Monday, 15 September 2014

New research on land reform in Zimbabwe

As mentioned last week, the University of Sussex hosted the major biennial UK African Studies Association conference. Around 600 delegates were registered, and there was a real buzz, with panels on every conceivable topic from every corner of the continent. Quite a few papers reported on new work from Zimbabwe, and land and politics was a recurrent theme. In the end we had a single panel of three papers (as several panellists had to drop out at the last minute). It was a fascinating session to a standing-room-only audience.

The three panellists all reported on new research in the now not-so-new resettlements, representing different geographic areas, and diverse methodologies. All looked at how new livelihoods are being carved out following land reform in A1 sites. This included in-depth reflections on the relationships between farmers and farmworkers, a quantitative assessment of production outcomes across sites compared to communal and old resettlement areas, and an analysis of how farm and off-farm livelihood opportunities are combined in a mining area.

The session kicked off with an excellent paper by Leila Sinclair-Bright who discussed the changing social relations between 'new farmers' on an A1 resettlement area in Mazowe and farmworkers. Through a deep, focused ethnographic approach she looked at changing notions of 'belonging', and the way livelihoods are negotiated. A case of a chief's court dispute over land highlighted many of the dynamics. For, while the farmworkers were accepted as part of the farm community, and even incorporated into the cultural fabric of life through their as 'sahwira' at burials, when a group tried to claim formally the land that they had been cultivating this was rejected by the A1 farmers.

'Belonging' had its limits, and the new farmers tried to circumscribe this, arguing that as 'foreigners' (many had Malawian origins several generations back), their role was not as land owners but labourers. That the farmworkers had been bargaining hard on wages and opting for alternate livelihoods had played into this tension. Certainly the emerging forms of 'belonging' differ dramatically from that described by Blair Rutherford in the pre-land reform era, but the cultural politics of farmworker-farmer relations are as live as ever, often flaring up into disputes of this sort.

Leila's paper highlighted the value of really in-depth analysis of cases to uncover the textured dynamics of change on the farms. We have been subjected to far too much simplistic analysis, often based on spurious statistics, on farmworkers, but this sort of work really provides a much-needed qualitative insight that is immensely revealing. As the new social, political and economic relations are negotiated on the new farms, new bargains and accommodations will be struck, and this will require innovations in institutional and cultural practices; sometimes drawing on traditional norms, but in other cases requiring new deals to be struck.

Taking a very different approach, Gareth James offered an overview of some of his impressive survey work across three districts in Mashonaland/Manicaland, involving a sample of over 600. This involved a large sample extending the classic work by Bill Kinsey and colleagues that tracked the fortunes of 'old resettlement' area farmers, comparing these to their neighbours in the communal areas (see our Masvingo work on this, in a recent blog series). Gareth has developed a sample in A1 farming areas, and looked at a range of factors. This presentation focused on 'outcomes' and in a series of graphs he showed how the A1 farmers on average outperformed both the old resettlement area and communal area farmers across a range of criteria. As younger, more educated, more capitalised farmers, they had higher outputs and yields of major crops (maize, cotton, tobacco), applied more inputs and achieved higher incomes. He offered a listing of the constraints faced too, which included a familiar array focused on the challenges of accessing farming inputs and labour. For those of us who primarily work in the drier south of the country, the production statistics were impressive. Across the two seasons studied (both of which were not good seasons), the A1 farmers achieved an average output of around 6 tonnes of maize. Taking the standard figure of annual consumption requirements of 1 tonne per family, this means around 5 tonnes could be sold, and contribute to a dynamic of investment and accumulation that Gareth described. This was of course added to by the often impressive outputs of tobacco. Averages of course only tell one part of the story, and as he pointed out there is much variation. As we have seen in Masvingo, these dynamics create new patterns of differentiation and associated class formation in the new resettlements, with major consequences for agrarian social relations and longer term change. There was insufficient time in the presentation to explore these issues, but the results are tantalising, and the overall output statistics impressive. Of course there are qualifications, and some of these were discussed. Is this a temporary boom, based on the 'mining' of the soil? Will the success attract more and more people to area, and so undermine per capita success as land and outputs are shared among more and more? Did the new settlers manage to outcompete their neighbours through preferential access to inputs, offered through political patronage? All of these factors are important, but do not undermine the overall story of a production boom, with major opportunities for accumulation in the new resettlements.

The final paper by Grasian Mkodzongi reflected on his work in Mhondoro Ngezi in Midlands Province. Here A1 and A2 resettlement areas are in close proximity to the major Zimplats mining complex. Grasian's paper concentrated on the relationships between farming and mining, as mediated through labour contracts, business opportunities and political connections. In addition to the large-scale mine there are many other smaller mining operations, for gold and other minerals that provide opportunities for others. The paper focused on the social and political negotiation of the farming-mining relationship, based on a number of cases. New farmers are able to insert themselves into the economic activity associated with Zimplats, supplying inputs (such as silica found on their farms) as well as profiting from upstream aspects of the value chain. Farmers have used the politically-charged debate around 'indigenisation' to their advantage, manipulating the rhetoric and demanding economic benefits. This sets up new political and economic relationships between the farms and the mine that are played out through local political dramas. The story is immensely complex and fast evolving, but it offers an insight into how, at the local level, new economic relations with capital are being negotiated, and how a very particular political dynamics and discourses influence this. Contrary to analyses that offer only a simplistic and generalised view of politics concluding that all is guided by top-down patronage, looking at local relations through in-depth research reveals a room for manoeuvre for those who have the resources and ingenuity to play the system.

These brief and rather partial summaries cannot do justice to the richness of the papers. If you want to hear more, there is a recording of the presentations and the discussions here. As noted, each in different ways contribute to our evolving understandings of livelihoods after land reform, and demonstrate the importance of diverse methodological approaches in capturing the nuance and diversity. These three papers, all emerging from PhD studies at the University of Edinburgh, are examples of a growing array of research on different themes in different places. They add together to an impressive dataset that has yet to be fully grasped by policymakers, donors and other commentators, including many academic 'authorities' on Zimbabwe.

A couple of years ago, I compiled a list of research projects on 'fast-track' land reform of different sorts, many deriving from PhD and MA degrees, and mapped them. The coverage then was impressive, and I am sure has extended much further since. Yet, despite this growing body of work, we hear again and again misleading commentary and inappropriate conclusions being drawn on land reform in Zimbabwe. But building on the earlier work, including ours in Masvingo, we now have an impressive set of insights, offering nuance and perspective on our overall assessment of Zimbabwe’s land reform. I hope this blog will continue to be a space for sharing these results with a wider audience. So if you are doing a study, and have some results to share, even if preliminary, do let me know!

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

To improve access to seeds for African farmers, we need more than technical solutions

seed packets
Inside the agro-vet by STEPS Centre (Flickr),
used with kind permission

Despite huge investment from governments and donors in seed sector development in Africa over the better half of a century, access to quality seed remains a great challenge for smallholder farmers across the continent.

Addressing this challenge is a complex task, and requires an integrated, multidisciplinary and innovation systems approach. Certain aspects of the greater challenge may be best addressed at regional level, through the collaboration of countries, experts, seed programmes, and their associated organizations and institutions in the public and private domains.

A select number of challenge areas have been prioritised for deeper exploration and intervention through an action-oriented research and learning approach during the Piloting Phase of the Comprehensive Programme on Integrated Seed Sector Development in Africa.

These include:
  • Promoting entrepreneurship: ISSD Africa sees a challenge in promoting entrepreneurship in more than just the typical seed value chains, such as maize.
  • Improving access: unless we improve access to those varieties developed in the public domain, they are destined to stay on the shelf.
  • Impacts of global commitments: African seed sector stakeholders, in government, in development and in industry, need to be more critical in their evaluation of global commitments in terms of the implications upon national seed sector development strategies and their domestication into local realities.
  • Coherence and strategy: last on the agenda of the Piloting Phase is addressing the challenge of keeping national investments in the seed sector coherent, cohesive and strategic in meeting the ambitious targets of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the African Seed and Biotechnology Programme (ASBP).
Technical solutions, while essential, are only part of the answer. While straightforward technical solutions may provide the important building blocks - such as high yielding hybrid varieties and knowledge on seed business management - what is absent is the architecture for further shaping and combining these building blocks.

For this we require integration of technical and social systems, technologies and institutions, knowledge and good will, if we are to be successful in addressing such a complex challenge in a changing environment.

By Gareth Borman, Centre for Development Innovation, Wageningen UR

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Inclusive business model? The Case of Sugarcane Production in Tanzania

Since the emergence of the “land grab” phenomenon in the mid-2000s, alternative approaches to land-based investments have been developed and tested to mitigate the often significant and adverse impacts on rural people of such grabs while still supporting foreign direct investments, particularly in agriculture, for economic development in African countries.

The use of more inclusive business models is one approach. These models aim to ensure that the existing land users do not lose their rights to access, control and own land. They are meant to empower communities to have a voice in business decision making processes and share benefits and risks resulting from the business activities.

As suggested in a number of voluntary guidelines, including the African Union Framework and Guidelines, and the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security, the rights of women and indigenous communities to access, control and own land are critical to local development. Research clearly indicates that in areas where women have access and control over the land they farm, they earn a significantly more income and have greater power in family decision making processes. Inclusive business models are crucial in ensuring these rights are upheld.

An inclusive business model is one in which the elements of resource ownership, voice, risks and rewards are clearly defined, understood and respected by all parties engaged in such a business.
Currently, a range of existing business models used in the production, processing, marketing and distribution of both cash and food crops is considered inclusive. The most commonly referred to “inclusive business model” is a hybrid model - a combination of plantation and outgrowers.
‘Plantation farming’ refers to a system in which a single operator or company (sometimes with partners) is responsible for organizing the economic activities of production, processing and marketing. The term ‘outgrower farming’ includes small-scale, medium and large-scale farmers supplying their agricultural produce to a processer or a miller. This relationship is based on specific contractual obligations, for example, that the company will buy farmers’ produce and provide them with inputs and training, while farmers commit to supply produce in specified quantities and quality.

The Case of Kilombero Sugar Company Limited in Tanzania
To illustrate, most of the existing sugarcane millers in sub-Saharan Africa have leased or owned plantations, sugarcane crushing and processing facilities, while the sugarcane outgrowers own or rent their farmland, and supply their produce and some labor to the company. The miller markets, processes and distributes the final products such as sugar, molasses and spirits. At the end, both the miller and the outgrowers share the final proceeds in the pre-agreed manner. Overall, agricultural business models which utilize partnerships between plantations and outgrowers remain more successful than single large-scale investments in land or plantations.

However, it is important to note that almost all ‘inclusive’ models have shortcomings—some serious enough to disqualify them as inclusive business models.
The sugarcane production model used by the Kilombero Sugar Company Limited (KSCL) in Kilombero District, Tanzania, provides an example of some elements of inclusive business models and their challenges. KSCL has been partnering with sugarcane smallholder farmers to produce sugarcane that is processed, marketed and distributed by the miller (KSCL). The partnership is based on a Cane Supply Agreement (CSA) which is signed between the company and the farmers’ associations every three years, and may be amended every harvesting season if the need arises. Individual outgrowers cannot sign contracts with the company. Instead, they participate through local farmers’ associations, of which there are now 15 in the Kilombero District.

How it works
The CSA spells out the division of proceeds, and it requires the company to pay the outgrower for the sugarcane delivered to the company on the 15th day of the following month. For the year 2013/14, outgrowers earned US$35.6/tonne, before adjustments for sucrose levels and actual sales are made. Based on these adjustments, outgrowers are paid less if the sucrose level of their cane is too low; and all growers are paid based on final sales. Payment is done on the ratio of 57 percent to 43 percent of the profits for outgrowers and the company, respectively.

The outgrowers can participate in the sugarcane production business with as little as one acre of land. Since each farmer has full control of his or her land, he or she is still free to lease out such land or turn it to the production of other crops such as rice or maize – all suitable in the area, although their production is now affected by birds nesting in sugarcane fields.

At the moment, KSCL is the largest miller in Tanzania; it runs two irrigated estates with a total 8,022 hectares and two factories. It buys sugarcane from over 8,000 registered outgrowers who own individual sugarcane farms amounting to 11,900 hectares. Currently, outgrowers supply 43 percent of the total sugarcane processed by the company annually. In 2013/14 the company produced 116,495 tonnes of sugar, about 40 percent of the total sugar produced in the country. The company, through outgrowers’ associations, has managed to mobilize a large number of outgrowers to put their farmland into sugarcane growing fields, and attracted some donor support to finance the maintenance of both the estate and outgrowers’ infrastructure.

This partnership is not without challenges. The inadequately planned and executed expansion of sugarcane production in the area is now causing problems for the outgrowers and the company. This is because the production levels have overshot the company’s processing capacity, leaving farmers with sugarcane that is unharvested and unsold, and no options rather than being indebted. Recently, farmers have also registered complaints around the measurements of their sugarcane weights and sucrose levels by the company.

Yet, as the sugarcane business becomes more lucrative, elites are buying out land from small farmers, and outgrowers have turned most of their farmland into sugarcane fields, increasing land scarcity for food crops in the area.
This has resulted in the phenomenon of ‘commuter families’; that is, families commuting between the sugarcane producing villages to other villages in search of land to produce food crops. This can negatively affect families, as their children are either left alone or with only one parent.

Problems are aggravated by increased importation of cheap foreign sugar. Although, the importation of foreign sugar is necessary to fill the gap left by local producers, levy-free or subsidized sugar imports are far cheaper than locally produced sugar.

Actions Needed
To address these challenges, required immediate actions include improved transparency and accountability within the sugar board of Tanzania to avoid excessive importation of sugar. A transparent measurement system for farmers’ sugarcane weights and sucrose levels is also needed, preferably one approved by both the farmers’ representatives and those of the company. Also, efforts should be made to ensure KSCL has the capacity to process all produced sugarcane each season. Otherwise, markets for other crops, such as rice, should be improved in the area to give farmers an opportunity to turn the extra sugarcane farms to rice producing fields.

Some lessons from the KSCL business model are critical for Tanzania’s new initiatives such as the development of the Southern Agriculture Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) and Big Results Now (BRN) – all of which include the expansion of sugarcane farming as a priority crop. These new initiatives need to ensure that the positive aspects of the hybrid model -- such as few barriers to enter the sugar business, and the clear and respected division of business proceeds between the agribusiness and outgrowers -- are emulated.

Important takeaways from this model include attention to the structure of resource ownership between the miller and outgrowers, institutional arrangements, and the contract flexibility which allows both partners to negotiate sugarcane prices whenever there is a need to do so. Assuming the outgrower associations have access to adequate market information, this helps every partner in the business to maximize benefits and minimize business related risks. However, it is also critical to note that compared to the company, local farmers remain weak partners and effort is needed to ensure they have the knowledge and capacity to be able to negotiate reasonable terms with the company.

Is bigger better?
The model suggests that for agricultural investments to work, an investor does not necessarily need large plots of land of up to 50,000 hectares as suggested in SAGCOT plans, but rather a moderate amount of land which could also encourage an investor to look for extra outputs from neighboring farmers as has happened with KSCL. In fact, all operating sugar mills in Tanzania have plantations of less than 10,000 hectares.

In addition, during the implementation of SAGCOT and BRN, proper land use planning must be done to ensure that the land allocated to nucleus and outgrower farms for cash crops includes food producing zones. In this way, the issues of food insecurity and farmers commuting from one location to the other in search of food producing land will be addressed.

Lastly, it is critical to understand that inclusive business models do not operate in a vacuum; rather they require enabling policy, legal and institutional frameworks that are efficiently and effectively executed.

By Emmanuel Sulle, researcher, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape, Souch Africa

Related Resources:
Opportunities and Challenges in Tanzania’s Sugar Industry: Lessons for SAGCOT and the New Alliance (pdf) Future Agricultures Policy Brief 76, by Emmanuel Sulle

Blog: 'Commuter farmers’ in Tanzania’s valley of sugar and rice

This article first appeared on the Focus on Land website.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Complex Adaptive Systems & health: new resources

complex1In June 2014, Future Health Systems (FHS) and the STEPS Centre co-hosted a workshop exploring Complex Adaptive Systems (CAS) approaches to health systems strengthening in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs).

FHS and STEPS are particularly concerned with policies, programs, and individual level interventions promote and protect people's health and wellbeing, particularly vulnerable and disadvantaged populations.

The workshop was designed mainly to build capacity among both consortia on specific methods for working with and understanding CAS.

Read the workshop summary
The Future Health Systems team has produced a summary from the workshop with
  • A brief run-down of methods relevant to Complex Adaptive Systems
  • Video introductions from Taghreed Adam and Ben Ramalingam (YouTube playlist)
  • Full video of 7 presentations from the workshop (YouTube playlist)
  • 7 blogposts on complexity approaches & their use in health systems research
View the summary on the Future Health Systems website.

Blog posts
Two articles by STEPS members in this series have also been re-posted on the STEPS blog:

Further reading
The Future Health Systems website has a theme on Complex Adaptive Systems, drawing together all FHS work in this area.

For more projects and publications in this area, see our Health & Disease Domain page.

The book Transforming Health Markets in Asia and Africa: Improving quality and access for the poor documents the innovative approaches designed to address the problems associated with unregulated health markets, and proposes a framework for understanding health market systems and outcomes.

Monday, 8 September 2014

New narratives on Zimbabwe’s land reform: a panel at the African Studies Association Conference this week at the University of Sussex

New research from Zimbabwe will be shared at a double panel session at the UK African Studies Association on Wednesday this week. This is being held at the University of Sussex on 10 September between 9 and 12.30 (with a break!). The session has been organised by Gareth James of Edinburgh University, and I will chair.

Zimbabwe's land reform that unfolded from 2000 has been intensely controversial, and remain so. But 14 years on there is a wider array of research to draw from in order to make more balanced and informed conclusions on outcomes and implications.

The work published in Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths and Realities, showed how some farmers who gained land through the land reform in Masvingo did remarkably well – accumulating, investing and improving production. Others have pointed to the 'tobacco boom' that has brought significant riches to those in the Highveld tobacco areas. Such successes have not universally been the case however. Land in some areas remains poorly utilised, some larger scale farmers have failed to invest, and political elites have captured land but not put it into production.

The panel, "New narratives and emerging issues in the Zimbabwe land debate", will provide an opportunity to reflect on new research conducted by Zimbabwean and European researchers in the last few years in different parts of the country. The six papers that will be presented and discussed are listed below.
  1. Patience Mutopo – Ethnographic Reflections on the Land Reform and Rural Development in Mwenezi District, Zimbabwe
  2. Gareth James – Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform: Smallholder Land Use and Production Patterns in Shamva, Hwedza and Makoni.
  3. Grasian Mkodzongi – The Political Economy of Mineral Resource Extraction after Zimbabwe's Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP): The case of Mhondoro Ngezi District.
  4. Marleen Dekker – Navigating through Times of Scarcity: The Intensification of a Gift-giving Economy after Dollarization in old Resettlement Areas in Zimbabwe.
  5. Leila Sinclair-Bright – Land, labour and kin: continuity and change in a new resettlement area in Zimbabwe
  6. Sheila Chikulo – Emerging market discourses in a changing 'agrarian economy'? The case of the fresh vegetable markets in Zimbabwe.
I hope to see some Zimbabweland readers there! Those who cannot make it, expect a report afterwards on the blog.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland