Using evidence gathered in Asia and Latin America, this brief draws out lessons in smallholder commercialisation that may be instructive for sub-Saharan Africa. The brief provides a summary of a longer report on agricultural production, as well as a review of recent literature on commercialisation in Asia and Latin America. For Asia and Latin America, the review considers the prevalence of smallholder farming, trends seen in the growth of production, and the forms and processes that smallholder commercialisation has taken. Some have argued that Brazil’s vast farms, worked by machines using advanced technology, are the best way to transform African agriculture. But this model is only feasible for countries with abundant land, plenty of capital and little labour. However, Asia – with its small farms, abundant labour and limited capital – may prove more instructive for contemporary sub-Saharan Africa.
The first in our series of APRA briefs gives an overview of ‘agricultural commercialisation’ — it gives a brief analysis of the various players and stakeholders involved, and situates the broader concept of agricultural commercialisation within a specifically African context. In particular, this brief runs through key terms and concepts that are central to APRA’s work, and gives a more detailed examination of agriculture’s engagement with and influence on the process of commercialisation, across differing levels of scale (smallholders, medium-scale and large-scale farmers). Lastly, the brief presents a succinct breakdown of the various measurements used to calculate the extent of commercialisation within a given area.
Written by Toendepi Shonhe
Debates on Zimbabwe’s agricultural development have centred on different framings of agriculture viability and land redistribution, which are often antagonistic. Yet, emerging evidence of agricultural commercialisation pathways shows complex and differentiated deepening and stagnations across settlement models. Normative– political constructions of ‘good’, ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’, as advocated by large-scale farmers and some bureaucrats, are countered by proponents for redistribution, mainly the landless rural peasants, keen on social and economic justice as well as democratic land ownership. Across the divide, commercialisation of agriculture is seen as efficient and poverty-reducing. This paper explores how these contrasting debates have played out in Zimbabwe over time, and what interests are aligned with different positions. The paper locates the discussion in a critical examination of the politics of agrarian change and presents a political economy and policy process review of winners and losers in commercialisation.
Written by Steve Wiggins, Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and Joseph Yaro
APRA’s cross-cutting theme on rural transitions, nonfarm rural economies and rural–urban links intends to address two sets of issues. One concerns the way in which commercialisation of agriculture interacts with the development of the rural non-farm economy (RNFE), the links between rural and urban areas and, indeed, overall processes of economic growth and transformation. It is expected that growth of agriculture and better links between urban and rural areas can create profound transformations of the rural economy. Just how this takes place depends on several factors, including the nature of agricultural growth and commercialisation (Hall et al. 2017), the nature of urbanisation (Gollin, Jedwab and Vollrath 2016, rural location (Wiggins and Proctor 2001), infrastructure (Allen et al. 2015), the scale of towns (Baker 1990), and social relations (Potts 2000).
Written by Andrew Newsham, Sarah Kohnstamm, Lars Otto Naess and Joanes Atela
This paper presents a review of recent literature on the implications of climate change for agricultural commercialisation, focusing chiefly on sub-Saharan Africa, and incorporating evidence, where relevant, from around the world. Climate change is one of the crosscutting themes of the Department for International Development (DFID)-funded Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) consortium.1 APRA is intended to produce new data and insights into agricultural commercialisation processes, and their impacts and outcomes with regard to rural poverty, empowerment of women and girls, and food and nutrition security. In addition to outlining our rationale and aims, this introduction sets out (a) the approach we have taken to classifying climate impacts upon agricultural commercialisation, and (b) the structure.
Working Paper 10: Partnerships, Platforms and Policies: Strengthening Farmer Capacity to Harness Technological Innovation for Agricultural CommercialisationMarch 13, 2018 / Working Papers
Written by Hannington Odame and Dawit Alemu
Innovation capacity presupposes capacity to harness science, technology and innovation (STI) for agricultural commercialisation. Agricultural commercialisation requires an enabling policy environment on STI issues such as the impact of climate change, nutrition, improved seed and inputs, emerging technologies, infrastructure, research and extension, and financing. These issues are consistent with the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024 (African Union Commission undated). This paper uses three STI revolution storylines (case studies on rice, information and communications technology (ICT) and cocoa) to highlight the enabling factors that make STI a vehicle for agricultural commercialisation.
Working Paper 8: Social Difference and Women’s Empowerment in the Context of the Commercialisation of African AgricultureJanuary 25, 2018 / Working Papers
Written by Helen Dancer and Naomi Hossain
This paper was commissioned to support the research design activities of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Consortium, generating new evidence on pathways to agricultural commercialisation, on the theme of social difference and women’s empowerment. First, the paper explores methodological approaches and key concepts that underpin the analysis of social difference, as people move along different pathways to commercialisation. It analyses social difference in terms of gender, age, wealth, ethnicity and indigeneity, while placing special emphasis on APRA’s focus of women’s empowerment. Second, the paper draws on three key outcome criteria – which we identify as power relations, structures and mechanisms, and distribution of resources – to analyse APRA’s hypotheses and research questions through a lens of social difference. Third, the paper explores avenues for inquiry at the level of household and community, sectoral changes and political-economic factors, bringing attention to the interconnections between individual, social structures and wider political-economic developments, and makes recommendations for research questions in these areas.
Written by Steve Wiggins
This paper aims to draw out lessons from experiences of smallholder commercialisation in Asia and Latin America that may be instructive for sub-Saharan Africa. It addresses the following questions: To what extent has agriculture in Asia and Latin America been commercialised? What forms of commercialisation have been seen? What scale of farms have been able to commercialise? For smallholders, what kinds of supply chains have been created to link them to markets, as well as to suppliers of inputs and services? What have been the drivers of commercialisation of smallholders? How important have public policies been in shaping the processes seen? What have been the outcomes of smallholder commercialisation? How well-distributed have been the processes and their outcomes? Has smallholder commercialisation contributed to broad-based agricultural and rural development? Have any groups suffered losses from commercialisation by others?
Working Paper 6: What is Agricultural Commercialisation, Why is it Important, and how do we Measure it?December 19, 2017 / Working Papers
Written by Colin Poulton
Agricultural commercialisation occurs when agricultural enterprises and/or the agricultural sector as a whole rely increasingly on the market for the sale of produce and for the acquisition of production inputs, including labour. It is an integral and critical part of the process of structural transformation (see section 1.1), through which a growing economy transitions, over a period of several decades or more: from one where the majority of the population live in rural areas and depend directly or indirectly on semi-subsistence agriculture for an important part of their livelihood to one where the majority of the population live in urban areas and depend on employment in manufacturing or service industries for the major part of their livelihood.
Written by Colin Poulton
The objective of this review is to highlight key features of the political landscape that are considered to affect both the prospects for and the outcomes of agricultural commercialisation in Tanzania. It will highlight key dynamics and actors that subsequent empirical work within the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) programme should pay attention to.