Cautious commercialisation. Findings from village studies in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and…

Full title: Cautious commercialisation. Findings from village studies in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi & Tanzania

Working Paper 82
Steve Wiggins, Gem Argwings-Kodhek, Samuel Gebreselassie, Samuel Asuming-Brempong, Ephraim Chirwa, Mirriam Muhome Matita, Ntengua Mode & Khamaldin Mutabazi

Commercialisation can be central to agricultural development, with the promise of contributing to economic growth, with the reduction of poverty and hunger. Africa has seen many episodes of more commercial smallholder farming, from the export crop booms in West Africa of the late nineteenth century to more recent spurts in production of food for domestic markets. Unfortunately such episodes have not been more widespread, nor in some cases have they been sustained.

This paper looks at experience of commercialisation in selected parts of Africa in the late 2000s, to shed light on key questions asked about the process, including:

  • How do farmers commercialise, which small farmers commercialise and to what extent, and what are the drivers of change?
  • What are the benefits of commercialisation, both directly to farmers, as well as indirectly to those who may benefit from linkages in the rural economy that create additional jobs?
  • Are there drawbacks? For example, in reduced food security as cash crops replace food production, increased inequality, further disadvantage to female farmers, higher risks to vulnerable smallholders or harm to the environment?
  • What policies and programmes lead to commercialisation with desirable outcomes? What should be the role of governments, donors who assist them, private enterprise and civil society in promoting favourable commercialisation?
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