To analyse the dynamics of agricultural commercialisation and agrarian change across East, West and Southern Africa, an e-dialogue was recently convened by the Agricultural Policy Research Programme (APRA) in partnership with the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN) and Foresight4Food (F4F) on 20 January 2022.
The event began with participants engaging in three parallel regional presentations and discussions for East, West and Southern Africa, and culminated in a continental-level panel involving expert commentators and audience questions. For the West Africa region, discussion addressed cocoa- and agricultural-related issues in Ghana and Nigeria.
The first presentation saw Adebayo Aromolaran, ARPA’s Nigeria country lead and professor at Ajasin University, use evidence from Nigeria to explore whether medium-scale farms are a driving force behind agricultural transformation in Africa. Next, Fred Dzanku, APRA’s Ghana country lead and a research fellow at the Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research, discussed approaches that can be taken in Ghana to achieve inclusive oil palm commercialisation.
Kojo Amanor, a professor at the University of Ghana, then highlighted longterm patterns within the Ghanaian cocoa sector, before Adeola Olajide, an agricultural economist, summarised the issues and prospects surrounding cocoa commercialisation in Nigeria.
Launching the expert review discussion was Charles Abugre, executive director of the International Development Economics Associates, who highlighted that a food systems approach requires a broader focus on: food system activities beyond production, such as trade, transport and value addition; food systems outcomes beyond poverty reduction and food access, such as nutrition, employment and inequalities; as well as food systems drivers, such as the impacts of population, changes in consumption patterns and climate change.
“We need to look at the bigger picture,” he stated. Abugre also noted that questions remain with regards to the future of cocoa production given global price trends, climate change, farmers stepping into the sector, and income distribution effects at the local level.
There is also an issue around sustainability, he said, as “the industry seems to rely very heavily on support from the state.”
Questions from the audience also focused on the issue of agrivalue chain sustainability across the region, highlighting, for instance, the need for state incentives to encourage the continuation of small farm interaction with medium-size farms and the associated benefits.
In a broader sense, the audience also questioned how the future of food farming systems is to be maintained at all if, in the long-term, agriculture is causing environmental destruction and is not resilient to climate change.
Also part of the expert review was Soji Adelaja, distinguished professor in land policy at Michigan State University, who emphasised the importance of APRA’s research in the region and the role it plays in supporting Africa’s agricultural future with regards to both commercialisation and economic transformation.
For example, farmers who ‘step up’ into larger acreage farms are positively associated with productivity, and “as long as we can continue to push and encourage these farms, we can see the kinds of productivity increases that are consistent with economic transformation,” he said.