Beyond ‘family farming versus agribusiness’ dualism: unpacking the complexity of Brazil’s agricultural modelNovember 14, 2016 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 138
By Arilson Favareto
Agriculture has played a hugely important role in the recent history of Brazil’s economy. The country had a food production deficit until as late as the 1970s, but since the early twenty-first century has been one of the world’s principal exporters and a leader in production technologies adapted to tropical climates. Many researchers – and diplomats – have concluded that this is where Brazil can make its principal contribution to the African continent: supporting agrarian transition and helping to find ways of using local natural resources to build an agriculture with high productivity and improved commercial value. Brazil’s image of success always appears associated with the experience of programmes such as Prodecer and Proálcool, which led to its excellence in the production of soybeans and sugarcane bioethanol respectively. What underlies this image? The official discourse seeks to present the country as a simple case of complementary coexistence between a modern large-scale corporate agriculture segment and another segment based on small family producers. At another extreme of the debate is an alternative view: the discourse of the social movements, with a different reading but based on a similar dualism. The so-called Brazilian model, this discourse argues, is underpinned by an incurable conflict between these two segments, agribusiness being the antithesis of family farming. This paper seeks to show that a much more complex reality exists behind this binary interpretation. On the one hand, where the usual polarised view sets up the figure of agribusiness there are in reality at least three segments of the economy (one, indeed, made up of family producers, and another of companies that can hardly be described as agribusinesses). And where that view, on the other hand, posits ‘family agriculture’ as a single category, there are also three distinct narratives within that notion – each one articulated by a group of interests and organisations with different concepts about the role of agriculture in today’s world, the uses of technology and nature, and relations with the state and the market.
Future Agricultures Working 137
By Alex Shankland, Euclides Gonçalves and Arilson Favareto
ProSAVANA, the Mozambique-Brazil-Japan Cooperation Programme for the Agricultural Development of the Savannah of Mozambique, is the most visible of Brazil’s international agricultural cooperation projects. In the period since its launch in 2010 it has become a magnet for internationally-minded Brazilian agribusiness interests and a rallying-point for their domestic opponents. It was initially framed as the centrepiece of the Mozambican government’s proclaimed strategy to promote an agrarian transformation of the ‘Nacala Corridor’ region, which includes some of the country’s poorest, most populous and most politically contested rural areas. It has now become a key focus for contention between government and civil society in Mozambique, as well as a source of tensions between different parts of Mozambican civil society. The contestation process has led to major changes in the programme’s focus and approach, and consultation is now under way on a ‘Master Plan’ for the Nacala Corridor that has little in common with the version initially outlined by the promoters of Brazilian agribusiness expansion to the region. At the same time, Brazil’s engagement with ProSAVANA has been transformed by major changes in the country’s own political and economic context. This paper traces the pathways that plans for ProSAVANA and transnational mobilisationsagainst the programme have followed over the course of the half-decade since work on the ‘Master Plan’ began. It examines how different visions of agricultural development and different practices of social mobilization have interacted within Brazil and Mozambique and travelled between the two countries, with the aim of drawing lessons for future studies of the South-South Cooperation initiatives that are increasingly connecting BRICS and other rising powers with African countries.
Gender and Livelihoods in Commercial Sugarcane Production: A Case Study of Contract Farming in Magobbo, ZambiaJune 22, 2016 / Working Papers
Future Agricultures Working Paper 136
by Vera Rocca
This paper presents a case study of farmers’ recent transition from growing traditional crops to cultivating sugarcane under a contract farming arrangement in Magobbo, Zambia. Responding to the need for a greater understanding of how the expansion of large-scale commercial agriculture impacts women, this study examines women’s control over resources, employment and labour, and impacts on their livelihoods. The research revealed that existing gender inequalities were perpetuated within new forms of agricultural production, but that widows experienced unique benefits compared to married women through increased status and income. A brief exploration of the gains and risks of commercialization in Magobbo illustrates there are significant benefits derived from the switch to sugarcane production, but also threats to the sustainability of those gains. Overall, this paper contributes to understanding the complexities of agricultural commercialization through contract farming arrangements, and the resulting gender and livelihood implications.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 134
by Marco Fiorentini
The establishment of the ‘Going Out’ (GO) policy at the beginning of the twenty-first century has reshaped China’s interactions with the world. Thanks to this strategy, private and state-owned companies have expanded their businesses overseas. This has largely involved Africa, which since the 1950s has always been very important to China’s foreign strategies. The agricultural sector has been a central constant in this partnership, and since the launch of the GO policy agriculture-related trade has grown exponentially. This has led many external observers to wonder why China decided to increase its investments in African agriculture. This paper, by analysing the import and export of agricultural machinery, food and agricultural products, aims to study the consequences the establishment of the policy has had for Sino-African relations, and to understand the reasons behind China’s increasing interest in Africa: is it to satisfy China’s increasing food demand, or to help the African continent achieve its own food security?
This paper was produced as part of the China and Brazil in African Agriculture (CBAA) project.
Future Agricultures Working Paper 135
by Dominic Glover, Amit Kumar, Dawit Alemu, Hannington Odame, Maureen Akwara and Ian Scoones
The international emergence of India’s generic pharmaceuticals industry is seen as a success for international development and cooperation, bringing affordable drugs to populations not only in India itself but across the developing world, including in Africa.
Could India’s thriving seed sector play a similar role in delivering affordable, high-quality seeds to African farmers? India shares some of the diverse agro-ecologies and crops found in Africa, so it is plausible that technologies and methods used by Indian farmers might also be relevant to African situations. India’s development story, as an emerging economy with millions of its own small-scale cultivators, might indeed provide relevant knowledge, expertise and investments to help develop the seed sector in Africa – and thereby to support economic development, food security and poverty alleviation in that continent. But what is the realistic nature and scope of this potential?
See also Policy Brief: Indian seeds for African markets: South–South trade and technical cooperation
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.