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December 19th, 2018 / The Conservation

Driven by population growth and growing land scarcity, most African farm households are witnessing the gradual sub-division of their land. Over time farms are getting smaller and smaller. Today, over 80% of farms in relatively densely populated countries – like Kenya, Ethiopia, Malawi and Rwanda are smaller than one hectare. Because they’re so small, few can generate enough income to keep farmers above the poverty line and most of them increasingly rely on off-farm incomes.

But, from about ten years ago, we have started to see evidence of a major rise in the number of medium-scale, African-owned farms.

Along with many colleagues, we set out to understand who these people are. We randomly selected farms operating between five to 50 hectares, and interviewed the farmers. We found that the rapid rise of these medium-scale farms was being driven by a diverse group of people including urban-based professionals, influential rural people, and successful smallholder farmers who acquired more land and grew their operations.

Within the past decade, the amount of agricultural produce that these farms contribute to countries’ national output has risen rapidly. In some countries, like Tanzania and Zambia, medium-sized farms now account for roughly 40% of the country’s marketed agricultural produce. Read more