs and associations along the Beira and Nacala corridors of Mozambique
June 16, 2020 / Journal articles

Euclides Gonçalves. 2020.

In the past decade, the Mozambican government has been mobilizing international capital to build and renovate transport infrastructure in the central and northern areas of the country, with the aim of creating agricultural corridors. Based on field research conducted in two districts along the Beira and Nacala corridors, I examine those occasions when international capital and national agricultural policy meet smallholders in the implementation of agricultural projects. This article offers a performative analysis of the constitution of agricultural corridors. I argue that agricultural corridors emerge on those occasions when international funders and investors, national elites, local bureaucrats and smallholders overstate the success of agricultural projects and constitute what I have termed ‘demonstration fields’. Regardless of the implementation of blueprints, agricultural corridors gain spatial and temporal materiality from the performance of presenting agricultural projects as successful, such as at the unveiling of agro-related infrastructure, at agricultural fairs and on occasions involving smallholders’ associations.

Journal Article: Land, livelihoods and belonging: negotiating change and anticipating LAPSSET in Kenya’s Lamu county
June 16, 2020 / Journal articles

Ngala Chome. 2020.

To attract investments in mineral extraction, physical infrastructure and agricultural commercialization over a vast swathe of Northern Kenya, national politicians and bureaucrats are casting the area as being both abundant with land and resources, and as, conversely, ‘backward’, ‘unexploited’ and ‘empty’. Drawing on evidence from Lamu County, and focusing on the planned Lamu Port and South Sudan Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) corridor, this article contends that such high-modernist and ‘new frontier’ discourses are usually complicated by the realities on the ground. Based on common perceptions about land and ethnicity, and how these are intertwined with the politics of belonging and redistribution, these realities exemplify complex economies of anticipation – through which networks of patronage, alliance, and mobilization are being created or entrenched in advance of major investments. This article argues that it is these anticipations – more than official designs – that will determine the future direction of LAPSSET, especially in respect to who will get what, when and how, within its promised prosperous future.

Journal Article: Bureaucrats, investors and smallholders: contesting land rights and agro-commercialisation in the Southern agricultural growth corridor of Tanzania
June 16, 2020 / Journal articles

Emmanuel Sulle. 2020.

Since the triple crises of food, fuel and finance of 2007/8, investments in agricultural growth corridors have taken centre-stage in government, donor and private sector initiatives. This article examines the politics of the multi-billion dollar development of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT). The corridor’s proponents aim to create an environment in which agribusiness will operate alongside smallholders to improve food security and environmental sustainability, while reducing rural poverty. Based on three case studies, comprising one of a small-scale dairy company and two large-scale sugar companies, all operating with smallholders, this paper interrogates the political dynamics that shape the implementation of SAGCOT on the ground; in particular, the multiple contestations among bureaucrats, investors and smallholders over access to land and other resources, and contending visions for agricultural commercialisation. Despite the widespread support it received from government, donors and investors, the paper argues that SAGCOT’s grand modernist vision of the corridor, centred on the promotion of large-scale estates, has unravelled through contestations and negotiations on the ground.

Journal Article: Demonstration fields’, anticipation, and contestation: agrarian change and the political economy of development corridors in Eastern Africa
June 16, 2020 / Journal articles

Ngala Chome, Euclides Gonçalves, Ian Scoones & Emmanuel Sulle. 2020.

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.

Journal Article: Land reform and new meaning of rural development in Zimbabwe
June 15, 2020 / Journal articles

Toendepi Shonhe. 2019.

This paper reveals new meanings of rural development emerging following a dramatic land reform program and changes in the roles of capital in Zimbabwe. The economy-wide crisis wrought by capital flight in response to the fast track land reform program (FTLRP) carried out from 2000 reconfigured the financing and marketing of agricultural produce thereby created new a paradigm of rural development in Zimbabwe. The initial slowdown in agricultural production that caused de-industrialisation in urban areas is currently undergoing a reversal process. However, not much research has been carried out to reveal the emerging meanings of rural development in Zimbabwe. The FTLRP resulted in the reconfiguration of the land ownership patterns that significantly changed land utilisation patterns. In seeking to reveal the new meanings of rural development in Zimbabwe, this paper applies empirical data collected through documentary analysis, two surveys and in-depth interviews carried out in Hwedza and Mvurwi between 2016 and 2019. The article informs the debate on land and rural development in Zimbabwe. In so doing, the paper concludes that rural development has been reshaped in line with the new land use patterns in rural Zimbabwe. Private indigenous agrarian capital and the demands of the smallholder farmers undergird rural development as opposed to public investment and large-scale commercial farming capital of the past.

Journal Article: Irrigating Zimbabwe After Land Reform: The Potential of Farmer-Led Systems
June 15, 2020 / Journal articles

Ian Scoones, Felix Murimbarimba, Jacob Mahenehene. 2019.

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.

Working Paper 33: Agribusiness Investment in Agricultural Commercialisation: Rethinking Policy Incentives in Africa
June 10, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Seife Ayele, Jodie Thorpe, Gezahegn Ayele, Henry Chingaipe, Joseph, K. Teye, Peter O’Flynn.

Governments in sub-Saharan Africa and their donors have made business investment a major policy goal, supported by a variety of incentives designed to support business investment in agriculture. However, little is known about the factors which influence agribusiness investment in Africa, and how effective these incentives have been. This paper examines the motivations of agribusiness investment, the effectiveness of government and donor policy incentives, and the relevance of these incentives for four different commercialisation pathways. Empirical evidence is drawn from Ethiopia, Malawi and Ghana to determine whether commercialisation pathways have emerged as a result of investments that have been incentivised by such policies.

Rapid Evidence Review: Policy interventions to mitigate negative effects on poverty, agriculture and food security from disease outbreaks and other crises
May 26, 2020 / Evidence Review Publications

Written by, Steve Wiggins, Roger Calow, Joe Feyertag, Simon Levine & Alexandra Löwe.

This review was commissioned by DFID to draw lessons from previous shocks (e.g. Ebola outbreak, MERS, SARS, the food price crisis of 2008/09) that may be relevant to dealing with the consequences of COVID-19 in developing countries and especially in sub-Saharan Africa. The review addresses two questions:

  • What may be the consequences of disease, and responses to it, on agriculture, rural livelihoods, food systems and food security?
  • What lessons on dealing with those consequences may be drawn from previous crises?

The assessment has been led by Steve Wiggins and colleagues at ODI and was conducted jointly with support from the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme of the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) and the new, DFID-funded, ‘Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises’ (SPARC) programme.

APRA Brief 25: Does rice commercialisation enhance or impair household food security among rice producing households in Mngeta Division, Kilombero District, Tanzania?
May 15, 2020 / APRA Briefs

Written by, Ntengua Mdoe, Gilead Mlay, Aida Isinika, Gideon Boniface, Christopher Magomba, John Jeckonia and Devotha Mosha

The Tanzanian government has identified rice as a priority crop and has been implementing the National Rice Development Strategy (NRDS) since 2009 to commercialise rice farming (United Republic of Tanzania 2019). The implementation of the NRDS is expected to ensure food security and improve incomes of rice producers and other actors in the value chain.
This policy brief examines the impact of rice commercialisation on the food security status of rice-producing households in Mngeta Division of Kilombero District, Tanzania.

APRA Brief 24: The white gold of Wereta: A city raised on rice
May 15, 2020 / APRA Briefs

Written by, Tilahun Taddesse, Dawit Alemu and Abebaw Assaye.

Wereta – the administrative capital of Fogera district – is an example of one of the fastest growing urban areas in the Fogera plain. Its rapid development is strongly connected with the development of the rice industry, which has had a spillover effect in the development of diverse services, including hospitality, wholesale and retail businesses, and banking. This brief examines the role of rice commercialisation in the development of Wereta City Administration and concludes with some pointers for scaling experiences that may be applicable to other areas suitable for enhancing rice production and processing.

Working Paper 32: Intra-Household Gender Differentials in Smallholder Agriculture Productivity in Food and Non-Food Crop Commercialisation Pathways: Evidence from Zimbabwe
May 1, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Takesure Tozooneyi, Ephraim W. Chirwa, Vine Mutyasira and Chrispen Sukume.

This study contributes to the empirical evidence on gender differentials in smallholder agriculture productivity in Zimbabwe in two ways. First, the data allows households to be grouped into commercialisation pathways; secondly, intra-household resource allocation issues are considered by distinguishing female plot managers into two groups: female plot managers in female-headed households and female plot managers in male-headed households. We test the hypotheses that: a) there are no gender differences in productivity in female- and male-managed plots; b) there are no differences in productivity between female plot managers from male- and female-headed households and male plot managers; and c) gender productivity differentials do not depend on the commercialisation pathway chosen by the farming household.

Working Paper 31: Long-Term Change and Agricultural Commercialisation in Ghanaian Cocoa
May 1, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Kojo S. Amanor, Joseph A. Yaro and Joseph K. Teye.

This study examines the processes of commercialisation in the cocoa sector in the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) framework. This study examines the different processes of transformation that have occurred and are occurring within the cocoa sector, and the extent to which as forested lands disappear, farmers are transitioning out of cocoa or adopting new technologies and ways of producing cocoa. It also examines the extent to which the growing scarcity of land affects rural households and the changing terms on which people gain access to land, as it becomes a scarce commodity.

Working Paper 30: Does Rice Commercialisation Impact on Livelihood? Experience from Mngeta in Kilombero District, Tanzania
May 1, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Aida Isinika, Gilead Mlay, Gideon Boniface, Ntengua Mdoe, Colin Poulton and Amrita Saha.

This paper discusses the livelihood impacts of rice commercialisation for farmers in Mngeta division in Kilombero district in Tanzania. Rice commercialisation occurs where more farmers engage in factor markets and product markets, buying more inputs and selling more farm produce through the market, as opposed to subsistence production. In the study area, rice commercialisation has been an ongoing process for a long time, but it seems to have been accelerating recently due to various factors. This paper outlines those factors in order to provide policy recommendations for enhancing the enabling factors for commercialisation, while addressing the inhibiting factors, particularly in relation to inclusive poverty reduction.

APRA Brief 23: Does rice commercialisation in Mngeta, Kilombero, Tanzania impact livelihoods?
April 8, 2020 / APRA Briefs

Written by, Aida Isinika, Ntengua Mdoe, John Jeckonia, Christopher Magomba, Gilead Mlay and Devotha Kilave

This policy brief draws from research on rice commercialisation in Mngeta division, Kilombero District. The study area was selected because it fits well with the government’s ambition, under the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania framework, for smallholder farmers to benefit from technology transfer and market linkage with large-scale farmers. The analysis was based on research conducted with a randomly-selected sample of farm households across ten villages located 30km from Kilombero Plantation Limited, a large-scale rice farm in Mngeta division.

APRA Brief 22: Enhancing production of quality rice in Ethiopia: Dis/incentives for rice processors
March 30, 2020 / APRA Briefs

Written by, Abebaw Assaye and Dawit Alemu.

In order to reduce the import burden and contribute towards the country’s development plan through import substitution, it is critical to focus on increasing rice production and improving the quality of milled rice. Rice processors in Ethiopia play an important role in the rice sector, not only as service providers but also as buyers and sellers of rice. In general, however, there is a general disincentive for farmers to produce good quality paddy, and for processors to produce good quality milled rice. This brief examines the main disincentives and outlines key measures that need to be put in place to address these challenges.

Working Paper 29: Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Nigeria
March 9, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Adelaja Odutola Odukoya.

This paper interrogates the trajectory of agricultural commercialisation in Nigeria since independence in 1960 – but with a particular focus on the period from 1999–2018 – vis-à-vis the interface of the pathologies of the post-colonial state, the political narratives by different actors, as well as the political interests and incentives behind agricultural commercialisation in Nigeria. These are, however, situated within the over-arching context of contemporary globalisation.

Working Paper 28: Agricultural Commercialisation Pathways, Input Use, and Crop Productivity: Evidence from Smallholder Farmers in Zimbabwe
March 9, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Vine Mutyasira and Chrispen Sukume.

Agricultural commercialisation is increasingly seen as an effective instrument for transforming smallholder production systems and thus increasing the smallholder farmer’s incomes, food security, and other welfare outcomes such as women’s empowerment and rural poverty reduction. However, there is a paucity of studies explaining the different pathways of agricultural commercialisation that different types of farmers can pursue, and how the choice of pathway will influence input utilisation and crop productivity. This paper focuses on explaining how two commercialisation pathways, evident among smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe, influence levels of crop input utilisation and general crop productivity

Working Paper 27: Divergent Terms of Market Integration of Agro-Pastoralists: Marketisation and Distress Selling of Livestock in South Omo, Ethiopia
March 9, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Fana Gebresenbet.

The increasing trend of livestock marketing and commercialisation, and its attendant socio-economic consequences, has attracted academic and policy interest. This study investigates the processes of linking pastoralists to the market and the drivers which shape pastoralists’ response to the market. It adopts a comparative perspective, examining the market characteristics of livestock trade and drivers linking pastoralists to the livestock market in Benna-Tsemay Woreda, characterised by decades of exposure to the market, and a higher number of livestock heads marketed; and Salamago Woreda with about a decade of exposure to the market, and a lower number of livestock heads marketed. The study, therefore, contributes to an understanding of the functioning of livestock markets in pastoral areas (relatively) weakly and recently integrated to the market.

Journal Article: Revisiting the Farm Size-Productivity Relationship Based on a Relatively Wide Range of Farm Sizes: Evidence from Kenya
January 16, 2020 / Journal articles

Milu Muyanga, T S Jayne. 2019.

This paper revisits the inverse farm size-productivity relationship in Kenya. The study makes two contributions. First, the relationship is examined over a much wider range of farm sizes than most studies, which is particularly relevant in Africa given the recent rise of medium- and large-scale farms. Second, we test the inverse relationship hypothesis using three different measures of productivity including profits per hectare and total factor productivity, which are arguably more meaningful than standard measures of productivity such as yield or gross output per hectare. We find a U-shaped relationship between farm size and all three measures of farm productivity. The inverse relationship hypothesis holds on farms between zero and 3 hectares. The relationship between farm size and productivity is relatively flat between 3 and 5 hectares. A strong positive relationship between farm size and productivity emerges within the 5 to 70 hectare range of farm sizes. Across virtually all measures of productivity, farms between 20 and 70 hectares are found to be substantially more productive than farms under 5 hectares. When the analysis is confined to fields cultivated to maize (Kenya’s main food crop) the productivity advantage of relatively large farms stems at least partially from differences in technical choice related to mechanization, which substantially reduces labor input per hectare, and from input use intensity

Journal Article: Are medium-scale farms driving agricultural transformation in sub-Saharan Africa?
December 16, 2019 / Journal articles

T. S. Jayne, Milu Muyanga, Ayala Wineman, Hosaena Ghebru, Caleb Stevens, Mercedes Stickler, Antony Chapoto, Ward Anseeuw, Divan van der Westhuizen, David Nyang.

This study presents evidence of profound farm-level transformation in parts of sub- Saharan Africa, identifies major sources of dynamism in the sector, and proposes an updated typology of farms that reflects the evolving nature of African agriculture. Repeat waves of national survey data are used to examine changes in crop production and marketed output by farm size. Between the first and most recent surveys (generally covering 6 to 10 years), the share of national marketed crop output value accounted for by medium-scale farms rose in Zambia from 23% to 42%, in Tanzania from 17% to 36%, and in Nigeria from 7% to 18%. The share of land under medium-scale farms is not rising in densely populated countries such as Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda, where land scarcity is impeding the pace of medium-scale farm acquisitions. Medium-scale farmers are a diverse group, reflecting distinct entry pathways into agriculture, encouraged by the rapid development of land rental, purchase, and long-term lease markets. The rise of medium-scale farms is affecting the region in diverse ways that are difficult to generalize. Findings indicate that these farms can be a dynamic driver of agricultural transformation but this does not reduce the importance of maintaining a clear commitment to supporting smallholder farms. Strengthening land tenure security of local rural people to maintain land rights and support productivity investments by smallholder households remains crucial

APRA Brief 21: Changing Farm Structure and Agricultural Commercialisation in Nigeria
September 18, 2019 / APRA Briefs

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

There is evidence to show that there has been a transition regarding the structure of land ownership in Africa, particularly a rise in the number of commercialised medium-scale farms (MSFs) in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The objective of this study was to determine whether the growth of MSFs promotes agricultural commercialisation in SSA, and the brief presents the preliminary results of the first round of data analysis collected through the survey. Emphasis is placed on the characteristics of these emergent MSFs, the nature of the structural changes that produce them, and how they potentially influence the welfare of small-scale farms in Nigeria. The results of the brief are divided into the current topics: Pathways into MSF commercialisation, land access and use, farm production and assets, interaction between MSFs and SSFs, and agricultural commercialisation.

APRA Brief 20: Policy Incentives and Agribusiness Investment in Ethiopia: Benefit or Deadweight
September 18, 2019 / APRA Briefs

Written by, Seife Ayele, Gezahegn Ayele, Tebeje Nigussie and Jodie Thorpe

The importance of agriculture to the Ethiopian economy is underlined by the country’s forthright promotion of investment in agriculture since the turn of the century, but how effective has this investment really been? This brief summarises the findings and conclusions of the APRA study ‘Policy approaches to business investment in agricultural commercialisation in Ethiopia’. It then looks at the main drivers of agribusiness investment, usefulness of the tax privilege system, the effectiveness of agricultural growth programmes led by donors and non-profit organisations. The brief also addresses whether or not the enforcement of rules and closure of loopholes can prevent the misuse of tax privileges.

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

Written by, Vine Mutyasira, Tanaka Murimbarimba and Walter Mushayiwa

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

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

Written by Joseph Teye

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Easther Chigumira

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

APRA Brief 15: Building Livelihoods: Youth and Agricultural Commercialisation in Ghana
March 12, 2019 / APRA Briefs

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.

Working Paper 22: Tractors in Africa: Looking Behind the Technical Fix
March 11, 2019 / Working Papers

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.

Working Paper 21: Tractors and Agrarian Transformation in Zimbabwe: Insights from Mvurwi
March 11, 2019 / Working Papers

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 Study
March 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 Mozambique
March 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.

APRA Brief 14: Participation, Voice and Governance in African Investment Corridors
February 12, 2019 / APRA Briefs Publications

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.

APRA Brief 13: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialistion in Malawi
February 12, 2019 / APRA Briefs Publications

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.

APRA Brief 12: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa
February 12, 2019 / APRA Briefs Publications

This brief seeks to identify key factors that influence the strength and composition of coalitions in favour of and against policies that promote agricultural commercialisation, or that influence the commercialisation trajectory that unfolds within a country or sector. It also recognises the importance of ideas and interests in determining which policies are adopted and implemented. Specifically, the brief seeks to illustrate the influence of three sets of factors on agricultural commercialisation, and their interaction with one another. The three sets of factors are (1) the relationships between politicians and rural citizens arising from the domestic political settlement; (2) geographical factors; and (3) the influence of international actors.

Working Paper 18: A Historical Analysis of Rice Commercialisation in Ethiopia: the Case of the Fogera Plain
January 25, 2019 / Working Papers

This paper 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, a dynamic farming area in Amhara Region to the west of Lake Tana. This background paper begins with a brief overview of the history of rice introduction into the country, assesses the extent of agro-ecological suitability for the production of the crop, and then examines the current status of rice research and development based on a review of relevant literature and secondary data. This is followed by a presentation of the results from a reconnaissance study on rice commercialisation carried out by the authors and local partners in the Fogera Plain during 2017–18, which considered: (1) the changing dynamics of the farming system, trends in rice production, processing, and marketing practices and support services, and (2) rice commercialisation and the observed livelihood outcomes. The conclusion provides a brief summary of the key trends and findings, along with a list of emerging research questions.

Journal Article: Medium-scale commercial farms in Africa: the experience of the ‘native purchase areas’ in Zimbabwe
December 3, 2018 / Journal articles

Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge and Felix Murimbarimba. 2018.

Across Africa there has been a growth in medium-sized farms, including in Zimbabwe following the land reform of 2000. What are the prospects of such farms driving new forms of agricultural commercialization? In this article we seek to learn lessons from the past by examining the experience of ‘native purchase areas’, which were established from the 1930s in Zimbabwe. Through a detailed historical study of Mushagashe small-scale commercial farming area in Masvingo Province, the article explores the changing fortunes of farms over time. Historical information is complemented by a survey of twenty-six randomly selected farms, examining patterns of production, asset ownership and accumulation. In-depth interviews explore life histories and changes in social arrangements that have influenced agrarian change. Four broad farm types are identified, including those that are commercialized, projectized, villagized, and held or abandoned. These categories are not static, however, and the article emphasizes non-linear patterns of change. Following Sara Berry, we show how pathways of commercialization are diverse and unpredictable, influenced by interlocking conjunctures of social dynamics, generational changes and political-economic conditions. Commercialization outcomes are dependent on the intersection of relational dynamics and more structural, political economy factors. Bursts of commercialization on these farms are contingent on access to employment by farm owners, labour (hired, squatters and offspring) and, perhaps above all, money to invest. The much-hyped policy vision of a new medium-scale commercial farm sector emerging in Africa therefore must be qualified, and divergent outcomes recognized.

APRA Brief 11: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Ethiopia: Discourses, Actors and Structural Impediments
November 5, 2018 / APRA Briefs Publications

This brief examines the political economy of agricultural commercialisation in Ethiopia, by analysing the changing political landscape and electoral trends spanning the past three decades. It gives an overview of the emphasis placed on agriculture, and the promotion of agricultural commercialisation, across Ethiopia’s past three regimes: imperial, military, and the Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF). The brief then addresses the state of agricultural commercialisation in Ethiopia with reference to the case study of teff production. Finally, the brief examines the structural impediments to agricultural commercialisation, with a number of suggestions for addressing the challenges identified.

APRA Brief 10: Women’s Empowerment and the Commercialisation of African Agriculture
November 1, 2018 / APRA Briefs Publications

This brief presents a summary of key issues in research on women’s empowerment, drawn from an APRA working paper commissioned to support the design of APRA’s research on pathways to agricultural commercialisation in Africa. In the context of African agriculture, as women move along different pathways of commercialisation, the source of their disempowerment may shift from local to more global actors and factors, and the means of empowerment towards more collective and political processes. Researching the effectiveness of different pathways of agricultural commercialisation to empowering women and girls, therefore, requires an approach which explores the relationships between global and local, shifting dynamics as women move into and up global value chains, and changing gender relations in a specific local context.