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The Drivers of Maize Area Expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa. How Policies to Boost Maize Production Overlook the Interests of Smallholder Farmers


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Maize has become the second most produced crop in the world. Specifically, in sub-Saharan Africa, global statistics show that more and more land is being used for (small-scale) maize production to meet future food demands. From 2007 to 2017, the area on which maize is grown in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by almost 60%. This rate of expansion is considered unsustainable and is expected to come at the expense of crop diversity and the environment. Based on available literature, this paper explores the political and economic processes that contributed to the increased use of land for maize production in sub-Saharan Africa. It discusses population growth as an important driver. Moreover, it unravels some of the politics and narratives triggered by climate change that have paved the way for policy measures that aimed to boost maize production in the region. These measures, which often emphasize the need for increased production, the need for new technologies and resource scarcity, overlook the largest group of maize producers that are least powerful, but most crucial for food security in sub-Saharan Africa: smallholder farmers.
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Land 2020, 9, 68; doi:10.3390/land9030068
The Drivers of Maize Area Expansion in Sub-Saharan
Africa. How Policies to Boost Maize Production
Overlook the Interests of Smallholder Farmers
Romy Santpoort
The Netherlands Land Academy, Utrecht University, 3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands;
Received: 15 January 2020; Accepted: 15 February 2020; Published: 28 February 2020
Abstract: Maize has become the second most produced crop in the world. Specifically, in sub-
Saharan Africa, global statistics show that more and more land is being used for (small-scale) maize
production to meet future food demands. From 2007 to 2017, the area on which maize is grown in
sub-Saharan Africa has increased by almost 60%. This rate of expansion is considered unsustainable
and is expected to come at the expense of crop diversity and the environment. Based on available
literature, this paper explores the political and economic processes that contributed to the increased
use of land for maize production in sub-Saharan Africa. It discusses population growth as an
important driver. Moreover, it unravels some of the politics and narratives triggered by climate
change that have paved the way for policy measures that aimed to boost maize production in the
region. These measures, which often emphasize the need for increased production, the need for new
technologies and resource scarcity, overlook the largest group of maize producers that are least
powerful, but most crucial for food security in sub-Saharan Africa: smallholder farmers.
Keywords: land use change; maize; political economy; food security
1. Introduction
One of the most important global challenges of our time is meeting future food needs and
tackling hunger and malnutrition in a context of climate change and growing populations. In 2017,
821 million people experienced hunger or malnutrition, which equals one out of nine people in the
world. This number is still increasing, especially in Africa [1]. Climate change and frequent climate
extremes are considered key drivers of increasing food insecurity in vulnerable areas and are
expected to only exacerbate the problem in the future [2,3]. Increasing temperatures and droughts
have been found to have a negative impact on the production of sub-Saharan Africa’s most important
staple crop, maize [2,4] and are expected to have severe impact on people’s food security [5]. ‘Zero
Hunger’, as the second of the sustainable development goals, and the recent publication of a report
on Land and Climate Change by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [6], show
that food security and more climate resilient agricultural practices (target 2.4) are high on the
international policy agenda.
Maize has become the second most produced crop in the world. Specifically, in sub-Saharan
Africa, more and more land is used for maize production. From 2007 to 2017, the area on which maize
is grown in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by almost 60% [7]. While the crop is mostly grown by
smallholder farmers, maize is among the crops for which many land deals across the world have been
made. These land deals contributed to the increasing share of land used for maize production [8].
Although, as of yet, little research has been conducted into large-scale production of the crop in sub-
Saharan Africa, the current rate of area expansion is considered unsustainable and is expected to be
at the expense of crop diversity and the environment [9].
Land 2020, 9, 68 2 of 14
Based on available literature, this paper will elaborate on the political and economic processes
that contributed to the increased use of land for food production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA),
particularly maize. What has driven investments in land for maize expansion? Section two of this
paper will further elaborate on the importance of maize and the significant expansion of the crop in
recent years in relation to the growing demand for it in SSA, driven mostly by population growth.
Section three will explore how fewer tangible phenomena like climate change politics [10] and
narratives of scarcity [11] can lead to, shape, and contribute to the land-based investments and their
outcomes and form the basis for some of the policies and market instruments used by large
international, regional, and national actors (discussed in Section 4) to regulate the maize sector and
push for increased production of maize. I argue that these policies and instruments tend to neglect
the interests of the largest group of maize producers, namely smallholder farmers.
In addition to this literature study, three months of fieldwork within selected maize growing
areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda will explore the politics, drivers, and outcomes that shape the
expansion of maize production in sub-Sahara Africa’s food system, as well as its effects on local food
systems. This paper is part of an empirical study conducted by the Netherlands Land Academy
(LANDac), based at Utrecht University, in collaboration with the International Maize and Wheat
Improvement Center (CYMMIT), on the political economy of land-based investments in maize and
their impact on local livelihoods in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.
2. Background
2.1. Maize expansion in sub-Saharan Africa
In a relatively short period of time, maize has become the main staple crop in many parts of sub-
Saharan Africa. After epidemics of common staple foods (like millet) in the early 1900s, colonial
governments introduced and promoted white maize as a subsistence and cash crop, because it is easy
to grow and process [12]. In his book Maize and Grace, James McCann argues that because of these
characteristics, maize ‘is the ultimate “legible” food and crop, one that holds attraction for ambitious
governments enamored with large-scale projects [13] (p. 205). McCann refers to the concept of
‘legibility’ by James Scott who defined it as the pursuit of modern governments to simplify people
and nature to make them better ‘readable’ and easily governable [14]. This is not to say that the quick
adoption of maize on the African continent happened only because of state intervention. Carefully
selecting the appropriate crops and varieties each season, farmers rapidly incorporated the high-
yielding crop into their farming practices [13]. As a result, today, maize is one of the most important
staple crops, mostly grown by smallholder farmers for food. In Eastern and Southern Africa
(excluding South Africa), maize accounts for 19% of the average calorie intake per capita and the
demand for the crop as food will only be increasing [7,8], also as a consequence of population growth.
In recent years, more and more maize was produced across the world and according to the latest
statistics published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), maize has become the second
most produced crop after sugar cane [15].
2.2. A Growing Demand for Maize
The increase in maize production and the expansion of land on which it is grown goes hand-in-
hand with the growing global demand for the crop, for food, livestock feed, and as biofuel feedstock.
Unlike high-income countries, where more than 70% of maize is grown for livestock feed, in sub-
Saharan Africa, more than two-thirds of produced maize is grown for human consumption [9,16].
The annual Global Agricultural Outlook, published by the Organization for Economic Co-operation
and Development (OECD) and the FAO [15], point out two main drivers for an increase in demand
for agricultural products: population dynamics and per-capita demand growth. In other contexts,
because maize is often used as animal feed, an increase in demand is often associated with an increase
in the demand for meat. Over the years, this has been the main reason for rapid maize expansion, for
example, in China. Although meat consumption is expected to increase in SSA by 25% in the next
decades, incomes are not expected to increase significantly and make meat consumption more widely
Land 2020, 9, 68 3 of 14
accessible. On the contrary, per-capita, meat consumption is expected to decline slightly [15].
According to the OECD/FAO, population dynamics in Africa drive most growth of projected food
use, attributing 90% of the expansion of cereals to population growth [15]. Therefore, because maize
is mostly produced for food, the growing demand for maize is closely linked to the growing
population in SSA. Processes of late, but rapid urbanization in SSA have also contributed to the
increased need for cereals, including maize [1,2,13,16]. In 2007, McCann [13] (p. 214) points out the
appearance of maize in urban agriculture and the potential benefits of this new form of artisanal
farming. Preliminary findings from our recent field study; however, indicate that smallholder
farmers in urban and peri-urban areas are increasingly displaced and maize production in these areas
has become difficult because of high land prices and the ever-expanding cities [17].
New uses of the crop, besides food and feed have emerged over the past decades that have been
driven by the contemporary narrative around climate change. Across the world, maize has been
increasingly used for ‘new’ purposes as a so-called ‘flex crop’. Borras, Franco, Isakson, Levidow, and
Vervest [18] define flex crops as crops that have dimensions of ‘multiple-ness’ and ‘flexible-ness’.
Multiple-ness, according to the authors, refers to the multiple uses of the crop (e.g., for food and
livestock feed). `Flexible-ness’ means that the use of a crop can be easily changed for different
products (like corn oil or flour). The combination of multiple-ness and flexible-ness make a product
more valuable and attractive for large investments [18]. Especially in high-income countries, maize
is used as biofuel feedstock, mainly for ethanol production, driven by policies. With policy agendas
across the world being more focused on energy use from renewable sources, the growing demand
for biofuels in the US, Europe, and China led to an increasing demand for cereals of more than 120
million tons of mostly maize. This contributed to historical worldwide production levels of the crop
in 2017 [1]. Although, further growth of maize production for biofuel feedstock is not expected in
developed countries (where policies do not allow for biofuel feedstock expansion and put a halt on
the demand), the FAO predicts that expansion of biofuel feedstock production in the global South
will continue in the coming years, because several policies have been put in place that stimulate the
use and increased production of biofuel [1]. Examples from sub-Saharan Africa include Kenya’s
Biofuel policy [19] and Uganda’s Biofuels Bill [20]. It is, however, not clear whether maize, mostly
grown as smallholder (food) crop in SSA, will be the main feedstock for ethanol or if the focus will
be on crops such as sugarcane, oil palm, or rapeseed for biodiesel. In many countries in SSA, maize
is prohibited to be exported outside the region or to be used for other purposes than food or feed.
Uganda’s Biofuels Bill, for example, states several times that biofuel production licenses will only be
granted if feedstock production does not endanger the country’s food security, although maize is
appointed as a potential feedstock [20]. In South Africa, maize, being an important food crop, is
banned from being used as biofuel feedstock.
2.3. Changes in Land-use for Maize Production
Whereas most increases in cereal production across the world have been the result of gains in
yield, the increase in maize production in Sub-Saharan Africa was, and is expected to be the result of
an expansion of harvested land [21,22]. This is not a surprise, when considering that the area
harvested for maize in sub-Saharan Africa (excluding South Africa) increased with nearly 60% over
the past decade [7], see Table 1. The significant area expansion of maize means that from 2007–2017,
over 12 million hectares of land across SSA has been acquired and/or converted to produce maize for
food [7].
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Table 1. Maize harvested area 2007–2017 in hectares.
Southern Africa
(excl. S-A)
Total sub-Saharan
Harvested area
2007 12.586.705 3.749.376 216.131 7.749.768 24.301.980
Harvested area
2017 16.737.314 6.861.763 336.736 12.947.199 36.883.012
Total increase 4.150.609 3.112.387 120.605 5.197.431 12.581.032
Increase in 10
years 33% 83% 56% 67% 60%
Source: FAOSTAT (2019):
For a long time, maize has been produced by smallholder farmers. But the literature suggests
that more and more large-scale land-based investments have been made to produce maize and other
food crops. Based on available data from the Land Matrix, a global land acquisition observatory,
maize is among the crops for which most large-scale land deals are made [8]. As shown in Table 2,
the Land Matrix has documented a total of 538 land deals made (partly) for the purpose of maize
production over the past two decades. From those land deals, 174 were made in sub-Saharan Africa.
Table 2. Number of land deals for maize production.
Target Region Number of Maize Deals
Eastern Europe 239
Africa 174
Latin America 98
Asia 27
Source: adapted from Land Matrix data (
In the context of the recent maize expansion in SSA, the data presented by the Land Matrix is
useful for identifying trends and provides in indication of the number and size of large-scale land
deals. However, it does not provide the full picture. Much has been written about the socio-economic
impact of large-scale land acquisitions on the livelihoods of local groups. These acquisitions are often
called ‘land grabs’ because of the negative impact associated with them. Many scholars and NGOs
aimed to get a better insight into the scale and impact of these acquisitions. Because large-scale land-
based investments often imply land use change (from, for example, food crops by smallholder
farmers to export-oriented crops by large companies), numerous studies from different localities in
sub-Saharan Africa and beyond, associate these investments with the risk of displacement, loss of
livelihoods, increased poverty, and food insecurity for local groups. At the same time, these local
groups do not share the economic benefits of the investments [23–25]. In addition, increasingly,
studies revealed the gendered impacts of the investments and show the severe impacts they can have
on the livelihoods of women specifically [26,27].
While many of these studies rightfully uncover the negative impacts that can go hand-in-hand
with these land acquisitions and call for more responsible investments, others have criticized the
findings and methodologies of those researching the impacts of large-scale land acquisitions and
stress the importance of rigor. For example, Oya [28] reflects on the use of databases that capture
large-scale land deals. The non-governmental organization GRAIN and the International Land
Coalitions’ Land Matrix have compiled datasets that provide insight into large-scale land acquisitions
that comprise over 200 hectares or more in low- and middle-income countries. Although the
databases are useful to gain insight into a large number of deals and their scale, they are far from
complete and several scholars have indicated the limitations of using these databases. For example,
data collection is often based on media reports and crowdsourcing, which can result in a bias towards
a particular region (mostly Africa) or actors (like China) [29–31] and exclude fully domestic
acquisitions [32]. Some authors also indicate that many studies which focus on large-scale land
Land 2020, 9, 68 5 of 14
acquisitions make use of problematic, and sometimes false dichotomies. By using dichotomies such
as ‘small versus large’, ‘national versus domestic’, and ‘subsistence versus market-oriented’, there are
risks of oversimplifying complex realities on the ground. At the same time, they imply a preference
for small, national, and subsistence [28]. According to Borras and Franco [29], this has resulted in a
dominant discourse about the recent boom in land acquisitions that describes the acquisitions as
generally transnational and shady in character; leading to displacement or dispossession of small
farmers; implying land use change away from food production; and mostly driven by Asian
investors, among other things. However, by using this characterization, ‘certain aspects of the current
global land grabbing are not fully captured nor sufficiently contextualized by it’, the authors argue
[29] (p. 38). For example, it does not consider land use changes other than from food to non-food (e.g.,
from food to food or non-food to food) and differences in the direction in which land is being
transferred other than from smallholder farmers to foreign investors (e.g., from the state towards
farmers or from farmers to other farmers). This argument is supported by studies undertaken by,
among others, Jayne et al. based on nationally representative data that suggest a fast growing, but
underreported number of medium scale farmers (owning between 5–100 hectares) across Ghana,
Kenya, Tanzania, and Zambia, that outweighs the land covered by national and foreign international
farms [33]. Other studies have used econometric modelling to identify a positive effect of this rise of
medium-scale farms on household incomes (excluding the poorest households) in Tanzania [34].
The current rate of area expansion for maize production is not considered a sustainable way
forward. After all, land is an exhaustive resource and the associated land-use change is expected to
have negative impacts on crop diversity and forest conservation [9]. First, the expansion of maize
increasingly substitutes other (traditional) crops [13]. This increases farmers’ vulnerability on a
household level, as well as for the food system [6]. Research has shown that farmers who diversify
their crops are more resilient to climate change and better maintain soil fertility, for example in
Ethiopia [35], where land use for maize more than doubled in the past decades [36]. Dan Taylor [37]
studied the consequences of maize replacing resilient farming systems based on drought-resistant
sorghum and millet in Southern Africa, which demonstrates the complex effects of maize substituting
traditional crops. The author shows that a shift towards the cultivation of maize also means the
abandonment of an agricultural and social system that was organized around the cultivation of
sorghum, which must be protected from birds at key moments. Furthermore, cultivating maize and
abandoning the traditional agricultural system may also mean ‘de-agrarianization’ and
commodification [37] (p. 63). Second, cropland is often at the expense of forestland. Mostly driven by
the increased need for agricultural products due to urbanization [38,39], it is known that deforestation
has severe ecological consequences (e.g., carbon emissions, land degradation) as well as social
consequences for the people who depend on land for food and other resources. Ordway, Asner and
Lambin [40] found that from 2000 to 2015, maize expanded faster than any other crop in SSA. The
authors argue that the rapid expansion of these commodity crops, including maize for national use
as well as non-food crops for the international market, place increased pressure on tropical forests in
SSA. Thus, the major area expansion of the maize, as discussed above, invites further research in the
investors, their drivers, incentives, and the implications of the investments for smallholder farmers.
From a political economy perspective, the remainder of this paper will explore the drivers of the
maize area expansion and investments in maize in sub-Sahara Africa, starting with climate change
politics and narratives. 1
3. Climate Change Politics and Narratives
The foreseen effects of climate change in combination with population growth have triggered
governments and donors to invest in the quick expansion of maize in terms of land use (through
1 An additional 3-month qualitative fieldwork in major maize growing areas in Ethiopia, Kenya
and Uganda will explore the type of investments and their impacts on local livelihoods. Findings of
the study are forthcoming.
Land 2020, 9, 68 6 of 14
land-based investments) as well as investments in technology and increased yields (through
agricultural policies), with the ultimate aim to increase production and make maize varieties more
climate resilient. There is a general consensus, again confirmed by the latest report on climate change
and land by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, that urgent action is necessary to
transform the current food systems and ensure future food security [6]. However, to realize systemic
transformation, it is important to understand the structures, ideas, politics, and narratives that feed
into current practices. Therefore, before discussing some of the policy measures that may directly
contribute to the current trend of maize expansion, this section will first discuss less visible politics
and contemporary discourses that emerged in response to climate change and the need for food
security that shape and lead to the policy measures and investments discussed in Section 4. These
narratives and politics that have emerged from the notion of climate change, especially those
informally constituted, may be less visible, but not less important because of their impacts on the way
natural resources are accessed, used, and controlled by different actors [10].
In the following, this paper will discuss narratives of scarcity [11] and climate change politics [10] as
two different, but closely, related phenomena discussed in recent academic literature that reflect on
the politics that take place in the international arena related to climate change and food security. In
addition, in line with Borras and Franco, I argue that these processes described by the authors
indirectly drive many of the aforementioned policies in the maize sector in SSA and contribute to the
expansion of maize in SSA.
3.1. Climate Change Politics
Franco and Borras [10] elaborate on the concept of climate politics, defined as ‘the dynamics
within and between the implicated spheres of social structures, institutions, and political agency (…)
within the state and in society that set and shape the meanings of climate change, its causes and
consequences, how it can be addressed, by whom, where, and when [10] (p. 192). On one hand,
climate change politics thus may involve formal policies or projects initiated by the state or
multilateral organizations to adapt to or mitigate the effects of climate change. For example, as a
result of population growth and the need for more food, national governments in the region strive
for food self-sufficiency through policies and politics that stimulate farmers to grow more maize and
optimize yields or encourage large-scale land-based investments [41]. These include policies
discussed in Section 4. On the other hand, informal politics may take place that are less visible, but
not less real, like land speculation [10].
Franco and Borras elaborate on three ways in which climate change politics can drive changes
in food systems and land-use change in particular. A first example is the rise of flex crops [18], already
discussed in Section 2.2., that has triggered land grabs and indirect land-use change. Flex crops would
not have been produced on such a large scale in the global South today if they had not been driven
by different (EU and US) policies in response to climate change. Second and most relevant for this
paper, for many years, states and donors aimed to ‘stop some forms of agrarian production systems
and ways of life, especially shifting cultivation, pastoralism, and some forms of artisanal fishing (…)’
[10] (p. 194) because they were deemed unsustainable, unproductive, or even environmentally
destructive. This has formed the basis of the recent notions of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), a set
of agricultural strategies that emphasize increased productivity, increased resilience, and reduced
emissions through industrial farming and technological advancement [34]. Third, climate change
politics can have trans-local effects on land investments: although climate mitigation or adaptation
projects may avoid a land investment in one place, the investor may just move to a nearby place [10].
3.2. Narratives of Scarcity
As part of climate change politics, Scoones, Smalley, Hall, and Tsikata [11] elaborate on
contemporary narratives that shape and contribute to the outcomes of land investments. More
specifically, the authors describe the role of ‘narratives of scarcity’. Recognizing that scarcities do
exist, the authors point out that the contemporary framing of resource scarcity (like food and land)
“are presented as a deliberate political strategy, justifying resource control, appropriation,
Land 2020, 9, 68 7 of 14
dispossession, population restrictions and the securing of exclusionary property rights” [11] (p. 231).
Based on an analysis of 135 frequently cited documents on the global land rush, the authors identified
four narratives of scarcity constructed by international organizations, African regional organizations,
investors/financiers, and agribusinesses. They show how these narratives have affected the direction
and outcomes of investments in land.
The first narrative, ‘limits and urgency’ shows commonalities with (neo-)Malthusian perspective
on absolute scarcity and tells a story of a major challenge that is very urgent: feeding billions of people
in the future with limited resources. The second narrative is that of abundance, emptiness, and under-
use, particularly that of land in sub-Saharan Africa, to justify land investments. This narrative frames
land in SSA as underutilized and ‘empty’, with high potential. The third narrative suggests a technical
and investment solution to the problem of scarcity, proposing new technologies and agricultural
intensification [11]. An example of this narrative can be found in the OECD/FAO agricultural outlook:
“Improved seed varieties will continue to drive increases in yield and the increasing number of
commercial farms, particularly in Africa and the Black Sea region, will facilitate access to new
technologies, including machinery and extension services. Large farms could also improve
productivity, particularly through more efficient use of inputs such as fertilizers and farm chemicals”.
[15] (p. 126)
This narrative is very much in line with thinking about the green revolution (also discussed in
Section 4.1). Within this narrative, the difference between potential and actual yields (the yield gap)
in SSA is often discussed. The latter two narratives are often applied in relation to maize production,
as shows in a report from the World Bank, Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness [42]:
“Most African countries have a comparative advantage in agriculture. Africa has more than half
of the world’s agriculturally suitable yet unused land, and its impressive water resources have
scarcely been tapped. Although rapidly growing local and regional markets could be partly and
efficiently sourced from imports, Africa’s abundant natural resources and exploitable yield gaps
(figure C), and an improving investment climate open major opportunities on the supply side, too.”
[42] (p. xvi).
In the text, Figure C shows major maize yield gaps in Malawi, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda, and
Mozambique, see also [43,44]. The fourth and final narrative described by Scoones et al. [11]
emphasizes comparative global opportunities and Africa’s potential contribution in ‘feeding the
world’. Briefly summarized, all narratives emphasize the unused potential of land and resources in
sub-Saharan Africa, while at the same time proposing mostly technical solutions. They do so, the
authors argue, without including the political nature of scarcity, how scarcity can be ‘manufactured’,
through contestations between different interest groups and can be affected by (historically rooted)
inequalities and class differences [11].
4. Policies to Boost Maize Production
The politics and narratives described above have contributed to shaping the way that land and
food production is governed by the international community and national governments and feed
into international, regional, and national politics and policies that have had major effects on the way
maize is grown, traded, and consumed in sub-Saharan Africa. For a long time, governments have
aimed to regulate and control the production and trade of maize across SSA in different ways through
policy measures [45]. Without aiming to be exhaustive, this section will provide examples of such
measures and policies in different countries. First, on an international level, it will discuss the call for
a new green revolution in Africa that can still be recognized in many policy interventions within the
maize sector in SSA. Second, this section will discuss regional trade and country policies in SSA that
play an important role. Third, this section will discuss the role of policy instruments that use subsidies
to encourage maize production and a stable market. Despite their differences, research points out
that overall, these widely used policy measures seem to structurally leave behind the interests of the
poorest and largest group of smallholder farmers and are often mostly beneficial to the (political)
elites and large producers.
Land 2020, 9, 68 8 of 14
4.1. A green Revolution in Africa
In line with the third narrative elaborated upon by Scoones et al. [11], for many years until today,
policies, investments, and projects have been directed towards technical fixes and modernization to
increase agricultural production of maize and other food crops in SSA. For example, in the Global
Agricultural Outlook 2019 [15] , the OECD/FAO argues for policy measures directed to new
technologies, extension services, large farms, and more efficient use of inputs to boost future
productivity of food production [15]. A focus on boosting productivity and promoting technology
and agricultural intensification is not a new strategy referred to by the international (donor)
community. Many politicians, donors and scholars have called for a new green revolution in Africa,
referring to a period between the 1940s and 1970s during which mainly the United States and
philanthropic organizations (led by the Rockefeller Foundation) funded intensive agricultural
developments in the form of, among others, research, technology (hybrid seeds) and inputs
(fertilizers) that focused mainly on boosting productivity. This indeed led to record harvests in many
countries in Latin America and Asia where new technologies were adapted [46,47] and food
production grew faster than the population [48]. In debates about the green revolution, critics
acknowledge the success of the green revolution in developing new technologies and high-yielding
varieties, but argue that that it did not assist the world in producing sufficient food to eradicate
hunger [49] and did not consider inequality and distribution of food [50]. In addition, James Scott
also describes the effects of green revolution interventions on the rich and poor that enlarged
inequalities [14].
Several authors describe how the green revolution ‘bypassed’ Africa, because of a different mix
of crops and varying climatic and agro-ecologic conditions [51,52] in addition to poor infrastructure,
political instability, and a lack of institutional support [53] and the absence of social mobilization in
Africa [54]. However, Patel [47] and an independent evaluation of the World Bank [55] point out that
most African governments were, at the time, heavily indebted and subjected to the World Bank’s
structural adjustment programs that focused on market liberalization, export, and phasing out
subsidies for services better provided by the private sector. Their tight budgets simply did not allow
the subsidies and costs associated with the green revolution. However, despite this ‘bypassing’, many
donors and countries have implemented policies that are aligned with green revolution thinking that
focus on boosting productivity through the adoption of new varieties, more intensive use of chemical
fertilizers, and the formalization of land tenure.
In response to the green revolution and the call for a new green revolution in Africa, many critics
have argued that this approach does not consider political, economic and social factors (e.g., the
aforementioned inequality and food distribution) that play an important role in food systems.
Countering the green revolution ideologies and a definition of food security that ignores power,
ownership and control over the food system, in the 1990s, International Farmer’s Movement Via
Campesina introduced the concept of ‘food sovereignty’, defined in short as ‘the right of peoples to
healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable
methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems [56]. Although food
sovereignty nowadays has gained momentum and place in international debates about food systems,
as well as in the recently published IPCC report on Climate Change and Land [6], green revolution
thinking and policies are still relevant today and contribute to a push by powerful actors towards
increased production and agricultural intensification by, for example, stimulating transformation
from traditional farming systems based on polyculture and subsistence towards the adoption of
modern farming systems: the outcomes of which are not only positive. In line with findings of Scott
[14], Dawson, Martin, and Sikor [57] who critically analyzed policies in Rwanda that aim to formalize
land tenure and regulate farming practices (e.g., towards the adoption of hybrid seeds, subsidized
chemical inputs, and credit schemes) and concluded that the measures increased inequality and
contribute to increased landlessness, poverty, and food insecurity, especially among the poorest
Land 2020, 9, 68 9 of 14
4.2. Regional Trade Policies and Export bans
Several countries in SSA where maize is the main staple crop, including Kenya, Mozambique,
Rwanda, and Zimbabwe, are generally maize deficit and depend on imports from surplus countries
like Uganda and Tanzania [58]. Officially, regional organizations like the South African Development
Community (SADC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) promote
free trade in the region, but several policies and national interests restrict free trade of food
commodities. An important example is the use of export bans that (temporarily) prohibit formal trade
of maize with other countries, to ensure the domestic availability of food, but also to ensure a stable
food price mostly for consumers. While a thorough analysis of these policies is beyond the scope of
this paper, the assumption is that these policies can contribute to more stable and lower food prices
for consumers, because maize remains within the country to be sold. Porteous [59] identified 13
export bans over ten years in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, and Zambia. In an exploration of
the effects of those export bans, the author concludes that rather than stabilizing the prices, export
bans seem to “destabilize markets, leading to increases in both domestic prices and domestic price
volatility” [59] (p. 26), possibly because an export ban encourages traders to store maize, leading to
an increase in price in both origin and destination countries. Furthermore, Diao and Kennedy [60]
argue that export bans may slightly benefit urban elites through lower consumer prices, but are more
likely to harm the rural poor through decreased prices for producers. This causes poverty rates to rise
and has a negative effect on long-term growth [60]. In addition, when farmers are restricted to sell
their maize for a higher price elsewhere, farmers may abandon the crop which further decreases the
domestic supply [59–61]
4.3. Public Food Reserves and (input) Subsidy Instruments
National governments in SSA also shape and regulate the production, trade and consumption
of maize through subsidy programs. A first example of such instruments are public food reserves.
Countries like Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe are known to have price
stabilizing and strategic grain reserves in place. In most of these programs, government bodies buy
excess supply and sell stocks when prices usually increase at a maximum (subsidized) price [45,58].
A study on the market involvement of Kenya’s National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB)
undertaken by Jayne and colleagues [62] shows that this strategy can have a positive effect on price
stability. However, the study also found that, because most rural households are net buyers of maize,
this policy has resulted in an income transfer from poorer and small households towards the larger
and more wealthy producers of maize in Kenya. In addition, Korner [58] points out that maize
production in countries with reserves and price stabilization programs has not increased as much as
in countries that do not employ such instruments, possibly because the artificial prices discourage
producers to become more efficient or make necessary investments.
Input subsidy programs are another well-known example of governments and donors to
stimulate food production through increasing land productivity and by lowering the costs of inputs.
Much in line with green revolution strategies, the programs reduce the costs of inputs like seeds and
fertilizers to boost production. In 2011, 10 sub-Saharan African countries spent USD 1.05 billion or up
to 28.6% of their agricultural spending on input subsidy programs [63]. While there is evidence that
they can raise productivity, they are often untargeted and do not usually reach poor farmers and
input subsidies are highly political: farmers appreciate free inputs and politicians gain votes through
this type of visible measures [58,63,64]. Chinsinga [64] highlights the case of the Agricultural Input
Subsidy Programme (AISP) in Malawi implemented from 2005 that has been considered highly
successful in boosting the country’s maize production. Through the program, 1.5 million maize
farmers received fertilizers and hybrid seeds at a highly subsidized prize. However, the author
argues that it is mostly the multinational seed companies who benefit because they have a guaranteed
market: because of the subsidy, farmers use hybrid seeds instead of non-commercial varieties and the
program included maize only. Other beneficiaries include newly emerged agro-dealers and contract
seed growers as well as elite farmers that profit from the highly political beneficiary selection process.
Thus, most farmers consider themselves as losing out. Chinsinga concludes: “The implementation of
Land 2020, 9, 68 10 of 14
the AISP and the subsequent dominance of Hybrid maize is a result of political maneuvering, and a
coalition of interests, involving the government (with an eye to political success), multinational seed
companies (keen on market dominance) and political elites (able to cash in on the business generated,
or patronage spread).” [64] (p. 67).
5. Discussion and Conclusion
This paper explored the increased use of land in sub-Saharan Africa for maize production and
several factors that have contributed to this area expansion. Within a relatively short time, maize has
become one of the most important staple crops within sub-Saharan Africa, where, over the past ten
years, the total area covered by maize has increased by 60%. Most of this growth took place in
Western and Eastern Africa [1]. Historically, maize has been grown by smallholder farmers, but data
and previous research shows that the crop is increasingly grown on large- and medium-sized farms
[8,33]. This indicates that maize is not only expanding, but production is also shifting from
smallholder farmers to other producers. This expansion of maize means land-use change at the
expense of other crops and/or nature and at current rates, is considered unsustainable [9].
This paper has explored factors that have contributed to these changes. First, because in SSA
maize is generally produced for food, most of the crop expansion has been attributed to rapid
population growth and urbanization [13,15] and that in the coming years, the demand for maize as
livestock feed will only be growing in the region. Second, this paper elaborated on the way climate
change has triggered new politics and narratives that shape the way land and food production is
framed. These politics and narratives, that often focus on the need for increased production, new
technologies, and resource scarcity have paved the way for different policy measures that have aimed
to boost maize production across SSA, including a set of measures under a call for a green revolution
in Africa, regional trade policies, export bans, public food reserves, and input subsidies. While all
these measures have pushed for increased productivity, this paper argues that they structurally
ignore and leave behind the largest group of maize producers that are least powerful, but most crucial
for the food security of a major part of SSA’s population: smallholder farmers and the rural poor. A
similar argument is made by Dan Taylor [37] who discusses the meta-narrative of climate change: a
narrative that nowadays can encompass any subject raised by powerful actors. However, as the
author argues: “The discourse of development has become confused with a more recent and
contemporary discourse of climate change” [37] (p. 65), while for the rural poor, climate change is
one of many challenges. It is the voice and interests of the rural poor, the diverse and complex
smallholder production systems that need to be more carefully considered when taking measures
towards a more sustainable and resilient future [37].
The recent IPCC report on Climate Change and Land [6] already shows a change in discourse
from a focus on technology, intensification, and increased productivity (away from ‘traditional and
inefficient production systems’) towards resilient and diverse systems in which smallholder farming
systems are fostered. For example, it recognizes that both technological advancement, crop diversity,
as well as food (and seed) sovereignty contribute to sustainable and resilient farming systems and
that smallholder farmers are crucial for food security. The report provides a wide range of land-
related adaptation and mitigation measures to ensure future food security within and outside SSA.
However, much more needs to be done to ensure future inclusion of smallholders. The findings of
this study provide insight into the drivers of the current maize expansion and highlights the
importance of understanding underlying political-economic structures that will need to be addressed
to implement any adaptation or mitigation measures that aim to make food systems in SSA, in which
maize is the most important staple, future-proof. However, further empirical research is necessary to
explore how the political economy of the current maize expansion in different countries affects food
security and to find out how current challenges and power imbalances can be overcome to realize a
more sustainable and equitable food system that includes the interests of smallholder farmers.
Land 2020, 9, 68 11 of 14
Funding: This research was made possible by CYMMIT, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement
Centre, in collaboration with the Netherlands Land Academy for Equitable and Sustainable Development.
Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Annelies Zoomers and Murtah Shannon based at Utrecht University
and the Netherlands Land Academy (LANDac) in addition to Gideon Kruseman and Jordan Chamberlain based
at CIMMYT for their inputs to this study.
Conflicts of Interest: The author declares no conflicts of interest. The funders had no role in the design of the
study; in the collection, analyses, or interpretation of data; in the writing of the manuscript, or in the decision to
publish the results.
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... The crop is currently produced on more than 43 million hectares in Africa with an annual production of over 90 million mt (FAO, 2022). The demand for maize as sources of food, feed and industrial use is increasing in SSA (Santpoort, 2020). The supply response to increasing demand for maize in SSA has been expanding its production into new areas. ...
... Given the increasing demand for more maize grain and the anticipated adverse effects of climate variability and change, the genetic gain achieved under MDS in our study is not sufficient to achieve the production level that is necessary to meet the projected demand for maize grain in sub-Saharan Africa (Santpoort, 2020;Jayne and Sanchez, 2021). To realize higher rates of genetic gain in grain yield under both MDS and STRIN, breeders need to adjust the current selection scheme by crossing tropical elite drought tolerant donor lines with existing elite DTSTR lines to form source populations for new inbred line development. ...
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... Maize is the third most vital cereal crop in the world next to rice and wheat in terms of both consumption and area-grown (Kornher 2018). It is also the most extensively cultivated staple crop in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), accounting for a larger area coverage of the farmland each year (Jacob 2018;Santpoort 2020). It could play a crucial role in the transformation of Sub-Saharan Africa's agriculture, reducing poverty and improvement of food security (Erenstein and Kassie 2018). ...
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The repellency of solvent extracts of Calpurnia aurea leaves was evaluated on the maize weevils andthe red flour beetles. Nine-cm Whatman number 1 filter paper that is partitioned into treatment,neutral and non-treatment portions was used for the experiment. Each solvent extract treatmentwas applied at 2.5, 5 and 10% rates. Insects were released in the neutral portion, while the untreatedpart served as a control. A choice bioassay experimental method that is laid down in a completelyrandomized design within three replications was used. 5 and 10% rates of the polar solvent extractsof Calpurnia aurea leaves induced significantly (p < 0.05) higher percentage weevils and beetlesrepellency ( ≥ 50.00%) at 2 days after treatment than non-polar and partial polar solvent extracttreatments and the untreated check. 10% dosage of Calpurnia aurea leaves’ polar solvent extracttreatments caused 100% weevils and beetles repellency three days after treatment. Consequently,the polar solvent extracts of the tested plant were potent and could be used at 5 and 10% rates for themaize weevils and the red flour beetles’ management under farmers’ maize storage conditions. Nev-ertheless, their impact on cost-effectiveness, natural enemies and human beings needs additionalstudy (2) (PDF) Evaluation of Calpurnia aurea leaf extracts as natural insect repellents for stored product insect pests in Ethiopia. Available from: [accessed Jan 19 2023].
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Deploying maize varieties with fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda [J.E. Smith]; FAW) resistance, desirable product profiles (PPs) and climate resilience is fundamental for food and economic security in sub‐Saharan Africa (SSA). This study reviewed and identified challenges and opportunities for effective and accelerated breeding of demand‐led maize hybrids with FAW resistance and adaptation to the diverse agro‐ecologies of SSA. Lessons were drawn on improving breeding efficiency through adequate genetic variation delivered via prebreeding programmes, speed breeding and a reduced breeding stage plan. Appropriate PPs aligned with demand‐led breeding approaches were highlighted as foundations for variety design and commercialization. Challenges to accelerated FAW resistance breeding in maize included inadequate funds and modern tools; poor adaptation of some exotic donor parental lines; lack of information on FAW resistance among local varieties; lack of integration of molecular markers associated with FAW resistance and agronomic traits into selection plans; and limited infrastructure for FAW rearing and germplasm screening. Integration of modern breeding tools and scientific innovations were recommended for accelerated development and release of FAW resistant and market‐preferred maize varieties.
... The maize has increased its market demand and the need to increase its yield. Nevertheless, in many parts of Africa, its production has been lower than the population growth, hence the need for increased maize production (Santpoort, 2020). ...
... The maize has increased its market demand and the need to increase its yield. Nevertheless, in many parts of Africa, its production has been lower than the population growth, hence the need for increased maize production (Santpoort, 2020). ...
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Este estudio investigó el efecto de dos prácticas de labranza sobre el rendimiento y el crecimiento del maíz, y propiedades seleccionadas del suelo de un Ultisol del estado de Osun en Nigeria. Esto tuvo como objetivo seleccionar una práctica de labranza adecuada para el crecimiento de los cultivos y el mantenimiento del suelo. El estudio se dividió en dos parcelas experimentales durante la temporada de cultivo temprana y tardía en 2014. La primera parcela se desbrozó manualmente para tener labranza cero, mientras que la segunda parcela se aró dos veces y se rastrilló una vez para labranza convencional. Cada parcela tenía tres bloques (23.0 m x 2.5 m) con un callejón de 1.0 m entre bloques y 1.0 m dentro de las parcelas. Tres semillas del cultivo de prueba se colocaron a una distancia de 75 cm x 50 cm por montículo y cada parcela se desyerbó manualmente a intervalos de dos semanas hasta la cosecha. Las propiedades físicas y químicas del suelo seleccionadas y los parámetros de crecimiento de las plantas se recolectaron y determinaron utilizando el método estándar después de cada temporada de cultivo. Al final del experimento, tuvo los valores más altos de altura de planta y suelo en comparación con la labranza convencional. La labranza cero también tuvo valores químicos del suelo más altos en comparación con la labranza convencional. El rendimiento de grano mostró una diferencia significativa entre las prácticas de labranza. La labranza cero tuvo un mayor rendimiento (1.71 t/ha) en comparación con la labranza convencional (0.97 t/ha). El estudio concluyó que la labranza cero era una mejor alternativa para el crecimiento de los cultivos y el mantenimiento del suelo de un Ultisol.
... Corn production has increased primarily by expanding agricultural production areas instead of increasing the corn yield per unit area (OECD/FAO, 2020). However, continuing to increase agricultural production areas is not sustainable because of emerging abiotic stress factors and urbanization (Santpoort, 2020). Optimum environmental conditions are needed in order to determine the genetic grain yield potential of different corn varieties. ...
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Maize ( Zea mays L .) is the second most commonly produced and consumed crop after wheat globally and is adversely affected by high heat, which is a significant abiotic stress factor. This study was carried out to determine the physiological and biochemical responses of hybrid corn varieties under heat stress (‘HS’) compared to control (‘C’) conditions during the 2020 and 2021 growing seasons. The experiment was conducted under natural conditions in the Southeastern region of Turkey, where the most intense temperatures are experienced. This experiment used split plots in randomized blocks with three replications, with ‘HS’ and ‘C’ growing conditions applied to the main plots and the different hybrid corn varieties (FAO 650) planted on the sub plots. Mean values of days to 50% tasseling (DT, day), grain yield (GY, kg ha ⁻¹ ), leaf water potential (LWP, %), chlorophyll-a (Chl-a, mg g ⁻¹ ), cell membrane damage (CMD, %), and total phenol content (TPC, μg g ⁻¹ ) were significantly different between years, growing conditions, and hybrid corn varieties. Changes in the climate played a significant role in the differences between the years and growing conditions (GC), while the genetic characteristics of the different corn varieties explained the differences in outcomes between them. The values of DT, GY, LWP, Chl-a, CMD, and TPC ranged from 49.06–53.15 days, 9,173.0–10,807.2 kg ha ⁻¹ , 78.62–83.57%, 6.47–8.62 mg g ⁻¹ , 9.61–13.54%, and 232.36–247.01 μg g ⁻¹ , respectively. Significant correlations were recorded between all the parameters. Positive correlations were observed between all the variables except for CMD. The increased damage to cell membranes under ‘HS’ caused a decrease in the other measured variables, especially GY. In contrast, the GY increased with decreased CMD. CMD was important in determining the stress and tolerance level of corn varieties under ‘HS’ conditions. The GY and other physiological parameters of ADA 17.4 and SYM-307 candidate corn varieties surpassed the control hybrid corn cultivars. The results revealed that the ADA 17.4 and SYM-307 cultivars might have ‘HS’-tolerate genes.
... Maize, like other farm produce, is grown as a food crop in various parts of Africa, including Tanzania (Abdulai et al., 2018;Ismail & Changalima, 2019;Israel et al., 2022;Mghweno et al., 2020;Santpoort, 2020). Maize crop alone accounts for approximately 45 percent of Tanzania's cultivated area, with approximately 85 percent of maize produced going to household consumption (Lyimo et al., 2014). ...
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This paper analyses the supply chain-related challenges affecting smallholder maize farmers’ market participation decisions in Tanzania. The research design adopted for this study was cross-sectional in nature. The data was gathered from 633 smallholder maize farmers from six villages in Dodoma, Tanzania, using structured questionnaires, and the results were analysed using a probit model. Findings revealed that all supply chain-related challenges were significantly related to market participation decisions. Specifically, nine supply chain-related challenges were discovered to have a positive relationship with a decision that smallholder maize farmers make on market participation, including transportation facilities, road conditions, market prices, access to market information, quality of maize, access to inputs, storage facilities, household size, and farm size, while two challenges, market distance and transportation costs, were found to have a negative relationship. Based on this, it was concluded that agriculture supply chain challenges affect market participation decisions of smallholder maize farmers in Tanzania. Therefore, agriculture supply chain-related challenges need to be controlled to enhance the market participation of smallholder maize farmers for them to realise the participation benefits.
Maize yields in the Senqu River Valley are among the lowest in Lesotho. This study aimed to compare the farm economic margins (FEM) of different maize-based smallholder farming systems (MSFSs) in the Senqu River Valley (SRV) and provide recommendations on farming systems that can be employed to improve the FEM for household income improvement. The Olympe software was used to model and simulate the FEM of the different MSFSs and SWOT–TOWS analysis was used to devise strategies to increase FEM and improve household income. The findings revealed that there was high FEM variability within and across the different MSFSs. The identified sources of variance were the cropping patterns, types of intercrops, and the number of animals raised. Poor crop and livestock management also played a role in the FEM variability, hence the poor performance of some MSFSs. The findings further indicated that MSFSs with high-value intercrops such as pumpkins had higher FEM than their monocropping counterparts. Then, again, MSFSs with both crops and livestock had the highest FEM. Therefore, identified strategies like crop diversification and livestock integration could be recommended for use by farmers, not only in this zone but also in other zones that share similar environmental conditions.
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AIMS Fertilisation of crops with zinc (Zn) is considered important to enhance agricultural productivity and combat human deficiencies in sub-Saharan Africa. However, it is unclear on which soils Zn fertilisation can lead to higher yields and increased grain Zn concentrations. This study aimed to find soil properties that predict where soil Zn is limiting maize yields and grain Zn concentrations, and where these respond positively to Zn fertilisation. METHODS Zinc omission trials were set up at multiple farm locations in Kenya (n=5), Zambia (n=4) and Zimbabwe (n=10). Grain yields and tissue Zn concentrations were analysed from plots with a full fertiliser treatment as compared to plots where Zn was omitted. RESULTS Zinc uptake (R² = 0.35) and grain Zn concentrations (R²=0.26) on the plots without Zn fertiliser could be related to a limited extend to soil Zn measured in extractions that measure labile Zn. A positive maize yield response to soil Zn fertilisation was found at only two out of nineteen locations, despite soil Zn levels below previously derived critical concentrations at most locations. Soil properties nor plant concentrations were able to explain maize yield response to Zn fertilisation. However, a positive response in Zn uptake and grain Zn concentrations to Zn fertilisation was found at the majority of sites. CONCLUSIONS We conclude that soil Zn fertilisation can increase maize grain Zn concentrations, especially in soils with low pH and organic carbon content. Predicting a yield response to Zn fertilisation based on soil properties remains a challenge.
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The preservation and storage of maize (Zea mays) in most communities in Nigeria is done indigenously in spite of the existence of modern preservation methods of the crop in developed countries. The paper reveals that methods such as hanging over fire, sun drying, and storage in earthen pots, rhombuses, and traditional cribs are some of the indigenous strategies used by farmers to extent the shelf life of maize. Insect infestation, mould, rodents attack, and sprouting of the grains are some of the challenges to effective extension of shelf life of maize. In addition to the above other impediments such as lack of documentation of indigenous strategies, insufficient fuel wood, limited space, and poor handling of the produce limit the effective utilisation of the indigenous strategies for extension of shelf life of maize. The paper concludes that indigenous methods are not very effective in extension of shelf life of maize. It is therefore recommended that indigenous strategies should be documented and integrated with modern methods, proper cleaning and disinfection of indigenous facilities should be practice, wood shaving and rice husk should also be used as a source of energy amongst others.
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Nutrient limitation is a major constraint in crop production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Here, we propose a generic and simple equilibrium model to estimate minimum input requirements of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium for target yields in cereal crops under highly efficient management. The model was combined with Global Yield Gap Atlas data to explore minimum input requirements for self-sufficiency in 2050 for maize in nine countries in SSA. We estimate that yields have to increase from the current ca. 20% of water-limited yield potential to approximately 50–75% of the potential depending on the scenario investigated. Minimum nutrient input requirements must rise disproportionately more, with N input increasing 9-fold or 15-fold, because current production largely relies on soil nutrient mining, which cannot be sustained into the future.
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The dramatic increase in commodity prices in late 2007 and early 2008 led many countries to impose export restrictions in an attempt to ensure domestic food security. Such export restrictions, in turn, led to further price increases by placing limits on global supply and undermining the level of buyer confidence. This paper examines export restrictions from two different but related angles: Section I examines the welfare implications of export restrictions, both for the country imposing such measures as well as for the rest of the world. Section II presents an overview of how export restrictions have been addressed in trade negotiations and agreements and examines other efforts to achieve greater market stability. As this paper shows, export restrictions have significant detrimental economic impacts but are not subject to meaningful trade disciplines. Alternative measures to protect food security must be explored, and more attention must be given to improving trade rules, as proposed in Section III.
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Global resource scarcity has become a central policy concern, with predictions of rising populations, natural resource depletion and hunger. The narratives of scarcity that arise as a result justify actions to harness resources considered ‘underutilised’, leading to contestations over rights and entitlements and producing new scarcities. Yet scarcity is contingent, contextual, relational and above all political. We present an analysis of three framings – absolute, relative and political scarcity – associated with the intellectual traditions of Malthus, Ricardo and Marx, respectively. A review of 134 global and Africa-specific policy and related sources demonstrates how diverse framings of scarcity – what it is, its causes and what is to be done – are evident in competing narratives that animate debates about the future of food and farming in Africa and globally. We argue that current mainstream narratives emphasise absolute and relative scarcity, while ignoring political scarcity. Opening up this debate, with a more explicit focus on political scarcities is, we argue, important; emphasising how resources are distributed between different needs and uses, and so different people and social classes. For African settings, seen as both a source of abundant resources and a site where global scarcities may be resolved, as well as where local scarcities are being experienced most acutely, a political scarcity framing on the global land rush, and resource questions more broadly, is, we suggest, essential.
This paper builds on the literature on green grabbing. It makes a fresh contribution by bringing in aspects of green grabbing that are less visible and obvious. These are subtle, fluid and indirect interconnections between climate change politics and land grabs. It is difficult to see these interconnections from an ‘either black or white’ perspective. It is likely that the extent of this ‘grey area’ intersection in terms of affected social relations, nature and land use change is quite significant globally, even when such interconnections tend to operate below the radar of dominant governance institutions and database tracking. This situation calls for more nuanced understanding of governance imperatives, and for constructing the necessary body of knowledge needed for appropriate political intervention. This paper offers preliminary ways in which such interconnections can be seen and understood, and their implications for research and politics explored. It concludes by way of a preliminary discussion of the notion of ‘agrarian climate justice’ as a possible framework for formal governance or political activism relevant to tackling such grey area interconnections.
Climate change is an environmental process that is among the most limiting factors for increasing or even maintaining food production by small-farmer communities in Sub Saharan Africa (SSA). Adoption of climate change adaptation strategies that increase agricultural productivity and at the same time building farmers’ resilience capacity has become a top policy priority in SSA. In this study, we investigate how maize-dependent smallholders in Ethiopia adapt to climate change. Both household and plot-level data were collected, and subsequently analysed by a multivariate probit regression model. Results show that most climate change adaptation strategies implemented by maize-dependent smallholders, are complementary. Combining conservation tillage, mixed maize-legume cropping and terracing along with the use of drought-resistant maize varieties allows farmers to increase productivity while building resilience to climate change more than a subset of these strategies. Findings indicate that the likelihood of adopting soil and water conservation practices, drought-resistant maize varieties and chemical fertilizers significantly increase among young and male-headed households as well as farmers having confidence in extension agents and membership in local organisations. Hence, policies should aim at further building agricultural extension agents’ capacity by providing effective and continuous education and training on climate change impacts and responses. Promoting family ties and household memberships in local organisations through facilitating mutual cooperation and communication among farming communities would help to foster adoption of climate change adaptation strategies.
The global land rush and mainstream climate change narratives have broadened the ranks of state and social actors concerned about land issues, while strengthening those opposed to social justice-oriented land policies. This emerging configuration of social forces makes the need for deep social reforms through redistribution, recognition, restitution, regeneration and resistance – book-ended by the twin principles of ‘maximum land size’ (‘size ceiling’) and a ‘guaranteed minimum land access’ (‘size floor’) – both more compelling and urgent, and, at the same time, more difficult than ever before. The five deep social reforms of socially just land policy are necessarily intertwined. But the global land rush amidst deepening climate change calls attention to the linkages, especially between the pursuit of agrarian justice on the one hand and climate justice on the other. Here, the relationship is not without contradictions, and warrants increased attention as both unit of analysis and object of political action. Understanding and deepening agrarian justice imperatives in climate politics, and understanding and deepening climate justice imperatives in agrarian politics, is needed more than ever in the ongoing pursuit of alternatives.
Food security and agriculture productivity assessments in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) require a better understanding of how climate and other drivers influence regional crop yields. In this paper, our objective was to identify the climate signal in the realized yields of maize, sorghum, and groundnut in SSA. We explored the relation between crop yields and scale-compatible climate data for the 1962-2014 period using Random Forest, a diagnostic machine learning technique. We found that improved agricultural technology and country fixed effects are three times more important than climate variables for explaining changes in crop yields in SSA. We also found that increasing temperatures reduced yields for all three crops in the temperature range observed in SSA, while precipitation increased yields up to a level roughly matching crop evapotranspiration. Crop yields exhibited both linear and nonlinear responses to temperature and precipitation, respectively. For maize, technology steadily increased yields by about 1% (13 kg/ha) per year while increasing temperatures decreased yields by 0.8% (10 kg/ha) per °C. This study demonstrates that although we should expect increases in future crop yields due to improving technology, the potential yields could be progressively reduced due to warmer and drier climates.
Temporary export restrictions have been widely used in recent years in an attempt to stabilize domestic prices of staple grains. I use monthly, market-level price data to investigate the empirical effects of 13 short-term export bans on maize implemented by 5 countries in East and Southern Africa. I find no statistically significant effect of export bans on the price gaps between pairs of affected cross-border markets. My results for price gaps match those from a model simulation in which export bans are not implemented. However, prices and price volatility in the implementing country are significantly higher during export ban periods in the data than in the model simulation with no bans. Export bans in the region are imperfectly enforced, divert trade into the informal sector, and appear to destabilize domestic markets rather than stabilizing them.
Maize sector policies in eastern and southern Africa are characterized by a large and often growing presence of the state. Yet the scope, scale, and modalities of state activities vary substantially across countries. Drawing on data from Malawi, Zambia, Kenya, and Mozambique this article compares the relative degree of state intervention in the maize sector. We show that relative preferences for output market subsidies, input market subsidies, trade restrictions, or non-interventionist approaches reflect the interplay of interest group lobbying, patronage networks, and ethnic and regional political affiliations. These relationships have deep historical roots and have often been intensified in the context of the emergence of multiparty politics. We show that interventionist orientations in output markets and trade do not translate into better performance or welfare outcomes. Input subsidy preferences produce more ambiguous welfare results, when the opportunity costs are not fully accounted for.