Policy Briefs

The Policy Brief series was launched by Future Agricultures in 2005 to provide a forum for the analysis of important agriculture policy issues by leading researchers. The series aims to identify key issues, apply the best and most up-to-date research to help understand these issues, and explore the implications of this research for the design and conduct of policy. We typically publish between 8 to 10 Policy Briefs each year.

A significant number of our policy briefs are also translated into French.


Latest articles

APRA Brief 36: Pathways to Inclusive Smallholder Agricultural Commercialisation: Which Way Now?
May 4, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

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

Agricultural commercialisation has the potential to provide a number of beneficial outcomes, including higher incomes and living standards for smallholder farmers. However, for these outcomes to be achieved, commercialisation must be inclusive and broad-based so as to link a large proportion of smallholders in rural areas to commercial, highly profitable value chains. In Malawi, where smallholder farmers contribute about 80 per cent to total food production and 20 per cent to total agricultural export earnings, agricultural commercialisation is especially imperative. While several activities have been undertaken to promote smallholder agricultural commercialisation over the past three decades, progress has not been satisfactory. Most smallholder farmers do not engage with markets on a consistent or sustainable basis. The main goal of the study on which this briefing paper is based was, therefore, to understand and track the underlying dynamics of smallholder agricultural commercialisation over time, and to identify policy recommendations to address the issues that exist in its uptake.

APRA Brief 35: The Dilemma of Climate-resilient Agricultural Commercialisation in Tanzania and Zimbabwe
May 4, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

Written by: Andrew Newsham, Lars Otto Naess, Khamaldin Mutabazi, Toendepi Shonhe, Gideon Boniface, and Tsitsidzashe Bvute

The implications of climate change for agricultural commercialisation – and the implications of agricultural commercialisation for climate change – are profound. On the one hand, agricultural production is, by nature, highly sensitive to climate change and variability. On the other, commercial agricultural production for international food markets is one of the lead sectors for generating greenhouse gas emissions that are driving anthropogenic climate change. This presents the following conundrum: the burden of the changing climate falls most heavily on smallholder farmers in countries across sub-Saharan Africa, where agricultural commercialisation is seen as an important route out of poverty. What, then, are the prospects for climate-resilient, commercially-viable smallholder agriculture in sub-Saharan African countries which are facing this dilemma? We have explored this question through APRA research produced in Singida, Tanzania, and Mazowe, Zimbabwe.

APRA Brief 34: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation: Insights from Crop Value Chain Studies in Sub-Saharan Africa
April 28, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

Written by: Lars Otto Naess and Blessings Chinsinga

Agricultural commercialisation is seen as one of the most important avenues for fundamental structural transformation and development in sub-Saharan Africa, and is assumed to help enhance a wide array of household welfare indicators among rural households whose livelihoods directly derive from agriculture. Over recent years, sub-Saharan African countries have experimented with different models of agricultural commercialisation but, while there have been some success stories, the performance track record of agricultural commercialisation has generally been dismal. While there is a growing literature on drivers and obstacles for commercialisation at regional and national levels, less is known about how these factors play out in particular value chains, where there is still a need to better understand what drives or hinders the success of commercialisation. A set of APRA studies were carried out to address this gap, exploring the dynamics of crop value chains as a way of understanding the drivers, obstacles and pathways to agricultural commercialisation. A total of 11 case studies were carried out over 2020–21 in six countries, namely Ethiopia (rice), Ghana (oil palm and cocoa), Malawi (groundnuts), Nigeria (maize, cocoa and rice), Tanzania (rice and sunflower) and Zimbabwe (tobacco and maize). This briefing paper summarises some of the key findings from these studies.

APRA Brief 33: Is Rice and Sunflower Commercialisation in Tanzania Inclusive for Women and Youth?
April 7, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

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

Rice is Tanzania’s third most important staple crop after maize and cassava, and produced by more than 1 million households who are mostly small-scale farmers. Meanwhile sunflower is the most important edible oil crop in Tanzania, also grown mostly by small-scale farmers. Over the last two decades, rice and sunflower have increasingly become important sources of income. This can be attributed to efforts by the government, in collaboration with development agencies, to commercialise rice and sunflower production to improve livelihoods and reduce poverty among actors in both value chains. There have also been efforts aimed at ensuring sustainable commercialisation and involvement of women and youth in the commercialisation process. Despite these initiatives, women and youth involvement in the rice and sunflower commercialisation process is likely to be constrained by their limited access to land and financial capital. Looking at government policy to promote commercial rice and sunflower production for poverty reduction, this brief examines the extent to which households headed by women and youth have been able to participate in the commercialisation process of the two value chains.

APRA Brief 32: Medium-Scale Farming as a Policy Tool for Agricultural Commercialisation and Small-Scale Farms Transformation in Nigeria
April 6, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

Written by: Milu Muyanga, Thomas S. Jayne, Adebayo B. Aromolaran, Lenis Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie, Adesoji Adelaja, Titus Awokuse, Oluwatoba J. Omotilewa, Justin George, Fadlullah O. Issa and Abiodun E. Obayelu

Recent evidence suggests that the changing structure of land ownership in sub-Saharan Africa is one of the major new trends affecting African agri-food systems. Research in several African countries shows a rapid rise of medium-scale farms (MSFs) of 5–50ha. MSFs have become an important force for increasing agricultural production, particularly in countries with significant unutilised arable land and potential for area expansion, such as Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia. Most African countries’ national agricultural investment plans and policy strategies officially regard the smallholder farming sector as the main vehicle for achieving agricultural growth, food security, and poverty reduction objectives. However, many governments have adopted land and financial policies that implicitly encourage the rise of emergent MSFs. Given the documented rise in MSFs in many African countries, the APRA Nigeria Work Stream 1 team developed a research agenda focused on understanding the potentially complex ways in which these farms affect the productivity and commercialisation potential of small-scale farms (SSFs). We investigated the characteristics of MSFs, the processes that produces them, their relative importance in the agricultural commercialisation process, the relationship between farm scale and productivity, and whether MSFs influence the behaviour and welfare of the millions of SSF households around them. Our findings are based on two years of survey data on MSFs and nearby SSFs in 2019 and 2021 in Ogun and Kaduna states. This policy brief summarises our main findings, drawing upon several APRA-supported reports.

APRA Brief 31: Spillover Effects of Medium-Scale Farms on Smallholder Behaviour and Welfare: Evidence from Nigeria
March 3, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

Written by: Lenis Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie, Ahmed Salim Nuhu, Titus Awokuse, Thomas Jayne, Milu Muyanga, Adebayo Aromolaran and Adesoji Adelaja

Many countries across Africa are seeing an increasing share of farmland being classified as medium-scale farms (MSFs). MSFs are defined as farms operating between 5–100ha. MSFs co-exist with small-scale farms (SSFs, defined as farms below 5ha), who still constitute the majority of households in rural areas of Africa. While there is growing literature documenting the drivers of the rise of MSFs and their characteristics empirical evidence on how this rise in MSFs impacts neighbouring SSFs is still thin. This study addresses these observed gaps in the literature. We developed a theoretical model to explain some mechanisms through which spillovers on SSFs can be generated from the existence of MSFs around them. We empirically tested for evidence of these spillovers with data from Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy and most populous nation. By exploring the spillover effects of MSFs on a broader set of SSF outcomes, including input use, productivity, commercialisation and welfare (captured via several measures of household income and poverty status), this paper provides a more comprehensive view of spillover effects.

APRA Brief 30: Ghana’s Cocoa Farmers Need to Change Gear: What Policymakers Need to Know, and What They Might Do
March 1, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

Written by Kojo Amanor, Joseph Yaro, Joseph Teye and Steve Wiggins

Cocoa farmers in Ghana face increasing challenges. In the past, many of them could make a living from cocoa thanks to the advantages – ‘forest rents’ – that initially apply when forest is cleared to create cocoa farms: fertile soils, few pests and diseases. With time, however, weeds invade, pests and diseases build up, and trees age. To maintain production requires more labour, more inputs and more skill. In the past, farmers would often abandon older groves and seek new forest to clear. As they did so, the frontier for cocoa farming moved westwards across Ghana to the remaining high forest. But by 2000 or so, no new forest was available. Farmers now have to manage aging stands of trees, clear weeds and parasites, and combat pests, fungi and diseases. In Suhum District in the east and in Juaboso District in the far west of Ghana, we talked to farmers. They understood the challenges they faced, and knew how to deal with some of them. But many were not farming their cocoa as well as they could, losing yields and income as a result. This brief provides a basis for policymakers to move forward in responding to the current challenges facing cocoa farmers.

APRA Brief 29: Achieving Inclusive Oil Palm Commercialisation in Ghana
February 22, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

Written by: Fred Dzanku and Louis Hodey

Oil palm is the most important export crop in Ghana, aside from cocoa. Compared with cocoa, however, oil palm has a more extensive local value chain, including greater opportunity for local industrial and artisanal processing into palm oil and other products, which creates a high potential for employment generation and poverty reduction; as a result oil palm is classified as a priority crop. The selection of oil palm as a priority crop aims to promote agricultural commercialisation through domestic agroindustry development and exports. In spite of this, the oil palm economy has still not achieved its potential, and this begs the question, why? Although it is known in general that commercialisation potential and its benefits are not equally distributed across groups, it is not clear how and why different subgroups (women, men, youth) might benefit differently from the oil palm economy. This brief addresses why different groups of smallholders (women, men, youth) benefit unequally from oil palm value chains, and how returns to oil palm production and marketing could become more inclusive.

APRA Working Paper 83: Hired Labour Use, Productivity, and Commercialisation: The Case of Rice in Fogera Plain of Ethiopia
February 21, 2022 / APRA Briefs Policy Briefs Publications

With the expansion of rice production in Ethiopia’s Fogera Plain, the rural labour market, highly characterised by the casual unskilled labour supply, has flourished. This is mainly associated with the nature of rice production, where certain agronomic practices demand a significant investment of time and thus family labour may not be sufficient. This has created an opportunity for rice farmers to hire labour when they need for extra help, and also for unskilled labourers to gain casual employment. This paper explores the characteristics of rural labour markets, trends in hired labour use and the impact of hired labour on smallholder farmers’ rice productivity and commercialisation using data collected from 723 randomly selected smallholder rice farmers in the Fogera Plain.

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.

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).

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

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

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

Research Findings: Models of Commercial Agriculture in Kenya
October 20, 2016 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 85
by Paul Goldsmith
July 2016

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.

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The New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition: What are the Implications for Africa’s Youth?
October 20, 2016 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 86
by Cyriaque Hakizimana
July 2016

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.

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Agricultural Commercialisation in Meru County, Kenya: What are the Policy Implications?
October 20, 2016 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 84
by Cyriaque Hakizimana
July 2016

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.

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Evidence from three models of land and agricultural commercialisation: Impacts on local livelihoods in Zambia
July 11, 2016 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 83
by Chrispin Radoka Matenga and Munguzwe Hichaambwa
May 2016

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.

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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
May 2016

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.

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Indian seeds for African markets: South–South trade and technical cooperation
January 15, 2016 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 80
by Sachin Chaturvedi, Dominic Glover and Ian Scoones
January 2016

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.


Policy Brief 081 Pdf 34.24 MB 61 downloads


The biofuels boom and bust in Africa: a timely lesson for the New Alliance initiative
April 13, 2015 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 80
by Emmanuel Sulle

April 2015

Policies promoting biofuels development through financial incentives in Europe and in the United States of America are major drivers of the ‘land rush’ in many African countries. Yet,we know that most of the first projects have not achieved their intended objectives on the ground. Amidst these controversial and failed investments, which continue to hold large tracts of land in Africa, the G8 initiative called the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is trying to attract substantial new private investment in agriculture in ten African countries. The New Alliance focuses on public-private investments, with host governments offering  large tracts of land to investors. These land-based investments follow similar patterns to unrealised ambitions of biofuels investments.

Given the evidence of negative impacts of biofuels investments on rural communities’ access to and control of land, water and forests, the New Alliance implementing partners need to consider lessons from the biofuels rush, and take different pathways to avoid such impacts.


Policy Brief 080a Pdf 34.24 MB 38 downloads


Chinese Training Courses for African Officials: a “Win-Win” Engagement?
December 18, 2014 / Policy Briefs

SAIS-CARI Policy Brief No. 3
by Henry Tugendhat

December, 2014

Some 30,000 African public officials have participated in Chinese training courses, yet little is known about their goals, structure, or content. Henry Tugendhat observed classroom trainings, interviewed trainees and reviewed publicly available course content. He argues that while China’s training courses do promote technology and knowledge transfers, they are also clearly organized to increase trade opportunities for Chinese firms, develop better political ties, and offer a positive image of China. This report, based on interviews and classroom observation, is the first study of its kind.

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Chinese Agricultural Investment in Mozambique: the Case of Wanbao Rice Farm
December 18, 2014 / Policy Briefs

SAIS-CARI Policy Brief No. 2
by Sérgio Chichava

November 2014

China’s largest agricultural investment in Africa is reported to be the Hubei Gaza Friendship Farm, established in 2007 in Mozambique and now managed by a private Chinese firm, Wanbao Africa Agriculture Development Limited (WAADL). While officials have welcomed external investment as a source of employment and development, local communities have decried the project as a “land grab”. Tensions among local activists, the government and the Chinese investors continue to run high, posing a challenge to the future of agricultural investment in the country.

Published by the SAIS China Africa Research Initiative

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International and regional guidelines on land governance and land-based investments: An agenda for African states
December 3, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Future Agricultures policy brief 77
Emmanuel Sulle and Ruth Hall

Global and regional guidelines have been developed in the period 2009–2014 to improve land governance in the context of large-scale land acquisitions in developing countries. These provide an opportunity for affected countries to make necessary reforms to mitigate negative impacts of such acquisitions. They also challenge governments, private companies and rural communities to know their rights and responsibilities and to act on them.

Many African countries are yet to fully implement land and other natural resources policy frameworks developed by the African Union (AU) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). These require states to strengthen the rights of rural populations to access, control and own such resources and to decentralise land administration. To date, rural communities in many countries lack proper knowledge about their rights and responsibilities; the roles of public and private sector and civil society – in their national policies; and legal frameworks governing natural resources.

African governments have challenged themselves to develop proper plans, garner political support at all levels of government and implement the intended policy, legal and institutional reforms on the ground. The global and regional guidelines must still be translated into binding regulations and enforceable laws in each country. This is a precondition for the global and regional guidelines to improve land governance and regulate land-based investments, as intended by all member states that acceded to them.


Policy Brief 077 Pdf 356.54 KB 40 downloads


Emerging Seed Markets: The Role of Brazilian, Chinese and Indian Seeds in African Agriculture
November 7, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 79
Henry Tugendhat

In recent years, three of the largest emerging powers, Brazil, China and India, have all brought about incredible agricultural revolutions and seeds have played a big part in that story. Nowadays, their seed markets are all within the world’s top ten in terms of value and their companies are eager to expand into new markets, particularly in Africa. Their development cooperation agendas are already focused on facilitating these overseas moves, and they come with a strong narrative that these seed producers and technical experts can help bring about similar success for Africa. It remains to be seen how true this is; however, we can already identify and analyse certain trends in the technology and policy that each is transferring.

This policy brief examines the development and expansion of each country’s seed industry and how it is engaging with African seed systems. An understanding of these trends matters primarily for the African farmers and policymakers engaging with these new flows, but it can also shed light on contrasts and opportunities for collaboration on seeds with the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (NAFSN).


Policy Brief 079 Pdf 271.22 KB 132 downloads


Opportunities and Challenges in Tanzania’s Sugar Industry: Lessons for SAGCOT and the New Alliance
August 7, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 76
Emmanuel Sulle

Sugarcane outgrower schemes are central to several policy and donor strategies for driving agricultural growth and reducing poverty, including the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor project in Tanzania (SAGCOT). But field research into the outgrower component of Kilombero Sugar Company, Tanzania’s largest and best regarded sugar producer, demonstrates a pressing need for change.

Sugarcane production in Kilombero has had benefits for farming households as well as the local and national economy. However, unsustainable expansion and governance issues in the outgrower scheme have created new risks. There are pressures on food security as a result of a decline in land for food crops, and on incomes, particularly when outgrowers’ cane remains unharvested and farmers’ payments are delayed. These problems have been aggravated by the importation of foreign sugar into the country. For this industry to provide its maximum benefits to the economy and to the household, a policy, legal and institutional framework is needed that provides greater efficiency, accountability and transparency, as well as greater security for all participating stakeholders. There are lessons for the sugar industry, as well as donors and investors of ongoing and future agribusiness developments in Tanzania.


Policy Brief 076 Pdf 772.77 KB 40 downloads


Neo-traditionalism, chieftaincy and land grabs in Ghana
June 24, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 74
Joseph Yaro and Dzodzi Tsikata

The achievement of the Ghanaian state’s objective of modernising agriculture by encouraging transnational capital necessarily requires the regulation of the activities of chiefs in land transactions to prevent the misuse of neo-traditional norms to dispossess community members of their rights to land. The current context of land transactions, which has been characterised by poor governance, opens the gate for opportunism by local and state elites, and the risk of transnational companies ‘colonising’ large parts of rural Ghana. Without fundamental institutional reforms and social protection mechanisms which privilege the land rights of smallholders, large-scale transnational land acquisitions threaten the socio-economic development of rural Ghana.


Policy Brief 074 Pdf 120.48 KB 35 downloads


Kenya’s Land Reform Agenda: Pastoralism within the Current Land Debate
June 24, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 73
John Letai

Kenya’s Community Land Bill could herald a new and improved approach to securing the rights of pastoralists to land, grazing and water. Devolving the governance of these resources to the local level could provide pastoralists with greater influence over decisions affecting their livelihoods.

This policy brief explores and argues for the enactment of a people-driven Community Land Act. The objective is to provide key observations and arguments that can help guide the process that will recognise and respect efficient management, control and use of community land. The process is informed by past practices and experiences whereby pastoralists in Kenya accessed land and natural resources through customary systems and institutions that operated largely outside the statutory legal framework of land administration.


Policy Brief 073 Pdf 142.83 KB 27 downloads


Pastoral Livestock Trade and Growth in Ethiopia
June 4, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 72
Yacob Aklilu and Andy Catley

In Ethiopia, government support to the export of livestock and livestock products started soon after the eradication of rinderpest. This was generic multi-sector support from which the livestock sector benefited, and pre-dated the New Alliance. Although Ethiopia has seen dramatic increases in formal exports, it is less recognised that pastoralist areas supply most of the animals for export. For this supply to be maintained or increased, specific livestock policy support is needed based on consultation with pastoralists, traders and other private sector actors, along with stronger coordination of the government ministries that oversee different aspects of the production and trade system. There are also opportunities to further apply systems to support cross-border trade, in line with the policies of the African Union and IGAD, and supported by certification systems such as the COMESA Green Pass. In terms of the New Alliance objective of supporting equitable growth, commercialisation of pastoral systems is associated with increasing wealth disparity and out-migration of poorer or destitute pastoralists.


Policy Brief 072 Pdf 627.34 KB 47 downloads


Investment in drylands: widening the benefits for food security and development
June 4, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 71
Izzy Birch and Jeremy Lind

After decades of comparative neglect, the drylands of the Horn of Africa are experiencing an unprecedented surge of investment. Largescale infrastructure projects now dominate national development plans. They represent a welcome renewal of interest by states in drylands and an opportunity to reduce long-standing inequalities in the provision of public goods and services. Uneven investment has been a barrier to formal private sector engagement; it has also left pastoralists more vulnerable to shocks and ill-equipped to take advantage of processes of economic transformation. Of all types of investment, state-driven investment should provide for the greater public good. Careful planning and management will be required if it is to contribute to inclusive growth rather than deepen inequality.


Policy Brief 071 Pdf 0.00 KB 39 downloads


Social protection in pastoral areas: promoting inclusive growth at the margins
June 4, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 70
Jeremy Lind and Izzy Birch

Vulnerability and poverty levels remain stubbornly high and arguably are deepening in many pastoral areas of the Horn of Africa. This is in spite of galloping livestock commercialisation in these areas and their closer incorporation into wider systems of marketing, trade and investment. The fact remains that the benefits of recent growth and investment in pastoral areas have yet to result in wider benefits for addressing food insecurity and poor nutrition. Chronically food insecure, poor or vulnerable people with limited assets cannot engage in or contribute to more productive livestock-keeping or other growth-oriented economic activities that are the intended focus of the New Alliance. Thus, strengthening social protection systems in the region is a prerequisite for realising more inclusive growth at the pastoral margins. This brief details the role of social protection in agendas to promote agricultural growth, highlighting areas of innovative programme design and implementation where further efforts might focus.


Policy Brief 070 Pdf 429.09 KB 37 downloads


Policy processes and agriculture – what difference does CAADP make?
May 29, 2014 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 14

It is just over ten years since African Union (AU) Heads of State made their declaration in support of Africa’s agricultural sector in Maputo. Through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), they committed to a common process for the development and refinement of national agricultural strategies and investment plans, intended to guide the investments of governments, donors and the private sector. This Brief draws on research by the Future Agricultures Consortium on the political and economic context of CAADP in eight African countries (Poulton et al. 2014)and asks:

  • How does CAADP fit with existing national agricultural strategies and policies?
  • Who and what drives the CAADP process at country level?
  • What value has CAADP added to national agricultural policies?

The findings add to our understanding of how domestic political incentives affect pro-poor agricultural policy in Africa.

Agriculture and climate change – politics behind the policies
May 29, 2014 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 13

Policy-makers are increasingly focusing on the linkages between agriculture and climate change. Since 2009 African Union members have committed to embracing climate change mitigation and adaptation as integral components of agricultural development. While a number of pilot initiatives are under way, we know little about what this kind of focus on climate change and agriculture will mean in practice. Realising the potentials of agricultural systems for adaption and mitigation is about more than technological choices and farming practices; it is also about politics and power.

This Brief draws on recent research by the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC) which examines how the agenda for climate-smart agriculture is playing out in practice in Africa, and asks:

  • Who participates in national agriculture and climate change policy processes?
  • Whose knowledge counts in defining climate-smart agriculture?
  • On whose terms and in whose interests are particular approaches and technologies favoured?

Women’s economic empowerment and collective action in agriculture: new evidence and measurement…
May 23, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Full title: Women’s economic empowerment and collective action in agriculture: new evidence and measurement challenges

Policy Brief 68
Sally Baden

Development actors increasingly claim that their interventions are contributing to women’s economic empowerment, and donors require that monitoring and evaluation systems capture these empowerment outcomes. However, there are divergent views and perspectives among both development policy makers and among grassroots women themselves on what constitutes ‘women’s economic empowerment’. Differences relate to whether empowerment is seen as an end in itself, or a means to broader developmental goals; how broadly or narrowly economic the definition is; and whether empowerment is primarily seen as having the ability to ‘compete’ in the market, or encompasses the capacity to challenge structural inequalities in the market and beyond. Related to this, there is also considerable debate on what measures constitute rigorous or comparable evidence of economic empowerment, and whether it is even possible to ‘measure’ empowerment across different contexts.


Policy Brief 068 Pdf 833.20 KB 36 downloads


Lessons for the New Alliance and Land Transparency Initiative: Gender Impacts of Tanzania’s…
April 15, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Full title: Lessons for the New Alliance and Land Transparency Initiative: Gender Impacts of Tanzania’s Land Investment Policy

Policy brief 67
Helen Dancer

There are gender-differentiated impacts when land is harnessed for commercial investment. Land policy needs to address the gendered nature of power relations within families and land tenure systems, and the implications of rural social relations on processes of community consultation, land management and dispute settlement. Without this, land investment policies will not reach their goals of tenure security for all, agricultural productivity and increased revenue. From the outset the full participation of women as well as men, good local leadership and gender-sensitive business practices at the local level are needed, to ensure that the fruits of land-based investment deals in the countryside are gender-equitable.


Policy Brief 067 Pdf 365.08 KB 19 downloads


Inclusive business models in agriculture? Learning from smallholder cane growers in Mozambique
April 14, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Future Agricultures / PLAAS Policy Brief 66
Emmanuel Sulle, Ruth Hall and Gaynor Paradza

Amidst the increasing corporate investment in African farmland the term ‘inclusive business model’ has become a catchphrase touted as an opportunity for incorporating smallholder farmers alongside large-scale commercial farming projects. Inclusive business models require an enabling institutional and regulatory framework. Such frameworks now exist at the international level: the African Union Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa and FAO Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance on the Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forest in the Context of National Food Security provide a starting point. If translated and implemented, these guidelines can help develop transparent and accountable mechanisms that enable and strengthen the participation of smallholder farmers in the process of commercialisation, such as in the sugar industry in Mozambique.

To enable equitable partnerships between corporate investors and small-scale farmers, governments need to prioritise public investment in agriculture, including research and development, that helps smallholder farmers increase and diversify their agricultural produce. Smallholders’ access to, ownership of and control over land and other resources should be secured. Based on our analysis of current large-scale sugar estates and milling companies, as well as smallholder involvement as outgrowers in the Mozambican sugar industry, this policy brief interrogates policy and suggests mechanisms for enabling and strengthening smallholder farmers’ participation in and securing returns from large scale investments.


Policy Brief 066 Pdf 504.04 KB 25 downloads


Large-scale Commercial Agriculture in Africa: Lessons from the Past
March 26, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 65
by Rebecca Smalley

African agriculture is in a phase of rapid commercialisation. Planners and investors in sub-Saharan Africa urgently need to consider how the choice of business model, the local context and the political environment affect outcomes of commercial ventures. A review of past experiences with three commercial farming models reveals the conditions that have provided the most stable environment for investors but also protected the most vulnerable in society and created the best chance for technology transfer and local economic linkages. These lessons from history have contemporary relevance.


Policy Brief 065 Pdf 188.23 KB 25 downloads


Collective Action, Gender Relations and Social Inclusion in African Agricultural Markets
March 25, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 64
by Sally Baden

Concerns expressed since the 1970s about women being excluded from mainstream rural development activities in Africa have fostered numerous women-specific activities designed to address this gender inequality. These actions have, more recently, been supported by arguments and evidence linking gender inequality with adverse agricultural productivity and welfare outcomes (FAO 2011). Views are divided on this approach: feminists such as Razavi (2009) have described such arguments as static and ahistorical, because as argued by O’Laughlin (2007) they ignore the larger processes of accumulation and impoverishment that have occurred in the context of capitalist transformation in the countryside. Meanwhile, recent reports suggest that, to varying degrees, rural women have benefitted from their involvement in certain types of women-specific development programmes (Buvinic et al. 2013).

This Policy Brief takes a critical look at one such activity – the engagement of women farmers in formal groups (referred to here as ‘collective action’) that are organised principally for economic purposes, including for acquiring finance, inputs and new technologies; for the bulking of produce for sale; for sharing marketing information and collective sales; and for developing linkages to more distant or remunerative markets (Thompson et al. 2012). The literature on smallholder collective agricultural marketing is large but relatively few studies address gender dimensions of group organisation in this context. The Brief draws on the findings of primary research undertaken by Oxfam between 2010 and 2012 on women’s collective action in agricultural markets in Ethiopia, Mali and Tanzania, as well as other sources, to address this knowledge gap.


Policy Brief 064 Pdf 193.98 KB 24 downloads


New Paradigms of Agricultural Development Cooperation in Africa: Lessons from Brazil and China
February 21, 2014 / Policy Briefs

Policy Brief 63
by Henry Tugendhat

As Africa attempts to boost agricultural productivity, many countries are turning to Brazil and China for the possibility of alternative approaches and technologies. Both countries have boasted numerous agricultural achievements, and both are increasing their engagements with African partners. The G8/African Union’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition bears some similarities with China and Brazil’s efforts, particularly with its aims to “increase responsible domestic and foreign private investments in African agriculture, take innovations that can enhance agricultural productivity to scale, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities”. The UK Department for International Development (DFID) describes this initiative as targeting the creation of “new jobs and market opportunities for small and large farms in African agriculture,” albeit, with a greater discussion of the importance of smallholders. Brazil and China’s ‘cooperation’ efforts in trade, aid and investments provide some key lessons for the New Alliance.


Policy Brief 063 Pdf 423.18 KB 19 downloads


Can China and Brazil help Africa feed itself?
October 16, 2013 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 12

The questions of how Africa can feed itself, and how the agricultural sector can be a more effective engine for growth and development, have long been targets of national governments. Western donors have increased assistance following the 2007/8 food price crisis. But the emergence of China and Brazil as major players has raised hopes that innovative agricultural models from the ‘rising powers’ can be transferred or adapted to African countries.

This policy brief draws on latest research findings by Future Agricultures, focusing on engagement in four African countries, and asks:

  • What are the realities of the different routes and models in China and Brazil’s agricultural development?
  • How are China and Brazil engaging with Africa in agricultural development?
  • How should Africa approach these new engagements – with open arms or cautiously, looking at likely winners and losers?

Supporting small farmers to commercialise
October 16, 2013 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 11

Accelerating growth in the agricultural sector by raising the capacities of private entrepreneurs – smallholder and commercial farmers – to meet the increasingly complex requirements of domestic, regional and international markets, is the central aim of CAADP Pillar II.

Commercialisation is about increasing engagement with markets. Smallholder farmers have long been engaged with markets for produce, inputs and information. Urbanisation, better communications and globalisation make understanding smallholder commercialisation all the more important. This policy brief draws on recent research by Future Agricultures and asks:

  • How do small farmers commercialise?
  • What have been the outcomes of small farmer commercialisation?
  • How can policies support smallholder commercialisation and encourage good outcomes?

The Struggle over the Commons: Annual Savanna Fires and Transnational Mango Outgrower Schemes
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

Full title:The Struggle over the Commons: Annual Savanna Fires and Transnational Mango Outgrower Schemes in Northern Ghana

FAC Policy Brief 62
by Joseph A. Yaro and Dzodzi Tsikata
July 2013

Northern Ghana is characterised by rain fed agriculture, poor infrastructure, food crop production and poor export-oriented agriculture. Large-scale agriculture producing export crops has been one of the many suggestions made to reduce poverty in the region. However, annual savanna fires destroy investments in commercial and food crop agriculture due to a misunderstanding of the nature and purpose of these fires. The underlying causes of fires and their control cannot merely be attributed to overt reasons; they result from socio-political causes such as dissatisfaction with processes of disenfranchisement and social exclusion. This raises many questions regarding the plausibility and efficacy of introducing a modern export-oriented organic mango farming project in improving the local economy of northern Ghana.

This brief examines the Integrated Tamale Fruit Company (ITFC) outgrower farm model, which fits well into the government’s value chain approach to agricultural commercialisation with an export focus. Savanna fires are not necessarily destructive as the current policy formulations prescribe, but an understanding of the varied uses of these fires, the timings and a negotiated management of natural resources including land, is important in regulating the use of fires in ways beneficial to all land users.


Policy Brief 062 Pdf 310.84 KB 13 downloads


Targeting in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi, 2006/07 – 2011/12
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 61
by Andrew Dorward and Ephraim Chirwa
July 2013

Targeting, the process of directing subsidised inputs to particular areas and to households within those areas, plays a critical role in Malawi’s Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP). It involves the implementation of particular targeting systems which are intended to deliver particular targeting outcomes and patterns of subsidised input access across areas and households. These affect how inputs are used, and hence programme impacts. Targeting is controversial and political, as it determines whether or not, how and how much particular people and groups benefit from the programme. Targeting is also difficult – and the large scale of the programme across the country adds to the challenges and costs in implementing and supervising targeting.

This policy brief sets out targeting issues that emerge from FISP evaluations and suggests criteria and options for improving targeting processes, outcomes and impacts.


Policy Brief 061 Pdf 420.07 KB 43 downloads


Factors Influencing Access to Agricultural Input Subsidy Coupons in Malawi
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 60
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Mirriam Matita and Andrew Dorward
July 2013

One direct way in which agricultural input subsidies can provide social protection to the poor is by targeting the poor with very high subsidies to ensure that they are able to access inputs. Although the Malawi Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme (MAISP) generally targets resource-poor households, the targeting guidelines also accord special consideration to vulnerable groups such as child-headed, femaleheaded or orphan-headed households and households affected by HIV and AIDS. This Policy Brief considers how the Malawi Agricultural Input Subsidy Programme has contributed to providing social protection to these poor and vulnerable households.


Policy Brief 060 Pdf 266.26 KB 45 downloads


Thinking about ‘Graduation’ from the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 59
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Andrew R. Dorward and Mirriam Matita
July 2013

Considering the high incidence of poverty and food insecurity among Malawi’s rural population, agricultural input subsidies can be seen in part as a social protection instrument, improving accessibility and availability of food for vulnerable groups. However, questions about the sustainability of the Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) have been raised since its introduction in 2005/06. Some have argued that with limited public resources and other competing needs of development, subsidisation of farm inputs for a food staple may not be the best use of scarce resources, justifying calls for an exit strategy. Others, however, describe the subsidy as a good thing insofar as it addresses chronic food insecurity in Malawi and contributes to inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction.


Policy Brief 059 Pdf 284.55 KB 45 downloads


Private Sector Participation in the Farm Input Subsidy Programme in Malawi
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 58
by Ephraim W. Chirwa and Andrew R. Dorward
July 2013

The Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) in Malawi has been implemented since the 2005/06 season with the objective of improving household and national food production and incomes. It targets more than 1.5 million farm families who receive subsidised fertilisers, improved maize seeds and/or legume seeds. The implementation of the FISP has involved the interaction of the Government of Malawi, the private sector, development partners, civil society organisations (CSOs), non-governmental organisations (NGOs), traditional leaders and smallholder farmers, all playing different roles in the implementation and success of the programme. The private sector has played a critical role, but its involvement in the programme has changed over time. This has included the procurement of fertilisers, the transportation of fertilisers to various markets, the retail sale of fertilisers, and the production and sale of improved seeds.

Benefits from the inclusion of the private sector in the implementation of a nation-wide agricultural input subsidy programme include efficiency, reduced bureaucracy, strategic development of the private market system, cost savings on the part of the Government, shared investment finance and costs, and reduction in displacement of commercial sales of inputs.


Policy Brief 058 Pdf 379.30 KB 30 downloads


Fertiliser Use on Women’s Plots: An Intra-Household View of the Malawi Farm Input Subsidy Programme
August 20, 2013 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 57
by Ephraim W. Chirwa, Peter M. Mvula, Andrew Dorward and Mirriam Matita

The Government of Malawi has, since the 2005/06 agricultural season, been implementing a Farm Input Subsidy Programme (FISP) targeting resource-poor smallholder farmers. The input subsidy is targeted at households and implicitly assumes that a household is a unitary decision-making unit and subsidised inputs will be used equitably on plots controlled by various members of the household.

This research demonstrates that in a socio-cultural environment in which men tend to dominate intra-household decision-making processes over allocation of income and resources, these issues are important in understanding the effectiveness of input subsidies and how they can create more equal opportunities for female and male members of the household. This research investigated gender differences in the application of fertilisers in general and subsidised fertilisers in particular, on plots controlled by male and female household members.


Policy Brief 057 Pdf 263.60 KB 32 downloads


Large-scale Land Deals, Food Security and Local Livelihoods
August 7, 2013 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 10
by Kate Wellard-Dyer

Large-scale foreign land acquisitions – land grabs – are major and real concerns for African populations.   The consequences of land deals are highly significant for local populations and the environment. Some see economic opportunities for local communities through employment and income generated from leasing or selling land. Others see land alienation as a major threat to local livelihoods, food security and the environment. The question is whether ‘win-win’ models exist – benefitting local people as well as providing an economic return to investors.  This policy brief draws on latest research by Future Agricultures. It asks: What are the drivers behind large-scale land deals in Africa and who are the main players? What is the impact of land deals on livelihoods and food security of existing land users? What can governments do to protect smallholder livelihoods?

Young People and Agri-food: Aspirations, Opportunities and Challenges
August 7, 2013 / Policy Briefs

CAADP Policy Brief 09
by Kate Wellard-Dyer

African governments, international agencies and NGOs are calling for policies which pay more attention to young people and agriculture.  This policy brief draws on research findings by Future Agricultures and asks: What are the expectations and aspirations of young rural men and women? What are the constraints and opportunities facing young people who wish to engage in productive agriculture? How can policies better support young people to engage successfully in the agri-food sector?

Reframing the New Alliance Agenda: A Critical Assessment based on Insights from Tanzania
June 14, 2013 / Policy Briefs

Future Agricultures / PLAAS Policy Brief 56
by Emmanuel Sulle and Ruth Hall

A dedicated investment in smallholder farmers to enable them to improve their land use and productivity is critical to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth in African countries.  The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition (‘New Alliance’) focuses on public-private partnership (PPPs) with local investors and multinational corporations (MNCs) to produce food. However, this is unlikely to solve chronic problems of hunger, malnutrition and poverty because of under-investment in smallholder agriculture, and the rolling back of state support following structural adjustment programmes from the 1980s onwards.

The initial signs of New Alliance implementation, instead of reversing this chronic under-investment in smallholder agriculture, suggest the adoption of corporate agriculture, either turning smallholder farmers into wage workers and hooking them into value chains in which they have to compete with MNCs, or expelling them to search for alternative livelihoods in the growing cities. Although tempered by promotion of ‘outgrower’ schemes, in practice this agenda promotes large-scale commercialisation. We argue that African countries engaging with the New Alliance should focus instead on securing citizens’ access to land, water and improved governance. African countries have a better chance of addressing the root causes behind rural poverty and low agricultural productivity by investing directly in smallholder farmers themselves.


Policy Brief 056 Pdf 426.66 KB 18 downloads


The Green Belt Initiative and Land Grabs in Malawi
November 18, 2012 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 55
by Blessings Chinsinga and Michael Chasukwa

There is often a mismatch between the apparent benevolent intents and the practical manifestations of the large scale land deals. The empirical realities of the large-scale land deals call for critical scrutiny and interrogation of the underlying interests of the stakeholders involved to assess the extent to which they genuinely prioritize win-win scenarios. As the experiences of the Green Belt Initiative (GBI) in Malawi demonstrated, the smallholder farmer is almost always the loser.

This raises doubt as to whether the international initiatives such the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of tenure of land and other natural resources; the World Bank’s principles for responsible agricultural investment; and the Africa Union’s (AU) framework and guidelines on land policy shall make any significant difference on the actual outcomes of the large-scale land deals across the continent.


Policy Brief 055 Pdf 273.02 KB 26 downloads


Food security in a transforming system of global environmental change (GEC)
November 2, 2012 / Policy Briefs

FAC Policy Brief 54
by Laura Pereira

The world’s food system is undergoing an unprecedented transformation: not just from the significant impacts of global environmental change (GEC), but also from the rapid expansion of transnational agribusiness. The food system is now a globalised, interconnected socioecological system and the global South is increasingly being integrated into this new, interconnected, efficiency-driven model.

There are three key outcomes of a wellfunctioning food system: food security, social welfare and environmental welfare (see Figure 1) yet, our current system has so far failed to provide these for the planet’s poor. How, then, will the future food system respond to the challenge of providing food security whilst also adapting to issues of rapid environmental and sustainability issues – most notably climate change? Developing a system of adaptive governance to meet these challenges is clearly an important area for research, but it requires an understanding of the complexity and uncertainty inherent in such measures.


Policy Brief 054 Pdf 524.94 KB 20 downloads