Africa’s Changing Farmland Ownership: The Rise of the Emergent Investor Farmer

Type Conference Paper - 29th Triennial International Conference of Agricultural Economists
Title Africa’s Changing Farmland Ownership: The Rise of the Emergent Investor Farmer
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
City Milan
Country/State Italy
Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing major changes in farm land ownership and use, which are both cause
and consequence of the economic transformations that the region is now experiencing. The rapid rise
of emergent investor farms in the 5 to 100 hectare category represents a revolutionary change in
Africa’s farm structure since 2000. In most countries examined, the majority of medium-scale farms are
owned by urban-based professionals or rural elites, many of whom are also public sector employees.
About half of these farmers obtained their land later in life, financed by non-farm income. The rise of
investor farmers is affecting the region in diverse ways that are difficult to generalize. Many investor
farms are a source of dynamism, technical change and commercialization of African agriculture. In
densely populated areas, however, the growth of investor farms may be displacing the potential for
agricultural land expansion of small-scale farming communities. Investor farmers tend to dominate farm
lobby groups and influence agricultural policies and the allocation of public expenditures to agriculture
in their favor. Nationally representative Demographic and Health Survey data from six countries
(Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia) show a sharp rise in urban-based households
engaged in agriculture, with about 10% of urban households owning 10% to 35% of total agricultural
land. Urban households account for a disproportionately large share of national farm holdings over 20
hectares. This suggests a new and hitherto unrecognized channel by which investor farmers may be
shifting the strength and location of agricultural growth multipliers between rural and urban areas.

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