Photo-stories on the informal natural resource trade and agriculture in Zambia

Researchers from DEGRP's China-Africa call have recently published two photo stories on informality in the Zambian natural resources and agricultural sectors, based on research conducted in collaboration with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI). 

The first photo story, on illegal logging, looks at the challenge of simultaneously preventing deforestation and safeguarding the livelihoods of the many rural Zambians who rely on logging as an important source of income.

The second photo story addresses the problem of side-selling in the Zambian cotton sector, reflecting on how it might be resolved to the mutual benefit of both cotton growers and the cotton industry. 

Find out more about this research project

Documentary on effect of social ties on smallholder agriculture

Researchers from DEGRP call 1 agriculture project Which farmer(s) should we target? have recently collaborated with the N2Africa initiative to create a documentary and website sharing their experiences of engaging in participatory research with a farming community near Lake Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. 

Conducted in 2016 as a follow-up to the project's original 2014 investigation of the effect of social ties on seed sharing, this research made use of forum theatre techniques and interviews to gain an even deeper understanding of how cultural norms and social relationships affect access to and the spread of agricultural technologies. 

Watch the Share the Seed documentary

Building economic opportunities for a better future

Sheila M'Mbijjewe, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Kenya c. DEGRP/AERC

Sheila M'Mbijjewe, Deputy Governor, Central Bank of Kenya c. DEGRP/AERC

On 28 and 29 October 2016, DEGRP, the Overseas Development Institute and the African Economic Research Consortium (AERC) co-hosted a conference in Nairobi, Kenya exploring how to boost inclusive economic growth in low-income countries. 

Over 100 researchers, policymakers and business representatives came together to discuss how agriculture, financial sector development, and innovation - the three core areas covered by DEGRP research - can be harnessed to build better economic opportunities for all. 

Senior policy officials and business representatives present included: Sheila M’Mbijjewe, Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya; Admassu Tadesse, President and CEO of PTA Bank; H.E. Kerfalla Yansane, Senior Minister, Office of the President, Guinea; Njuguna Ndung’u, Former Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya; Linda Kwamboka, CEO of Mfarm Ltd; Pete Vowles, Country Director, Department for International Development, Kenya Office, Sheriffo Bojang, Deputy Minister of Agriculture, Gambia; and Keith Jefferis, Director of Econsult Botswana.

DEGRP speakers included: Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Francesco Cecchi, Julius Gatune, Cesar Revoredo Giha, Hans Komakech, and Cyriaque Hakizimana on agriculture; Victor Murinde, Johan Rewilak, Ricardo Gottschalk, and Peter Knaack on finance; and Atonu Rabbani, Bansi Malde, Samuel Wangwe, Maureen Mackintosh, and George Essegbey on innovation. 

To find out more about the conference, browse our selection of conference materials below. 

Conference materials 

Event listing

Conference videos

Photo gallery 


DEGRP speaker presentations (zip file)

Keynote speech transcription: Admassu Tadesse

Keynote PowerPoint: Sheila M'Mbijjewe

Selected media articles: 

Chinese national oil companies in Africa | Videos

DEGRP China-Africa project Chinese national oil companies and the economic development of African oil producers has released a set of short video clips about their research, available as a playlist on YouTube.   

Featuring interviews with researchers and members of the project's international advisory network, the videos set the scene for the project's research on the interaction between China’s oil interests and African state and non-state actors in Ghana, Angola and Sudan.

The clips include commentary on: 

  • Key players in Africa's oil sector;
  • main drivers of Chinese presence in the sector;
  • the potential development impact of Chinese engagement; 
  • governance issues; and
  • the links between the oil sector and development finance.

For more about the project's aims and collaborators, visit the Open University project page. 

Related content: 

DEGRP research findings in Tanzanian government plan

Research findings from a DEGRP innovation project have been included verbatim in the Tanzanian government's new five-year development plan, released in June.

The project, lead by Maureen Mackintosh of the Open University, studied the supply chains of essential medicines, medical equipment and supplies from local industries, and imports into the health systems in Tanzania and Kenya. 

The findings, taken from a report by project researcher Paula Tibandebage of Tanzanian research organisation REPOA, suggest that a revitalised local pharmaceutical industry in Tanzania could contribute to improved health system performance and accessibility and, ultimately, inclusive economic growth. 

Prior to this, the project won recognition for its contribution to policy change from UKCDS, who included it in their list of the top 20 most impressive examples of UK research contributing to global development

For more about the role and impact of the DEGRP research in Tanzania's new development plan, visit the Open University website. 

Related content: 

New policy essays: China-Africa: a maturing relationship?

c. UNIDO/flickr

c. UNIDO/flickr

The latest set of DEGRP policy essays explores the implications of changing China-Africa relations for African economic growth and development.

Based on discussions at a China-Africa event co-hosted by DEGRP and SAIIA in Johannesburg in December 2015, the essays feature contributions from DEGRP, SAIIA and ODI researchers as well as speeches from Justin Yifu Lin, ex-World Bank Chief Economist, and Helen Hai, UNIDO Goodwill Amabassador and CEO of Made in Africa initiative. 

They examine a diverse range of issues, including:  industrialisation, employment dynamics, conservation, governance, and peace and security. 

Download the essays

For more information about the DEGRP/SAIIA event, as well as video, presentations, and links to media, visit the event listing. 

Stakeholder engagement in Uganda: From findings to recommendations

Arriving at policy recommendations from research findings is no simple task, and ensuring those recommendations are relevant is more complicated still. 

Researchers from DEGRP project "A behavioural economic analysis of agricultural investment decisions in Uganda" were well aware of this when they embarked on their research in February 2012. To ensure their recommendations were as useful as possible, they incorporated various stages of stakeholder engagement into their research, holding consultations at local and national level over the duration of the project.

The results of this engagement - how it informed their thinking and final policy advice -  have been written up in a detailed report, featuring a step-by-step visualisation of each phase of consultation and how it influenced their research. 



Related content

Local health and industrialisation in Africa - new book

In collaboration with Palgrave Macmillan, researchers from a DEGRP project on Industrial productivity, health sector performance and policy synergies for inclusive growth have released their project's flagship publication, a book entitled Making Medicines in Africa: the Political Economy of Industrializing for Local Health

Edited by Maureen Mackintosh, Geoffrey Banda, Paula Tibandebage, and Watu Wamae, the book brings together reflections from a diverse group of contributors on the importance of the pharmaceutical industry in sub-Saharan Africa. Against a backdrop of ongoing unmet health needs, the authors aim to find ways to link technological development, investment and industrial growth in pharmaceuticals for improved access to good quality medicines, and - in the longer term - universal access to competent health care in Africa. 

The book is available online open access, and can be downloaded for free. The hard copy will be published on 16 December 2015, and will be available to purchase via Amazon and other retailers. 

China-Africa: a maturing relationship? Growth, change & resilience

Justin Yifu Lin & Giles Mohan c. SAIIA/Willem de Lange

Justin Yifu Lin & Giles Mohan c. SAIIA/Willem de Lange

DEGRP, ODI, and the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) recently hosted a one day workshop in Johannesburg, South Africa to explore key issues influencing Sino-African relations. Held at the same time as the second summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), it provided an ideal opportunity to think about priorities for the next chapter of the China-Africa story. 

As Presidents Xi Jinping and Jacob Zuma engaged in pre-summit talks, participants at the workshop gathered to discuss China's changing role in the global economy; the role of natural resources and biodiversity in China-Africa trade; and the impacts of security and peace on China-Africa relations. 

Speakers included ex-World Bank Chief Economist Justin Yifu Lin; UNIDO Goodwill Ambassador Helen Hai; DEGRP grant holders Deborah Brautigam, Giles Mohan, Lina Song, Terry McKinley, and Xiaoxue Weng; SAIIA's Elizabeth Sidiropoulos, Daniel Large, Ross Harvey, Yushan Wu, Peter Draper; and ODI's Louise Shaxson and Roger Calow.  

Related content: 

Raising agricultural productivity in sub-Saharan Africa - Event report

c. Africa Renewal/flickr

c. Africa Renewal/flickr

What are the main obstacles to higher agricultural productivity?
What are the most promising ways to help Africa’s farmers produce more?

This report aims to shed some light on these questions, bringing together discussion highlights from a panel event held in October 2014, as well as commentary from economist Professor Michael Lipton of University of Sussex. Edited by DEGRP agriculture lead Steve Wiggins, it incorporates viewpoints from: 

Download the report

Event presentations & video
Event Storify

Diffusion of innovation in Low-Income Countries

From left: George Essegbey, Anne Miroux, Sacha Wunsch-Vincent

From left: George Essegbey, Anne Miroux, Sacha Wunsch-Vincent

On 2 November 2015, DEGRP and the Technology and Management Centre for Development (TMCD, University of Oxford) co-hosted a high-level conference on the diffusion of innovation in Low-Income Countries (LICs). 

Held at ODI's offices in London, the conference brought together guests from government, business, and the academic world to exchange views on innovation and to discuss findings from a DEGRP-funded research project on the determinants and impact of technological innovation in and to Low-Income Countries. 

A blend of speeches, presentations and panel discussion, the event explored factors linked to and affecting successful take up of innovation, addressing issues such as the role of international cooperation, South-South trade integration and knowledge transfer, 'Under the radar' innovation, and policy for the promotion of innovation.

Notable speakers at the conference included: Li Yong (UNIDO), Bengt-Åke Lundvall (Aalborg University), Pierre Mohnen (UNU-MERIT), Raphael Kaplinsky (Open University), Anne Miroux (UNCTAD), George Essegbey (CSIR-STEPRI), Sacha Wunsch-Vincent (WIPO), and Xiaolan Fu (TMCD), as well as ODI's Dirk Willem te Velde.  

Visit the event page for further information, including:

  • Summary of research findings
  • Videos of presentation and panel sessions
  • Speaker slides
  • Keynote speech
  • Event Storify

DEGRP project in UKCDS top 20 impact case studies

c. World Bank/Flickr

c. World Bank/Flickr

A project from DEGRP’s innovation research stream have made it into UKCDS’ top 20 most impressive examples of UK research contributing to global development with their case study on health, innovation and the private sector for inclusive African development.

The study – which examined the identification of new policies for supporting local growth and allowing local policy-makers to promote innovation – was generated as part of the project Industrial productivity, health sector performance and policy synergies for inclusive growth, led by Maureen Mackintosh and other academics from the Open University.

Submitted to the Research Excellence Framework in 2014, it has since been selected from over 6,000 others for its demonstration of the role played by UK research on the global stage, and can now be found in the form of an impact story on the UKCDS website. 

China's engagement in Africa - expert interviews

c. JB Dodane/Flickr

c. JB Dodane/Flickr

DEGRP has just launched a set of video interviews with researchers from our newest research theme – China-Africa. Filmed as part of a workshop in London in July, the interviews offer insights from leading global experts on the current state of China-Africa relations, with emphasis on how the connection between the two players has evolved in recent years. The interviewees also shed light on key DEGRP research areas, which range from the employment impact of Chinese business in Africa, to the role of local government for economic growth.

The interviews are available to view as a playlist on the DEGRP YouTube channel, or as individual videos from our grant holders:

Visit our research section for more information on individual projects.

Improving productivity in developing countries

On 8 - 9 July 2015 the Center for the Evaluation of Development Policies (EDePo), a research center at the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), conducted its first summer conference, 'Improving productivity in developing countries: identifying bottlenecks and obstacles to productive investments and technology adoption'.

The conference, which also marked the end of a three-year DEGRP grant, attracted researchers from around the world, and distinguished keynote speakers including, Pascaline Dupas (Stanford University), Eliana La Ferrara (Bocconi University), Imran Rasul (University College, London and IFS), Stefan Dercon (DFID), and Mark Rosenzweig (Yale University).

Work presented addressed four core constraints to productivity: informational resources available to individuals, market failures, operational resources and social norms. Sessions covered the latest research and insights around health promotion, gender, credit and insurance, land and labour productivity, expectations and uncertainty, as well as networks and technology adoption and taxes and public finances.

The conference was linked to DEGRP research project, 'Improving productivity in developing countries', led by Professor Orazio Attanasio, from IFS. The project, covering parts of Africa, India, and Pakistan, focused on the design of policies aimed at improving productivity.  The research identifyed issues that prevent the adoption of profitable technology and innovations, which may impede investment opportunities with a potentially high rate of return.

A selection of papers presented at the conference will be published in a special issue of the Economic Journal

Recordings of a sub-set of presentations, as well as interviews with some of the speakers can be viewed online. You can also view the highlights here.




Prospects for inclusive rural growth?

David Neves, Senior Researcher at Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) shares key findings and policy recommendations from DEGRP project, Space, markets and employment in agricultural development from Southern Africa (SMEAD), led by Professor Andries du Toit.

The research was presented at a high profile event on 23 June 2015 which brought together key policy makers from five southern African countries, members of parliament, academics, representatives of regional organisations, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and DFID (Department for International Development).


The Rural Non-Farm Economy (RNFE)

SMEAD workshop, June 2015

SMEAD workshop, June 2015

Recent research suggests the networks and forms of agricultural development that support a vibrant and inclusive Rural Non-Farm Economy (RNFE), are generally associated with four high level characteristics:

  • The ‘density’ (number & proximity) of networks:  Networks with large numbers of linked activities (often in close proximity), are more likely to support the RNFE, in part through agglomeration effects and lower transaction costs.

  • The degree of enterprises’ ‘local embeddedness’: The RNFE is frequently strengthened when entrepreneurs,  markets and marketing arrangements are locally socially embedded.  This typically is influenced by institutions (both formal and informal), various social, cultural and even political affinities between actors, and the existence of an enabling regulatory context.

  • The degree of external ‘connectedness’:  Under favourable conditions, linkages to (often metropolitan) output markets, downstream from agriculture serve to support rural employment.  In contrast, external connection into highly concentrated upstream input markets (e.g. seed, agrochemicals) are more likely to lead to the leakage of income out of the local RNFE.

  • The extent of inequality and local power dynamics: The RNFE’s ability to support forms of inclusive growth, reduce vulnerability and support pathways out of poverty is undermined by social inequality, and highly skewed social power relations.

These findings and others were presented at a high profile dissemination workshop on 23 June 2015 —the culmination of the DEGRP-funded Space Markets and Employment in Agricultural Development (SMEAD) project.  Held in Pretoria, delegates included policy makers, researchers, civil society actors, along with regional organisations and members of Parliament from six Southern African countries.  They considered the prospects of agricultural development contributing to inclusive and pro-poor growth.  Presentation of the research was followed by wide ranging discussion of the precise policy implications. 

The Project

Stephen Morrison

Stephen Morrison

The SMEAD project examined three countries (Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe) and sought to understand how agriculture shapes the rural-non-farm economy (RNFE), including its degree of inclusiveness.  Supporting rural employment and livelihoods, it was argued, demands attention not only to agricultural production but also the spatial characteristics and nature of agriculture’s forward and backward linkages.  The in-depth country case studies reveal contrasting agrarian landscapes.  

In Malawi the majority of working adults in the rural economy are involved in subsistence and small commercial farming.  While the commercial estate sector, occupies a quarter of the arable land, and produces approximately 90% of exports. 

South Africa, presents almost the opposite scenario.  Agriculture is dominated by large scale commercial farming, whereas large numbers of people involved in semi-subsistence farming are marginal. Moreover agriculture is often disconnected from local rural economies: upstream and downstream connections bypass many local communities, exacerbating the exclusion and marginalisation of their residents. 

Finally Zimbabwe, following its bruising ‘fast-track land reform’ process, presents an intermediate case.   Its historical agrarian dualism of large and small scale agriculture has been replaced by a diverse range of farms sizes, along with a preponderance of linkages and rural enterprises.


Strategies for creating a resilient and diverse RNFE are varied, and often specific to the individual country contexts.  Yet in general, they ought to promote agricultural linkages that are spatially dense, socially embedded, externally connected to (at least) downstream markets, and be careful to avoid elite capture or exclusionary dynamics.  

The workshop considered and discussed some of the following policy recommendations in detail:

  • Consider the scale of agriculture supported. Large scale agriculture is often ill-suited to promoting beneficial local linkages or stimulating the RNFE. Instead small scale farmers are much more likely to spend, invest and consume locally, thereby sustaining linkages that support local entrepreneurs.  This underscores the importance of addressing issues pertaining to small scale farmers including land and agrarian reform, along with addressing constraints on small farmers access to vertically integrated value chains and distant markets.

  • Support and strengthen local markets.  Related to the previous point, a vital factor in the health of the RNFE is the presence of a diversity of informal and independent ‘entrepreneurs’ in local markets.  These are often vital to smaller farmers, and promote rich and diverse forward and even backward linkages.  Supporting the development of local markets, market infrastructure, and remedying market failures, are all potential courses of action.
  • Address value chains and corporate chain supermarket dominance.  Concentrated output markets are increasingly organised in vertically integrated value chains, which tend to exacerbate dynamics of marginalisation and exclusion.  This is most evident in South Africa, but incipient across the entire region.  There is a need to address the adverse consequences of rural ‘supermarketisation’ that sucks money out of rural areas.  Policy levers include retail regulation, and improving smaller players access to markets and distribution systems.
  • Invest in infrastructure and agricultural finance.  A paucity of rural infrastructure is a constraint, particularly in Malawi and Zimbabwe.  Greater investments in roads, energy and communications networks, markets and depots are required.  Specific recommendations around financing included the need to move beyond individual farmer financing, towards public provisioning including, for example, promoting adaptive seed (through public sector germplasm).
  • Don’t overlook other linkages.  The RNFE isn’t sustained exclusively by market connections with agriculture: increasingly agriculture is secondary to other sources of livelihood making.  Mounting evidence shows the importance of other (often overlooked) distributive systems such as remittances, public sector salaries and state cash transfers (South Africa) and subsidies (Malawi) in supporting the RNFE.

These policy findings suggest not only some potential avenues of policy action, but also the prevailing constraints on the ability of agricultural development to contribute to the larger Rural Non-Farm Economy.  Yet attention to these dynamics is crucial if agriculture is to contribute to pro-poor and inclusive forms of growth.