Changing farm structure and rural transformation in Africa


October 4, 2019

PIM Webinar

Changing farm structure and rural transformation in Africa

When: October 24, 2019, 12-1 PM EDT

Presenter: Thomas Jayne, University Foundation Professor of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University



The study discussed during this webinar presents evidence of profound farm-level transformation in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, identifies the key sources of dynamism in the sector, and proposes an updated typology of farms that reflects the evolving nature of African agriculture. The authors use repeat waves of national survey data to examine changes in crop production and marketed output according to the 0-5, 5-10 and over 10 hectare farm size categories. Medium-scale farms, defined as farms cultivating between five and 100 hectares, contributed 60%, 47%, and 46% of the total growth of crop output in Ghana (2005-2013), Tanzania (2009-2013), and Zambia (2001-2015). The share of national marketed crop output value accounted for by medium-scale farms rose in Zambia from 23% to 42%, in Tanzania from 17% to 36%, and in Nigeria from 7% to 18%. The share of land under medium-scale farms is not rising in densely populated countries such as Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, where land scarcity is impeding the pace of medium-scale farm acquisitions. Medium-scale farmers are a diverse group, reflecting distinct entry pathways including (i) successful expansion of small-scale farms into medium-scale farms through land acquisitions made possible through increasingly active land markets; (ii) the diversification of rural non-farm businesspeople and wage earners into farming; and (iii) land acquisitions by urban-based professionals and retirees. Each of these pathways has been encouraged by the rapid development of land rental, purchase and long-term lease markets.

The rise of medium-scale farms is affecting the region in diverse ways that are difficult to generalize. Many such farms are a source of technical change and commercialization of African agriculture; they attract agribusiness investment and improve market access conditions for all nearby smallholders. However, medium-scale land acquisitions may exacerbate land scarcity in favorable rural areas, raise land prices, and crowd out young peoples’ access to land for farming. While much more research is necessary to effectively guide African governments, our findings indicate that medium-scale commercialized farms can be a dynamic driver of agricultural transformation but this does not reduce the importance of agricultural ministries maintaining a clear commitment to supporting smallholder farms. Strengthening land tenure security of indigenous rural people to maintain land rights and support productivity investments by smallholder farm household remains crucial.


Thomas Jayne is University Foundation Professor of Agricultural, Food, and Resource Economics at Michigan State University and Co-Director of the Alliance for African Partnership, a university-wide initiative to promote long-term collaborations with African research and policy organizations. Jayne is a Fellow of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) and Distinguished Fellow of the African Association of Agricultural Economists.  He has mentored dozens of young African professionals and played a major role in building MSU’s partnerships with African agricultural policy research institutes. In 2017, he became the Flagship Co-Leader of the CGIAR Policies, Institutions and Markets research program on Economy-wide Factors Affecting Agricultural Growth and Rural Transformation. Over the past decade, he has received six research excellence awards, including the 2009 Outstanding Article Award in Agricultural Economics and the 2017 AAEA Bruce Gardner Memorial Prize for Applied Policy Analysis. Read more

Prof. Jayne co-leads PIM's Flagship 2: Economywide Factors Affecting Agricultural Growth and Rural Transformation.

PIM Webinars

The PIM Webinars aim to share findings of research undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM), discuss their application, and get feedback and suggestions from participants. Webinars are conducted by PIM researchers in the form of research seminars. Each webinar is a live event consisting of a presentation (30 min) and a facilitated Q&A session (30 min). Recordings and presentations of the webinars are freely available on the PIM website.

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Photo: Milu Muyanga, MSU