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 91: Effects of Commercialisation on Seaonsal Hunger: Evidence from Smallholder Resettlement Areas, Mazowe Distrct, Zimbabwe
May 12, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Chrispen Sukume, Godfrey Mahofa and Vine Mutyasira


Agricultural transformation towards intensive commercial production is a key facet of current development strategies pursued by African governments, aimed at improving welfare outcomes of farm households. However, in Zimbabwe, there is concern that increased commercialisation, especially through tobacco production, may have resulted in increased food and nutrition insecurity in the smallholder farming sector. Using data from two rounds of surveys conducted in 2018 and 2020 of smallholder farmers, this study examined the impacts of cash crop and food-based commercialisation pathways on seasonal food insecurity in rural households of Mazowe district.

APRA Working Paper 90: Agricultural Commercialisation Pathways and Gendered Livelihood Outcomes in Rural South-Western Ghana
May 4, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Fred Mawunyo Dzanku

It is widely assumed that agricultural commercialisation leads to increased incomes and therefore better livelihood outcomes for farmers, including smallholders. But are the gains from commercial agriculture equitably distributed? Are there pathways to agricultural commercialisation that are more effective than others in empowering women and improving their nutrition security? Do non-crop livelihood options matter for rural households in vibrant crop commercialisation zones, and what is the influence of gender in this scenario? In this paper, household panel data from 1,330 farm households in south-western Ghana is used to address these salient questions.

APRA Working Paper 89: Impact of Commercialisation Pathways on Income and Asset Accumulation: Evidence from Smallholder Farming in Zimbabwe
May 4, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Godfrey Mahofa, Vine Mutyasira and Chrispen Sukume

Smallholder agricultural commercialisation has been seen as an important pathway out of rural poverty in developing countries. However, little empirical evidence is available in sub-Saharan Africa that examines the relationship between commercialisation pathways taken by farmers and welfare outcomes, such as farm income and asset accumulation. This paper fills this gap by taking advantage of data from two rounds of surveys conducted in 2018 and 2020 of smallholder farmers in Zimbabwe.

APRA Working Paper 88: Agricultural Commercialisation, Gender Relations and Women’s Empowerment in Smallholder Farm Households: Evidence from Zimbabwe
May 4, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Godfrey Mahofa, Chrispen Sukume and Vine Mutyasira

Agricultural commercialisation has been identified as an important part of the structural transformation process, as the economy grows from subsistence to highly commercialised entities that rely on the market for both inputs and for the sale of crops. However, this process is likely to leave some sections of society behind, particularly women. Little empirical evidence is available in sub-Saharan Africa that examines the relationship between commercialisation and women’s empowerment. This paper fills this gap and uses data from two rounds of surveys of smallholder farmers conducted in Zimbabwe to show that agricultural commercialisation reduces women’s empowerment, while crop diversification improves women’s empowerment.

APRA Working Paper 87: The Political Economy of Agricultural Commercialisation: Insights from Crop Value Chain Studies in Sub-Saharan Africa
March 17, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Blessings Chinsinga and Lars Otto Naess

This paper is a synthesis of findings from 11 value chains case studies in six countries across sub- Saharan Africa, carried out as part of the APRA programme during 2020–21. The countries and their respective value chains case studies included: Ethiopia (rice), Ghana (oil palm and cocoa), Malawi (groundnuts), Nigeria (maize, cocoa and rice), Tanzania (rice and sunflower) and Zimbabwe (tobacco and maize). A political economy analysis (PEA) framework was used to examine the performance of the selected value chains in the six countries. The starting point for the studies was that the success of the value chains is driven by a combination of several factors, in particular related to the relative importance of a crop in the country’s political settlement, the relative influence of different actors, and, ultimately, its ability to generate and distribute rents. In this synthesis, we ask the following questions: (1) What are the drivers and obstacles to commercialisation in the value chains? (2) What are the key factors affecting rents and outcomes, and for whom? And, (3) what are the future prospects for the value chains?

APRA Working Paper 86: Returns to Commercialisation: Gross Margins of Commercial Crops Grown by Smallholders in Sub-Saharan Africa
March 10, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Steve Wiggins, Marco Carreras and Amrita Saha

What are the returns to smallholders when they grow commercial crops for sale in rural Africa? The gross value of production per hectare is sometimes reported, with some recent estimates ranging from as much as US$10,000/ha for irrigated vegetables in Zimbabwe to as little as US$250 for sunflower grown on semi-arid land without irrigation in central Tanzania. Gross value, however, takes no account of the costs farmers incur in growing their crops. In this paper, we use gross margin (GM) analysis to take account of those costs and give a truer estimate of the returns to farmers.

APRA Working Paper 85: In the Shadow of Industrial Companies: Class and Spatial Dynamics of Artisanal Palm Oil Processing in Rural Ghana
March 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Gertrude Dzifa Torvikey and Fred Mawunyo Dzanku

This paper is concerned with the multiple opportunities and challenges of artisanal palm oil processing and the potential multiplier effects on local economies. It examines the effect of the presence of large oil palm plantations and their industrial processing mills on artisanal palm oil processing in two districts in the Western region of Ghana. Although artisanal and industrial processors have co-existed for a long time in the same catchment areas, little is known about the impact of this relationship on artisanal processing. Acknowledging the importance of rural diversity, complexity, and difference in agriculture-based off-farm activities, this paper also examines the effect of community and household level factors on palm oil processing incidence and intensity as well as the impact of processing on food (in)security.

APRA Working Paper 84: The Struggle to Intensify Cocoa Production in Ghana: Making a Living from the Forest in Western North
February 22, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Joseph Yaro, Joseph Kofi Teye and Steve Wiggins

Since cocoa began to be cultivated in the 1880s in southern Ghana, it has created jobs, incomes and prosperity for the many farmers growing the crop. Until recently, cocoa farmers could make use of highly favourable conditions when clearing forests to plant cocoa. They needed to do little other than plant seedlings then wait to harvest the pods. When trees aged, or soil fertility declined, or swollen shoot viral disease attacked the trees, they could abandon the old groves and move to establish new stands of cocoa in virgin forests. Over the decades, the frontier for new cocoa farms moved west across the country. By the 2000s, however, the last available forests in Western Region were being taken up and the frontier closed. With no new land available for cocoa, farmers would need to maintain and renew their groves to preserve their incomes, and to intensify production if they wanted to earn more from cocoa. At the same time, farmers faced increasing attacks from pests, fungi, parasites and the deadly threat of swollen shoot – while their trees aged and needed replanting. As a result of a lack of technical knowledge and capital, farmers struggled to respond to these challenges, continue cocoa production and intensify further. This study explores if it is still possible to make a living from cocoa in the region and if so, how.

APRA Working Paper 82: Interrogating the Effectiveness of Farmer Producer Organisations in Enhancing Smallholder Commercialisation – Frontline Experiences From Central Malawi
February 10, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

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

Many years of significant investment into the production and adoption of productivity-enhancing technologies and practices in agriculture have not yielded the desired results. Most smallholder farmers in Africa remain trapped in poverty. Having realised that addressing production challenges alone is not enough to impact the lives of poor smallholder farmers, resources and attention have now shifted to the marketing side of agriculture. Organising farmers into farmer producer organisations (FPOs), like clubs, associations and cooperatives, has been one of the strategies aimed at commercialising smallholder agriculture. In Malawi, smallholder farmers have been organised into FPOs of various types and sizes. This qualitative study interrogated the effectiveness of FPOs in Malawi in meeting their objectives, including the objective of enhancing commercialisation of smallholder farmers through increased access to farm inputs, markets, and agricultural extension and advisory services.

APRA Working Paper 81: Use of Climate-Smart Agriculture Practices and Smallholder Farmer Market Participation in Central Malawi
February 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Mirriam Matita, Ephraim Wadonda Chirwa, David Zingwe and Jacob Mazalale

In the past few decades, climate-smart agriculture (CSA) has been promoted to improve food security and raise incomes as a strategy for sustainable agricultural development. The adoption rates among smallholder farmers, particularly in Africa, remain low and have varied in different contexts. We investigated the market participation spill over effects from the adoption of CSA practices in central Malawi. We tested the hypothesis that the extent of the use of CSA practices in the past 10 years can lead to production surpluses that enable smallholder farmers to participate in markets and thereby increase agricultural incomes. The findings suggest, among others, the need to intensify efforts to promote CSA adoption specifically over a longer period for benefits of the technologies to materialise. The adoption of CSA practices over time enhances crop market participation – an important aspect required for production sustainability as well as for transforming agriculture towards greater market orientation among smallholder farmers.

APRA Working Paper 80: Long-Term Change, Commercialisation of Cocoa Farming, and Agroecosystems and Forest Rehabilitation in Ghana
February 9, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Kojo Amanor, Joseph Yaro and Joseph Teye

Cocoa production has a long history in Ghana, originating in the late nineteenth century. Since then, cocoa production has seen significant changes. Originally, cocoa was cultivated in newly cleared forests in which many forest trees were preserved as shade trees. Cocoa is ideally suited to these conditions and produces high yields with minimum investment in labour and inputs. However, over time, as the forest conditions change, the cost of cultivating cocoa has increased and yields have declined. As long as new forest frontiers exist, farmers have continued to move into these areas, which have displaced older areas of cultivation, since the costs of production are significantly lower in the new frontiers. In recent years, however, new forest frontiers have declined and most cocoa farmers have been forced to rehabilitate and replant cocoa in open land. This study examines the rational of frontier development; changes in land relations, labour relations and use of technology; and the impact of these factors on different categories of farmers, including women and youth. This is developed through two comparative case studies drawn from the older cocoa frontier of the Eastern Region, and the more recent frontier of Western North Region.

APRA Working Paper 79: Cocoa Commercialisation in Nigeria: Issues and Prospects
January 18, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Kehinde Adesina Thomas, Adeola Olajide and Molatokunbo O. Olutayo

Despite the setback in the Nigerian agricultural sector’s development and its declining cocoa production in recent years, the nation still has potential to regain its production capacities in the cocoa sub-sector. In fact, cocoa farmers included in the study, across their gender disaggregation, opined that cocoa farming still has a bright future in the study area if attendant challenges are promptly addressed, because the interest and drive to expand production still exists among farmers. Thus, this paper explores the issues and prospects around cocoa commercialisation in southwestern Nigeria.

APRA Working Paper 78: How Does Land Size Mediate the Relationship between Specialisation and Commercialisation? Lessons from Rice Farming in the Fogera Plain of Ethiopia
January 18, 2022 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Rachel Sabates-Wheeler, Marco Carreras and Dawit Alemu

The introduction of rice into Ethiopia provided a solution to food insecurity. More recently, national policy has emphasised the positive relationship between rice specialisation and commercialisation and, thus, higher incomes. In retrospect, this initiative has been hugely successful as the regions where rice has been introduced have been transformed from heavily relying on food aid to becoming a thriving commercial centre. This transformation owes much to the increase in the production, consumption and commercial value of rice. However, the relationship between specialisation and commercialisation is far from straightforward and is mediated by poverty, as proxied by farm size in this paper. Using a novel cross-sectional dataset of rice farmers from the Fogera Plain in Ethiopia, collected in 2018, in this paper we look at the relationship between rice specialisation and commercialisation and how specialisation and commercialisation decisions and outcomes are mediated by farm size. Specifically, we characterise farmers by the extent of rice specialisation and commercialisation and explore the role of landholding size.

APRA Working Paper 77: Commercialisation Pathways and Climate Change: The Case of Smallholder Farmers in Semi-Arid Tanzania
December 20, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Khamaldin Mutabazi and Gideon Boniface

The semi-arid drylands of central Tanzania have been characterised by low and erratic rainfall coupled with high evapotranspiration. Up until now, farmers of these local dryland farming systems have been able to cope with these climate conditions. However, climate change has led to new weather patterns that overwhelm traditional dryland farming practices and re-shape farmers’ commercialisation pathways. This paper explored the pathways in which smallholder farmers in Singida region in Tanzania engage with markets and commercialise in the face of climate change. The paper also examined how farm-level decisions on commercial crops and the commercialisation pathways they are part of, affect current and future resilience to climate change. Climate resilient commercialisation of smallholder dryland agriculture remains the centrepiece of inclusive sustainable development.

APRA Working Paper 76: Long-Term Patterns of Change in the Commercialisation of Cocoa in Ghana: Forest Frontiers and Technological Transformation
December 6, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Kojo Amanor, Joseph Yaro and Joseph Teye

The commercialisation of cocoa production in Ghana has a long history dating back to the nineteenth century. The process of commercial development in cocoa is well documented and provides an alternative mode to contemporary models of commercialisation rooted in the adoption of modern technology and integration of farmers into markets. This working paper critically analyses frameworks for agricultural commercialisation in cocoa through intensification based on the uptake of synthetic inputs and hybrid seeds, by placing agricultural development within a broader framework of the historical development of the frontier in Ghana, and the related problems of ecological and economic crises. The study examines access to land, labour and technology, and how the complex interactions of scarcity of access to physical resources and labour influence farmers’ farming strategies and adoption of technology.

APRA Working Paper 75: Agricultural Commercialisation and Rural Livelihoods in Malawi: A Historical and Contemporary Agrarian Inquiry
November 16, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

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

This study was carried out to understand the underlying dynamics of agricultural commercialisation in Malawi, especially among smallholder farmers. Despite various concerted efforts to accelerate agricultural growth and transformation, the progress among smallholder farmers has been less satisfactory. Most of the smallholder farmers do not engage with markets on a consistent and sustainable basis. Consequently, the aim of this paper was to demonstrate that there is no one ideal type of agricultural commercialisation that can be realised through investment and policy intervention.

APRA Working Paper 74: The Role of Small-Scale Processors in Supporting Agricultural Commercialisation Among Smallholder Rice Farmers in East Africa: Lessons from Ethiopia and Tanzania
November 9, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Dawit Alemu, Aida Isinika, Hannington Odame and John Thompson

Until recently, attention to rice value chain upgrading has been limited in many rice-producing countries of Eastern Africa. Yet, it is this mid-stream section (the millers and traders) – the so-called ‘hidden middle’ – which is essential to sustaining the capacity of rice value chains to contributing to food security in the region, as it fulfils a crucial intermediary role between supply and demand. In this paper, we focus on the role of rice processors as key actors in rice sector development in East Africa along with what challenges and opportunities they face, drawing on primary data generated from surveys and key informant interviews in Ethiopia and Tanzania.

APRA Working Paper 73: Land and Labour Relations on Cocoa Farms in Sefwi, Ghana: Continuity and Change
November 8, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Joseph Yaro, Joseph K. Teye and Steve Wiggins

When in the 1880s farmers in southern Ghana began to plant cocoa, their main concerns were finding land to plant and mobilising labour to do so. The issue of finding land remained paramount until at least the 1990s, when the land frontier of forest to clear for cocoa finally closed. The last forests to be planted were in the old Western Region and particularly in Sefwi, now the Western North Region. This paper examines how farmers in Sefwi obtained land and mobilised labour in the late 2010s, and how that has changed since the 1960s.

APRA Working Paper 72: Land Tenure and Oil Palm Commercialisation
October 28, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Esther Naa Dodua Darku and Alexander Nii Adjei Sowah

Oil palm is the second most important cash crop after cocoa, and the sector is an important contributor to the Ghanaian economy. The production of cash crops in Ghana has largely been dominated by small-scale farmers in mostly rural areas since the 1800s. The high value placed on cash crops often leads to better livelihood outcomes for cash crop farmers. However, the ability to sustainably participate in oil palm cultivation depends on secure access to land. One of the major challenges of small-scale farming in Africa is the land tenure system that affects the ability of farmers to make long-term financial and technical/technological commitments that will help farmers fully maximise the economic potential of the land. This paper examines different land tenure arrangements in five oil palm growing communities in south-western Ghana, and how different rules for land access affect different social groups. We focus specifically on the gendered aspects of access to land and their implications on equitable participation in the oil palm economy of these communities.

APRA Working Paper 71: The Drivers of Medium-Scale Farms and the Emerging Synergies and Contradictions Among Socially-Differentiated Farmers in Northern Ghana
October 12, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Joseph Yaro, Ibrahim Wahab, Gloria Afful-Mensah and Michael Ben Awenam

Since the turn of the century, agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa has been undergoing rapid transformation. Ghana is experiencing an agrarian revolution with increasing farmland sizes, increased mechanisation of production and external input usage, and high levels of commercialisation. In this paper we show the growth of farm sizes, the major drivers of increasing farm sizes, and emerging relations between different scales of farmers. The paper discusses the synergies and contradictions emerging from the processes of agricultural commercialisation in the context of rising farmland sizes and the implications for different social groups.

APRA Working Paper 70: The Rise of Medium-Scale Farms in the Northern Savannah of Ghana: Farmland Invasion or an Inclusive Commercialised Agricultural Revolution?
October 12, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Joseph Yaro, Ibrahim Wahab, Gloria Afful-Mensah and Michael Ben Awenam

Agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa is undergoing rapid transformation involving major changes in farmland ownership and farm scales from small to medium farms, with the widespread use of mechanisation and agro-inputs. Generally, households are increasing their farm sizes while others are dropping out of agriculture as the non-farm economy grows in both rural and urban areas. This study examined the changes in farmland sizes in two districts in the north of Ghana where agricultural extensification is still possible. Specifically, the study addressed the questions of the historical agrarian context; the magnitude and character of farm structure changes; the emerging spatial manifestation of farms; and the use of factors of production among the emerging socially differentiated farmers.

APRA Working Paper 69: Politics, Power and Social Differentiation in African Agricultural Value Chains: The Effects of COVID-19
October 4, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Imogen Bellwood-Howard and Helen Dancer

Since the structural adjustment policies of the 1980s, policymaking at a national and continental level has increasingly turned to agricultural commercialisation as the foundation for Africa’s long-term nutrition and food security. However, socio-economic inequalities, land tenure and food insecurity, as well as livelihood and income precarities remain widespread challenges. The effects of shocks, such as COVID-19, have overlaid emergent and entrenched patterns of social differentiation that shape access to resources, markets, and other opportunities for those involved in commercial agriculture. This paper considered the impacts of COVID-19 on value chains in Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, to ask: 1) What can political settlements analyses tell us about agricultural value chains and responses to COVID-19 in the countries studied? 2) How are structures and power relations throughout the value chains and actors’ responses to COVID-19 related to social differentiation in the context of African agriculture?

APRA Working Paper 68: Explaining the Weakness of Associational Life in Oil Palm Growing Communities in Southwestern Ghana
October 4, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Dorothy Takyiakwaa, Prince Selorm Kodzo Tetteh and Kofi Takyi Asante

As the second most important industrial crop in Ghana, oil palm holds the potential of improving farmers’ livelihoods and alleviating rural poverty. For smallholder farmers, collective action through farmer-based organisations (FBOs) could provide a pathway to inclusive participation in agricultural commercialisation. There is ample evidence in the literature that collective action can help smallholders gain access to credit, improved inputs, or even networks of social support. Thus, collective action is widely recognised as a viable pathway out of poverty for the agrarian poor. However, our findings show that FBOs were either weak or non-existent. Indeed, we find that economic relations between farmers tend to be more individualised than one would expect to find in rural communities. This paper presents these findings, and explores why this is the case.

APRA Working Paper 67: Sunflower Commercialisation in Singida Region: Pathways for Livelihood Improvement
October 4, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Aida Isinika, John Jeckoniah, Ntengua Mdoe and Kizito Mwajombe

Sunflower commercialisation in Singida Region, Tanzania has been successful. The successes include increased oilseed production, expanding processing capacity and declining rural poverty. Policies and efforts by development agents to promote sunflower commercialisation have increased the number of actors and service providers. Accumulation from sunflower and other enterprises, including livestock, have not only improved livelihoods, but also contributed to household economic diversity. This paper examines the interactions between activities involved in sunflower production and other livelihood strategies. For example, the paper examines local dynamics in policy and business contexts that have shaped livelihood options available and people’s choices of which option they undertake, and the corresponding outcomes, and reasons for such commercialisation trajectories. The study aims to inform local, regional, and national strategies, to pursue more inclusive and sustainable agriculture development, and widen options and pathways for men and women in Mkalama and Iramba districts of Singida Region.

APRA Working Paper 66: Yield and Commercialisation Effects of SRI Interventions in Mngeta, Kilombero District, Tanzania
September 21, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Devotha B. Mosha, Gilead Mlay, Colin Poulton and Amrita Saha

This paper discusses System of Rice Intensification (SRI) interventions and its potential effects on paddy yield and commercialisation in Mngeta division, Kilombero district in Morogoro region, Tanzania. SRI is an innovative agroecological methodology that aims to improve yields and farmers’ profits by creating the most suitable environment for the rice plant to grow. It comprises the precise set of cultivation practices specifically required for careful management of biophysical needs of the rice plant for producing high yields. To assess the effects, we compare between trained and non-trained farmers, as well as between farmers who are members of SRI associations and non-SRI members, on aspects of adoption of SRI interventions, paddy productivity and yields. In turn, the effects of SRI is evaluated in terms of its influence on rice yield per hectare and commercialisation at household level.

APRA Working Paper 65: Livestock, Crop Commercialisation and Poverty Reduction Among Rural Households in the Singida Region, Tanzania
September 21, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

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

Livestock is an important component of mixed crop-livestock farming systems in the Singida Region in Tanzania, directly or indirectly contributing to household income, food security and poverty reduction among rural people in the region. This paper examined the effect of livestock on crop commercialisation and farmers’ livelihoods in the region. The complementarity between crops and livestock in the farming systems of Singida needs to be recognised, enhanced and utilised not only by farmers and livestock keepers, but also by local government authorities and development practitioners.

APRA Working Paper 64: Commercial Tobacco Production and Climate Change Adaptation in Mazowe, Zimbabwe
September 20, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Andrew Newsham, Toendepi Shonhe and Tsitsidzashe Bvute

There has been an increasingly well-documented, rapid rise in tobacco production over the last couple of decades in Mazowe, Zimbabwe, despite growing public health concerns about lung cancer and nicotine’s addictive capacities in the wealthier countries of the West – even affecting the South African market. This has been accompanied by a shift away from its production almost completely on large-scale farms towards predominantly small-scale farms. To date, less consideration has been given to the implications of climate change for tobacco production. Given the hopes that it can make a serious contribution to poverty reduction and food security, it is of increasing importance to understand these implications, to identify the most relevant and/or effective adaptation options and to assess the viability of their successful adoption. This paper presents a fine-grained, qualitative bottom-up analysis of the implications for commercial tobacco production of climate change impacts in Zimbabwe.

APRA Working Paper 63: Rice Commercialisation Effects in Mngeta, Kilombero District, Tanzania: Identifying the Underlying Factors
September 7, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

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

Rice production is the most dominant farming system in Kilombero valley in Morogoro region, Tanzania, accounting for more than 80 per cent of cultivated land within the valley. This paper examines changes in rice commercialisation and livelihood outcomes for different categories of farmers in the Mngeta division, Kilombero District, Tanzania. Understanding the underlying factors of agricultural commercialisation enables policymakers to ensure that policy interventions promote inclusive and equitable involvement of all farmers and other value chain actors, especially women and youths, who have been excluded from most development initiatives in the past.

APRA Working Paper 62: Agricultural Investment Corridors in Africa: Does Smallholder and Women’s Participation Count?
August 12, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Rebecca Smalley, Emmanuel Sulle, Ngala Chome, Ana Duarte and Euclide Gonçalves

Agricultural development corridors and clusters are highly complex projects that have been driven in Africa by agribusiness and mining corporations, host governments, international donors and development finance institutions. There is interest in whether these projects can support inclusive agribusiness. Evidence shows that involvement of small-scale economic actors in such initiatives is often impeded by a failure to grant them participation or a voice. We therefore investigated if and how recent corridors and clusters in Africa have been able to achieve the meaningful engagement of small-scale economic actors, with a focus on smallholders, including pastoralists, and the women among them.

APRA Working Paper 61: Rice Commercialisation, Agrarian Change and Livelihood Trajectories: Transformations on the Fogera Plain of Ethiopia
August 6, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by: Dawit Alemu, John Thompson and Abebaw Assaye

Rice was considered a minor crop in Ethiopia, rarely consumed by many households in Sub-Saharan Africa. In recent decades, however, it has become the most rapidly growing staple food source in the country. This paper presents an historical analysis of rice commercialisation and the observed agrarian changes that have resulted from its introduction and spread in Ethiopia. The paper analyses the role of the state, private actors and development partners in promoting improvements in rice production and value chain upgrading, as well as examines the impacts of small-scale commercialisation on local livelihoods and rural economies.

APRA Working Paper 60: The Political Economy of the Maize Value Chain in Nigeria
July 15, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

Written by, Paul Amaza, Sunday Mailumo, Asenath Silong

The aim of this case study is to understand the underlying political economy dynamics of the maize value chain in Nigeria, with a focus on how this can contribute to comprehending the drivers and constraints of agricultural commercialisation. The study is informed by theories of political settlements, rents, and policy processes. It asks questions around (1) the key actors and interests: who participates and how do they benefit? (2) Rules and policies: who makes the rules, and who wins and loses? And (3), what are the implications across different social groups?

Working Paper 59: The Influence of Sunflower Commercialisation and Diversity on Women’s Empowerment: The Case of Iramba and Mkalama Districts, Singida Region
July 14, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

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

There is a growing body of literature that argues that normally women derive little benefit from cash crops. Some of the barriers leading to women having less benefit from cash crop value chains include cultural norms and power differences in access to, and control over, resources among actors in value chains. It is also argued that women’s participation in different forms of collective action help women to increase benefits to them through their increased agency, hence enabling them to utilise existing and diverse options for their empowerment. This paper explores how women have benefited from their engagement in sunflower commercialisation and how culture has influenced changes in access to, and control over, resources, including land, for their empowerment.

Working Paper 58: Understanding Gender and Social Differentiation in the Context of Agricultural Commercialisation and Implications for Livelihoods in Rural Malawi
May 20, 2021 / Publications Working Papers

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

Agricultural commercialisation is widely recognised as a catalyst to economic growth and development in low and middle-income countries. This study investigates gender and social differences in agricultural commercialisation in rural Malawi. Specifically, the paper analyses different levels of agricultural commercialisation among gender and wealth categories; the specific gender and social issues that facilitate or impede agricultural commercialisation among gender and wealth categories; and their implications for commercialisation and livelihoods among gender and wealth categories.

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.