Why economists fail in Africa

A great new book is just out by Morten Jerven called Africa: Why Economists Get it Wrong. It is a follow up to his excellent 2013 book, Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It that I featured several times in this blog.

He argues: “There has been a chronic failure among economists to explain growth in Africa. The methods and analytical angles they have used to explain relative failure in Africa were conceived in the 1990s, but these were unsuitable for explaining growth in the 1960s or growth since the 2000s”.

Jerven does not deny that there has been economic failure in Africa. Zimbabwe is of course a case in point. But this was not generic failure, over the whole ‘post-colonial’ period across a whole continent. Rather there have been variations: growth in fits and starts, cycles of successes and failures, often with success being hidden by the aggregate statistics given the informal nature of much economic activity (certainly the case for Zimbabwe, as I’ve argued many times).

But what he calls this “erroneous stylised fact” of generic failure over a long period has been the basis for an ahistorical, decontextualised analysis of African growth patterns, which attempt to explain the African “shortfall” through cross-country or cross-continental comparison. The assumption is that it was a set of “initial conditions” that created the African predicament. Conditions such as environmental factors, ethnic fragmentation and a lack of social capital have all been suggested to have a direct role in the failure of economic growth. Just being African seems to be a problem according to some of this analysis.

However, Jerven argues “the causality story – initial conditions causing slow growth – is wrong and therefore not useful for policy advice”. Moreover, he argues “policy typologies such as the distinction between “closed” and “open” economies, or the related “bad” and “good” policies, do not correlate coherently with episodes of economic growth in African countries”.

The title of this blog is a reference to the much-lauded book, ‘Why Nations Fail’ , that I have reviewed before on this blog’. Jerven also takes this argument to task as it offers a far too simplistic and functionalist a view of institutions and governance, and, he argues, gets causality back-to-front. Effective institutions and ‘good’ governance emerge from development, and are not so much its precursors, he suggests. As he notes: “several decades were wasted putting a lot of effort into curing symptoms that were thought to be causes”.

So what are the key complaints Jerven has against economics as applied to Africa? It’s of course not all economics and economists that his ire is focused on, but a certain style of aggregated economic reasoning derived from comparative cross-country econometrics. Why has this approach been so problematic, and what can be done about it?

The problems Jerven outlines are multiple. The data that are used is often very shaky and patchy. Models derived from such data are inevitably suspect: garbage in, garbage out, as the adage goes. Aggregation across countries, and comparisons with patterns elsewhere miss out on the particularities of different economies and their histories, and so end up offering false or at least highly simplistic explanations. Africa, of course is not a country, but many and diverse nations, regions and economies with complex histories. But simple narratives prevail and are reinforced by aggregate economic analysis. Jerven identifies a few choice media quotes from The Economist over time that regurgitate the narrative that ‘Africa’ is a disaster, or alternatively today, ‘Africa’ is rising; statements that are almost completely meaningless and not supported by solid data.

The consequences of these faulty analyses – and the media tropes that follow on – are of course very real, as the book points out. Decades of structural adjustment policies were pushed across Africa on false premises, and with disastrous consequences. The arguments for institutional reform and good governance as preconditions for development may fail, as these new institutional forms may have to emerge from developmental processes, and be appropriately adapted to contexts (just as happened in Europe or the US). And, of course, the generic prescriptions for a whole continent fail to pay attention to location and specificity, and of course political economy and history.

So what to do? There are clearly a number of important challenges. One of course is to improve the data that analyses are based on. If we are relying only on very poor numbers, then it’s difficult to expect anything other than the garbage that is currently churned out. With better spatial differentiation, improved time series and so on, we can get to grips with variation and pattern, and offer greater nuance in our analyses. Good numbers really do matter. If growth pathways are so much to do with context – of politics, history, and so on – then cross-country econometric comparisons, especially with massively unlike settings (say comparing Asia or Europe with Africa) are really largely a waste of effort. Instead, Jerven argues, we need to move from cross-country econometrics to understanding particular economies in context, and understanding how African economies actually work. This means a focus on real markets, not the abstractions of models; informal and formal economic activity and the interactions between, not just what is in the formal statistics; and the historical and political factors that frame and shape options for the future.

The profession of economics with its current false scientism and its obsession with quantitative method has, over time, distanced itself from the complexities on the ground. The search for grand, universalising explanations for growth, poverty, inequality or whatever, has lost sight of the particular, contingent, conjectural conditions that create change and transformation. This is a profound methodological point. The book hints at the need for a revolution in development economics that brings back the older traditions of political economy and economic history. Such analyses must be focused not on assumed or inferred economic rules or an obsession with initial conditions driving uniform change, but the particular operations of particular economies – of nations, regions in particular settings.

Zimbabwe has a proud history of this type of economics (alongside some of the other more problematic sort). The Department of Economic History at UZ has long been an important source of insight into economic change over time, rooted in particular locations. The Zimbabwe Institute of Development Studies, sadly no more, was a focus for political economy analysis of labour, land, industrial change and more by many key scholars. Today, work at institutes such as the African Institute for Agrarian Studies, the Centre for Applied Social Sciences or the Labour and Economic Development Research Institute continue this work. Sustaining these intellectual traditions – rooted in place, context and history – will be important, as Zimbabwe seeks an alternative growth path into the future. Such analyses should help resist the more simplistic and often dangerous prescriptions from the flawed economics of the mainstream.

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

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Zimbabweland wins a prize!

Last week our work was runner up in the category of ‘Outstanding International Impact’ at the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council annual Celebrating Impact award ceremony. I had to go to London to receive the award (a trophy and some money that we will help keep the research going). They even made a slightly embarrassing film about the work that you can see here. It’s the 50th anniversary of the Council, and they are keen to demonstrate that research they invest in has an impact.

Over the years, we have received several grants from the ESRC for our work in Zimbabwe. The core of our work that became the book, Zimbabwe’s Land Reform: Myths and Realities, was funded as part of a regional project led by PLAAS on livelihoods after land reform. More recently the ESRC/DFID grant for the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development (SMEAD) in southern Africa – also led by PLAAS – allowed us to expand our case study sites to Mvurwi, and continue work in Masvingo. Indeed, my UK Research Council funding goes back much further – to my PhD work in Mazvihwa communal area which started a shocking 30 years ago.

Long-term research and engagement leads to impact, and in our work since 2000, it has been this ability to track changes since the land reform that has allowed us to generate deep, textured, longitudinal data, and so a rich evidence base to engage with debates about the impacts and consequences of land reform. The prize money we won last week will help keep the work going – now in Masvingo, Mvurwi and Matopos.

The prize committee really liked the range of ways we have communicated our work. Impact emerges from engaging with different audiences through a range of channels. Our outputs have included conventional academic material, such as books and journal articles, but we’ve also put out our material through other routes. This blog has been especially important, and has helped update the research, challenge misinformation and generate debate. I am continually amazed how many of you read it each week. There are now over 190 blogs on the site, and last year there were over 40,000 views. As readers of this blog will know, there have been videos that have allowed us to present findings in a different medium, and these have been widely viewed in Zimbabwe and beyond. And also we’ve produced a set of booklets, including one in Shona. This has allowed the work to be debated in the villages where we have worked, with reading circles formed to discuss them. It’s this diversity of formats that really helps create debate and dialogue in a whole range of fora.

After all the hard work, we are naturally delighted to be recognised in this way. Although rather focused on me in the ESRC publicity, this is of course a team effort. The field team, led by BZ Mavedzenge, but also involving Felix Murimbarimba, Jacob Mahenehene and many others, has been at the centre of this work. BZ, Felix and I have worked together now continuously since 1990, when we were working in Chivi with the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department for Research and Specialist Services on a project on risk, that became the book ‘Hazards and Opportunities. It has been an immensely productive working relationship and I feel immensely privileged to have had this opportunity.

For now, I will keep the blog going, and I hope all readers will celebrate with us, as it is a recognition that research, when done thoroughly, over a long time and is communicated well, can really make a difference.

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

 

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Changes in beef market regulations open opportunities in southern Africa

Last month at the OIE (World Animal Health Organisation) Assembly in Paris, changes to international regulatory standards around Foot and Mouth Disease were adopted. This has long been argued for, and will make a big difference to livestock producers across southern Africa.

The updated OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code makes it possible for African countries with wild species like buffalo that naturally harbour foot and mouth disease (FMD) viruses to be able to trade beef without necessarily requiring the physical separation of wildlife and livestock through the extensive veterinary cordon fencing that has characterized animal disease management in southern Africa since the colonial era.

Steve Osofsky,  Wildlife Conservation Society  AHEAD Coordinator,  commented “we’ve reached a critical turning point in regards to resolving the more than half century-old conflict between international beef trade policy based on foot and mouth disease control fencing in the southern African context and the migratory needs of free-ranging wildlife in the region and beyond”.

In Zimbabwe, with large populations of FMD-carrying buffalo, this has long been a major challenge. In the past, a massive amount of funding was spent on trying to keep buffalos and livestock separate and thousands of kilometers of fencing erected, in order to gain access to international markets. The European Union invested considerable sums in creating a zoned arrangement, with ‘disease free’, ‘buffer’ and ‘infected’ areas to allow exports to European markets under special agreements that existed under the Lome agreement. This was a lucrative trade for those beef farmers able to comply. However, it also excluded many beef producers in large parts of the country. In addition, it diverted huge amounts of aid funds, as well as government resources, in the inevitably vain attempt to create FMD disease freedom.

In southern Africa, where the FMD virus is endemic, this was an unscientific and expensive policy. But pressure from European nations and others in the OIE prevented any change in international regulatory policy until now, despite excellent arguments from African researchers, including from Zimbabwe, that safe trade alternatives exist. In many ways it was a scandal – a huge waste of time and public money, distorting markets and creating benefits for the few not the many in the name of ‘development’ and ‘aid’.

Now quarantine-based value chain approaches to beef production (also known as commodity-based trade) can become a routine option.  AHEAD Guidelines show how this policy change offers the unprecedented possibility of access to new beef markets for southern African livestock producers. As Osofsky says, it also “unlocks the potential for restoring migratory movements of wildlife and thus enhancing prospects for long-term wildlife populatioon viability within individual countries as well as in transboundary landscapes like the KAZA Transfrontier Conservation Area”.

As argued in earlier research convened by the ESRC STEPS Centre and supported by the Wellcome Trust, commodity-based trade for beef will help open up markets within Africa, as well as Asia, and  make these markets available for a wider range of producers. A journal article and associated commentaries mapped out the options. Complying with safe trade regulations requires upgrading value chain infrastructure and support, but it means that a small-scale livestock producer in the new resettlements or communal areas can now access high value markets, boosting ecoomic opportunity and improving livelihoods. Land reform has restructured markets as well as land, and the’ real markets‘ for beef allow multiple opportunities (see also our recent ‘making markets’ film on beef).  This policy change will therefore make a massive difference to people and economies across the region.

The old era of fencing and absurd and unachievable ‘disease free’ zones is now over, and we can now accept that livestock production in southern Africa must live with the FMD virus, but in a way that allows for safe trade and careful regulation. Sometimes the long, hard slog of evidence-based policy research does pay off, despite plenty of interests stacked against it. Congratulations to the 180 national members – and especially the African contingent – at the OIE Assembly!

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

 

 

 

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Why access to energy is crucial for economic growth and poverty reduction

Last week I was in Nairobi for a conference focused on ‘Low Carbon Africa’, discussing the diverse pathways to low carbon energy. Energy access is a key issue across the continent. Recently Kofi Annan launched the ‘Africa Progress Panel’ report that argued for a massive energy revolution in Africa, with the potential for technological leapfrogging to a low carbon future.

But the reality on the ground is less bright, and this imagined pathway to energy security through a universal-access, low carbon system is a way off. Load shedding is frequent even in major cities, and in rural areas off-grid have no access to electricity at all. Indeed, according to Cosmas Ochieng, Executive Director of the African Centre for Technology Studies, across Africa 620 million lack access to grid electricity. This has major impacts. Economic growth is fuelled by energy. In agriculture, electricity supply is crucial for many irrigation systems, and intermittent supply can result in disaster. But more fundamental life and death challenges arise. John Magrath of Oxfam commented in a blog from Zimbabwe, reflecting on these ground realities:

“I was talking to a nurse at a rural health centre who described how the cost of two candles can be a matter of health or hunger, or even life or death. The health centre had no electricity, so expectant mothers were told to bring two candles with them to provide light for their delivery. Two candles cost a dollar, which is the same cost as going to the mill to get your maize ground into meal for a family’s dinner. Lacking a dollar, mothers-to-be naturally prioritised feeding their children over buying candles, and as a result, often left it too late to reach the health centre and gave birth on the road, at night”.

Development agencies are now addressing energy poverty and access. The funding of low cost, decentralized, off-grid sustainable energy solutions – at health centres, in rural growth points, at irrigation schemes and at people’s homes – can make a huge difference. Innovations in technology and finance are crucial. This is driving down costs and making access to low carbon energy sources achievable for a wide number of people. The cost of solar panels, and lighting sources such as solar lanterns, has gone down dramatically in recent years.

Financing models have been revolutionized too. In Nairobi, we heard from Julius Kipng’etich, CEO for the leading and innovative Equity Bank, which now operates across six African countries, and with ten million customers. He talked about how lending needs to be defined by a ‘red line’ that means unsustainable industries will not get finance. Lending instead will be channeled only to sustainable activities. Sustainability is ‘not just CSR’, he says, but ‘the core business’ of the bank. He wants to ‘change the narrative’ about what a corporate does.

In our work in Zimbabwe, we have been amazed at the scale of investment in small-scale solar technologies. When we started tracking investment patterns in the new resettlement areas in the early 2000s, we didn’t even have solar panel purchases on our standard census questionnaire, as they barely existed. In 2012, we asked how many panels had been purchased by 280 A1 households in the five years before in our Masvingo sites, and a total of 170 panels were purchased, across 52% of households. Across 220 A1 households in Mazowe in 2014, 220 panels had been purchased in the past five years, and 74% of households had at least one solar panel. Within a few years, I predict that nearly every household will have access to electricity through low-cost solar technologies.

Access to solar electricity is transforming people’s lives. With lighting, kids can study for school after dark, stored energy can be used to help pump water, and of course mobile phones can be charged to facilitate agricultural marketing.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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Global land grabbing: some new resources

Those of you interested in land in Zimbabwe will be interested in what’s happening elsewhere in the world. This week’s blog focuses on some wider themes, and points you towards some useful new resources.

Last week 200 delegates assembled in Chiang Mai in Thailand for a major conference on land grabbing, conflict and agrarian-environment transformations in southeast Asia. It was co-organised by the Land Deal Politics Initiative (LDPI), a research network that I helped co-found. The conference marked the next step in this work, aiming to locate debates about land investment and agricultural commercialisation in regional contexts. Southeast Asia has been a focus of the global land rush in the period since the financial-food-energy crisis of 2008, but as elsewhere the dynamics of transformation have evolved in ways that are more complex than the original ‘land grab’ rhetoric.

Due to changes in commodity prices, challenges of infrastructure and investment and shifts in public and policy opinion, large-scale grabs have been less frequent than the ‘multiple pin pricks’ of changes in land use and ownership that have occurred as the new hubs of capital – in the southeast Asia case dominated by China – assert their influence in agrarian systems. The conference website has 68 papers already posted, and there were around 100 presentations on all dimensions of land and environmental change in the region at the event. Sadly I missed it, but with me you can find out what went on by checking out the papers and abstracts.

Boy Dominguez political reactions from below 2015 copy smallerAnother new set of resources comes in a special issue of the Journal of Peasant Studies (JPS) on land grabbing and ‘politics from below’. This emerged from the LDPI conference at Cornell a few years back. The collection documents the varied forms of resistance – active and more passive – that have occurred, and how this is refracted through local political dynamics. The special issue is free to download through a special link, which is available for the coming months. There are papers from Mexico, Guatemala, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Mozambique and many, many more. It is well worth a read. I was one of the editors, and the papers are really fascinating.

The themes of land and agrarian struggle are continued in two further JPS special issues that marked the journal’s 40th anniversary, and most articles are again free to download. As the journal with the top ‘impact factor’ in development studies and anthropology, it is increasingly seen as one of the key journals for debates on agrarian change. The anniversary issues include a series of new articles reflecting on new directions in agrarian political economy (lots of good articles – I was an editor on this one too!), as well as a dedicated issue on the controversial debates surrounding approaches to food sovereignty, including an excellent piece by Henry Bernstein, offering a ‘sceptical view’, one which I largely share.

Finally, advance notice for anyone with a particular interest in Africa, the book Africa’s Land Rush: Rural Livelihoods and Agrarian Change, edited by Ruth Hall, Dzodzi Tsikata and myself, will be out in a month or so, and includes chapters by African researchers from seven different countries. The research was carried out as part of the land theme of the Future Agricultures Consortium. It is published by James Currey in the African Issues series, and is available for advance order.

The ‘land grab’ debate continues to evolve. Unlike when we held the first LDPI-convened international land grab conference at Sussex in 2011, today there is much more empirical data, as witnessed by the veritable explosion of publications (what Carlos Oya calls the literature rush). This allows a more balanced assessment, and one that can differentiate patterns regionally, across types of agroecologies and crop types, and in relation to different forms of investment. Several years on, a different dynamic is evident, with a focus on the dynamics of agrarian capital, from diverse sources, on agricultural commercialisation, land dispossession and forms of conflict and resistance.

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

Picture credit: Painting by Boy Dominiguez for Journal of Peasant Studies special issue ‘Political Reactions from Below’

 

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Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs III: irrigators

Gardening has always been part of farming practice in Zimbabwe’s rural areas. Usually a small river bank plot, or an area near the home, has been planted with vegetables for home consumption. Few farmers in the communal areas scale up to more commercial operations, as horticulture requires inputs – notably water – and marketing at scale is always a challenge given the perishability of most vegetables. However in recent years in the new resettlements there has been a growth of small-scale commercial horticulture. This has arisen due to changes in the costs of irrigation technology, the availability of water, and the opportunities that changing markets post-land reform offer.

In the dryland settings of Masvingo, irrigation – particularly for horticultural crops – is essential. Yet state-led irrigation investment in Zimbabwe has been limited in recent years, despite the universally recognised priority. Instead, people have taken things into their own hands and are making use of low cost irrigation technology to set up irrigation systems in their farms and gardens. The expansion of small-scale irrigation has been substantial, and with this a variety of new horticultural production businesses.

In 2014 we undertook a survey of such commercial horticulture enterprises across our sites in Masvingo province. We identified 15 such enterprises of varying scales. Unlike the small ‘womens’ gardens’ that dominated vegetable production before, these were largely run by men, although always with strong involvement of their wives and other family members. There was often a gendered differentiation in roles, with women often engaged in processing of vegetables, including drying, while men oversaw the transport and sales of vegetables to town. There was a cluster of such enterprises discovered in the Wondedzo area, making use of the availability of water in the Muturikwi river and the proximity to Masvingo town for marketing.

One such irrigation entrepreneur has previously been profiled, and appears, along with his wives, in one of our films produced under the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development project. Below we offer two more case studies, illustrating some of the common patterns and challenges observed.

Case 1: I live in Clare A1 resettlement area. My irrigated area is about 1.5ha. I started this project early 2004. We used to have a co-operative garden back in the communal area, before we came to the resettlement, so I carried the project from there. I invested a lot in this business. We sold our one oxen which costs $700 and two sheep costing $80 each giving me a total of $860 from livestock sales. The other money came from my husband`s basic salary, as he is an extension worker. I started this project with capital of $3000. There were various costs including: land clearance ($200-00), pump purchase and its transport from Harare ($1200-00) and pipes including transport ($250-00). Later I also improved most of my structures and managed to construct a tank (costing $1105) and purchased another engine. I use my 10 horsepower diesel engine and 5 horsepower petrol engine in case of emergency. I bought them from Harare at ATM. I also bought some of my pipes in Masvingo at Irrigation Services in 2011 when I finished constructing my tank.

My plot has green maize (0.5ha), tomatoes (0.25ha), Potatoes (0.25ha), Onions (0.3ha) and Okra (0.2h). Costs include seed, fertiliser (both top and basal), pesticides, trellis and fence wire, and transport to get the inputs, from Masvingo or Gutu growth point – Farm and City or Masvingo Farm Supplies. I use family labour and one permanent worker who is paid $90 per month, but lives as a member of the family and eats with us, and he is provided accommodation too. At peak times I also hire in labour. For my temporary labourers I only pay $5 per day, and when weeding maize I pay them $1 per line of about 50m. For health and safety precaution I bought protective clothing like overalls, gloves, raincoat, masks, gumboots, when using chemicals at some time I also bought milk to drink after using chemicals. For protective clothing I supply my worker with a work suit for performing his duties.

My major products are sold to the local farmers and some to the nearby Rufaro boarding school, as well as at Chatsworth Township. It is very difficult for me to calculate the numbers sold per crop but what I really know is the cash I got from each crop is at least $500-00, meaning I earn about $2000 each year from the business. I usually produce crops at off-season to take advantage of increased demand and better prices.

Case 2: Presently I am using an area of about 0.8 hectares of my A1 farm in Wondedzo area for irrigation purposes which I started in August 2013. My water source for irrigation is the nearby Mutirikwi river. Currently I have one petrol pump – a 6.5 horse power Nexus model – which uses 75mm pipes and I use flood irrigation. So far I have only managed to grow two crops which are green mealies and tomatoes because I am still in the process of learning from others who have been irrigators before. But as time goes on and through exposure and training we get from Agritex (the extension agency), I shall venture into other crop production such as butternuts, potatoes, cabbages and carrots. The major market for my previous crop produce was Masvingo’s Chitima market, where I sold the bulk of produce. The next most important market was individual buyers in Rujeko township.

I invested about $600-00 into the project. I am a retired soldier, so I used my pension. The operations which include land clearance as well as fencing, was done by me and my family. I have one labourer who I pay $70 per month. Other benefits which we give to the employee include free accommodation and free food. I take him as my son because he shares accommodation with my sons. He eats what he wants to eat as a family member. For his health and safety, I give my employee gumboots, a work suit and face masks /respirators which he uses during production operations in the field. The costs for the project were barbed wire ($195), pump ($220) and piping ($380). I bought all these materials from N.J in Masvingo town.

Inputs for my 0.25ha maize (green mealies) crop include:

Seed-5kg =$12-00   source = Farm and City

1 x 50kg-AN=$36-00   source=Farm and City

Combat 250g=$5-00   source= Musa Hardware

Fuel 30 litres=$37-00 source= Service Station

Total expenditure – $90-00

For basal fertilizers, I use livestock manure to save cash. We sell green mealies in Masvingo Town`s Chitima market (5000 cobs), as well as vendors who come to the farm (1000 cobs) and about 750 cobs were sold locally. This fetched a gross income of about $2250, with the marketing period only lasted about 2 weeks at $1-00 for 3 cobs.

Inputs for the tomato crop include:

Seed 3400 seedlings=$75-00, source =Empire seed-Harare

Compound D 1x50kg=$33-00, manure, source=Farm supply- Masvingo

Top dressing 1x50kg =$36-00, source=Farm supply-Masvingo

Chemicals 50g Mancozeb=$7-00, source=Farm supply- Masvingo

400ml Lamdercure =$12-00, source=Farm supply-Masvingo

200g Acetamac=$4-00, source=Musa Hardware- Masvingo

Fuel 60 litres =$75-00, source=Service station

Total expenditure =$164-00

I managed to sell 49 crates in Masvingo Chitima market and earned a gross income of about $1135 and on average a crate of tomatoes was going for $23.

Some of the income obtained from the irrigation project we use it to pay children`s school fees as they learn in boarding schools which are a bit expensive. From the time we started the project we also got a little extra money to buy food during the drought and also for re-capitalisation purposes.

There are several challenges which I encounter in the project cycle which negatively affect my profits which include charges imposed by the city council for one to market produce at Chitima market; for example $1 per two hours for outside vendors. Transport here is also eroding much of our profits; for example $30 per single trip charged by local transporters. There are no storage facilities where we can rent over-night at the market, so sometimes we have to ship produce back to the farm.

In the future, I need to expand the size of the irrigable plot to about two hectares such that I will divide the land into four portions of 0.5 ha each in order to practise good rotation as well as increase production. I also need to buy another engine of a bigger size – 9.5 horsepower – to lessen the challenge of engine breakdowns. In order to market my produce I will need my own pickup truck.

A number of themes emerge from the examples of irrigation entrepreneurs we interviewed, highlighted by these two case studies:

  • Operations are relatively small, usually on 1-2 ha of land. Production is intensive, and often using significant amounts of chemicals
  • Irrigation is essential, but pressure on water sources is intense as horticulture takes off in an area.
  • The availability of cheap (Chinese) pumps has revolutionised the opportunities for irrigation. No longer is a ‘group garden’ approach required with a donor paying for the pump. These are all individual enterprises.
  • Entry costs (because of low pump prices especially) are relatively low, and can be afforded by a wide array of people, using crop/livestock sales or retirement/remittance income to get going.
  • Most are providing new employment, both permanent and temporary, although family labour dominates.
  • Crop diversity is limited (green maize and tomatoes dominate), with problems of production gluts, although some more established enterprises have begun to diversify, seeking out niche markets, and managing production to take advantage of seasonal production and price cycles.
  • Advice is sought from neighbours – particularly in the Wondedzo irrigation cluster – but also from Agritex, the government extension agency, who seem to be quite involved in horticulture production support.
  • Processing and added value sales (drying, pickling etc.) is limited, and sales are mostly fresh (with big problems of perishability at peak times)
  • Market access is crucial and it is the sites with smaller distances and good road connections (and relatively low transport costs) that take off.
  • Marketing includes sales at ‘town markets’ (both informal and those regulated by municipal councils), to vendors (who come to the farm to buy), to supermarkets (relatively few, and only those with transport who can provide in bulk in a timely manner), and to local consumers in the area.
  • Net income varies, but exceeds $1000 per annum in all cases, rising to perhaps $10000 or more. This income is significant in the wider livelihood portfolio.

The three blogs in this series have shown how the new resettlement areas post land reform are providing the context for a new dynamic of agricultural commercialisation. It is small scale, but is generating profits, supplying markets and providing employment. It does not involve everyone, as there are entry costs to each of these enterprises. Men certainly dominate pig and larger scale horticulture production, but broiler production also involves a significant number of women. In contrast to the ‘project’ focused development support of the past, these are mostly individual enterprises run by families, but hiring in labour. Technological innovation (and changing cost structures) – most dramatically around irrigation pumps – is important, as are input supply networks, product markets and transport linkages to ensure that produce is sold at good prices. Market connections often remain underdeveloped, and market costs (notably transport) and other challenges were frequently mentioned in interviews. Opportunities for added value production remain limited, and most entrepreneurs are only involved in primary production, rather than processing etc. Upgrading of enterprises is ongoing, and we have seen these grow over the years, and particularly since the stabilisation of the economy in 2009, when market interactions with a dollarized currency became possible.

The new agricultural entrepreneurs on the new resettlements are definitely a group worth watching, as the agrarian landscape continues to change in Zimbabwe’s rural areas. The new commerical agriculture is small-scale, dynamic and highly entrepreneurial, and is changing both production and markets.

This work was undertaken under the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development project, and the field research was led by BZ Mavedezenge and Felix Murimbarimba.

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

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Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs II: Poultry

Broiler production has really taken off in the new resettlements. This is on the back of a growth of poultry production more broadly in the country. This has seen a significant rebound as the poultry industry has restructured from large, high-tech operations to a much more diverse set of small production units. While a few large operations exist, including the well-established companies such as Irvines and Suncrest and some newcomers such as Lunar Chickens run by former Reserve Bank chief, Gideon Gono, most operations are much smaller. And this is the segment that is driving the new poultry industry in the rural areas.

In 2014 we did a survey across our 16 A1 and A2 sites across Masvingo province. We found 13 new broiler businesses, and one new egg production business. All were individual household based enterprises, except one group project. These complement the almost universal keeping of (mostly indigenous) chickens for meat and eggs. These operations stand out for their scale (most had around 50-100 birds), and the level of inputs required. Four cases are shared below:

Case 1: I am Mrs AM and am 44 yrs and live in Wondedzo. I started the poultry project in April 2013 with funds from farming. I started with 50 birds but numbers kept going up. At present I have 100 broilers. I employ a casual worker but my husband assists so do the work, as well as children when they are on holidays. Brolier rearing knowledge comes from several sources. My husband qualified as Ordinary Master Farmer. I also attend development meetings, field days and area shows. In the last 12 months the chicken budget was as below:

Input type Amount Cost $USD
Bought in broiler chicks 450 birds 450
Drugs    
Stress pack 900ml 27
ESB 3 900ml 153
Sulphur drug 900ml 45
OTCS 900ml 45
Feeds    
Broiler starter mash 450kgs 342
Concentrate 450kgs 315
Broiler finisher 2250kgs 1575
Transport Moving broilers in and outCarrying feeds 105
Total   2505

I source drugs and feeds from Masvingo town from shops that include Chifefe hardware, Metro Peach and Farm Supplies. Coccidiosis is the most common disease, which resulted in some mortalities. I sold 444 broiler units in the last 12 months. Some broilers were sold locally but most were sold in Masvingo town in Mucheke township, the ‘train market’ and food outlets all over town. Broiler income in the past 12 months is shown below

Market Broilers sold Amount
Masvingo Train Market 250 1750
Mucheke township 100 700
Food outlets 44 308
Local market 50 350
Total 444 3108

Marketing challenges include bad debtors and late debt repayments that negatively affect smooth running of the business. Some transporters charge steeply. Competition is stiff during public holidays at Christmas, Easter and Heroes’ Day. During such times I keep more broilers but try to quickly clear the stock to avoid extra feed costs. The urgency to sell quickly sometimes results in risky buyers easily getting birds on credit but taking their time to repay. Income from my broiler project was used to purchase day old chicks from Mitchells, paying school fees, groceries and buying clothes for the family. Future plans include building more chicken houses and establishing permanent markets which buy in bulk, such as boarding schools and Masvingo town hotels.

Case 2: We started our Wondedzo broiler group project in June 2013 with 25 day old chicks donated by the then aspiring MP for Masvingo North, Mr Marapira; now Deputy Minister of Agriculture. This was a God-send because we had always wanted to venture into a project to raise money for school fees, groceries and clothing for our families. Mr Marapira also provided feed and drugs to cover 10 birds up to marketing. We have not looked back and expanded the project housed at N’s homestead. . At present we have 50 birds. We operate the project on a roster basis providing our own labour. In the last 12 months the following costs were incurred:

Input type Amount Cost USD$
Day old chicks 100 100
Transporting broilers, feeds 75
Drugs    
Terramycin 300g 12
Stress pack 100g 10
Starter pack 400g 14
Feeds    
Broiler starter 125 kg 100
Concentrate 65 kg 49
Growers 150kg 108
Finisher 100 kg 76
Total   530

Inputs were sourced from Masvingo town shops, including Musa Hardware, Farm Supplies and Bilcro. When we buy day old 4 extra chicks are added per 100 to offset mortalities. In the last 12 months we sold 110 broilers as follows:

Market Broilers sold Amount USD$
Local farmers 74 518
Local shops 7 49
Project members 26 182
Sanangwe primary school teachers 3 21
Total 110 770

Profits are shared among members who use the money to cover family basic needs. Problems faced include lack of finance to build proper housing. At present we house the day old chicks in a mobile mesh wire cage. After two weeks we place them in a bigger fixed cage at home. Watering for the birds is a big challenge as water is fetched from Mutirikwe river 2 km away. We want to expand and reach out to boarding schools, supermarkets and food outlets in Masvingo town.

Case 3: My name is Mr M. I work as a labourer on this A2 farm in Northdale with 3 others. I manage their broilers in addition to other work I do at this farm which includes horticulture, managing cattle and a piggery which has just started. The broiler project started in 2013. The farmer decided they could make better money from some of their maize produce through feeding it to broilers and selling meat instead of grain. Another reason for keeping broilers was the quick turn over in this kind of business. It takes just six weeks for a batch to get marketable. A minimum of 100 and a maximum of 700 broilers are kept at the farm at different times from 2013. The last batch had 400 broilers and only 36 remain. Mr M himself does the purchasing of broilers feeds and chemicals. Inputs are bought from Pro Feeds and Masvingo Farm Supplies. Straight feeds such as broiler starter mash are complimented by mixes of concentrates and home grown maize. Breakdown of inputs for a 100 batch of broilers is shown in below:

Input Quantity Cost USD$
Broilers 100 100
Broiler starter mash 4 x 50 kg bags 136
Concentrate 4 x 50 kg bags 148
Home grown maize 24 buckets 96
Transport 60
Stress pack 1 kg 8
OTC 200g 10
Sulphur demidine 400g 16
Total   574

The broiler value chain involves raising them here at the farm and selling meat at their Njeremoto Superette in Masvingo town. I am not privy to selling prices in Masvingo but I think they fetch around USD$8 per bird. Here on farms locals in Northdale and Salem also buy some live broilers at the farmgate at USD$7 each. Some income from broilers returns to the farm as our wages. The four of us earn USD$150 each. Some of the money gets ploughed back into business – purchase of new broiler stock, buying feeds and drugs.

Challenges faced by the broiler business were mostly the high price of concentrate feeds and transport costs to market. Masvingo is more than 60 kms away. Mr M owns a pickup truck. Diseases are not a problem here because Mr M is a former Agritex head with vast experience. Diseases get controlled quickly before they spread. The Ms want to scale up broiler production by increasing numbers in batches from 100 to 200. More broiler pens will be built. They also want to send me for training courses on broiler management.

Case 4: My name is SM from A1 Lonely Farm in Gutu district. We started the project together with my wife in 2013. Keeping of egg layers has improved our household nutrition. We always have eggs for breakfast now. We decided to go into egg production as a way of diversifying our farm enterprises. The idea came from our cousin Mr M who sourced the 6 month old 100 point of lay pullets for us paying USD$500 dollars of his own money. We later repaid him over some months. We also gave him some maize bags in appreciation.My wife and I worked on the project at first but we recently employed a farm worker who we pay USD$80 per month. We built a house for the layers and when necessary collect grass used to spread in the deep layer system we use. Water is available from our high yielding well at the homestead. We purchase some straight feeds and concentrates which we mix with home grown maize at a ratio of two parts concentrate to three parts crushed maize. Inputs for two months are in table below:

Input Quantity Unit cost USD$ Cost USD$
Layers Mash 300 kg 6 / 50 kg 204
Concentrate 200 kg 38 /50 kg 152
Combivit M A 5
Maize 450 kg 10/ 50kg 90
Vitamins 4 packets 5 / packet 20
Total     471

We pick three crates of eggs per day which we sell at USD$5 each or USD$15 per day or USD$400 per month. A crate contains 30 eggs. During school days, Rufaro boarding high school serves as a ready market. Business is down during school holidays. At that time the market is composed of local farmers and few teachers remaining at the school. In a year we gross above USD$4000. Money realised goes to school fees, groceries, purchase of feeds for layers and buying agricultural inputs. Challenges are the high cost of concentrate feeds and bad debtors. Future plans are to increase flock sizes and number of layer pens. We also want scale up our horticulture. Manure from layers provides fertility to the garden.

Case 5: My name is Mrs M from Clare farm in Gutu district. My husband died recently. The project started in 2011 with seed money sent by our son who works in America. We employ two permanent workers for the project and other general farm work. They earn USD$80 per month each. We keep a minimum of 100 broilers and a maximum of 300. Expenses for the last batch of 300 birds are in table below:

Input Quantity Cost USD $
Day old chicks 300 300
Broiler starter mash 300 kg 204
Concentrate 500 kg 360
Maize for crushes 30 buckets 90
Stress pack I Kg 8
OTC 200 g 10
Sulphur demidine 400 g 16
Total   988

We buy day old chicks from Tree Wood in Masvingo town and feeds from Pro Feeds also in Masvingo town. Small amounts of inputs are bought from Chatsworth shops. The major market is Rufaro boarding school where most of the broilers were sold for USD$7 each followed by local farmers, Business is brisk during public holidays. We sold 457 broilers in the last 12 months which realised USD$3199. The family ate 25 broilers and 16 died of diseases. During the rainy season and cold weather chicks develop problems of weak legs due to lack of sunlight. Unfortunately most of the money was used to pay hospital bills for my late husband. Main challenges apart from the loss of my husband include the high cost of bought feeds and the cost of transporting these to the farm. My future plan is to build good housing for broilers, increase flock size and venture into new markets such as restaurants and supermarkets.

A number of themes emerge:

  • Organisation and ownership of the businesses: arrangements are quite varied – from very small operations (25-50 birds) to quite large (400-700 birds).
  • Women are much more involved than in the piggery projects profiled last week. Group efforts have taken off too.
  • Start-up finance has been crucial. This has come from a variety of sources, including remittances, and campaign gifts from prospective politicians.
  • Inputs, including feed and veterinary medicines are important input costs, with links to reliable supply chains essential
  • Cross-links with other farm activities are important – including supplying food and delivering manure for gardens.
  • Infrastructure upgrading is occurring as people scale up, especially building new poultry housing.
  • Employment generation is happening, but on a small scale.
  • Markets are largely informal and local, but some are supplying to urban supermarkets and institutions (such as boarding schools etc.).
  • Links to day old chick producers are key – and the presence of the Mitchell’s farm operation in Masvingo is an essential part of the wider chain. This is a large-scale white owned farm that is widely valued by people across the region, because of this.

This work was undertaken under the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development project, and the field research was led by BZ Mavedezenge and Felix Murimbarimba.

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

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