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

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Latest articles

APRA Working Paper 81: Use of Climate-Smart Agriculture Practices and Smallholder Farmer Market Participation in Central Malawi
February 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Mirriam Matita, Ephraim Wadonda Chirwa, David Zingwe and Jacob Mazalale

In the past few decades, climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has been promoted to improve food security and raise incomes as a strategy for sustainable agricultural development. The adoption rates among smallholder farmers, particularly in Africa, remain low and have varied in different contexts. We investigated the market participation spill over effects from the adoption of CSA practices in central Malawi. We tested the hypothesis that the extent of the use of CSA practices in the past 10 years can lead to production surpluses that enable smallholder farmers to participate in markets and thereby increase agricultural incomes. The findings suggest, among others, the need to intensify efforts to promote CSA adoption specifically over a longer period for benefits of the technologies to materialise. The adoption of CSA practices over time enhances crop market participation – an important aspect required for production sustainability as well as for transforming agriculture towards greater market orientation among smallholder farmers.

APRA Working Paper 80: Long-Term Change, Commercialisation of Cocoa Farming, and Agroecosystems and Forest Rehabilitation in Ghana
February 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Kojo Amanor, Joseph Yaro and Joseph Teye

Cocoa production has a long history in Ghana, originating in the late nineteenth century. Since then, cocoa production has seen significant changes. Originally, cocoa was cultivated in newly cleared forests in which many forest trees were preserved as shade trees. Cocoa is ideally suited to these conditions and produces high yields with minimum investment in labour and inputs. However, over time, as the forest conditions change, the cost of cultivating cocoa has increased and yields have declined. As long as new forest frontiers exist, farmers have continued to move into these areas, which have displaced older areas of cultivation, since the costs of production are significantly lower in the new frontiers. In recent years, however, new forest frontiers have declined and most cocoa farmers have been forced to rehabilitate and replant cocoa in open land. This study examines the rational of frontier development; changes in land relations, labour relations and use of technology; and the impact of these factors on different categories of farmers, including women and youth. This is developed through two comparative case studies drawn from the older cocoa frontier of the Eastern Region, and the more recent frontier of Western North Region.

APRA Working Paper 79: Cocoa Commercialisation in Nigeria: Issues and Prospects
January 18, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Kehinde Adesina Thomas, Adeola Olajide and Molatokunbo O. Olutayo

Despite the setback in the Nigerian agricultural sector’s development and its declining cocoa production in recent years, the nation still has potential to regain its production capacities in the cocoa sub-sector. In fact, cocoa farmers included in the study, across their gender disaggregation, opined that cocoa farming still has a bright future in the study area if attendant challenges are promptly addressed, because the interest and drive to expand production still exists among farmers. Thus, this paper explores the issues and prospects around cocoa commercialisation in southwestern Nigeria.

APRA Working Paper 78: How Does Land Size Mediate the Relationship between Specialisation and Commercialisation? Lessons from Rice Farming in the Fogera Plain of Ethiopia
January 18, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Rachel Sabates-Wheeler, Marco Carreras and Dawit Alemu

The introduction of rice into Ethiopia provided a solution to food insecurity. More recently, national policy has emphasised the positive relationship between rice specialisation and commercialisation and, thus, higher incomes. In retrospect, this initiative has been hugely successful as the regions where rice has been introduced have been transformed from heavily relying on food aid to becoming a thriving commercial centre. This transformation owes much to the increase in the production, consumption and commercial value of rice. However, the relationship between specialisation and commercialisation is far from straightforward and is mediated by poverty, as proxied by farm size in this paper. Using a novel cross-sectional dataset of rice farmers from the Fogera Plain in Ethiopia, collected in 2018, in this paper we look at the relationship between rice specialisation and commercialisation and how specialisation and commercialisation decisions and outcomes are mediated by farm size. Specifically, we characterise farmers by the extent of rice specialisation and commercialisation and explore the role of landholding size.

APRA Working Paper 77: Commercialisation Pathways and Climate Change: The Case of Smallholder Farmers in Semi-Arid Tanzania
December 20, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Khamaldin Mutabazi and Gideon Boniface

The semi-arid drylands of central Tanzania have been characterised by low and erratic rainfall coupled with high evapotranspiration. Up until now, farmers of these local dryland farming systems have been able to cope with these climate conditions. However, climate change has led to new weather patterns that overwhelm traditional dryland farming practices and re-shape farmers’ commercialisation pathways. This paper explored the pathways in which smallholder farmers in Singida region in Tanzania engage with markets and commercialise in the face of climate change. The paper also examined how farm-level decisions on commercial crops and the commercialisation pathways they are part of, affect current and future resilience to climate change. Climate resilient commercialisation of smallholder dryland agriculture remains the centrepiece of inclusive sustainable development.

A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Zambia
December 20, 2021 / COVID Country Report Impact Assessment Publications

Written by: Chrispin Matenga and Munguzwe Hichaambwa

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in March 2020. The speed with which the pandemic spread geographically, and the high rate of mortality of its victims prompted many countries around the world to institute ‘lockdowns’ of various sorts to contain it. While the global concern in the early months following the emergence of COVID-19 was with health impacts, the ‘lockdown’ measures put in place by governments triggered global socioeconomic shocks as economies entered recessions due to disruption of economic activity that the ‘lockdown’ measures entailed. Data suggests that the socioeconomic shocks arising from ‘lockdowns’ have been more severe in sub-Saharan Africa countries, generating dire livelihood consequences for most citizens who depend on the informal economy for survival. In Zambia, the effects of COVID-19 combined with a severe drought, and a decline in mining activity to contribute to a downward spiral in Zambia’s economy. This report aims to gain real-time insights into how the COVID-19 crisis was unfolding in Zambia and how rural people and food and livelihood systems were responding. The study focused on documenting and understanding the differential impacts of the pandemic at the household level in terms of changes in participation in farming activities, availability of services for agricultural production, labour and employment, marketing and transport services, food and nutrition security and poverty and wellbeing.

A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Tanzania
December 20, 2021 / COVID Country Report Impact Assessment Publications

Written by: Gideon Boniface and Christopher Magomba

Since the outbreak of COVID-19 at the end of 2019, the pandemic has brought both social and economic impacts to global communities, although to varying degrees. Since the onset of the pandemic, different regions have responded in various ways by taking different measures to fight the pandemic and its effects. In Tanzania, the first case was recorded on 16 March 2020 and, to contain the spread of the virus, on 17 March 2020, the Prime Minister announced measures including the closure of all education institutions, the suspension of public gatherings and international passenger flights, and mandatory quarantine for individuals entering Tanzania. However, in June 2020, the government announced the easing of the restrictions after observing a significant decrease in the COVID-19 infection rate and, despite a subsequent ‘second wave’ of the virus, the government declined to re-institute movement restrictions. This decision led to the implementation of non-tariff trade barriers which were imposed on cargo carrying grain and other exports to neighbouring countries, especially Kenya. The situation became so bad that diplomatic intervention had to be sought. In order to understand the resulting socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in Tanzania, data were collected in three waves during mid-July2020, October 2020 and February 2021. This paper presents a synthesis of the results of these three survey rounds.

Journal Article: Private and State-Led Contract Farming in Zimbabwe: Accumulation, Social Differentiation and Rural Politics
December 17, 2021 / Journal articles Publications

Written by: Toendepi Shonhe and Ian Scoones

Contract farming schemes often amplify existing patterns of socio-economic differentiation. In Zimbabwe, processes of differentiation were underway before the current expansion of contract farming and they have deepened through the Fast Track Land Reform process. This article examines how pre-existing dynamics of differentiation shape the forms of contract farming adopted, as well as which groups of farmers gain access and on what terms. Social differentiation partly explains the outcomes of contract farming, even if contract farming in turn results in further differentiation. This article contrasts private sector-led contract farming of tobacco and state-led financing of maize production (the ‘command agriculture’ programme) in two high-potential sites and across different forms of land use. Unlike in many other settings, contract farming in Zimbabwe is highly influenced by the state, through the regulation of private sector arrangements and the establishment of a state-led contracting programme. The state-led programme boosted maize production amongst medium-scale farmers and resulted in an embedding of patronage relations. Meanwhile, the private-led contract farming has supported a widespread boom of tobacco production, mainly amongst smallholders. We find therefore that contract farming is highly dependent on the contingent, politically mediated processes of social differentiation.

A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Nigeria
December 13, 2021 / COVID Country Report Impact Assessment Publications

Written by: Adebayo Aromolaran, Milu Muyanga, Fadlullah O. Issa and Oladele Oladeji

The first case of COVID-19 in Nigeria was reported on 27 February 2020. By 30 March 2020, Nigeria had recorded 131 confirmed cases and two deaths. To mitigate the impending health crisis, the Nigerian Government quickly commenced a series of COVID-19 lockdowns across states in Nigeria on 30 March 2020. These lockdowns lasted for three months before a gradual relaxation began on 1 July 2021. However, infection and death cases in the country increased substantially during the months of substantial relaxation of restrictions between October 2020 and March 2021. This paper presents the results of the rapid assessment study in Nigeria between July 2020 and February 2021, which sought to document and understand the differential impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on agricultural commercialisation, food and nutrition security, employment, poverty, and well-being in rural households.

A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Ghana
December 8, 2021 / COVID Country Report Impact Assessment Publications

Written by: Louis Hodey and Fred Dzanku

The COVID-19 crisis has disrupted food systems in Ghana since its emergence in the country in March 2020. According to the United Nations World Food Programme, the socio-economic impact of the pandemic caused by the imposition of restrictions on social and commercial activities appears to be more devastating than the actual virus in many countries. This study is part of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa programme’s assessment of the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on food systems and livelihoods in Ghana and seven other African countries – Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Conducted between June–July 2020 and February–March 2021, the study seeks to estimate the potential impact of COVID-19 on food systems and livelihoods in south-western Ghana.

A Multi-Phase Assessment of the Effects of COVID-19 on Food Systems and Rural Livelihoods in Kenya
December 6, 2021 / COVID Country Report Impact Assessment Publications

Written by: John Olwande, Milton Ayieko, John Mukundi and Nicholas Odhiambo

Kenya confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on 12 March 2020. Like many governments across the world, the Kenyan government implemented various measures aimed at slowing down local spread of the virus and cushioning the population against the negative economic effects of the pandemic and the associated policy restrictions. International organisations and researchers postulated that the measures would negatively affect economic activities and livelihoods, with undesirable implications for poverty and food insecurity. Particularly vulnerable would be populations in developing countries such as Kenya, where many people depend on food systems for their livelihoods, and the majority of those are smallholder farmers who often have low economic power. The objective of this rapid assessment was to investigate the impact of COVID-19 on the food system and the sub-set of the population largely dependent on agriculture in Kenya to inform actions that can assure protection of rural livelihoods and continued access to adequate and affordable food of acceptable quality to the population. This report presents results of that rapid assessment.

APRA Working Paper 76: Long-Term Patterns of Change in the Commercialisation of Cocoa in Ghana: Forest Frontiers and Technological Transformation
December 6, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Kojo Amanor, Joseph Yaro and Joseph Teye

The commercialisation of cocoa production in Ghana has a long history dating back to the nineteenth century. The process of commercial development in cocoa is well documented and provides an alternative mode to contemporary models of commercialisation rooted in the adoption of modern technology and integration of farmers into markets. This working paper critically analyses frameworks for agricultural commercialisation in cocoa through intensification based on the uptake of synthetic inputs and hybrid seeds, by placing agricultural development within a broader framework of the historical development of the frontier in Ghana, and the related problems of ecological and economic crises. The study examines access to land, labour and technology, and how the complex interactions of scarcity of access to physical resources and labour influence farmers’ farming strategies and adoption of technology.

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).

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.

Journal Article: Agricultural Commercialisation and Changing Labour Regimes in Zimbabwe
August 3, 2021 / Journal articles 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.

ALRE Working Paper 1: 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.

Journal Article: The politics of mechanisation in Zimbabwe: tractors, accumulation and agrarian change
July 26, 2021 / Journal articles 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.

Journal Article: Tractors, States, Markets and Agrarian Change in Africa
July 16, 2021 / Journal articles Publications

Written by: Lídia Cabral and Kojo Amanor

Mechanisation has made a comeback to agricultural policy in Africa, encouraging scholars to revisit seminal literature on induced innovation. Recent studies emphasise the role for markets in addressing Africa’s mechanisation gaps and warn about past government failures to be avoided. The trust in the ability of markets to offer optimal solutions is debatable. Markets are shaped, as states are, by the interests of their most powerful players. A history-informed analysis of mechanisation and agrarian change in Africa sheds light onto how states and markets are co-constituted. The much-hyped rise in demand of tractors by medium-scale farmers can be linked back to earlier government intervention. And today’s public-private partnerships for mechanisation services illustrate how private interests shape public policy. Top-down tractor programmes continue to largely bypass smallholder farmers, though some are able to benefit. Though tractors are only one element of a complex story of agrarian change in Africa, they illustrate the enduring process of commodification of land, farming and agrarian relations that benefits the few and subjugates the many.

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: Insights into Smallholder Capacity for Agricultural Commercialisation: Evidence from Four African Contexts
July 13, 2021 / Journal articles Publications

Written by: Amrita Saha, Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and John Thompson

Over the last 15 years, the agricultural economics and development literature has amply highlighted success stories of smallholder farmers in developing countries, illustrating their increased engagement and integration with markets, in other words, higher rates of commercialisation. Yet, this seeming ‘success’ should not detract from the large proportion of farmers who, through engaging in high-value market chains, face high risks that often limit the extent of their engagement. This study, across four African contexts in Ghana, Tanzania, Nigeria and Zimbabwe, strives to better understand smallholder participation in agricultural commercialisation. Using new detailed cross-sectional household-level data, from the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) consortium, collected over 2017–2018, we analyse assets as a determining factor for localised patterns smallholder commercialisation. Applying asset-based thresholds, we capture commercialisation ‘capacity’—an indicator of the household’s commercialisation potential and ability to respond to risks. Despite the possibility to increase commercialisation as well as institutional arrangements that may reduce risk, such as contract farming, benefits from linkages with medium-scale farmers or returns from specific crop types, we find that households may yet be constrained by lower capacity. Hence, the need for targeted support for those at the margins and with limited assets; with the most pronounced and significant constraints for lower capacity households in study areas in Tanzania. These results can better inform development policies for agriculture where it is important to be able to specifically target households rather than a one size fits all approach.

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 Publications

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.

Journal Article: A Revisit of Farm Size and Productivity: Empirical Evidence from a Wide Range of Farm Sizes in Nigeria
June 4, 2021 / Journal articles Publications

Written by: Oluwatoba J. Omotilewa, Thomas S. Jayne, Milu Muyanga, Adebayo Aromolaran, Lenis Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie and Titus Awokuse

The relationship between farm size and productivity has been studied extensively in the agricultural and development economics literature. However, most of the documented evidence in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is based on samples of small-scale farms operating 5 ha or less, with very little evidence assessing this relationship over a wider range of farm sizes. This omission is especially important considering the rapid expansion of medium-scale farms in much of Africa. This study examines the farm size-productivity relationship over a range of farms between zero and 40 ha in Nigeria. It also tests whether there is heterogeneity in productivity within medium-scale farms depending on how they came into being. Using four measures of productivity, empirical estimates reveal a U-shaped relationship where the IR holds between zero and about 22 ha, turning positive afterwards. Moreover, when medium-scale farms are distinguished between those who were actively engaged as small-scale farmers and stepped up/expanded their scale of operation and those who were primarily in non-farm employment and later stepped into medium-scale farming, the turning point for farmers who stepped up into medium-scale farming is at 11 ha, in contrast to 22 ha for those who stepped in. Further evidence suggests heterogeneity in productivity within medium-scale farms depending on whether the owner-operators stepped up or stepped into medium-scale farming. These findings imply that policies facilitating smallholders’ ability to expand the scale of their activities could contribute substantially to growth in farm productivity, agricultural commercialization and increase in food security in Nigeria, although in most areas only a small proportion of smallholder households are in a position to do this.

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.

Youth and the Rural Economy in Africa: New book explores current realities
April 30, 2021 / News Publications

In a new book edited by IDS researcher, James Sumberg, and published by the Centre for Agriculture and Bioscience International, authors examine the engagement of youth in the rural economy. The book, entitled ‘Youth and the Rural Economy in Africa’, unites recent findings from quantitative and qualitative research from across Africa to illuminate how young men and women engage with the rural economy and imagine their futures, and how development policies and interventions can find traction with these realities.

Through framing, overview and evidence-based chapters, this book provides a critical perspective on current discourse, research and development interventions around youth and rural development. Chapters are organised around commonly-made foundational claims: that large numbers of young people are leaving rural areas, have no interest in agriculture, cannot access land, can be the engine of rural transformation, are stuck in permanent waithood, and that the rural economy can provide a wealth of opportunity.

This book: a) engages with and challenges current research, policy and development debates, b) considers social difference as a way of examining the category of youth, and c) is written by authors from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds, providing varied perspectives. The book draws from existing literature and new analysis of several multi-country and multi-disciplinary studies, focusing on gender and other aspects of social difference. It is suitable for researchers, policymakers and advocates, as well as postgraduate students in international development and agricultural economics.

To learn more, and access the book, click here:

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.