Plantations, Contract Farming and Commercial Farming Areas in Africa: A Comparative Review

FAC Working Paper 55
Rebecca Smalley

There is uncertainty and no small controversy surrounding the potential impacts of commercial agricultural developments that are being proposed for sub-Saharan Africa by domestic governments and foreign investors. Much of the debate concerns how Africa’s rural poor could be affected. One response is to look back and review what the outcomes have been from earlier such developments. This should include consideration of the institutional setting to help us understand how institutions influence the character and outcome of commercial agricultural schemes.

This working paper assesses the historical experience of three farming models that have figured in recent investments in sub-Saharan Africa: plantations, contract farming and commercial farming areas. Based on a literature review, the paper concentrates on the involvement of, and effects on, rural societies in and around the area where the schemes were located. It looks mainly at sub-Saharan Africa but also considers case studies from Latin America and Asia.

This paper was produced as part of the Land and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa (LACA) project.


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