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The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Gender equity in contract farming in Eastern Africa

Research Partners:

Photo credit: Martin Prowse, with kind permission.

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Principal Investigator: Martin Philip Prowse. Lead Organisation: University of Copenhagen

Co-investigators: Marianne Nylandsted Larsen; Jytte Agergaard; Michael Helt Knudsen; Niels Fold

Contract farming is a form of vertical integration within agricultural commodity chains such that a firm has greater control over the production process and final product. Changes in the demand for and supply of agricultural products have increased the popularity of this form of exchange in many low-income countries and it is attracting considerable policy and academic attention.

While research in the 1980s and 1990s offered a mixed assessment of the extent to which contract farming engaged with and benefited smallholders, recent literature offers a more positive interpretation of smallholder involvement. This project evaluates the addition of gender-specific elements within existing contract farming operations. It evaluates whether gender-specific clauses increase the benefits smallholders and firms accrue from the relationship.

In Malawi, we are working with a tobacco leaf company to evaluate the inclusion of a clause for wives to grow and market groundnuts alongside a standard tobacco contract. In Tanzania, we are working with a cotton ginnery to evaluate the inclusion of wives to grow hybrid maize alongside cotton. We do this by combining a randomised design - where clubs and members are randomly assigned the innovation - with an interview schedule that includes biographical, open and closed questions.

Partner institutions include NASFAM in Malawi and Mzumbe University, Tanzania. To read more about the project, see their website: Contract Farming and Gender Equity in African Landscapes (CONGENIAL).

Outreach, uptake and use strategy:

This project has a very clear and achievable set of activities to maximise the dissemination, uptake and use of the research findings by academics, policymakers and practitioners. The strategy aims to engage and influence four specific communities.

These are as follows:

Policymakers and practitioners in Lilongwe and Dar es Salaam

Output: To provide a rigorous examination of the costs of benefits of separate contracts for wives

How: Through the presentation workshop in Lilongwe, the set of research briefs, and online resources.

Impact: To influence on-going policy discussions on contract farming legislation, in addition to the agricultural development strategy and national development strategies.

Donors and other stakeholders in the agricultural sectors (for example, DfID, World Bank, Danida, NORAD, SIDA and NGOs)

Output: To provide an example of how development partners can structure innovative impact evaluations of interventions within contract farming schemes.

How: Through the presentation workshops, articles in daily newspapers regarding the impact of the project, research briefs and online resources.

Impact: To help inform donor country strategies, and improve the range of tools available to evaluation specialists and consultants.

Evaluation communities (for example, the African Evaluation Society and European Evaluation Society)

Output: To demonstrate how a qualitative research tool can be utilised within a quantitative research methodology.

How: Through working papers and journal articles.

Impact: The help reduce the gap between advocates of randomized control trials and mainstream evaluation communities. Development community in the UK Output: To contribute to the debate on contract farming in Africa, and the debate on the use of experimental methods in development research.

How: Workshop at Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London, research briefs, working papers and journal articles. Impact: To help bridge the gap between qual and quant evaluation practitioners, and show how mixed methods can be conducted in practice.

The project will include web-based dissemination and outreach tools, which will host details of the study, its methodology, and later, anonymised datasets, visual trajectories and papers.

Primary theme: 
Grant Reference: 
Project Status: 
Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
Geography and Geology
Fund Start Date: 
October 11th, 2013
Fund End Date: 
June 30th, 2015
Fund Currency Code: 
Fund Value: