Monday, 28 April 2014

'African Farmer': more than just a game
Development of Africa’s smallholder agriculture sector and the introduction and application of new technologies and practices are critical for reducing rural poverty, improving economic growth and enhancing human welfare across the region. Yet there is also a clear need for a new vision for agricultural development that can guide these efforts, while responding to the dynamics of agrarian change in Africa’s complex farming environments.

But whose vision should this be? How can risk and uncertainty be dealt with effectively? How can issues of gender, equity and social inclusion be taken into consideration in the design and implementation of these new initiatives? How can the ‘hardware’ of agricultural science and technology be linked to the ‘software’ of more democratic and effective institutions and policy processes? How should new investments in agricultural research and development be governed so that they benefit smallholder women and men farmers, who represent the vast majority of Africa’s agricultural producers?

While reflecting on these questions, I recognised that my colleagues and I could conduct new research, write more papers and books and share our findings and recommendations with development professionals and decision-makers in Africa and elsewhere, but these were unlikely to provide the kinds of insights that would confront their biases and raise awareness about the real opportunities and challenges facing Africa’s small farmers. Instead, I thought, ‘What if we tried something radically different, something that was both highly entertaining and deeply compelling, something that drew people in and allowed them to experience (vicariously, at least) the trade-offs and challenges faced by Africa’s producers on a daily basis? A computer-based simulation, perhaps?’

These insights led me to seek out collaborators in the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex – Judith Good, Jim Jackson and Ellie Martin – to help design and develop a new computer game that would simulate farmer decision-making under uncertainty: the African Farmer Game.
Now, after more than three years of development and testing and with the generous support of the UK Department of International Development (DFID) and the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), it gives me great pleasure to announce that we have created two versions of African Farmer: a single-player version that can be played on a laptop or desktop computer, and a multi-player game that requires a group of players and a Game Manager.
Playing the game at the Institute of Development Studies, March 2014
These draw ideas and inspiration from key elements of a number of pioneering educational board games developed in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, particularly the Green Revolution Game (devised by Graham Chapman and Elizabeth Dowler) and Africulture (developed by Graham Chapman, Henk de Zeeuw and Janice Jiggins), as well as other more recent games (such as Andrew Dorward’s Kupanda Game).

The main aim of African Farmer is to bring alive to participants what life is like for a small farmer living in a rapidly changing society in a risk-prone environment. The simulation demonstrates clearly the complexity of decision-making, even in a simplified model of an agricultural society, and helps sensitise players to the impact of agrarian change from the small farmer's point of view.

Each participant is provided with land, labour and agricultural inputs to represent a family's farm and its resources. Each farmer makes her or his own decisions about the pattern of farming and level of investment in seeds, fertiliser and other key inputs. Faced with an uncertain social and physical environment, the participants go through seasonal cycles of production, feeding their families, selling or storing any surplus crops, and purchasing and applying new resources. They experience the constraints under which small farmers in the real world must operate.


Some discover that with the necessary investments and some good fortune they can get ahead, while others who encounter economic, social or physical shocks and stresses soon realise that short-term survival (of themselves and their families) can outweigh long-term plans and ambitions.

Both versions of African Farmer Game take players on a journey. They might start the game with clear ideas about the ‘right’ farming strategy and committed to educating their children but soon find themselves confounded by circumstances. Can they really afford to send their children to school when labour is so scarce and the payback is so far into the future? Should they honour an agreement to repay a loan to a neighbour when it means their child will die from malnutrition? The risk calculus and ethical landscape is often significantly different from what they imagined. The game aims to help players see things from the ‘inside’ (from the perspective of a small farmer with limited means and pressing concerns), to understand that what may seem obvious or right from the ‘outside’, may not actually be the best option, or indeed possible, for those living in the situation.

Our initial target audiences for African Farmer are senior undergraduate and graduate students and development professionals working in universities, research institutes, NGOs and international organisations who are working on agriculture and rural development issues. However, we believe there is also potential to expand the scope of the game to non-specialists, as it is much less about the technical aspects of African agriculture and much more about responding to uncertainty, dealing with complex trade-offs and making decisions with incomplete knowledge and serious resource constraints, a common set of challenges that poor people face everywhere.

I invite you to download both versions and the associate software and guides and to try them for yourself – and with your students and colleagues. As you will see, the objective of African Farmer is not to ‘win’ a prize or gain points as in traditional computer games. There is no one right way to play the game or to ‘win’. There is a multiplicity of goals that players can pursue – agricultural, nutritional, financial and social. Whatever your goals may be, I hope you will discover that we have created a computer-based simulation that is challenging, engaging and inspiring in equal measure. I would welcome your reactions to the game and your contributions to its continuing development and improvement.

By John Thompson

Dr John Thompson is Project Coordinator of The African Farmer Game. He is Research Fellow in Knowledge, Technology and Society at the Institute of Development Studies, UK, where he serves as Regional Coordinator of the Future Agricultures Consortium and Food and Agriculture Convenor of the ESRC STEPS Centre.

Land tenure dilemmas in Zimbabwe

A key question for policymakers today is what tenure system makes sense for the new configuration of land, livelihoods and production after land reform? What tenure and land administration arrangements will assure tenure security, encourage investment and boost production?

Unfortunately, much of the debate on this issue starts from ideological assumptions about what is claimed to be the ideal tenure type, rather than the basic principles which should guide the choice of administrative and legal arrangement for ensuring tenure security. Instead it's better to start from defining key principles and move towards a pragmatic assessment of options and trade-offs.

This blog lays out the argument for a multiform tenure approach for Zimbabwe. This is not a new argument at all. Professor Mandi Rukuni and the Presidential Land Tenure Commission of 1994 presented a similar case. Five years ago I prepared a briefing note on land tenure dilemmas in response to the on-going confusion on this topic, drawing on discussions with Sam Moyo, Prosper Matondi and others. I have linked to this in previous blogs. This blog presents a version of it again, as the debate on land tenure continues today with a similar lack of clarity.

Seven key principles
What should be the key features of a new tenure regime? Here are seven principles, drawn from the wider international discussion on the topic:

Democratic accountability to allow for state intervention to shift the configuration of tenure in line with national economic and development goals, in the face of dynamic change in technology or economic conditions and when market mechanisms are insufficient (for example, to facilitate a shift to a large-scale freehold system under conditions of full industrialisation and urbanisation in order to assure national food security)
A flexible market in land – including sales, rentals and leases – to allow trading up and down in land size in line with investment and production capacity and skill (although with regulation by the state – see 4 and 5, below).
Facilitation of credit and investment through the provision of land as mortgaged collateral and the provision of bank credit guaranteed against land, combined with other credit guarantee mechanisms (for example, linked to farm equipment, livestock, buildings, urban assets etc.)
Regulation against capture by elites or speculative investors to avoid inefficient and inequitable consolidation of land holdings and land disenfranchisement, especially of the poor and women (for example, the danger of mass sales and rapid speculative land accumulation by local or foreign elites/companies in times of economic hardship, and the reversal of redistributive gains).
Guarantees of women's access to land, as independent, legally-recognised land holders, with the ability to bequeath, inherit, sell, rent and lease land (for example through requirements for joint recognition of land holdings in leases, permits and titles, as well as administrative mechanisms to ensure equitable treatment of land issues).
A low administrative burden – both in terms of technical complexity and overall cost – of cadastral surveys, land registration and land administration more broadly.
Revenues through survey, title, lease and permit fees and setting incentives to discourage underutilisation through land taxation is an important condition for an effective land tenure regime.
There is broad agreement on the desirability of each of these seven principles, and a wider recognition from international experience of their importance. However, there are more questions about their practicality and feasibility, and the pragmatic trade-offs between each given administrative and technical capacities in land administration.

In Zimbabwe existing legislation allows for a wide range of potential tenure types, ranging from freehold title to regulated leases to permits to communal tenure under 'traditional' systems. All have their pros and cons. Any one or combination can offer a guarantee of secure property rights under particular conditions. There is thus no 'gold standard' or assumed 'evolution' towards an ideal, as is sometimes suggested. Instead, the debate about the appropriate tenure regime must start from principles in context, and draw conclusions about the best way forward from an analysis of the trade-offs between options under the particular circumstances currently pertaining.

For example, policymakers must ask, given the available resources and capacity for land administration, can the appropriate level of tenure security be achieved through lower cost means? Or, given the dangers of rapid land appropriation, what minimal safeguards need to be deployed which do not undermine the capacity of credit and land markets to function? Or, what other legal or financial assurances and coordination mechanisms must be added to ensure that private credit markets function effectively? These are very real dilemmas and are encountered the world over, especially in relatively resource poor settings where capacity is underdeveloped. A debate that is constructed around the false promise of an ideal may actually act to undermine opportunities and stall agricultural growth.

Tenure trade-offs
How do different tenure arrangements perform against these key principles? Table 1 offers a preliminary assessment, based on both Zimbabwean and international experience.

Table 1: Trade-offs in tenure design principles

Freehold titleRegulated leaseholdPermit systemCommunal/traditional tenure
Democratic accountability to stateNoneYesYesLimited
Flexible land marketsYesYesYesInformal only
Credit and collateralYesYesRequires additional instruments for collateral guaranteeRequires alternative credit/micro-finance support mechanisms
Regulation against captureNo, although potentials for statutory restrictions on salesYesYesLimited regulatory reach
Preferential women's accessNonePotential lease conditionPotential permit conditionNone: traditional patriarchal biases
Administrative costVery highHighLowNone
Revenues and incentivesSurvey, land registration, title fees/Land taxLease fees/land taxPermit fee/land taxLimited potentials

Depending on the legal and administrative regime or the interpretation and practice of 'customary' or 'traditional' tenure, for example, there are of course large variations in the reality of different tenure types in practice. But despite such variation there are some common features. Freehold tenure for example is always administratively cumbersome, expensive to implement and reliant on market forces with limited opportunities (assuming the rule of law is adhered to) for state intervention to limit consolidation or shape market incentives. On the other hand, communal, customary or traditional systems have advantages of decentralised operation and low cost, but there are limits on the ability to assure security of tenure through legislative means and a limited regulatory reach of the state.

Of course any tenure regime is only a legal/administrative procedure, and must function in a wider political-social-economic context. The lessons of the past decade show vividly that tenure insecurity does not necessarily derive from the nature of the regime, but from the wider political setting, the capacity to administrate land and the ability to assure a rule of law. When these very basic governance conditions are not in place, then no tenure regime can assure security. Indeed, in 2000 was those with freehold tenure that have been the least secure, and those with communal tenure that have been the most secure.

Ways forward
The new Constitution commits to a reestablishment of transparent administrative procedures, the stamping out of corrupt practices and mechanisms for compensation, all in a secure legal framework. With this essential precondition in place, the discussion on land tenure options can take place more effectively – and in relation to a set of clear principles of the sort outlined earlier.

The big question now, is what makes sense given the current situation, and given available administrative resources and capacity constraints? What tenure regime will help get agriculture moving and investment flowing, and support the new agrarian structure?

With the appropriate regulatory conditions attached as part of revisions of legislation and with a land administration streamlined system developed (neither of which exist to date), the above table suggests that the leasehold and permit systems offer considerable promise for the Zimbabwe situation for the A2 and A1 areas respectively. This would allow for the issuing of leases on surveyed A2 farms (perhaps with varying lengths and conditions to incentivise investment and production) and upgrading ‘offer letters’ in the A1 areas as part of a comprehensive, area-based land registration exercise.

Indeed such solutions reflect international thinking on this issue, where low cost land registration and administration approaches based on leases and permits have been shown to be highly effective in relation to the range of principles identified above. This does not mean that freehold tenure is not an option in some instances, particularly in urban/peri-urban settings. But full freehold does not seem to offer the right combination of features for the present situation for most rural agricultural settings. Such a solution to current tenure dilemmas also does not preclude a reform of communal tenure, perhaps extending versions of the approach developed for the A1 areas to the communal lands over time. As the 1994 Land Tenure Commission argued, hybrid approaches that offer the best of customary, communal tenure arrangements, but with new forms of tenure security offered through legally binding arrangements may be of great importance in such areas.

For now, though, the priority must be the A1 and A2 areas. This represents a substantial area of land, and a considerable number of people/land units, and a core national land asset in need of regularisation. Assuring tenure security in these areas must be the first priority (although the prior step remains addressing the compensation issue of course). This must be driven by a discussion based on clear principles, rather an ideological positioning, and an eye to rapid, effective implementation, rather than inappropriate 'gold standard' ideals.

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

Friday, 25 April 2014

Public lecture, 12 May: ‘The Green Entrepreneurial State’

Mariana MazzucatoWe’re delighted to announce that Prof Mariana Mazzucato will be the speaker for our annual public lecture at Sussex University, which takes place as part of the STEPS Centre Summer School.

Mariana Mazzucato: ‘The Green Entrepreneurial State’
12 May 2014 at 5.30-7pm
Followed by drinks reception
Fulton A Lecture Theatre, University of Sussex
Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9SJ
About Mariana Mazzucato
Mariana Mazzucato (PhD) holds the prestigious RM Phillips chair in the Economics of Innovation at SPRU in the University of Sussex. She was recently Scientific Coordinator of a 3 year European Commission funded FP7 project on Finance, Innovation and Growth (FINNOV), and is currently working on two new research projects on finance and innovation, one funded by the Ford Foundation, and the other by the Institute for New Economic Thinking.
Prof Mazzucato's book The Entrepreneurial State: debunking private vs. public sector myths was one of the Financial Times' 2013 books of the year, and on Forbes' 13 recommended readings for creative leaders to close out 2013.
She actively advises UK policy makers and the European Commission on questions related to economic growth. The New Republic has called her one of the most important thinkers about innovation.
About this event
This public lecture will be followed by a drinks reception in the same venue, to which all attending the lecture are welcome.
This event is organised by the STEPS Centre alongside our Summer School on Pathways to Sustainability.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Strategic Silence. Why no news can be good news.

A subtle approach to making a difference – The case of Rwandan Civil Society

As the situation in relation to gay rights in Uganda and Nigeria became more inflamed and countries such as Kenya, DRC and Ethiopia were tipped to follow suit, Rwanda has remained noticeably silent on the issue. With a reputation for weak civil society this could be taken as a bad sign. But unlike its neighbours, homosexuality is not illegal in Rwanda and there has been no discussion of making it so. So what does this mean for sexual rights activism in Rwanda?

Over the past few weeks and months, there has been mounting anxiety in Rwanda on the potential ripple effect, coming from the degrading status of LGBT rights in Uganda and in the region. The decision by Kenyan Lawmakers to give up their plans to emulate their Ugandan counterparts and enact tougher laws against LGBT people, came as a relief.

The anxiety was based on two things: First, there is still no unanimity on the issue within Rwandan civil society. Although the legal ship has sailed, many are those who have criticised gay activists and would like the debate to be reinitiated. Second, there is persistent stigma against LGBT groups within the Rwandan public, especially fuelled by religious movements.

Despite this, the Rwandan pro-LGBT activists have not been idle; far from it. They have managed to secure ground-breaking policy milestones; for example, the National HIV strategy  has included costing for the import of lubricants, and earmarked ‘treatment as prevention’ for key populations. What this means is that HIV positive ‘Key populations’ (Men having Sex with Men and Sex Workers) will receive Anti-retroviral treatment regardless of their CD4 count; a service normally reserved for pregnant women; others being put on treatment only after their CD4 count drops below 200.
The Strategy further pledges:
  • Support in the form of peer education for Female Sex Workers (FSW) and Men having Sex with Men (MSM)which also addresses the problem of gender-based violence to which they are particularly vulnerable;
  • Advocacy with law enforcement and local authorities to improve protection of FSW and MSM;
  • Strengthen FSW and MSM participation in policy development and program implementation;
  • Reduction of socio-economic vulnerability of sex workers by encouraging FSW to create associations and cooperatives.
Another interesting development is that while civil society advocacy did not result in the complete decriminalisation of sex work, it led the government to remove jail terms for sex workers from the penal code. Today Article 204 of the penal code  dealing with sex workers only provides, as punishment:
Any person who engages in prostitution shall fulfil, for a period not exceeding one year, one or more of the following obligations:
  1. not to leave territorial limits determined by the Court;
  2. not to go to certain places determined by the court;
  3. to be subjected to surveillance measures;
  4. to seek medical treatment;
  5. to periodically report to administrative services or authorities determined by the court.

While the campaign to have condoms placed in secondary schools was not successful, it led to the enactment of a policy to teach comprehensive sexuality education in secondary schools; a practice that was not only taboo before, but which was seen by the Rwandan society as profoundly immoral.
So how have such developments been achieved given Rwanda’s reputation for weak civil society? And why has the Rwandan government not been more vocal about them?

There is no doubt, even within Rwanda, that civil society is weak. At the launch of a UNDP’s Civil Society Support Fund, the Rwandan Minister for Local Government, while acknowledging civil society’s contribution as critical to the development agenda, regretted that it was too weak to optimally contribute. A recent EU civil society mapping report  elaborates on Rwandan civil society’s weakness, describing it as too focussed on service delivery and less on policy advocacy. The international media, the regional civil society, even the chairperson of the Rwandan Civil Society Platform, all speak lowly of Rwandan civil society.

To understand the role played by Rwandan civil society, one needs to look first at the Rwandan cultural, legal and political frameworks. All of which are underpinned by quiet engagement and non-confrontational lobbying. From that standpoint, one sees that Rwandan civil society has deliberately foregone its visibility and, to some extent, its legitimacy, in the interest of silently advancing its agendas. It engages policy makers through ‘protected spaces’ created for that purpose by the polity. These spaces offer incidences for serene talks and behind the scene influence wavering. In this manner, civil society requests are adopted or at least noted. Once a deal is quietly hammered down, the government goes ahead and publicly takes credit for it. This is how the world finds out about progressive policies in Rwanda.

For example, in 2009, the Rwandan government transcended regional prejudice and conservatism to repeal article 217 of the draft penal code criminalising homosexuality, following a marathon advocacy campaign by local civil society groups. But in a radio interview on the issue, the minister of justice was candid: ‘these NGOs do not know what they are talking about; the thought to criminalise homosexuality never crossed our mind!’. In all these happenings, Rwandan NGOs resisted calls from their international counterparts, to take full credit for their efforts. They did not see the need to claim a spot at the podium; we got what we wanted, they said, let them enjoy their moment.

The comments of the President on the Private Equity in Africa Summit, held in London in November 2009, succinctly captures the dynamics at play in Rwanda: ‘On the issue of homosexuals […] We have laws already in place that cater for existence and co-existence of different categories and create harmony in society and, I think it looks like we are headed to leaving it like that rather than heightening tensions and bringing out unnecessary conflicts and debates that will not help the rebuilding of our country’ .

It is true that the established partnership between government and NGOs strengthens government’s image and erodes NGO’s relevance. But that is not the same as saying that it has no function at all. To get results, you have to work within the system; you have to learn to play the game. Granted, a more vibrant civil society would open up the wider society over time. One of the problems is that within a self-censured citizenry such as ours, there are many who are simply not aware of the existing spaces and opportunities to engage. 

Another problem is that the term 'Rwandan civil society' itself often feels like an oxymoron. Zealous sycophants, keen to recycle government messages for political purposes or with the hope to be considered for the next reshuffle. These individuals pay lip service to a human rights-based approach and do, at times, undermine advocacy campaigns. Any civil society advocacy that needs to be done, ought to start there; within the civil society itself.

Investing in in-country legitimacy admittedly takes time and may be frustrating. However, it ultimately holds the key to advancing human rights and is perhaps more efficient than riding on international endorsements and track record that may not necessarily have in-country recognition. Regular appearances and active participation in technical fora, can be crucial to building interpersonal relations, and thereby have the ability to influence. NGOs should increase their presence and ability to communicate their actions and network. Especially using existing platforms such as the sector working groups of the Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategy (EDPRS-II).

As a parting shot, I would say that the Rwandan civil society is weak, but not as weak as people might think. To survive, it must operate within an environment where quiet dialogue and consensus underpin the advocacy dispensation. We have achieved a legal and policy framework that is conducive to the advancement of LGBT rights in Rwanda. But there is still a lot that needs to be done to shape a Rwanda fit for all sexual orientations and gender identities.  From my work as a human rights activist in Rwanda in the last twelve years, I know that these actions must include raising awareness among decision makers and law enforcers (lawmakers, government, police, media, NGOs, churches, etc.). This does not necessarily require branding and big publicity campaigns, but something more subtle; an approach that is positive, that not only criticises, but also offers solutions.

This is something I will be working on over the next few months with Polly Haste as part of the Sexuality, Poverty and Law Programme at IDS.

Today, Rwanda is often lauded for its work on gender equality, for abolishing the death penalty, extending healthcare and free education to all. Rwanda became the sixth and latest African country to empower the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to receive individual cases against it, and the only one to extend a standing invitation to all UN/AU special mechanisms. Less known, is the background advocacy work carried-out by Rwandan civil society groups, which have assisted the government to achieve these developments. Sometimes silence can be just as effective.
By Thierry Kevin Gatete

This blog is derived from an article in the forthcoming book: ‘Advocacy in Sub-Saharan Africa’ .

Thierry Kevin Gatete is a Rwandan Human Rights lawyer and founder of the Centre for Human Rights in Rwanda. He is working with the IDS Sexuality, Poverty and Law programme on an Evidence report, exploring policy options for LGBT activism in Rwanda.

How have the ‘new farmers’ fared? An update on the Masvingo study IV

In our 2010 book, Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths and Realities, we described the pattern of on-farm investment across the 16 sites and 400 households in our sample, since settlement to 2007-08 (depending on the site, around 5-7 years). We argued that this was a significant individual and aggregate amount, adding up to US$2161 per household on average across the total sample. If extrapolated to all official fast-track land reform beneficiaries in the province at that time, this adds to a total of $73m. No small sum.

This calculation was based on a number of investments, including land clearance, housing, cattle, farm equipment, transport, toilets, garden fencing and wells. We have been criticised for not having a baseline with which to compare. Well now we have (and in a future blog series, I will be comparing these results with communal area counterparts). In this blog, I want to ask how investment has this changed since 2007-08? In 2011-12 we asked the same households about assets acquired in the previous five years. We used the same methodology and have applied the same 2009 US$ replacement values for all items to make the data comparable (see Chapter 4 of the book for details).

It's a rough and ready calculation that is interesting for its patterns and trends rather than the absolute numbers, but I think is nevertheless revealing of an important dynamic on the new resettlements.
What did we find? As noted in last week's blog, the big story is one of continued accumulation of cattle. In the period from settlement to 2007-08, households had accumulated significant numbers of cattle, then focused in the better off 'success groups'. In the next five years, this trend continued ever upward with a total of 281 cattle acquired across all households. In percentage terms, growth in herd numbers has been especially concentrated in 'success group' 2 and 3 households (the income and asset poor). This is a different pattern from before, suggesting new people are now accumulating cattle as assets. In total at 2009 values, this represents US$247 worth of purchases and US$961 worth of all increases, including births and gifts, per household. Other livestock have not seen such a dramatic change, with goat numbers declining in some sites, although sheep numbers are up but overall the trend is upwards.

Across other assets that we have seen some significant investment too. This includes the increase in the number of buildings and the upgrading of their quality. In 2007-08, there were 371 houses (excluding kitchens and granaries) built across the sample. 16%% were brick with asbestos or tin roofing, 38% were brick and thatch and 46% were pole and mud. Today there are 971 houses, with 27%, 46%, and 24% across these categories, representing a significant increase in number and quality of the main housing structures on the farms. If we take the 2009 costs of construction and all buildings, including kitchens and granaries, this represents additional investment $684 per household. Toilets have been built in large numbers too. In 2007-08 only 38% of households in the survey sample had a dedicated toilet structure, but by 2011-12 this had increased to 60%.

These sites are now thoroughly inhabited with increasingly impressive building stock. The trade in bricks, cement, roofing materials, thatch, windows, doors, and building skills has been significant, adding to the local economy, as well as the main retailers of building equipment.

In terms of water resources, 108 new wells have been dug in the previous five years across the sites, adding to the intensive construction in the previous years, with now around two-thirds of households having access to their own protected borehole/well as a domestic water source. Sometimes farmers dig their own, but in most cases water tables were low, and specialist well diggers and liners had to be hired in. There is good money to be made in this business if you have the skills across the resettlement areas.

In the period since settlement to 2007-08, clearance of arable land for farming was a very significant investment. We estimated that an average of 11 ha (with large variations) was cleared in those farms where farming activities were established, and cost about $50 per ha. Clearing new land has slowed, and indeed in some sites arable areas appear to have declined, as labour, draft power and inputs have not been available to continue extensification. Only in Mwenezi did we observe an increase in area cleared as people moved from the communal areas to establish more permanent farms. But overall this aspect of investment was not significant in this period, and so we have not identified an investment value for it.

Gardens were another facet of investment we looked at in 2007-08. In addition to clearing the land, this involves fencing, either with wire or more commonly brush, and represented an important investment for around 40% of households. However, in the last few years, garden areas have not expanded significantly, except in the A1 villagised sites, as most of the clearance and garden establishment happened earlier, and again we have not included this aspect of investment in our overall assessment for the recent period.

Farm equipment and transport are two other areas of investment that continue to be important, with accelerating levels. In the five years before 2011, 181 ox ploughs, 40 cultivators, and 94 scotch carts were bought. This represents new investments of US$271 per household if the equipment was valued at a 2009 price. Equally, transport has been a focus of investment with bicycles being bought especially in the A1 sites, cars in the A1 self-contained and A2 sites, and a few tractors in the A2 sites. In the five years before 2011, 175 bicycles, 67 cars and 19 tractors had been purchased, representing a total of $320 per household at 2009 prices.

The investment values per household across the subset of categories we have looked at over time is summarised in a table below, which compares the 2011-12 data presented in the book for 2007-08.
Focus of investment2007-08Average per household (US$) at standardised 2009 prices2011-12Average per household (US$) at standardised 2009 prices
Land clearance
247 (purchase), all increases 961
Farm equipment
320 (232 excluding tractors)
Garden fencing
$1491 to $2293
We can see that investment has continued, particularly in assets linked to farm production (whether in terms of cattle, farm equipment or transport) and resettlement living (especially housing, sanitation and water supplies).

In addition, there has been significant investment in items we didn't even look at in 2007-08 such as solar panels and cell phones. A few years ago, these were regarded as luxuries, available to only a few, but today, they are widely available. In the five years before 2011, 661 cell phones and 227 solar panels were bought across the sites, representing 1.75 new cell phones per household and 0.6 solar panels. At a current rough average value, the total investment per household in cell phones (at $50 each) was $87 and solar panels (at $150 each) was $90.

While multiple caveats must be attached to all these figures, the point, as noted before, is less the actual number but more the scale and trend of the investment dynamic. This is significant and impressive, and has continued now over many years, generated in large part through the economic activities motivated by land reform. Of course patterns of investment are highly differentiated, and in this short blog I have not been able to drill down into the detail. There are those who are doing well, and those who are not, and patterns of accumulation and differentiation continue to play out with multiple implications for agrarian dynamics.

But at root, as shown in our earlier studies, and again in our follow up data, we can see that the process of 'accumulation from below' is widespread, with important implications for longer term trajectories and the type of support that the resettlement areas need as part of a post-land reform rural development policy.

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

The on-going Masvingo study research is conducted by Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene.

Mike Hulme to chair ESRC STEPS Centre International Advisory Committee

Mike-Hulme-cropped-condensedThe ESRC STEPS Centre is delighted to announce Mike Hulme, Professor of Climate and Culture at King's College London, is taking over as chair of the Centre's International Advisory Committee.
Professor Hulme takes over the role of chair from Judi Wakhungu, Cabinet Secretary (Minister) for Environment, Water and Natural Resources of Kenya. Prof. Wakhungu was previously Executive Director/Professor at the African Centre for Technology Studies in Kenya and said she will take forward the STEPS Centre's work in her new Ministerial role.
The Advisory Committee of globally renowned academics, policymakers, business and media professionals is responsible for helping steer the Centre to ensure that it meets its ambitious research, policy influence and training goals and responds to the concerns of its various stakeholders and settings.
Prof. Hulme said: "The STEPS Centre is committed to working for environmental integrity and to promoting social justice, recognising that knowledge is inescapably bound up with values.  Inspired by such a vision, over recent years STEPS has pioneered new ways of thinking about development pathways which are grounded with local people and yet challenge the 'institutions of influence' which hold so much power in today's world.
"STEPS is an exemplar of allowing rigorous academic analysis to be inspired and shaped by the daily lived experiences of many of the world's poor.  Having been involved with STEPS since 2006, I am very pleased now to be asked to chair the STEPS Advisory Board over these next two years as its work comes to fruition and as its vision inspires new initiatives around the world," he added.
Prof. Hulme's work explores the idea of climate change using historical, cultural and scientific analyses, seeking to illuminate the numerous ways in which climate change is deployed in public and political discourse. Before joining King's College London in 2013 he worked at the University of East Anglia and was the founding Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
Prof. Ian Scoones, STEPS Centre Director said: "We would like to thank Judi for her many years of service as STEPS Advisory Committee chair. She has guided us so effectively from the very beginning. We are sorry to lose her, but want to congratulate her on her post as Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Water and Natural Resources in Kenya. In this ministerial role, she will of course be able to be able to make use of the work of the STEPS Centre in Kenya and beyond.
"We are however delighted that Mike has agreed to take on the role of chair. Mike brings important experience from his previous role at the Tyndall Centre and his intellectual and practical commitments fit perfectly with the STEPS Centre's ambitions. We will again be in safe hands."
The STEPS Centre is a major interdisciplinary global research and policy engagement hub combining development with science and technology studies. With a network of partners in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Europe and North America it looks at how pathways to sustainability – linking environmental integrity with social justice – can be built in today's complex, dynamic world.
STEPS is based at the Institute of Development Studies and SPRU Science and Technology Policy Research, at the University of Sussex and is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council.

Innovation and commitment are vital for gender-equitable and inclusive investments

aiglia_1_250x167Can land and agricultural investments yield positive results for impoverished and marginalized rural communities? If yes, how and under what conditions? What measures should be adopted to ensure that women’s and men livelihoods are improved when foreign and domestic agriculture private investments take place?
These were some of the questions discussed in Cape Town, South Africa from 5 to 7 March 2014 at the "Multi-stakeholder Conference on Agricultural Investment, Gender and Land in Africa: Towards inclusive, equitable and socially responsible investment". The conference was organized by FAO in partnership with the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), Future Agricultures Consortium, the Land Policy Initiative (LPI), African Union, African Development Bank and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The event was co-sponsored and supported by Omidyar Network, IFAD, Eastern and Southern Africa Ford Foundation offices, and the International Land Coalition.

This was the first conference on land-related agriculture investment and inclusive business that focused specifically on gender issues. Although nowadays there is more openness and willingness to promote gender equality and women´s empowerment in the agriculture sector, so far limited attention has been devoted to understanding how agricultural investments affect differently women and men.

In his opening speech Tobias Takavarasha (photo above), FAO Representative in South Africa highlighted that “when agriculture investments are implemented, women are often disadvantaged in terms of access to wage labor and contract farming opportunities, participation in consultations and decision-making around land, and compensation schemes. Given the crucial role that rural women play in agriculture, no substantial improvements in poverty reduction and food security can be reached if women are left out”.

Bringing together the latest research findings on the implications of agriculture investments on different groups of rural dwellers, the conference highlighted good practices and promising approaches for equitable and inclusive investments models and showcased examples that can benefit impoverished rural women and men.

The Conference was not just a debate going over research insights. It offered a space where representatives from different African countries and a wide range of sectors could openly share their perspectives, experiences and ideas on why putting gender equality at the centre is essential for achieving positive and sustainable development outcomes. About 130 representatives (see photo left) from producers’ associations, private enterprises, government, civil society, academia, international NGOs and philanthropic organizations discussed challenges and opportunities related to investment models, corporate social responsibility practices, contractual arrangements, partnerships and policy frameworks in order to foster sustainable win-win options.
Lively discussions on the roles and responsibilities of the various stakeholders took place both in multi-stakeholder and sectorial working group sessions. The Conference participants developed recommendations for each sector (government, civil society groups, farmer associations, the private sector, researchers and non-governmental organizations) to make concrete steps towards ensuring more equitable and gender-sensitive agricultural investments.

There was a broad consensus among the participants, that in order to put in place sustainable, inclusive and gender-equitable investments models that work and can be upscaled strong collaboration and partnerships among actors is necessary. In this context, NGOs and producers’ organizations were identified as strategically equipped to facilitate mutually beneficial relations between private enterprises and female and male small producers. Moreover, participants highlighted the importance of creating spaces and mechanisms in which interactions and dialogue among stakeholders take place, while at the same time ensuring that the interests of the most marginalized groups- including poor rural women and men- are fully represented.

The government-working group stated that African governments have the power and leverage to negotiate from a position of strength in choosing desirable investments that promote more inclusive and gender-equitable development. For instance, governments can facilitate multi-stakeholder interactions through the creation of specific business clusters relevant for rural women; adopt regulations to ensure that women are represented in producers’ organizations and decision-making bodies; and promote extension services tailored to women’s needs so that they can profit from arising business opportunities’.

Private enterprise representatives recognized that engaging women in their business is not always straightforward. It was highlighted that specific measures to promote women´s participation are frequently needed, including developing products and services that take women’s needs and constraints into account; adopting innovative ways to circumvent gender-based constraints to participation (e.g. financing mechanisms that do not require land as collateral); providing facilities and adopting measures to support women’s participation (e.g. crèche, flexible working hours); reaching out to partners who can support private enterprises to engage more women; and increasing women’s participation at the contracting level as front line people, among others.

The recommendations and conference-related publications will be widely disseminated at relevant events worldwide such as the Kilimanjaro rural women’s summit (April 2015), Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments negotiation process (CFS- RAI) (May 2014), Pan African Parliament seminar on making agricultural investment work for Africa in Johannesburg (June 2014) and a continental conference on land policy organized by the AU (November 2014).

“We expect this conference to be a first step towards creating a multi-stakeholder platform where knowledge, lessons learned, good practices and promising approaches on agriculture investments, gender and land can be continuously shared and discussed and also, where partnerships can be fostered” said Martha Osorio, FAO Gender and Rural Development Officer.

by Martha Osorio, Gender and Rural Development Officer, FAO, on 14 Apr 2014

(All photos © AGLIA Conference Cape Town  2014)

For further information please contact

How have the ‘new farmers’ fared? An update on the Masvingo study III

In last week's blog, I looked at farm production, and the difficulties faced in recent drought years, and this was contrasted with patterns across the previous decade. But crop production is only one part of a wider, diversified livelihood portfolio. What other contrasts have we observed in the more recent period compared to the 2000s, the focus of our book, Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths and Realities?

Comparing the survey data between 2007-8 and 2011-12, what is significant is the accumulation of on-farm assets. And this in only a few years. This is most striking in cattle numbers. 281 cattle were purchased across the sample of 400 in the 5 years prior to 2011. This amounts to an outlay of perhaps US$100,000 in total. Interestingly, these purchases were concentrated in 'success groups' 2 and 3, the poorer end of our sample, who have shown the capacity, despite the challenges, to accumulate. Goat numbers have remained more stable, but sheep numbers have increased, although totals are not huge. It is cattle where the investment has been concentrated, and this represents a significant commitment to rural production.

In addition, people have bought ox carts, ploughs, cultivators, and a variety of forms of transport in large numbers, all indicating that people are keen to invest in land-based activities, despite disappointments in crop production in certain years. Cell phones and solar panels have featured prominently in assets purchased in recent years too, and house building has continued apace (see next week's blog). This shows an on-going commitment to staying in the resettlements for most, but with 'modern' houses, solar electricity and phone connections assured. I will discuss this pattern of investment and its value in next week's blog, but the total numbers and values are striking.

Another interesting change is the decline in remittances being sent to households in our sample, especially from the major sources abroad (notably South Africa, but also the UK, Botswana etc.), except in the site close to the South African border in Mwenezi. This reflects perhaps decreases in incomes in diaspora communities due to the post-2008 global financial crisis, but also a sense that in the post 2009 period, new settlers need less support given the 'recovery' of the Zimbabwean economy.

However, to counterbalance this, in 2010-11 there were greater percentages of households engaged in local off-farm income earning activities, across all categories (building and carpentry, brickmaking and thatching, fishing, wood carving, tailoring, transport businesses, grinding mills, trading and piecework employment), except pottery and basket-making. This suggests that, with the return of a viable cash economy, off-farm diversification is more feasible. But it also indicates the importance of such diversification, especially for poorer households, when crops fail, as they did in this period.

While there has been turnover in households – through death and inheritance as well as exits – there has also been a continued process of attraction of new household members, and a growth in household size, from 4.0 to 6.5 overall between 2007 and 2011-12. In part this is due to a predictable pattern of cyclical demographic change as younger families become older, and produce more children. But it is also the consequence of attracting relatives and others to work on the farms.

There has however been a slight decline in farm employment on A1/informal farms between 2007 and 2011-12, while on A2 farms permanent farm employment has increased a little, with temporary labourers declining slightly in this season. Across the full sample there were 244 permanent jobs and 384 temporary ones. This is an important source of livelihood for these people, with the permanent employees each with families linked to the farm, in addition to the core household members gaining livelihoods from the new resettlements.

With disappointing crop production overall (although with some doing relatively well nevertheless even in these drought years), but increased on-farm investment and off-farm diversification yet broadly static employment levels, what is going on? Have livelihoods changed since 2009 when we completed fieldwork for the book? The answer is: yes and no.

The broad pattern that we recounted in the book remains similar: a particular pattern of differentiation, with some successfully 'accumulating 'from below'. Clearly people remain committed to the land and to an agricultural future, and livestock in particular seem to be a major focus of investment. But people also realise that surviving only on crop production given the vagaries of the weather, is not enough, and other sources of income, especially if remittances decline, are important.

Data from more recent harvest seasons have been collected from the same group of households, along with some more detail on household turnover and exits, but the data has yet to be fully analysed. I will keep blog readers updated on the changing fortunes of our sample farms, as the longitudinal perspective really does give a sense of the peaks and troughs, trials and tribulations, opportunities and disasters of farming as a core livelihood in the land reform areas of Masvingo.

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

The on-going Masvingo study research is conducted by Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Ebola in Guinea – people, patterns and puzzles

setting up traps in the mining areaMelissa Leach and team set up rat traps as part of their multidisciplinary research into emerging zoonoses in West Africa

The francophone West African country of Guinea doesn't often make international headlines, but has this week for the nastiest of reasons. An outbreak of Ebola, first identified in the forested south-east of the country in mid-March, has now spread across the country to take hold in the coastal capital, Conakry, where at least six cases have been diagnosed.This is the first recorded West African outbreak of this rapid-killing haemorrhagic fever, which since the 1990s has been associated with a series of epidemics in Central and East Africa. The virus in Guinea is the Zaire type, which has a 90 per cent fatality rate. So far more than 70 people have died, making this the deadliest outbreak since 2007, when 187 people died in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This is devastating news for people in Guinea – a country I've lived and worked in over many years. But it's not just a sense of personal connection with tragedy that prompts these reflections, nor the fact that Ebola is a zoonotic disease closely related to those we're currently studying in the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium. It is also because this outbreak raises intriguing patterns and puzzles that encourage us to ask new questions about zoonotic disease emergence in general, and what may be happening here in particular.

This may be Guinea's first experience, but there is much about the pattern of this outbreak – and the international community's response to it – that is typical of experiences with Ebola elsewhere.

First, Ebola is being highlighted as an "exceptional" disease – one well-worthy of dramatic political and public attention. Its unusualness, epidemic and rapid-killing form contribute to this, in contrast with more mundane diseases – malaria, pneumonia, diarrhoea – that more regularly afflict Guinea's women, men and children, but rarely make the news.

Outbreak narrative of emerging infectious diseases

Second, accounts of this episode closely fit a global "outbreak narrative" that has come to typify international accounts and responses to so-called 'emerging' infectious diseases. As Patricia Wald puts it in her 2008 book Contagious, this narrative "begins with the identification of an emerging infection, includes discussion of the global networks throughout which it travels, and chronicles the epidemiological work that ends with its containment" (Wald 2008: 2). Typically, too, origins are associated with a remote, rural place and the practices of its (often poor) inhabitants, from which infection emerges into urban areas and then to threaten the world. This is a narrative about mobile microbes and people in a mobile world.

All these narrative elements are present in accounts of Ebola in Guinea: the likely reservoir of the virus in bats in the forests of the south-east; likely "spillover" transmission to someone in a rural setting (whether hunting, eating or otherwise coming into contact with an infected bat or an infected ape – there has been speculation about all these); the first diagnosed case in a senior hospital doctor in the rural town of Gueckedou; spread to health workers and to kin attending his funeral, and thus to the town of Macenta; and now, through kinship, trade and transport networks, spread to the capital.

Fears of the outbreak "going global" were voiced last week when a Canadian who had recently visited Guinea was suspected to have the disease – although this turned out not to be the case.  Meanwhile, publics and authorities in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Senegal fear that the virus will travel rapidly across Guinea's international borders, following the multiple movements of people for festivals and visits, livelihoods and trade, that are part of life in this region. Indeed Senegal has now closed its border, with its Ministry of the Interior ordering all movements of people through the southern boundary to Guinea to be suspended indefinitely to prevent the spread of the disease.

Disease as a security threat

Third, and again typical, this Ebola outbreak is couched as a security threat. In a move that aligns with a broader international "securitisation" of infectious disease in recent years, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) has called for international help to thwart the "serious threat" it poses to regional security.

There is nothing inherently "untrue" about this global outbreak narrative, and coupled with security concerns it may help to pull international agencies, effort and resources to Guinea. Indeed, this is already happening, in the rapid-response efforts of international NGOs Plan International and Doctors without Borders, and the rapid mobilisation of scientific networks for diagnostics – including the Lassa Fever laboratories in Kenema Government Hospital, one of our partners in the Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium. However this pattern of narrative and response does downplay some other aspects of disease dynamics, that might be worthy of more attention.

The poverty connection

One is the relationship between Ebola and poverty. South-east Guinea, despite its rich mineral resources, is an economically poor region by any standards. The living conditions of many of its people and the state of its health services reflect this. While the Ebola virus knows no class boundaries – Guinea's first few cases spread amongst a relatively elite doctor's family, after all – poverty-linked livelihood practices and overcrowded health facilities have undoubtedly been part of its dynamics. Meanwhile, the impact of a sudden, rapid-killing virus, awful anywhere, can easily feed into a worsening spiral of impoverishment for rural and urban people already struggling to cope with low incomes and myriad other health problems. Where each family member contributes vitally to a family livelihood, loss of one is an economic and social as well as a personal tragedy.

Second, the narrative of rapid, sudden emergence of a disease like Ebola can overlook longer histories of interaction, which can in turn offer valuable clues as to how to deal with it. In central and eastern Africa, the idea that Ebola is novel has been found wanting. Scientists have found antibodies suggesting that human populations may long been been exposed to Ebola. Anthropologists such as Barry Hewlett have shown that local populations have long been aware of the disease, and have their own cultural logics to explain it and social protocols to deal with it. These include practices of isolation and care that have proved so effective that agencies such as the WHO have incorporated them into their response strategies.

The value of local knowledge

Ebola control efforts that in the 1990s relied solely on top-down, expert interventions, and were sometimes resisted and resented for their injustices, are now much better integrated with local knowledge and responsive to community concerns. NGO and government agencies now attempting to control Ebola in Guinea might pay heed to these experiences. Are Guinea's populations entirely ignorant of Ebola and needing to be educated by outside experts, as is being assumed? Or might there be relevant and useful local knowledge and experiences to be tapped into, out in those remote forest villages?

Certainly Ebola was described as an unknown, strange illness ("une maladie étrange") by the nationals first reporting it to the Guinean press. But these were urban residents, with elite perspectives. What of Guinea's rural inhabitants? Has anyone explored? Would participatory modelling, of the kind we have been doing in the Drivers of Disease Consortium, yield any alternative, and perhaps valuable, perspectives? This is the first of the puzzles that, to me, needs to be addressed.

Environmental dynamics

The second is more intractable, and concerns the relationship between this outbreak and environmental change. The scientific struggle to find the reservoir host of the Ebola virus has been long, and is not yet concluded (though there is good evidence for it in bats, in West Africa as elsewhere). Environmental modellers have associated outbreaks with forested environments, and with particular seasonal conditions. But this still leaves the question – why a major outbreak in Guinea now? And why has this part of West Africa escaped, until now, the outbreaks that have afflicted east and central Africa?

It could be that Ebola is more ancient in the region than scientists and authorities have realised, but has been dealt with quietly in remote forests, rather than "emerging" to wider public attention – so the current epidemic is an epidemic of diagnosis rather than of disease. It could be that the region's bat populations have only recently acquired the virus.

Bat-human interaction

Or it could be that they have long had it, but spillover to humans is more recent. Here, an environmental narrative sometimes circulates around Ebola and other haemorrhagic fevers. This assumes that once-extensive forests in which bats lived, separately from humans, have undergone progressive deforestation under the influence of population growth, land use and climate change. As bat habitats have fragmented and as people have moved into once-pristine forest areas, so human-bat contact has increased, making viral spillover more likely.

While it sounds plausible, however, such a linear narrative is hard to apply convincingly to south-east Guinea. While many commentators have imagined the Upper Guinea forests here to be primary forest, under gradually accelerating human pressure, in reality – as my own research with James Fairhead has shown – it has been a mosaic of forest, savannah and farmland for at least several centuries. The forest "islands" of Gueckedou, and parts of the larger forest reserves here and in Macenta, are actually the result of people's land use and management, having grown over enriched soils associated with settlements and farming. People in this region have long co-habited with bats, or at least bat habitats.

If something has changed to make spillover more likely, it must be in the intensity and details of people-livelihood-landscape-bat interactions, not in their basic pattern. Possible candidates might include the rapid growth of small-scale mining with its precarious forest-living conditions, or shifts in hunting practices.

A multidisciplinary approach

So, intriguing puzzles remain. Untangling these – through research that combines environmental, epidemiological, virological, veterinary and social science with local knowledge – will be key to predicting and preventing future outbreaks of Ebola, in this and other regions.
Meanwhile, the struggle to control an outbreak that is already underway in Guinea continues. May it be successful, and as soon as possible – for the sake of Guinea's own people as well as those who live beyond its borders.

By Melissa Leach, Principal Investigator of Dynamic Drivers of Disease in Africa Consortium

Monday, 7 April 2014

How have the ‘new farmers’ fared? An update on the Masvingo study II

What have been the patterns of crop production in the Masvingo study areas in the past few years? The Masvingo data reflects the broader pattern nationally, with poor maize harvests over the past few years. National aggregate statistics (with all the health warnings that need to be attached) show maize production at 0.7m tonnes (2009), 1.2m t (2010), 1.5m t (2011), 1m t (2012) and 0.8m t (2013). This was consistently below the 1990s average of nearly 1.7m t; and mostly below the target of 1.6m t of maize or 2m t of cereals. Other crops have fared better, including sugar, cotton, and small grains.
However the overall picture has been mixed, and highly variable between farms and sites. While the aggregate picture has been dire, there are large variations, and some important anomalies that are significant when considering overall policy. In the resettlement areas of Masvingo for example, the level of production is significantly higher than assumed in national food security assessments for example. And for some groups – notably those in some of the A1 sites, significantly higher, with farmers producing several tonnes of maize and selling it.

In Masvingo, the 2009-10 to 2011-12 seasons were not good ones, with rainfall in Masvingo town 20-25% below the ten-year average of 675 mm. It was not just rainfall totals but also the pattern of rainfall that caused problems, with sudden downpours and extended droughts. This highly variable pattern has been a recurrent feature in recent years, and seems to be a pattern that is well established (and indeed recognised by the expert meteorologists, as well as farmers). This last two seasons have bucked the trend with 2012-13 rainfall 19% above the average (although poorly distributed) and this year has seen very high rainfall and the prospect of good harvests, although in some areas there was too much.

Across our A1/informal sites, then, maize production per household was on average just 779kg in the four seasons 2010-13. It was of course highly differentiated, with higher levels in the wetter areas of Gutu and Masvingo (with a very stark contrast between areas in 2012 and 2013), and overall output was highest in the higher 'success groups' (those generally with more assets). The A1 'self-contained' farms had the highest production where 2.7, 2.0, 2.1 and 1.1 tonnes of maize per household were produced across these years. On the A2 farms there was huge variation in all years, with some producing practically nothing while a few have been regularly producing significant quantities across all years.

One indicator of 'success' we used before was the proportion of farms producing over a tonne of maize each year (the amount required to feed an 'average' family). While this was high in the good rainfall years of 2006 and 2008, the proportion of households in this category declined, with 32% producing more than a tonne of maize in 2010 and only 23% in the subsequent three harvest seasons. Again, the A1 self-contained farmers performed the best, with 56%, 53%, 56% and 39% of households producing over a tonne across the four years. However these figures are considerably higher than that seen more generally according to food security assessments. The Zimvac study for 2013-14 predicted that only 2% of households would have enough food from own production to provide needs. In this respect, the resettlement farms, even in dryland Masvingo, are faring much better and some are producing surpluses which will be important in supplying others in deficit.

Across the 2010-13 period 34%, 17%, 44% and 9% of A1/informal households sold some maize, although amounts were highly variable. For example, in 2010 in the self-contained A1 sites 45% of households sold maize, and 28% sold over a tonne, even in this poor season. In subsequent seasons 27%, 34% and 10% of A1 self-contained farmers sold over a tonne, showing a real commitment to commercial agriculture.

Yet across these years, there were still half to two-thirds of the sample who were struggling to produce enough and not selling any surplus, particularly in the drier areas of Chiredzi and Mwenezi. Although they also produced considerable quantities of sorghum and millet, it was not enough for many. This is of course disappointing, given the ambitions of the resettlement areas driving improved food security more broadly, and underlines the importance of access to water and irrigation.
Can it all be blamed on variable rainfall? Probably not. The level of production in the years following land clearance was boosted by the inherent soil fertility of the land. This has declined, and it has not been replaced by significant additions of manure and fertiliser. Total amounts of inorganic fertiliser applied have been low, with between 25% and 50% not applying any, and many applying very little. In the drier areas virtually none is applied. While cattle numbers are up, manure amounts are insufficient to cover the larger areas in resettlement farms.

In next week's blog, I will look at the wider livelihood setting, putting relatively poor crop production in low rainfall years in the context of changes in on-farm assets, as well as off-farm income generating activities.

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

The on-going Masvingo study research is conducted by Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene

Friday, 4 April 2014

Understanding water for food security

water-food-securityLyla Mehta, STEPS Centre water & sanitation theme convenor, is heading a team writing the report on Water and Food Security to the Committee of World Food Security (CFS).

Water for all, provided in an equitable and sustainable way, is central to global justice for poor women and men. It has a particularly important role in food security through its multiple impacts on health, agricultural production and food processing. Yet despite successive global declarations and efforts, hundreds of millions still suffer from lack of access to water for drinking, cooking, agricultural irrigation and food production at domestic and industrial levels.

Simplistic portrayals of water ‘crises’ have often led to misunderstandings on the nature of the problem and how to address it. The result has been a failure to centralise the needs and interests of the poor and marginalised within different solutions. In recognition of this, and in follow-up of major international events such as Rio+20 and the World Water Forum, the Committee of World Food Security (CFS), in its 40th session, requested the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) to prepare a report on Water and Food Security for its 42nd session in 2015. Following the open call for experts, the Steering Committee of the HLPE constituted a project team to write the report, led by IDS Fellow Lyla Mehta.

HLPE on water and food security and the CFS

Through a food security lens, the HLPE has been requested to focus its analysis on water for agricultural production and food processing, taking also into account gender-related aspects. It is also expected to, from a food security perspective, assess the impacts of water management practices on food security, including water usage for agricultural production, food processing and other ways of consumption and also also consider in particular issues related to the sustainability of irrigation systems, the salinization of agricultural land and the reduction of the quality of the ground water. On this basis, it will give appropriate recommendations so as to improve water and food security policies, as well as coordination among the different fields and actors at all levels, with a long-term perspective.

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS), established in 1974, is the key intergovernmental forum addressing global food security and nutrition. Following the food crisis of the 2007-08, it was reformed to be a more inclusive and multi-stakeholder body with strong participation of civil society representing the rights of small-scale producers and workers alongside governments, donor agencies and private sector actors. The CFS created the HLPE to help them in identifying the problems and to bring expert knowledge to the attention of the CFS.

As directed by the CFS Plenary and Bureau, the HLPE will:
  • Assess and analyse the current state of food security and nutrition and its underlying causes.
  • Provide scientific and knowledge-based analysis and advice on specific policy-relevant issues, utilising existing high quality research, data and technical studies.
  • Identify emerging issues, and help members prioritise future actions and attentions on key focal areas.

Project team and the report on Water for Food Security

The project team will meet for the first time at IDS this week. The team comprises:
  • Lyla Mehta (Team Leader, STEPS Centre/IDS)
  • Oscar Cordeiro-Netto (University of Brasilia)
  • Theib Oweis (Integrated Water and Land Management Program at the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas)
  • Claudia Ringler (International Food Policy Research Institute)
  • Barbara Schreiner (Pegasys Institute)
  • Shiney Varghese (Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy).
An e-consultation on the scope of the report has just been finalised. The project team will prepare the report under the Steering Committee’s guidance and drafts will be available for comments later this year. The final report will be presented at the 42nd session of the CFS in October 2015.

The report will build on the work done by the Water Justice Programme and the STEPS Centre which have consistently sought bring together the food, agriculture, water, sanitation, and health domains against the backdrop of growing challenges of food and resource crises, rapid urbanisation and climate change. Our work seeks to enhance equity, social and gender justice and sustainability in the water domain by critically examining the politics and pathways of water and sanitation policy and practice through interdisciplinary research on scarcity, power, access, rights to and control over water and other resources.

This article first appeared on the Institute of Development Studies website.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Guest blogpost: Andrew Barnett on low carbon development trade offs

Solar charger, Kenya_Solio_Flickr Creative Commons
Andrew Barnett, Director of The Policy Practice, inspired by the discussion at The Royal Society on Monday 31 March 2014 to discuss the policy implications of research on low carbon development and sustainable energy access in low-income countries, writes for the STEPS Centre blog.
I very much enjoyed meeting the teams from Science and Technology Policy Research (SPRU) at the University of Sussex, the STEPS Centre and the African Technology Policy Studies Network (ATPS) group from Kenya. Their recent working paper 61, Sustainable energy for whom? Governing pro-poor, low-carbon pathways to development: Lessons from solar PV in Kenya, provides a useful contribution to the field, not least by providing a detailed history of Photo Voltaics development in Kenya. The paper draws strongly on the huge intellectual legacy from many years of research at SPRU on the limits to simplistic views of technology transfer and the need for an innovation systems approach to the management of technical change.

In this blogpost I would like to see if I can help to build on this work. The paper makes the point that there is a perception of a “tension… between increasing energy access and pursuing low carbon development” (p Xii and page 2). But it seems to me that it is a great deal more than a perception and this trade-off may well be one of the key intellectual issues in this area of research. There are now a number of authoritative sources to suggest that there can be a trade-off between these two objectives and they cannot be so easily dismissed. No less an authority is the current chief economist at DFID, Stefan Dercon, who wrote a paper for the World Bank on this topic, see Policy Research Working Paper 6231, He concludes:
“Green growth is in no way necessarily bad for the poor. But the key message of this paper is that promises that green growth will offer a rapid route out of poverty are not very plausible; there may well be less rapid an exit than with more conventional growth strategies. To sustain growth, green growth also needs to be weighed in terms of its ability to reduce poverty. To sustain poverty reduction, green growth may involve giving up some possible environmental benefits, to keep the growth-poverty elasticity high. Since poverty reduction remains at the top of the agenda, different shades of green may be needed. In particular, poverty reduction is a powerful force for giving the poor more resilience to the increasing risks of climate change; they should not be asked to pay the price for greening the planet.”
For me understanding that a trade-off CAN exist is at the heart of the “political economy” that is increasingly seen as being of critical importance to understanding apparently illogical human behaviour in this area (see Of course if there is to be lots of genuinely 'new money' for low carbon growth, it is a laudable objective for academics to see how they can help to capture as much of it as possible for the poorer people of Africa. But for me the SPRU analysis would be strengthened if it accepted and dealt with the possibility of a trade-off. Indeed if the possibility of a trade-off were put at the centre of the work it would lead nicely onto the other issue at the heart of the STEPS programme namely the existence of “diverse pathways“. The issue is NOT (as suggested at the meeting) that new technologies always start off less competitive than established technologies, it is that from among all the possible future pathways some will contribute more to energy access and others will contribute more to low carbon “development” for a given level of resource input (by the way there does not appear to be as much effort into unpacking the concept of "energy access", or even development, as are applied to other terms in the analysis – the reduction of energy poverty must surely involve USE of modern energy services and a view as to what is considered to be an adequate or minimum level of consumption).

A related, but different, point is raised when the report says in passing that “many low carbon alternatives are not yet competitive with carbon intensive technology options” (page 23). This is likely to be true, but it also seems to need more analysis in any discussion of modern energy services and poor people. Not least of the reasons being that it goes a long way to explain the behaviour of governments that act on the belief that at least FOR THE MOMENT PV are too expensive for many of their poor people. A number of high officials in Tanzania, and researchers in Kenya (such as Stephen Karekezi, Director of AFREPREN/FWD) explicitly explained this to me in the 1980′s.

The other key issue that you have to confront when talking of the energy needs of poor people is that most poor people do not currently have sufficient “access” to any modern energy services, whether low or high carbon, primarily because they are poor. If our analyses are to be useful they must address this issue head on and centrally. One of the report’s team said at the Royal Society meeting that “subsidies are essential” if poor people are to have access to low carbon energy options. I am happy to support this view, but it is almost trivial as a conclusion. The report’s main conclusion states that market forces alone will not drive the widespread uptake of low carbon energy technologies in low-income developing countries”. But surely the interesting point is what is said next. The team needs to say more about what "market making subsidies" would look like as there are already well documented cases of market destroying subsidies. But more importantly the team could make much of their SPRU colleague’s work on the need for the state to undertake risky equity investments if innovation is to be dynamic, and to demand an equity return on their successes (see Prof Mariana Mazzucato, Professor in the Economics of Innovation at SPRU).

If the main problem of "energy access” for poor people is poverty then the team also could say useful things about the need for energy end-use technologies that provide the energy services that help people to increase their incomes. This is of course a complex area, but then SPRU has never been frightened by complexity!

While the PV industry provides a most useful case study (and clearly the team know a great deal about PV), the policy analysis would be strengthened by locating this work within the broader focus (framing?) of other energy delivery systems (both for electricity, and for the other energy services that poor people need/want, such as heat for cooking). This would open up a number of other "diverse pathways", some of which are also low carbon (such as co-generation from agricultural waste, hydro and geothermal electricity to name but three). This is a big ask of course, but it would also underline the many trade-offs within the low carbon scenario.

Photo Voltaics are already the least cost source of electricity in more remote areas, and for sparsely populated areas (particularly for LED lighting, phone charging and radio). But for me the relative success of PV in densely populated parts of the world is an index of the failure of power sector reform in that particular country. Such reform is where agencies such as DFID would get the biggest bang for their aid buck. Focussing solely on PV diverts their attention from these more critical concerns. It is noteworthy in this context to remember that while PV is flourishing in Kenya so are the companies supplying electricity to Kenya from fossil fuels at huge cost per kilowatt hour in name of emergency power! We must guard against continuing to play our favourite violins when Rome is clearly burning!

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