How to move from ordinary to best agricultural practices

‘Best practice’ is not even a mouthful but what it means in practice remains unclear to many people who use the phrase. In African agriculture, it takes a lot for a farmer or trader to become a best practitioner.  Most value chain actors face challenges in identifying sufficient quality evidence that can be translated into Read more about How to move from ordinary to best agricultural practices[…]

How far can consortiums deliver food security in developing countries?

How far can consortiums deliver food security in developing countries? The past few years have seen development agencies working in African agriculture and food systems coming together to work as consortiums or consortia. Consortium is a Latin word meaning partnership. Wikipedia defines consortium as an association of two or more individuals, companies, organizations or governments Read more about How far can consortiums deliver food security in developing countries?[…]

Which is more important owning land or controlling food systems?

Which is more important owning land or controlling food systems? It is becoming obvious that owning land is pointless without controlling food systems. The main motivation for colonization was controlling and exploiting natural resources such as land. Colonialists knew that once they control land, they control African food systems. In most cases, where colonialists displaced Read more about Which is more important owning land or controlling food systems?[…]

Empowering communities to appreciate and conduct research

If developing countries are going to only recognize and respect research results from formal research institutes and universities, they will continue excluding diverse voices and stifling ambition. While formal institutions in Africa are doing their thing, ordinary people in farming communities, fishing villages and informal markets are creatively shaping their own future and adapting in Read more about Empowering communities to appreciate and conduct research[…]

How consumers use their buying patterns to signal priorities

As buying patterns signify ordinary people’s priorities, developing countries should invest more in finding pockets of opportunity from micro-markets than pursuing mega deals. In most African countries, much of the overlooked growth is within open food markets from which the majority get food and income. An outside observer may see open markets as chaotic economic Read more about How consumers use their buying patterns to signal priorities[…]

Who really sets prices in the open market?

No matter how many times this question is answered, it continues to be asked again and again.  One of the reasons is that the answer may be correct but unbelievable. As in all other markets, rules of supply and demand influence pricing of agricultural commodities in open markets that are powerful ecosystems in developing countries.  Read more about Who really sets prices in the open market?[…]

How capital determines the structure of agriculture and food systems in Africa

How capital determines the structure of agriculture and food systems in Africa Although finance will not solve all challenges facing developing countries, the structure of African agriculture is largely shaped by the way capital flows into this fundamental sector. In Zimbabwe, for instance, more than 55% of the entire capital devoted to agriculture goes to Read more about How capital determines the structure of agriculture and food systems in Africa[…]

Small consistent incomes are better than random high yields

Rural households that receive regular small incomes tend to have a better standard of living than those earning a once-off payment from a single commodity like cotton, cocoa or tobacco. Levels of malnutrition and poverty are often higher among communities that depend on high yielding monocrops than those surviving on diverse agricultural and non-agricultural activities. Read more about Small consistent incomes are better than random high yields[…]

Various shades of shrinkage and identity theft in the market

Every time farmers inquire about prices of commodities in the market they are often looking for the highest price. However, unless there are serious shortages, in both formal and informal markets, it is rare for farmers or suppliers to sell the entire consignment at the top price. In almost all agricultural commodities sold either through Read more about Various shades of shrinkage and identity theft in the market[…]

To sell or not – decision making challenges in unstable economic environments

A majority of African farmers tend to make decisions based on their experiences, expectations and fears, especially in an unstable economic environment and changing climate. At the beginning of each  marketing season, a question in every farmer’s head is “Should I sell now or later?”  Since the future is unpredictable from both an economic and Read more about To sell or not – decision making challenges in unstable economic environments[…]

How marketing systems in developing countries penalize poor farmers

Whether it is potato production in the highlands of Rwanda, cassava production in Northern Mozambique or sweet potato production in Gokwe South district of Zimbabwe, the marketing season presents the same headaches for farmers. While production is now much easier, profitably moving commodities from farms to markets remains a nightmare that cannot be solved by Read more about How marketing systems in developing countries penalize poor farmers[…]