Much of the existing literature on the political economy of agricultural policy in Africa, including studies by the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) and Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA), adopts a case study approach to explore the dynamics of policymaking and implementation. These studies highlight numerous local, national and international factors that influence policy outcomes, but this raises the question as to whether any consistent patterns can be discerned across cases. This paper focuses on the policy that influences the process of agricultural commercialisation. Poulton (2017a: 4) defines agricultural commercialisation as occurring ‘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’.
APRA seeks to generate new evidence on agricultural commercialisation pathways in rapidly changing rural contexts in Africa, assessing outcomes in relation to poverty, women’s empowerment and food and nutrition security. In Malawi, APRA intends to study the role of groundnut commercialisation in promoting different livelihoods using a tracker study in groundnut farming areas, based on data collected in the 2006/07 agricultural season (School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) et al., 2008). The 2006/07 dataset is the benchmark or baseline that will be used as a reference point in the present APRA study. This study intends to track every member of the households in the 2006/07 dataset in Malawi’s Mchinji and Ntchisi districts, to understand the role of agricultural commercialisation in their current livelihoods.
This brief is based on a working paper, which seeks to inform future APRA research. In so doing, the brief helps to address debates about the feasibility of developing smallholder agriculture through commercialisation. In particular, it seeks to address the following broad questions: How has thinking about agricultural development evolved since 2010? How has the context for smallholder commercialisation evolved in this period? Second, the brief asks: how much growth has been seen in agriculture and agricultural productivity since 1990? And how much does agricultural growth correlate with changes in national income, poverty and nutrition?
This brief highlights key features of the political landscape that affect the prospects for and the outcomes of agricultural commercialisation in Tanzania. It contends that the evolving nature of Tanzania’s ruling party, Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM), helps to explain observed agricultural policy and performance and sheds light on the current and potential future trajectory of agricultural commercialisation in the country. The brief focuses on the presidency of Jakaya Kikwete (2005 to 2015) and the transition to the presidency of John Magufuli, who succeeded him in 2015.
This brief aims to summarise existing understandings of rural transformation and transitions in Africa. Agricultural development takes place within the wider context of overall economic development. In the process, changes in agriculture — such as the increased commercialisation of farms in general, and smallholdings in particular — interact with changes in the rest of the rural and urban economies. Development therefore usually brings about a structural transformation of the economy, from one dominated by agriculture to one in which manufacturing and services make up the bulk of activity; while the majority of the population become increasingly urban. The brief will focus on four key areas: the rural non-farm economy; rural–urban links; migration out of rural areas; and social protection.
This paper examines the political economy of agricultural commercialisation in Ghana from the year 2000 to 2018. Agriculture is a major economic activity in Ghana, contributing about 20 percent to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employing 42 percent of the economically active population (GSS 2016). Over the past three decades, the agricultural sector averagely grew at about 5 percent per annum, making Ghana’s agricultural sector one of the top performers in Africa, and contributing to poverty reduction and food security (Wiggins and Leturque 2011; Sarpong and Anyidoho 2012).The paper is structured into five sections. Section 2 presents the agricultural policy context which highlights features of the agricultural sector, contribution of agriculture to the economy of Ghana and political changes. Section 3 presents theoretical perspectives that will be relied upon for the analysis, while Section 4 discusses the main policies and how they have been shaped by various narratives, actors and interests. Finally, Section 5 presents the main conclusions from the analysis.
Working Paper 14: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Ethiopia: Discourses, Actors and Structural ImpedimentsJuly 30, 2018 / Working Papers
Written by Dawit Alemu and Kassahun Berhanu
This country review aims to identify the key dynamics, actors and associated discourses of agricultural commercialisation in Ethiopia. To this end, we aim to shed light on the forces and factors that influence policy processes and the contexts in which the political and bureaucratic establishments operate. Moreover, we examine the incentives generated by the mode of operation of existing working systems by inducing involved actors to expedite the venture of agricultural commercialisation.
This paper reviews thinking about agricultural development in Africa since 2010, and the record of agricultural development in the continent since 1990. In many respects, the context for agricultural development has changed for the better since 1990. Renewed growth with urbanisation is creating markets for farmers, especially for higher-value produce. The deficit on agricultural trade provides scope for substituting domestic for imported production. The opportunities for increased commercialisation are clear, in domestic and international markets. The means to produce and market more are greater than in the past. The political priority to agricultural development is promising. However, substantial challenges arise in overcoming the disadvantages that smallholders face in rural markets, the need to generate decent jobs for the large youth cohorts stepping into the job market, and making agriculture environmentally sustainable and climate-smart.
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).
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.
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 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.
Working Paper 4: Gender and Rural Livelihoods: Agricultural Commercialisation and Farm Non-Farm DiversificationDecember 19, 2017 / Working Papers
Written by Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt
This paper uses a cross-country comparative perspective in analysing gendered patterns of agricultural commercialisation and rural livelihoods. A first research question addresses whether female farm managers are in fact excluded from agricultural commercialisation (and by implication incomes) when compared to their male counterparts. Whether the sources of this exclusion can be found in the functioning of markets themselves or factors inherent to the household constitute an important sub-question. Secondly, the paper analyses if and how access to non-farm incomes varies by gender and by extension, whether incomes from the non-farm sector can compensate for poorer access to agricultural incomes among female farm managers. Thirdly, how the prospects vary for commercialisation and livelihood diversification among the two different types of femaleheaded households (de facto and de jure) will be considered. Finally, the income-generation patterns of those women who live in male-headed households will be addressed. The analysis in what follows will be guided by these questions, and positioned in relation to existing theoretical and empirical research frontiers and gaps.
Written by Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt
This paper takes a village-level perspective, drawing on an earlier study that used the same data, which suggested that patterns of pro-poor agricultural growth were highly spatially concentrated to particular villages. Qualitative fieldwork in these villages has since aimed to identify any common institutional explanations for such growth, viz. gendered rights to land and markets. This paper follows up on the trends found in the quantitative data and aims to operationalise the concept of pro-poor agricultural growth to distinguish between patterns of longer-term growth (from 2002 onwards) and more recent patterns of growth found since 2008. The purpose is to compare such patterns to shed light on the drivers of commercialisation in different village settings and in different time periods, to identify which markets and which crops hold the largest promise for pro-poor agricultural growth.
Working Paper 2: Food Security, Nutrition and Commercialisation in Sub-Saharan Africa – a Synthesis of Afrint FindingsOctober 16, 2017 / Working Papers
Written by Agnes Andersson Djurfeldt
The paper uses data from the Afrint database covering roughly 2,100 smallholders in six African countries: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, surveyed in 2002, 2008 and 2013. It addresses key aspects of food and nutrition security and their linkages to commercialisation. Following a presentation of the data at the country level, regional comparisons will be made, discussing the linkages between food security outcomes and particular commercialisation pathways for the final wave of panel data (2008–13).
Written by Rebecca Smalley
This Working Paper describes and critically reviews the recent emergence of agricultural growth corridors and other types of corridor with a prominent agricultural component. It offers a descriptive overview and poses some political economy questions. It focuses on four projects on the eastern seaboard of Africa: the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT); the Beira Agricultural Growth Corridor (BAGC); the Nacala development corridor in Mozambique; and the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport (LAPSSET) Corridor based in Kenya.
Beyond ‘family farming versus agribusiness’ dualism: unpacking the complexity of Brazil’s agricultural modelNovember 14, 2016 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 138
By Arilson Favareto
Agriculture has played a hugely important role in the recent history of Brazil’s economy. The country had a food production deficit until as late as the 1970s, but since the early twenty-first century has been one of the world’s principal exporters and a leader in production technologies adapted to tropical climates. Many researchers – and diplomats – have concluded that this is where Brazil can make its principal contribution to the African continent: supporting agrarian transition and helping to find ways of using local natural resources to build an agriculture with high productivity and improved commercial value. Brazil’s image of success always appears associated with the experience of programmes such as Prodecer and Proálcool, which led to its excellence in the production of soybeans and sugarcane bioethanol respectively. What underlies this image? The official discourse seeks to present the country as a simple case of complementary coexistence between a modern large-scale corporate agriculture segment and another segment based on small family producers. At another extreme of the debate is an alternative view: the discourse of the social movements, with a different reading but based on a similar dualism. The so-called Brazilian model, this discourse argues, is underpinned by an incurable conflict between these two segments, agribusiness being the antithesis of family farming. This paper seeks to show that a much more complex reality exists behind this binary interpretation. On the one hand, where the usual polarised view sets up the figure of agribusiness there are in reality at least three segments of the economy (one, indeed, made up of family producers, and another of companies that can hardly be described as agribusinesses). And where that view, on the other hand, posits ‘family agriculture’ as a single category, there are also three distinct narratives within that notion – each one articulated by a group of interests and organisations with different concepts about the role of agriculture in today’s world, the uses of technology and nature, and relations with the state and the market.
Future Agricultures Working 137
By Alex Shankland, Euclides Gonçalves and Arilson Favareto
ProSAVANA, the Mozambique-Brazil-Japan Cooperation Programme for the Agricultural Development of the Savannah of Mozambique, is the most visible of Brazil’s international agricultural cooperation projects. In the period since its launch in 2010 it has become a magnet for internationally-minded Brazilian agribusiness interests and a rallying-point for their domestic opponents. It was initially framed as the centrepiece of the Mozambican government’s proclaimed strategy to promote an agrarian transformation of the ‘Nacala Corridor’ region, which includes some of the country’s poorest, most populous and most politically contested rural areas. It has now become a key focus for contention between government and civil society in Mozambique, as well as a source of tensions between different parts of Mozambican civil society. The contestation process has led to major changes in the programme’s focus and approach, and consultation is now under way on a ‘Master Plan’ for the Nacala Corridor that has little in common with the version initially outlined by the promoters of Brazilian agribusiness expansion to the region. At the same time, Brazil’s engagement with ProSAVANA has been transformed by major changes in the country’s own political and economic context. This paper traces the pathways that plans for ProSAVANA and transnational mobilisationsagainst the programme have followed over the course of the half-decade since work on the ‘Master Plan’ began. It examines how different visions of agricultural development and different practices of social mobilization have interacted within Brazil and Mozambique and travelled between the two countries, with the aim of drawing lessons for future studies of the South-South Cooperation initiatives that are increasingly connecting BRICS and other rising powers with African countries.
Policy Brief 85
by Paul Goldsmith
Kenya provides a compelling case study of market driven agricultural evolution over the past century. Agriculture played a singular role in the development of the modern Kenyan economy, and while Kenyan agriculture was commonly regarded as a positive exemplar at a time when agriculture in many regions of Africa remained stagnant, the sector faces new challenges. This is the backdrop to this study, which investigated the impacts of three models of commercial agriculture on economic development and rural livelihoods in an area dominated by small-scale producers.
Policy Brief 86
by Cyriaque Hakizimana
The ‘New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition’ (hereafter the ‘New Alliance’) is a partnership which was established between selected African countries, G8 members, and the private sector to ‘work together to accelerate investments in agriculture to improve productivity, livelihoods and food security for smallholder farmers. Its pioneers anticipated that the initiative would simultaneously increase food production/availability and food accessibility/affordability through market conduits, thereby lifting millions of rural Africans out of poverty. To achieve this goal, its proponents put much faith in the private sector as the key driver of the initiative given the sector’s endowments in terms of financial resources, human capital, technological resources, intellectual property, market access, cutting-edge business practices, in-country networks and other expertise related to food security. Some critics of the New Alliance, however, challenged this initiative on grounds that the pursuit of the profit generation and developmental goals are incompatible and mutually exclusive in essence, and the combination of these two can’t and will never work for the benefit of the poor, as the latter will always be adversely incorporated into the former.
Policy Brief 84
by Cyriaque Hakizimana
Contemporary processes of agrarian change tend to favour larger-scale, more consolidated farms over smallholders, while Kenya’s agricultural policy tends to promote export oriented commercial farming. These tensions, evident in different ways over time, raise important policy questions. What are the most advantageous forms of agricultural commercialisation? What scale and capital intensity in agricultural investment are appropriate? These questions in turn feed into the debates about alternative pathways of commercialisation and the role of different farming ‘models’. This study aimed to engage these debates. The study was carried out in Kenya’s Meru County and examined three agricultural farming models: outgrowers, medium-scale commercial farms and a plantation.
Evidence from three models of land and agricultural commercialisation: Impacts on local livelihoods in ZambiaJuly 11, 2016 / Policy Briefs
Policy Brief 83
by Chrispin Radoka Matenga and Munguzwe Hichaambwa
Zambia needs to undergo structural transformation triggered by increased agricultural and rural labour productivity if it is to achieve improved growth and broad-based poverty reduction. The current experience, however, is far from the radical change needed in order to achieve this. Zambia’s agricultural sector is characterised by a large number of poor smallholders contributing most of agricultural output, with low yields, limited commercialisation and few signs of rapid productivity growth. This policy brief summarises the findings of a research project that focused on three agricultural models in Zambia by comparing three case studies.
Gender and Livelihoods in Commercial Sugarcane Production: A Case Study of Contract Farming in Magobbo, ZambiaJune 22, 2016 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 136
by Vera Rocca
This paper presents a case study of farmers’ recent transition from growing traditional crops to cultivating sugarcane under a contract farming arrangement in Magobbo, Zambia. Responding to the need for a greater understanding of how the expansion of large-scale commercial agriculture impacts women, this study examines women’s control over resources, employment and labour, and impacts on their livelihoods. The research revealed that existing gender inequalities were perpetuated within new forms of agricultural production, but that widows experienced unique benefits compared to married women through increased status and income. A brief exploration of the gains and risks of commercialization in Magobbo illustrates there are significant benefits derived from the switch to sugarcane production, but also threats to the sustainability of those gains. Overall, this paper contributes to understanding the complexities of agricultural commercialization through contract farming arrangements, and the resulting gender and livelihood implications.
by Thomas Yeboah, James Sumberg, Justin Flynn, Nana Akua Anyidoho
The European Journal of Development Research
The perspectives of young people and parents are important to policy that seeks to address youth unemployment in Africa. A systematic understanding of these should help to avoid implementation failure caused by incompatible assumptions or world views, and increase the likelihood that policies promoted by officials will be effective. We present results of a series of Q Methodology studies with senior high school students and parents at two rural locations in Ghana. At both sites, the dominant perspective among students and parents was that professional jobs were most desirable and that low-skill or manual jobs were least desirable. There was little indication that respondents saw “being your own boss” as making a job desirable. Students showed a strong social ethos: jobs were desirable if they helped people, made the world a better place or built the nation. These results have important implications for strategies that seek to address youth unemployment primarily by promoting entrepreneurship.
Plantation, outgrower and mediumscale commercial farming in Ghana: which model provides better prospects for local development?May 30, 2016 / Policy Briefs
Policy brief 82
by Joseph Yaro, Joseph Teye and Gertrude Torvikey
Different agricultural commercialisation models produce different local development benefits. African governments are making important policy choices in their quest to modernise agriculture, with some promoting largescale farming on plantations while others promote small- or medium-scale commercial farming. This study examined three agricultural modernisation models in three areas of Ghana: plantation, outgrower and medium-scale commercial farming. Each has different implications for land, labour, employment, local economic linkages, food security and livelihood outcomes.
The plantation and commercial models resulted in more land concentration while the outgrower model produced the least. In terms of employment, the plantation and outgrower models employed more workers than the commercial model but the latter had better-paid workers at the lower level of employment. Although workers in the outgrower model were paid less, there were no significant gender differences in wages received by men and women. The other two models paid male workers much more than female workers. Food security is better in the outgrower area than in the plantation and commercial farming areas.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 134
by Marco Fiorentini
The establishment of the ‘Going Out’ (GO) policy at the beginning of the twenty-first century has reshaped China’s interactions with the world. Thanks to this strategy, private and state-owned companies have expanded their businesses overseas. This has largely involved Africa, which since the 1950s has always been very important to China’s foreign strategies. The agricultural sector has been a central constant in this partnership, and since the launch of the GO policy agriculture-related trade has grown exponentially. This has led many external observers to wonder why China decided to increase its investments in African agriculture. This paper, by analysing the import and export of agricultural machinery, food and agricultural products, aims to study the consequences the establishment of the policy has had for Sino-African relations, and to understand the reasons behind China’s increasing interest in Africa: is it to satisfy China’s increasing food demand, or to help the African continent achieve its own food security?
This paper was produced as part of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 135
by Dominic Glover, Amit Kumar, Dawit Alemu, Hannington Odame, Maureen Akwara and Ian Scoones
The international emergence of India’s generic pharmaceuticals industry is seen as a success for international development and cooperation, bringing affordable drugs to populations not only in India itself but across the developing world, including in Africa.
Could India’s thriving seed sector play a similar role in delivering affordable, high-quality seeds to African farmers? India shares some of the diverse agro-ecologies and crops found in Africa, so it is plausible that technologies and methods used by Indian farmers might also be relevant to African situations. India’s development story, as an emerging economy with millions of its own small-scale cultivators, might indeed provide relevant knowledge, expertise and investments to help develop the seed sector in Africa – and thereby to support economic development, food security and poverty alleviation in that continent. But what is the realistic nature and scope of this potential?
See also Policy Brief: Indian seeds for African markets: South–South trade and technical cooperation
Policy Brief 80
by Sachin Chaturvedi, Dominic Glover and Ian Scoones
The success of India’s generic pharmaceuticals industry is seen by some policymakers as a success for international development and cooperation, bringing affordable drugs to populations not only in India itself but across the developing world, including in Africa.
Could India’s thriving seed sector play a similar role for affordable, high quality seeds? How comparable are India’s pharmaceuticals and seed sectors in reality? And what lessons could be learned from the pharma case that might be relevant to the seed sector? In this briefing note we explore these questions.
Researching Land and Commercial Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa with a Gender Perspective: Concepts, Issues and MethodsNovember 17, 2015 / Working Papers
This paper offers critical reflections on the concepts, issues and methods that are important for integrating a gender perspective into mainstream research and policy-making on land and agricultural commercialisation in Africa. It forms part of the Land and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa (LACA) project undertaken by the Future Agricultures Consortium between 2012 and 2015 and informs the case studies conducted across three countries: Kenya, Ghana and Zambia. The paper compares key gender issues that arise across three different models of agricultural commercialisation: plantation, contract farming and small- and medium-scale commercial farming.
It further discusses how concepts and research methods deriving from the literature on gender and agriculture may be applied to mainstream research. The paper highlights the need for an integrated approach to researching gender and agrarian change in Africa. In particular, the existing gender literature provides a rich legacy for researchers of all disciplines to inform their research design and analysis. The authors argue for a more systematic evaluation of the gender implications of agricultural commercialisation across interconnected social levels: household, local community and the wider political economy.
Perseverance in the Face of Hardship: Chinese Smallholder Farmers’ Engagements in Ghanaian AgricultureOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 130
Lu Jixia, Yu Lerong and Henry Tugendhat
This paper uses qualitative research methods to study small-scale Chinese farmers in Ghana, in contrast to research generally found in mainstream media and academic literature which focuses on large-scale Chinese farms in Africa. Through field-based observations of three small Chinese-run farms, this article explores how some Chinese expatriates are engaging in agricultural development in Ghana. We argue that this engagement contributes diverse new agricultural products to the local market.
Furthermore, we find that the activities of these farmers are driven by increasing numbers of Chinese migrants in Africa, and that instead of being powerful competitors, they are in fact squeezed into the margins of the local market. They meet the needs of a specific niche market through perseverance and learning from failure. In doing so, they face unfamiliar challenges from both the natural climate and the social environment, and they are at a disadvantage in this process compared to local farmers who have over the years developed better adaptive mechanisms. Looking ahead, a decline in the specialised market for Chinese goods caused by a decline in Chinese migrant labour presents real challenges for the future viability of small Chinese farms in Ghana.
Blurring the Lines between Aid and Business in the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre in ZimbabweOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 129
Tang Lixia, Lu Yan, Zhao Wenjie, Langton Mukwereza and Li Xiaoyun
In recent years, tremendous attention has been given to China’s burgeoning agricultural engagements in Africa. Due to limited access to these engagements, most discussions have focused on macro-level discourse analysis as well as political and economic analysis on its impacts. Little research of an anthropological nature has been undertaken at the micro-level operation of ongoing projects, taking note of the nature of interactions between the donors and local counterpart staff within a given cultural setting. This article focuses on a Chinese- Zimbabwe Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre (ATDC) to provide insights into the daily activities, interactions and cultural encounters with locals. Ethnographic methodologies are used to examine the Chinese and Africans’ activities, ideas and dialogues at the Demonstration Centre to present through empirical observations how China’s macro strategy is implemented in actual practices of staff and local partners at the ATDC in Zimbabwe.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 131
Lu Jixia, Li Xiaoyun and Fu Gonghua
China’s transformation from a net food exporter to a net food importer has occurred in a very short period of time and this has implications for both China and the world. This paper argues that there is strategic and practical significance in China-Africa agricultural cooperation, as the current import structure of food and other agricultural products is imbalanced and China’s food supply-demand imbalances will continue to expand. This raises the possibility of political and economic crisis for China and threatens those poor countries who are relying on international food markets. Africa possesses substantial areas of arable land that can be developed and utilised; thus, China-Africa agricultural cooperation can potentially enhance African nations’ productive capacity and contribute to local food security, through which it can indirectly improve global food security and stabilise the international food market under China’s increasing food demand context.
Copying the Extension System of China and Beyond: Implementing the Chinese Agriculture Technology Demonstration Centre in EthiopiaOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 128
Gubo Qii, Lerong Yui, Dawit Alemuii, Seth Cookiii and Xiaoyun Lii
The Chinese Agriculture Technology Demonstration Centre (ATDC) in Ethiopia is an aid project on agricultural technology cooperation between China and Ethiopia. The process of cooperation is the art of improvising on the ground when the original project plan doesn’t quite match reality. This study analyses the logic behind the improvising of implementation on the ground. It found that the running of this project is not following project management procedures and log-frame indicators but is instead based on the experiences of agricultural extension in China. Through Chinese experts, as individualactors, ATDC brought in the approach of top-down planning, assumption of package support and integration of commercial functions which can be found in the reformed extension system in China. The Chinese experts carry this working approach – along with its assumptions and principles – to Ethiopia, without considering the lack of any parallel institution and culture there at the beginning. This results in many challenges for implementing the ATDC activities and novel reactions by the ATDC experts, which also reflect the individual’s working style in the Chinese extension system. Though the technologies are still present inside the ATDC after many efforts, a request to extend the cooperation phase from the Ethiopian side implies an appreciation of the approach and its results to some extent.
Travelling Technocratic Rationality: Historical Narratives of China’s Agricultural Development and their Implications for China- Africa Agricultural CooperationOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 127
Xu Xiuli, Li Xiaoyun and Qi Gubo
Contemporary China-Africa agricultural cooperation (CAAC) has been internally dominated by three streams of narrative: promotion of food security for state building in the post-war landscape; productivity enhancement through technocratic modernisation; and promotion of aid sustainability through business engagement in the new era of globalisation. This paper explores the domestic drivers and strategies underpinning these narratives, as well as their respective implications for CAAC, using a historical review approach. The paper summarises three elements entrenched in the narratives of CAAC – state leadership, productivity-centrism and the governmentbusiness nexus – which are examples of travelling technocratic rationality. These differentiate China’s aid, focusing on developmental state building, from the established aid consensus, with its marriage of orthodox neoliberalism and a new institutionalism.
Mixed Starts and Uncertain Futures: Case Studies of Three Chinese Agricultural Investments in ZimbabweOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 125
Tang Lixia, Zhao Wenjie, Langton Mukwereza and Li Xiaoyun
Chinese agricultural investments in Africa have grown significantly in the past two decades, but there remains very little empirical research on the nature of these investments. This paper aims to address this knowledge gap by looking at three different types of Chinese investors in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector: a National State Owned Enterprise (SOE), a Provincial SOE and a private company. Collectively, their experiences not only challenge the pervasive view that Chinese companies are progressing at unstoppable rates in African markets, but also raise deeper questions about the importance of company structures, financial stability and the environments in which they operate.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 123
Kojo Sebastian Amanor
This paper examines the nature of Chinese and Brazilian investments in agricultural development by focusing on the irrigated rice sector in Ghana. It examines this through a historic perspective that traces policy towards the rice sector in Ghana, and the influence ofvarious actors in developing this sector. Investment in the development of commercial rice originated in the 1970s when China developed smallholder demonstration rice projects and the government of Ghana pursued a policy of promoting large scale commercial rice production and smallholder contract farming on irrigation projects, tied to inputs suppliers and food marketers and processors.
The paper then traces the changing fortunes of the irrigated rice sector under structural adjustment and government support for private sector investment in irrigated rice development in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This resulted in new investors entering rice production in Ghana, including Brazilian interests, and renewed interests from Chinese investors. It argues that the main trends in commercial rice production have been towards contractual relations in which accumulation occurs through control over supplies of inputs and marketing and that these are defined by the policies of the Ghanaian government.
Although Brazilian companies have contributed towards innovation in this sector, they lack support from Brazilian agribusiness and agricultural development institutions. As a result of this their access to technology is constrained by the nature of Ghanaian markets and research establishments, and the lack of institutional embedding of Brazilian technologies within these. However, there are attempt by the Brazilian state to build up markets for machinery and develop joint research, although this occurs outside of rice.
Although Chinese companies are absent from the development of rice, they have expressed interests in its future developments and are attemptingto build up interactions between inputs supply, seed development and production, which will effectively embed Chinese technologies within Ghanaian research institutions and markets. The future of commercial rice production by these rising powers is likely to develop through expansion of seed development, inputs and machinery markets, and food trading and processing, rather than through a dramatic expansion in large estates. In this Chinese and Brazilian interventions are not markedly different from other agribusiness models.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 120
The growing involvement of the Chinese state and business in Africa has generated significant debate about China’s Africa strategy and its benefits for Africa’s development. Chinese policymakers have become increasingly oriented toward improving African countries’ agricultural productivity. This paper focuses on how state-business interactions influence agricultural development outcomes, using Zimbabwe as a country of study. It explores the question of how far the State can control business and direct development by identifying the key relationships that influence the decision-making processes of state and business actors within China and its African engagement.
The paper challenges the conventional wisdom of homogenised, unitary relations, and argues that these relations are, in practice, heterogeneous, as a result of the Chinese state being disaggregated into a multiplicity of provincial relations and central state agencies, and because of tensions arising between commercial market and political interests. The active role of African governments in agricultural schemes is also affecting outcomes.
The findings of a brief ethnographic analysis of four state-business schemes in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector suggest that where African agriculture is concerned, a wide range of Chinese agencies are involved, with businesses being driven by either market forces or national state interests, which together make outcomes increasingly less generalisable.
Interpreting China-Africa Agricultural Encounters: Rhetoric and Reality in a Large Scale Rice Project in MozambiqueOctober 14, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 126
Zhang Chuanhong, Li Xiaoyun, Oi Gubo and Wang Yanlei
In recent years, China’s burgeoning agricultural investment in Africa has attracted tremendous attention from media, academics and policymakers worldwide. The macro-level discussions around the nature and significance of these engagements have been debated and well documented within a vast body of literature.
However, little research had been done concerning the local encounters through a particular project, which constitutes a very important angle in understanding how success or failure of a development model is produced. In this article, the authors went beyond apolitical economic approach and examined how local encounters construct and reshape the practice of a particular agricultural investment project using actor-oriented approaches. The perspectives of both Chinese actors and their African counterparts were explored and analysed based on a large-scale Chinese rice project in Mozambique.
The research found that the optimistic rhetoric of state actors and investors fell short of the reality of the many unacknowledged structures and chance events. However, despite the unintended outcomes, the rhetoric persists due to the project’s significance – not only in its potential for economic profit, but also in terms of its political prestige.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 124
Yu Lerong, Lu Jixia, Henry Tugendhat and Li Xiaoyun
This working paper explores the motivations, impacts, challenges and interactions of a successful Chinese pesticide enterprise in Ghana. In the context of much China-Africa literature focusing on state-backed Chinese business initiatives in Africa, this paper takes an ethnographic approach to explain the rise of a private sector Chinese agrochemicals company in Ghana. This is significant because of the frugal amount of literature that does cover Chinese migrant businesses in Africa, very few studies look at agricultural firms in particular. The main conclusion of this research is that the pushfactors from China’s domestic market and opportunities from Ghana’s agrochemicals market are important driving forces for Chinese pesticide enterprises to ‘go out’. Furthermore, diversified strategies are necessary to deal with local market environments based on business and social networks that intertwine formal and informal relations.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 122
China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has launched one of the largest training course programmes in the world as part of its international cooperation programme with Africa. In these training courses, China’s foremost universities, state bureaux, and private companies transfer their knowledge to 10,000 African government officials per year. The courses cover everything from the management of health epidemics to customs office administration, all drawing from China’s most recent socio-economic development experiences. In 2013, agriculture-related topics made up a significant 15 percent of total training courses, covering courses on both policy and technology.
There has been a strong narrative, from Chinese government officials and their African counterparts alike, that what is particularly appealing about China is that its agricultural sector has similarities with that of many African countries. They talk of China’s diversity of climates to match the many African environments, as well as China’s dependence on smallholder farming. The logical conclusion from such narratives would appear to be: what worked for China, must work for Africa. In this context, the MOFCOM training courses consist of one of the most direct forms of knowledge transfer from Chinese experts to African state leaders and policymakers. Many of the Chinese experts involved are not just qualified in the theory of what they teach, but have had first-hand experiences of effecting the change that brought about China’s own agricultural achievements.
As such, this paper seeks to understand how China’s agricultural training courses have affected agricultural practices in the African countries where they train. This looks at how the training courses work, how transferable this knowledge really is for African agricultural contexts, and finally, what these training courses really achieve in the broader context of China-Africa relations. Ghana and Zimbabwe are focused on as key case studies for this paper, and fieldwork was also conducted with training institutions and lecturers in China.
This paper is part of our project on China and Brazil in African Agriculture
Jumping into the Sea: Chinese Migrants’ Engagement in Non-Traditional Agricultural Commodities in EthiopiaJuly 9, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 121
Seth Cook and Dawit Alemu
This paper explores the nature and extent of Chinese migrants’ involvement in the demand and supply of non-traditional agricultural commodities in Ethiopia, shares the perspectives of the different actors involved, and discusses the implications of this presence for Ethiopian development.
The focus here is not simply on the food and agriculture sector; the study also aims to shed light on the Chinese migrants involved in that sector. For instance, who are they and where do they come from in China? Why do they come to Ethiopia, and how do they end up in the food and agriculture sector? How do their business networks operate? What are their aspirations, and do they see Ethiopia as a permanent home?
This paper is part of our project on China and Brazil in African Agriculture.
Pathways for irrigation development in Africa – insights from Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique (Summary)June 30, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 119 (Summary version)
Naomi Oates, Guy Jobbins, Beatrice Mosello and John Arnold
This paper summarises the findings of a rapid review to determine the policies and practices that have shaped irrigation performance over the last 50 years in three African countries: Ethiopia, Morocco and Mozambique.
The research combined a review of national (sector) level trends with short case studies of specific irrigation schemes. Evidence was drawn from the literature, supplemented by in-country key informant interviews and brief site visits. The review considers changes in policy and their drivers; linkages between policy, practice and performance; factors determining scheme performance; and key issues for future policymaking.
Full details can be found in the main working paper.