UCL Institute for Global Prosperity


Prosperity and Innovation in the past and future of agriculture in Eastern Africa

PIPFA aims to develop models for designing new food systems in ways that empower smallholder livelihoods and regenerate local ecologies.

Expanding the role of African farmers

25 January 2022

This project aims to reframe how we understand and support smallholder farmers in Eastern Africa by focussing on innovative, self-defined ‘digital farmers’ in Elgeyo-Marakwet County (EMC), Kenya. Approximately 85% of total agricultural output across the African continent is produced by smallholder farmers, with the smallholder farming sub-sector accounting for 75% of Kenya’s total agricultural output. Yet there remains a persistent imagining amongst some academics, policy-makers and NGOs that African farming practices are static, inefficient and inherently vulnerable in the face of environmental change and population growth.

This project argues that this assessment is highly reductive, being deeply rooted in colonial development epistemologies. By working with smallholder farmers EMC, we are instead exploring how farmers in Eastern Africa are highly creative and innovate in their daily practices. Working with multi-sectoral partners active in food systems research and delivery, we are challenging the ‘modernisation’ imperative by historicising contemporary farming practices and diachronically exploring recent and ongoing processes of innovation, improvisation and ingenuity that seem to have been characteristic of African farming for centuries. Comprehending these dynamics in a more nuanced and detailed manner can in turn help provide the foundation for locally-led pathways towards new prosperous futures for farming livelihoods in East Africa.

Read more here: https://www.thebartlettreview.com/features/expanding-the-role-of-african...

Image credit: Sam Lunn-Rockliffe