Researching Land and Commercial Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa with a Gender Perspective: Concepts, Issues and MethodsNovember 17, 2015 / Working Papers
This paper offers critical reflections on the concepts, issues and methods that are important for integrating a gender perspective into mainstream research and policy-making on land and agricultural commercialisation in Africa. It forms part of the Land and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa (LACA) project undertaken by the Future Agricultures Consortium between 2012 and 2015 and informs the case studies conducted across three countries: Kenya, Ghana and Zambia. The paper compares key gender issues that arise across three different models of agricultural commercialisation: plantation, contract farming and small- and medium-scale commercial farming.
It further discusses how concepts and research methods deriving from the literature on gender and agriculture may be applied to mainstream research. The paper highlights the need for an integrated approach to researching gender and agrarian change in Africa. In particular, the existing gender literature provides a rich legacy for researchers of all disciplines to inform their research design and analysis. The authors argue for a more systematic evaluation of the gender implications of agricultural commercialisation across interconnected social levels: household, local community and the wider political economy.
Perseverance in the Face of Hardship: Chinese Smallholder Farmers’ Engagements in Ghanaian AgricultureOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 130
Lu Jixia, Yu Lerong and Henry Tugendhat
This paper uses qualitative research methods to study small-scale Chinese farmers in Ghana, in contrast to research generally found in mainstream media and academic literature which focuses on large-scale Chinese farms in Africa. Through field-based observations of three small Chinese-run farms, this article explores how some Chinese expatriates are engaging in agricultural development in Ghana. We argue that this engagement contributes diverse new agricultural products to the local market.
Furthermore, we find that the activities of these farmers are driven by increasing numbers of Chinese migrants in Africa, and that instead of being powerful competitors, they are in fact squeezed into the margins of the local market. They meet the needs of a specific niche market through perseverance and learning from failure. In doing so, they face unfamiliar challenges from both the natural climate and the social environment, and they are at a disadvantage in this process compared to local farmers who have over the years developed better adaptive mechanisms. Looking ahead, a decline in the specialised market for Chinese goods caused by a decline in Chinese migrant labour presents real challenges for the future viability of small Chinese farms in Ghana.
Blurring the Lines between Aid and Business in the Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre in ZimbabweOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 129
Tang Lixia, Lu Yan, Zhao Wenjie, Langton Mukwereza and Li Xiaoyun
In recent years, tremendous attention has been given to China’s burgeoning agricultural engagements in Africa. Due to limited access to these engagements, most discussions have focused on macro-level discourse analysis as well as political and economic analysis on its impacts. Little research of an anthropological nature has been undertaken at the micro-level operation of ongoing projects, taking note of the nature of interactions between the donors and local counterpart staff within a given cultural setting. This article focuses on a Chinese- Zimbabwe Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre (ATDC) to provide insights into the daily activities, interactions and cultural encounters with locals. Ethnographic methodologies are used to examine the Chinese and Africans’ activities, ideas and dialogues at the Demonstration Centre to present through empirical observations how China’s macro strategy is implemented in actual practices of staff and local partners at the ATDC in Zimbabwe.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 131
Lu Jixia, Li Xiaoyun and Fu Gonghua
China’s transformation from a net food exporter to a net food importer has occurred in a very short period of time and this has implications for both China and the world. This paper argues that there is strategic and practical significance in China-Africa agricultural cooperation, as the current import structure of food and other agricultural products is imbalanced and China’s food supply-demand imbalances will continue to expand. This raises the possibility of political and economic crisis for China and threatens those poor countries who are relying on international food markets. Africa possesses substantial areas of arable land that can be developed and utilised; thus, China-Africa agricultural cooperation can potentially enhance African nations’ productive capacity and contribute to local food security, through which it can indirectly improve global food security and stabilise the international food market under China’s increasing food demand context.
Copying the Extension System of China and Beyond: Implementing the Chinese Agriculture Technology Demonstration Centre in EthiopiaOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 128
Gubo Qii, Lerong Yui, Dawit Alemuii, Seth Cookiii and Xiaoyun Lii
The Chinese Agriculture Technology Demonstration Centre (ATDC) in Ethiopia is an aid project on agricultural technology cooperation between China and Ethiopia. The process of cooperation is the art of improvising on the ground when the original project plan doesn’t quite match reality. This study analyses the logic behind the improvising of implementation on the ground. It found that the running of this project is not following project management procedures and log-frame indicators but is instead based on the experiences of agricultural extension in China. Through Chinese experts, as individualactors, ATDC brought in the approach of top-down planning, assumption of package support and integration of commercial functions which can be found in the reformed extension system in China. The Chinese experts carry this working approach – along with its assumptions and principles – to Ethiopia, without considering the lack of any parallel institution and culture there at the beginning. This results in many challenges for implementing the ATDC activities and novel reactions by the ATDC experts, which also reflect the individual’s working style in the Chinese extension system. Though the technologies are still present inside the ATDC after many efforts, a request to extend the cooperation phase from the Ethiopian side implies an appreciation of the approach and its results to some extent.
Travelling Technocratic Rationality: Historical Narratives of China’s Agricultural Development and their Implications for China- Africa Agricultural CooperationOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 127
Xu Xiuli, Li Xiaoyun and Qi Gubo
Contemporary China-Africa agricultural cooperation (CAAC) has been internally dominated by three streams of narrative: promotion of food security for state building in the post-war landscape; productivity enhancement through technocratic modernisation; and promotion of aid sustainability through business engagement in the new era of globalisation. This paper explores the domestic drivers and strategies underpinning these narratives, as well as their respective implications for CAAC, using a historical review approach. The paper summarises three elements entrenched in the narratives of CAAC – state leadership, productivity-centrism and the governmentbusiness nexus – which are examples of travelling technocratic rationality. These differentiate China’s aid, focusing on developmental state building, from the established aid consensus, with its marriage of orthodox neoliberalism and a new institutionalism.
Mixed Starts and Uncertain Futures: Case Studies of Three Chinese Agricultural Investments in ZimbabweOctober 21, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 125
Tang Lixia, Zhao Wenjie, Langton Mukwereza and Li Xiaoyun
Chinese agricultural investments in Africa have grown significantly in the past two decades, but there remains very little empirical research on the nature of these investments. This paper aims to address this knowledge gap by looking at three different types of Chinese investors in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector: a National State Owned Enterprise (SOE), a Provincial SOE and a private company. Collectively, their experiences not only challenge the pervasive view that Chinese companies are progressing at unstoppable rates in African markets, but also raise deeper questions about the importance of company structures, financial stability and the environments in which they operate.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 123
Kojo Sebastian Amanor
This paper examines the nature of Chinese and Brazilian investments in agricultural development by focusing on the irrigated rice sector in Ghana. It examines this through a historic perspective that traces policy towards the rice sector in Ghana, and the influence ofvarious actors in developing this sector. Investment in the development of commercial rice originated in the 1970s when China developed smallholder demonstration rice projects and the government of Ghana pursued a policy of promoting large scale commercial rice production and smallholder contract farming on irrigation projects, tied to inputs suppliers and food marketers and processors.
The paper then traces the changing fortunes of the irrigated rice sector under structural adjustment and government support for private sector investment in irrigated rice development in the late 1990s and early 2000s. This resulted in new investors entering rice production in Ghana, including Brazilian interests, and renewed interests from Chinese investors. It argues that the main trends in commercial rice production have been towards contractual relations in which accumulation occurs through control over supplies of inputs and marketing and that these are defined by the policies of the Ghanaian government.
Although Brazilian companies have contributed towards innovation in this sector, they lack support from Brazilian agribusiness and agricultural development institutions. As a result of this their access to technology is constrained by the nature of Ghanaian markets and research establishments, and the lack of institutional embedding of Brazilian technologies within these. However, there are attempt by the Brazilian state to build up markets for machinery and develop joint research, although this occurs outside of rice.
Although Chinese companies are absent from the development of rice, they have expressed interests in its future developments and are attemptingto build up interactions between inputs supply, seed development and production, which will effectively embed Chinese technologies within Ghanaian research institutions and markets. The future of commercial rice production by these rising powers is likely to develop through expansion of seed development, inputs and machinery markets, and food trading and processing, rather than through a dramatic expansion in large estates. In this Chinese and Brazilian interventions are not markedly different from other agribusiness models.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 120
The growing involvement of the Chinese state and business in Africa has generated significant debate about China’s Africa strategy and its benefits for Africa’s development. Chinese policymakers have become increasingly oriented toward improving African countries’ agricultural productivity. This paper focuses on how state-business interactions influence agricultural development outcomes, using Zimbabwe as a country of study. It explores the question of how far the State can control business and direct development by identifying the key relationships that influence the decision-making processes of state and business actors within China and its African engagement.
The paper challenges the conventional wisdom of homogenised, unitary relations, and argues that these relations are, in practice, heterogeneous, as a result of the Chinese state being disaggregated into a multiplicity of provincial relations and central state agencies, and because of tensions arising between commercial market and political interests. The active role of African governments in agricultural schemes is also affecting outcomes.
The findings of a brief ethnographic analysis of four state-business schemes in Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector suggest that where African agriculture is concerned, a wide range of Chinese agencies are involved, with businesses being driven by either market forces or national state interests, which together make outcomes increasingly less generalisable.
Interpreting China-Africa Agricultural Encounters: Rhetoric and Reality in a Large Scale Rice Project in MozambiqueOctober 14, 2015 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 126
Zhang Chuanhong, Li Xiaoyun, Oi Gubo and Wang Yanlei
In recent years, China’s burgeoning agricultural investment in Africa has attracted tremendous attention from media, academics and policymakers worldwide. The macro-level discussions around the nature and significance of these engagements have been debated and well documented within a vast body of literature.
However, little research had been done concerning the local encounters through a particular project, which constitutes a very important angle in understanding how success or failure of a development model is produced. In this article, the authors went beyond apolitical economic approach and examined how local encounters construct and reshape the practice of a particular agricultural investment project using actor-oriented approaches. The perspectives of both Chinese actors and their African counterparts were explored and analysed based on a large-scale Chinese rice project in Mozambique.
The research found that the optimistic rhetoric of state actors and investors fell short of the reality of the many unacknowledged structures and chance events. However, despite the unintended outcomes, the rhetoric persists due to the project’s significance – not only in its potential for economic profit, but also in terms of its political prestige.