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.
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’.
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.
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 14: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation in Ethiopia: Discourses, Actors and Structural ImpedimentsJuly 30, 2018 / Working Papers
Written by Dawit Alemu and Kassahun Berhanu
This country review aims to identify the key dynamics, actors and associated discourses of agricultural commercialisation in Ethiopia. To this end, we aim to shed light on the forces and factors that influence policy processes and the contexts in which the political and bureaucratic establishments operate. Moreover, we examine the incentives generated by the mode of operation of existing working systems by inducing involved actors to expedite the venture of agricultural commercialisation.
Written by Toendepi Shonhe
Debates on Zimbabwe’s agricultural development have centred on different framings of agriculture viability and land redistribution, which are often antagonistic. Yet, emerging evidence of agricultural commercialisation pathways shows complex and differentiated deepening and stagnations across settlement models. Normative– political constructions of ‘good’, ‘modern’ and ‘progressive’, as advocated by large-scale farmers and some bureaucrats, are countered by proponents for redistribution, mainly the landless rural peasants, keen on social and economic justice as well as democratic land ownership. Across the divide, commercialisation of agriculture is seen as efficient and poverty-reducing. This paper explores how these contrasting debates have played out in Zimbabwe over time, and what interests are aligned with different positions. The paper locates the discussion in a critical examination of the politics of agrarian change and presents a political economy and policy process review of winners and losers in commercialisation.
Written by Steve Wiggins, Rachel Sabates-Wheeler and Joseph Yaro
APRA’s cross-cutting theme on rural transitions, nonfarm rural economies and rural–urban links intends to address two sets of issues. One concerns the way in which commercialisation of agriculture interacts with the development of the rural non-farm economy (RNFE), the links between rural and urban areas and, indeed, overall processes of economic growth and transformation. It is expected that growth of agriculture and better links between urban and rural areas can create profound transformations of the rural economy. Just how this takes place depends on several factors, including the nature of agricultural growth and commercialisation (Hall et al. 2017), the nature of urbanisation (Gollin, Jedwab and Vollrath 2016, rural location (Wiggins and Proctor 2001), infrastructure (Allen et al. 2015), the scale of towns (Baker 1990), and social relations (Potts 2000).
Written by Andrew Newsham, Sarah Kohnstamm, Lars Otto Naess and Joanes Atela
This paper presents a review of recent literature on the implications of climate change for agricultural commercialisation, focusing chiefly on sub-Saharan Africa, and incorporating evidence, where relevant, from around the world. Climate change is one of the crosscutting themes of the Department for International Development (DFID)-funded Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) consortium.1 APRA is intended to produce new data and insights into agricultural commercialisation processes, and their impacts and outcomes with regard to rural poverty, empowerment of women and girls, and food and nutrition security. In addition to outlining our rationale and aims, this introduction sets out (a) the approach we have taken to classifying climate impacts upon agricultural commercialisation, and (b) the structure.
Working Paper 10: Partnerships, Platforms and Policies: Strengthening Farmer Capacity to Harness Technological Innovation for Agricultural CommercialisationMarch 13, 2018 / Working Papers
Written by Hannington Odame and Dawit Alemu
Innovation capacity presupposes capacity to harness science, technology and innovation (STI) for agricultural commercialisation. Agricultural commercialisation requires an enabling policy environment on STI issues such as the impact of climate change, nutrition, improved seed and inputs, emerging technologies, infrastructure, research and extension, and financing. These issues are consistent with the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) 2024 (African Union Commission undated). This paper uses three STI revolution storylines (case studies on rice, information and communications technology (ICT) and cocoa) to highlight the enabling factors that make STI a vehicle for agricultural commercialisation.
Working Paper 8: Social Difference and Women’s Empowerment in the Context of the Commercialisation of African AgricultureJanuary 25, 2018 / Working Papers
Written by Helen Dancer and Naomi Hossain
This paper was commissioned to support the research design activities of the Agricultural Policy Research in Africa (APRA) Consortium, generating new evidence on pathways to agricultural commercialisation, on the theme of social difference and women’s empowerment. First, the paper explores methodological approaches and key concepts that underpin the analysis of social difference, as people move along different pathways to commercialisation. It analyses social difference in terms of gender, age, wealth, ethnicity and indigeneity, while placing special emphasis on APRA’s focus of women’s empowerment. Second, the paper draws on three key outcome criteria – which we identify as power relations, structures and mechanisms, and distribution of resources – to analyse APRA’s hypotheses and research questions through a lens of social difference. Third, the paper explores avenues for inquiry at the level of household and community, sectoral changes and political-economic factors, bringing attention to the interconnections between individual, social structures and wider political-economic developments, and makes recommendations for research questions in these areas.