Chinese engagement in African agriculture is not what it seems

In December 2015, Chinese President Xi Jinping flew into South Africa for the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation with great fanfare. There were lots of announcements about prospective investments across Africa. Agriculture featured prominently. But what is the real story of China in Africa on the ground, beyond the hype? As Deborah Brautigam’s investigative research has…

Are China and Brazil transforming African agriculture?

A new Open Access Special Issue in World Development based on our work on the changing role of China and Brazil in Africa’s agriculture is now available (links to individual articles are below, and also via here).

Contested Agronomy: Four big questions to debate

We have just finished a fantastic conference co-hosted by the STEPS Centre on ‘Contested Agronomy’ with 80 participants and a vibrant discussion. I was asked to give some comments at the end. Here are some of these thoughts. Throughout the conference it was clear that ‘agronomy’ had to be understood both as a technology and…

Exporting China and Brazil’s agricultural know-how to Africa

Can China and Brazil use their home grown agricultural knowledge, which has driven phenomenal agricultural productivity at home, to transform agriculture in Africa? That was one of many questions discussed at the Contested Agronomy conference. When Lidia Cabral interviewed a Brazilian agronomist from Embrapa, Brazil’s agricultural research corporation in Mozambique, he talked to her about…

Contested Agronomy: more heat than light?

by Jim Sumberg, John Thompson, Ken Giller and Jens Andersson Agriculture, and the agronomic research that supports it, will be critical in making sustainable, equitable and secure development a reality. Surprisingly however, there seems to be increasing contestation around the priorities and methods used by agronomists, and the technologies that they develop and promote. Why…

Video: Dominic Glover on agricultural biotech and smallholder farmers

STEPS member Dominic Glover spoke yesterday at the FAO’s International Symposium on “The Role of Agricultural Biotechnologies in Sustainable Food Systems and Nutrition”. Dominic’s presentation focused on the need to ensure that agricultural biotechnology policies benefit smallholders. You can watch his presentation on the FAO website (skip to 2 hours and 7 minutes in).

From Dragon Heads to Farm Drops, Chinese agriculture has many faces

In Beijing last week, STEPS member Adrian Ely hosted a roundtable with social enterprises, NGOs and firms involved in food and agriculture to discuss the findings of the Low Carbon Innovation in China: Prospects, Politics and Practice project. Based on fieldwork by Sam Geall (SPRU), and support from Yiching Song (Center for Chinese Agricultural Policy,…

Africa’s land rush

There is a rush on for African farmland – a phenomenon unmatched since colonial times. Africa’s land rush, and the implications for rural livelihoods and agrarian change, is the subject of a new book that I have edited together with Ruth Hall (from PLAAS at UWC, South Africa) and Dzodzi Tsikata (ISSER, University of Ghana at Legon)….

How can African agriculture adapt to an uncertain climate? 

 By Stephen Whitfield, Lecturer: Climate Change & Food Security, University of Leeds  Often operating at the margins of sustainability, for smallholder farming systems in Africa the challenge of adapting to uncertain climatic change is particularly acute. Across international research and development programmes, a variety of technologies, agronomic innovations, and cropping systems are advocated as the means to a green revolution; a future…

New book: Sustainable Livelihoods and Rural Development

Livelihoods are a vital lens on rural development, but should be examined in the context of wider questions of political economy. A new book by STEPS director Ian Scoones looks at the relationships between livelihoods and sustainability, and proposes four elements of a new politics of livelihoods: interests, individuals, knowledge and ecology. Sustainable Livelihoods and…