Working Papers

This series reports research activities or interim findings and aim to share ideas and elicit feedback. Future Agricultures publishes approximately six to ten Working Papers per year.

We also support a series of LDPI Working Papers through our involvement in the Land Deal Politics Initiative.

Some of our Working Papers are also available in a French translation: see Documents de travail for a full list.


Latest articles

Working Paper 57: Agricultural commercialisation and the political economy of value chains: Tanzania rice case study
March 31, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by Ntengua S.Y. Mdoe and Glead I. Mlay

This paper presents the political economy of rice commercialisation in Tanzania. It is based on a review of trade policies, regulations, strategies, and programmes implemented since the 1960s to promote rice commercialisation, and the views of key informants. Key findings that emerge from the review of literature and key informant interviews indicate that the performance of the value chain over time has been negatively affected by the combined effects of the policies, regulations, strategies, and programmes implemented concurrently.

Working Paper 56: The political economy of the groundnut value chain in Malawi: Its re-emergence amidst policy chaos, strategic neglect, and opportunism
March 31, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by Blessings Chinsinga and Mirriam Matita

This paper explores the political economy of the groundnut value chain in Malawi. The paper uses a combination of insights from the theoretical perspectives of political settlement, rents and policymaking to examine this value chain. Fused together, these theoretical perspectives underpin a political economy analysis framework, which entails systematically mapping all key actors in an issue area; identifying their interests and recognising their forms of power (political, economic, social, and ideological); understanding their relationships with each other; and appreciating the issues, narratives, and ideas that shape how and why they interact with each other.

Working Paper 55: COVID-19 and the political economy of tobacco and maize commodity circuits: Makoronyera, the ‘connected’ and agrarian accumulation in Zimbabwe
March 31, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by Toendepi Shonhe

This paper analyses the global commodity circuits – value chains – for maize and tobacco in Zimbabwe, in the context of a reconfigured agrarian economy and COVID-19 induced shocks. The study focuses on the political economy dynamics of agricultural commodity circuits to reveal how they can contribute to understanding the drivers and constraints of agricultural commercialisation in Zimbabwe. This paper traces the circuits of maize and tobacco, the two major crops for food security and foreign currency earnings in Zimbabwe.

Working Paper 54: Political economy of the oil palm value chain in Ghana
March 31, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by Kofi Takyi Asante

Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) is of strategic importance to the Ghanaian economy. It is the second most important industrial crop after cocoa and is used widely in local food preparation as well as in industrial processing. In spite of its importance, however, oil palm has consistently underperformed since the early twentieth century. This paper conducts a value chain analysis of the crop, foregrounding the political economy factors that shape the performance of the sector. It draws on a combination of in-depth interviews conducted in March 2020 with a variety of value chain actors and a review of the secondary literature. Additionally, between late May and early June 2020, twelve further interviews were conducted as part of a rapid market survey to assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the value chain.

Working Paper 53: The Political Economy of the Cocoa Value Chain in Ghana
March 31, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Joseph Kofi Teye and Ebenezer Nikoi.

The cocoa sector has, historically, been the backbone of the Ghanaian economy. Many households depend directly on the cocoa sector for livelihoods, and aspects of the cocoa industry, such as input supplies to farmers and cocoa pricing, have historically featured prominently in national and local politics. This paper examines the basic underlying political economy dynamics of the cocoa value chain, with particular focus on how the interests, powers and interactions of various actors along the value chain have contributed to agricultural commercialisation in Ghana. The paper also explores the challenges affecting the cocoa value chain, social difference within the chain, and how various segments of the cocoa value chain have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in Ghana since March 2020.

Working Paper 52: Agricultural Commercialisation and the Political Economy of Cocoa and Rice Value Chains in Nigeria
March 15, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Emmanuel Remi Aiyede.

Nigeria has sought to diversify its economy away from dependence on oil as a major source of government revenue through agricultural commercialisation. Agriculture has been a priority sector because it has very high growth potential and the greatest potential for employment and export revenue. The cocoa and rice value chains are central to the government’s engagement with agriculture to achieve these objectives. This paper sets out to investigate the underlying political economy dynamics of the commercialisation of the cocoa and rice value chains in Nigeria in terms of smallholder farm households’ shift from semi-subsistence agriculture to production primarily for market, and predominantly commercial medium- and large-scale farm enterprises complementing or replacing smallholder farm households.

Working Paper 51: The Political Economy of the Rice Value Chain in Ethiopia: Actors, Performance, and Discourses
March 15, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Dawit Alemu and Abebaw Assaye.

The goal of this working paper is to identify the core challenges that have contributed to the poor performance of Ethiopia’s rice sector, and highlight approaches to successfully promote the commercialisation of the rice value chain. The authors achieve this by emphasising the underlying political economy dynamics of the rice value chain in Ethiopia, and how these can offer a better understanding of the drivers and constraints of agricultural commercialisation in the country. The paper also discusses the performance of, and challenges faced by, actors involved in the rice value chain. In addition, it looks at the role of development partners in promoting the rice value chain, the role of rice in the rural labour market, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on the various actors.

Working Paper 50: Determinants of Smallholder Farmers’ Livelihood Trajectories: Evidence from Rural Malawi
March 15, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Mirriam Matita, Ephraim Wadonda Chirwa, Stevier Kaiyatsa, Jacob Mazalale, Masautso Chimombo, Loveness Msofi Mgalamadzi and Blessings Chinsinga.

The authors of this paper attempt use quantitative methods to determine the different factors of livelihood trajectories in the context of agricultural commercialisation. To do this, they draw on primary evidence from household surveys conducted over a span of ten years in Mchinji and Ntchisi districts, in rural Malawi. The authors hypothesise that households that are more commercialised are more likely to expand their investments in agriculture and/or take up livelihoods outside of agriculture. Crucially, they find that factors driving livelihood trajectories are not the same for farmers in different pathways, and highlight the need for policymakers to study findings emphasise the need to adopt context-dependent development approaches, in order to provide sustainable relief from poverty for farming households.

Working Paper 49: The Political Economy of Sunflower In Tanzania: A Case of Singida Region
March 15, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Aida C. Isinika and John Jeckoniah.

This paper looks at the challenges and shortcomings facing the sunflower sub-sector in Tanzania. It showcases the political economy of sunflower based on analyses of the performance of the sector over a 30-year period since the early 1990s, also studying the relations between the importers of edible oil, and the local actors of the sunflower value chain (farmers and processors). In addition, the authors discuss how disparities in accessing resources for production were established across gender, age, wealth status, which led to social differentiation. Following this, they examine how restrictions introduced as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected activities and relations along the sunflower value chain.

Working Paper 48: The Political Economy of Land Use and Land Cover Change in Mvurwi Area Zimbabwe, 1984–2018
March 1, 2021 / Working Papers

Written by, Caleb Maguranyanga, Keen Marozva, Ian Scoones and Toendepi Shonhe.

An analysis of the variations in land use and land cover over the past four decades in the Mvurwi area, Mazowe district, Zimbabwe illustrates how socio-economic dynamics and natural factors combine to shape environmental change. Land use and cover changes (LULCC) were assessed using a combination of quantitative analysis (satellite imagery) of land cover and a grounded analysis of the social, economic and political factors. Explanations for the changes observed in this study highlight social, economic and political drivers that have changed over time. A simple, linear explanation of land use and land cover change is inappropriate as multiple drivers intersect, and environmental change must always be understood as co-constituted with social dynamics and political economy.

Working Paper 47: How Conflicts Affect Land Expansion by Smallholder Farmers: Evidence from Nigeria
December 7, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Adesoji Adelaja, Justin George, Thomas Jayne, Milu Muyanga, Titus Awokuse, Adebayo Aromolaran and Lenis Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie.

The expansion of smallholder farms into larger farm sizes is a key strategy for growing agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. This strategy could simultaneously expand farm incomes while addressing poverty since the majority of farms in sub-Saharan Africa are smallholder farms. There is limited existing research on the possible role of conflicts in stymying the ability of smallholder farmers to transition into larger-scale farming and on the impacts of conflicts in areas that are not directly within active conflict zones. In this paper, we investigate the impacts of conflict on the ability of smallholder farmers to transition to larger scales in two regions that are not in a traditional conflict zone, by developing a household utility maximisation model to explain choices made by farm households in response to conflict.

Working Paper 46: Drivers of Market-Oriented Land Use Decisions Among Farm Households in Nigeria
November 18, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Adebayo B. Aromolaran, Milu Muyanga, Thomas Jayne, Abiodun E. Obayelu, Titus Awokuse, Omotoso O. Ogunmola and Fadlullah O. Issa

In recent times, the Nigerian Government has devised strategies aimed at intensifying smallholder transformation for enhanced food security, employment creation and poverty reduction. However, despite these efforts, the process of agricultural commercialisation in Nigeria has not progressed as fast as expected. Consequently, this study examines agricultural commercialisation in Nigeria with the aim of establishing factors that are constraining commercialisation and identifying potential policy levers that can be used to fast-track the process.

Working Paper 45: Role of resilience factors in mitigating the negative effects of conflict on land expansion
November 2, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Adesoji Adelaja, Justin George, Thomas Jayne, Milu Muyanga, Titus Awokuse, Lenis Saweda O. Liverpool-Tasie and Adebayo B. Aromolaran.

Shocks and stresses from natural disasters, climate change, economic volatility, armed conflicts and political instability could hinder expansion efforts by smallholder farms (SHFs). The application of the resilience concept as a mitigator of the impacts of such shocks on land expansion by farmers is an important developmental challenge. In this paper, we hypothesise that the resilience capacity of SHFs mitigate the adverse effects of conflict shocks and examine how assets, off-farm income, access to social safety nets, and education level of the household lead contribute to household-level resilience to armed conflicts.

Working Paper 44: The Emerging Importance of Rice as a Strategic Crop in Ethiopia
November 2, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Dawit Alemu and John Thompson.

Rice has become one of the most important agricultural commodities in Ethiopia in line with its increased importance throughout Africa. This paper examines the trends of the importance of rice in the country – covering the domestic production, imports, the extent of self-sufficiency and associated efforts. Specifically, the paper presents the challenges and opportunities surrounding rice cultivation, processing and marketing, as well as for the future development of the rice sector in Ethiopia.

Working Paper 43: Smallholder farmers’ choice of oil palm commercialisation model and household welfare in south-western Ghana
October 15, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Fred M. Dzanku, Kofi Takyi Asante, William Quarmine and Louis S. Hodey.

This paper studies smallholder farmers’ choice of oil palm commercialisation channels and implications for household welfare. The study explores which factors have contributed to the breakdown of trust in contractual arrangements between farmers, oil palm companies and intermediaries. Additionally, the report explores which factors encourage or exclude households when it comes to participating in higher return oil palm commercialisation arrangements and the welfare differences associated with engagement in the observed channels of oil palm commercialisation.

Working Paper 42: Women empowerment, agriculture commercialisation and gender relations: A value chain analysis, Mvurwi, Zimbabwe
October 15, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Hazel Mutsa Kwaramba, Easther Chigumira and Levison Zimori.

This paper aims to develop a better understanding of the pathways women seek to construct livelihoods in or around existing commercialisation hotspots and along the value chain and the outcomes associated with these efforts. The objective of the paper is to provide evidence of the current status and future potential of multiple pathways to commercialising agriculture using selected value chains with a view to strengthening food and nutrition security and empowering women and girls. The study uses sweet potato, strawberry and poultry (including meat and egg production) value chains to examine the pathways to women empowerment and to make policy recommendations for future improvements.

Working Paper 41: Expanding Land Area Under Commercial Tree Crop Plantation in Nigeria
October 14, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Adebayo B. Aromolaran, Abiodun E. Obayelu, Milu Muyanga, Thomas Jayne, Adesoji Adelaja, Titus Awokuse, Omotoso O. Ogunmola and Olatokunbo H, Osinowo.

As the second-largest foreign exchange earner (after crude oil), and the most important agricultural subsector, tree crops are key to Nigeria’s economy. This paper investigates the key factors behind land allocation decisions, intending to yield useful policy insights into how to boost tree crop cultivation and, as a result, agricultural commercialisation. The study concludes by emphasising the significance of tangible land markets, critical rural infrastructure, agro-services, improved land tenure security and increased youth and female engagement in efforts to promote economic diversification in Nigeria through commercial tree crop farming.

Working Paper 40: The groundnuts fairtrade arrangement and its spillover effects on agricultural commercialisation and household welfare outcomes: Empirical evidence from central Malawi
September 29, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Stevier Kaiyatsa, Mirriam Matita, Ephraim Chirwa and Jacob Mazalale.

This working paper examines the Fairtrade groundnut arrangement – when the Mchinji Area Small Farmers Association (MASFA) sold its groundnuts through the National Association of Smallholder Farmers of Malawi (NASFAM) from 2007 to 2011. The authors test a unique panel data set of smallholder farmers to determine whether there are any spillover effects on small-scale agricultural commercialisation and its impact on household welfare for smallholder farmers that were not part of the Fairtrade arrangement in Mchinji District.

Working Paper 39: Winners and Losers in Livestock Commercialisation in Northern Kenya
September 29, 2020 / Working Papers

Written by, Guyo Malicha Roba.

This paper examines how livestock commercialisation has impacted different actors and different wealth groups in Isiolo and Marsabit counties. Although livestock commercialisation has received global research and development attention, relatively little is known about its implications for different actors along value chains in northern Kenya. With large-scale investments in infrastructure and government plans to more closely incorporate the region into Kenya’s wider domestic livestock markets in the central highlands and Nairobi, this study uses a combination of research methods to provide key insights.

Working Paper 38: Spillover Effects of Medium-Scale Farms on Smallholder Behaviour and Welfare: Evidence from Nigeria
September 29, 2020 / Working Papers

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

As rapid changes occur in farm size distribution in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly among medium-scale farms (MSFs), this paper addresses the gap in the empirical literature on the strong spillover effects of medium-scale farms (MSFs) towards small-scale farms (SSFs). This includes effects of the rise in MSFs on the incomes, productivity and degree of farm commercialisation of neighbouring SSFs. Using evidence from Nigeria, this study examines the important role of MSFs in improving SSF productivity and welfare. It then looks at the implications for policymakers across Africa as they strive to improve the welfare of SSFs while expanding food production to meet the needs of growing populations.

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

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

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

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

Written by, Terence Chitapi and Toendepi Shonhe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by, Adelaja Odutola Odukoya.

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

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

Written by, Vine Mutyasira and Chrispen Sukume.

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

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

Written by, Fana Gebresenbet.

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Easther Chigumira

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by Lidia Cabral.

This paper considers the current policy debate on agricultural mechanisation in Africa, situating this in the context of long-standing disputes on appropriate technology and roles for the state. Present calls for mechanisation, and tractorisation in particular, by national governments and international development agencies emerge in a different context, where there are new sources of technology and where development discourse emphasises sustainability and the role of the private sector. Yet, as before, recipes for agricultural mechanisation remain contentious and alliances between aid and business are once again driving policy. This time, however, Southern powers like China, India and Brazil are competing for space. The paper highlights the contentious nature of mechanisation in scholarly debate, policymaking and international development cooperation between North and South.

In addition to this paper’s focus on the broader politics of mechanisation, the policy study also looks at the experiences with mechanisation in three selected countries – Ghana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe – all of which have been recently supported by SSC with Brazil, China and India. While the country cases undertake an in-depth analysis of the mechanisation trajectories of the three African countries and their domestic political economy, this paper takes a broader view of the history of mechanisation in Africa and its recurrent debates, and situates the return to tractors in the context of the new aid–business nexus.

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

Written by Toendepi Shonhe.

This paper examines postcolonial agricultural mechanisation in Zimbabwe in the context of recent land reforms. It pays particular attention to the central role played by state-capital relations – with notable links to international finance – in shaping a resurgence in tractor usage following Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). Moreover, the economy-wide crisis triggered by land reform shaped the emerging agricultural mechanisation.

This study examines the decline in tractor supply by the government, and the growth and dominance of large-scale commercial farms as a source of second-hand tractors for smallholder and medium-scale farmers. This paper relies on archival sources as well as empirical data collected in Mvurwi through surveys, focus group discussions, tracker studies and in-depth interviews. While the tractors imported by the government from Brazil on concessional terms have become a major source of tractor services for the resettled farmers in Mvurwi, resettled farmers are also reinvesting proceeds from the sale of agricultural commodities predominantly in agricultural mechanisation, creating a new source for tractor hiring services and agrarian transformation. Although patronage politics has shaped the distribution of tractors and the establishment of tractor service cooperatives, there is no evidence of concrete political gains resulting from these investments.

Working Paper 20: Building Livelihoods: Young People and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa: Ghana Country Study
March 11, 2019 / Working Papers

Written by Thomas Yeboah.

This paper is concerned with how rural young people in Ghana engage with or are affected by two processes closely associated with rural and economic transformation – agricultural intensification and agricultural commercialisation. The objective was to develop a better understanding of steps and pathways by which particular groups of young people seek to construct livelihoods in or around agricultural commercialisation hotspots, and the outcomes associated with these efforts. The research reported in this paper draws on in-depth interviews conducted with 35 rural youth in the Tuobodom and Adutwie communities in the Techiman North District of Brong Ahafo Region, Ghana, an area that we define as a ‘commercialisation hotspot’.

The overall conclusion of the study is that, whether or not a young person wants to be there, being in an area of intensive agricultural commercialisation compared to one with limited commercialisation is probably as good as it gets.

Working Paper 19: Zinc Roof of Mango Tree? Tractors, Modernisation and Agrarian Transformation in Mozambique
March 11, 2019 / Working Papers

Written by Lidia Cabral.

This paper analyses the design and implementation of Mozambique’s National Agriculture Mechanisation Programme and wider mechanisation policy, looking at the models devised for service provision, actors involved, their motivations and expectations, and access to machinery by the small-scale ‘family sector’. The paper also discusses the role played by mechanisation in processes of agrarian change and social differentiation in rural Mozambique and, specifically, its part in efforts by the state to nurture a modern agribusiness entrepreneur.

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

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

Working Paper 17: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Malawi
August 30, 2018 / Working Papers

This paper examines the political economy of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi over the past three or so decades both in a contemporary and historical perspective. Drawing insights from Keeley and Scoones (2003) and Chinsinga and Poulton (2014), the underlying argument of this paper is that the twists and turns in the country’s agricultural commercialisation processes have been shaped and influenced to a very large extent by the changing configurations of political elites and their underlying interests, incentives and motivations, including the influence of donors, especially since the transition to democracy in May 1994.

Working Paper 16: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa
August 30, 2018 / Working Papers

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’.

Working Paper 15: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation In Ghana: A Review
August 15, 2018 / Working Papers

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 Impediments
July 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.

Working Paper 13: Agricultural Growth Trends in Africa
July 30, 2018 / Working Papers

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.

Working Paper 12: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Zimbabwe
June 14, 2018 / Working Papers

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.

Working Paper 11: Rural Transitions, Economies and Rural–Urban Links
March 26, 2018 / Working Papers

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 Commercialisation
March 13, 2018 / Working Papers

Written by Hannington Odame and Dawit Alemu

Innovation capacity presupposes capacity to harness science, technology and innovation (STI) for agricultural commercialisation. Agricultural commercialisation requires an enabling policy environment on STI issues such as the impact of climate change, nutrition, improved seed and inputs, emerging technologies, infrastructure, research and extension, and financing. These issues are consistent with the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024 (African Union Commission undated). This paper uses three STI revolution storylines (case studies on rice, information and communications technology (ICT) and cocoa) to highlight the enabling factors that make STI a vehicle for agricultural commercialisation.

Working Paper 9: Agricultural Commercialisation Pathways: Climate Change and Agriculture
March 12, 2018 / Working Papers

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 Agriculture
January 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.