Brokering Development?
: Limits of Private-Sector Coordination with Paddy Smallholders as a Pro-Poor Strategy at Tanzania’s Agricultural Growth Corridors

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


In 2007–08, staple-food scarcity and prices soared in Africa, prompting African governments to take a new course: inviting global agricultural corporations to the continent to industrialize agriculture. For this aim, Tanzania initiated the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridors of Tanzania (SAGCOT), which officially seeks to foster food security and poverty alleviation. SAGCOT offers a dual approach: (1) companies acquiring lands and creating rural jobs and (2) companies expanding rural markets (e.g., for farm inputs, financing, and food trade) and practice contract farming with smallholders to stimulate the existing commercial agriculture. The available research on SAGCOT has thus far focused on the first approach. It has shown that the granting of land rights to companies has been corruption-ridden and driven land grievances and impoverishment. However, little research is available on the practice of the second approach. Hence, this dissertation seeks to contribute toward addressing this gap by exploring the impacts of emerging markets and contract farming on food production, incomes, and land security. The central question is as follows: How does private-sector coordination with smallholders influence their livelihoods?

The study uses a critical agrarian political economy lens to engage in an explorative research agenda. The case study is the Madibira irrigation scheme, constructed in 1998, a major paddy production area. One-year fieldwork covers the 2016–2017 production year. Several contextual obstacles are taken into account: droughts, oscillating market prices, and government-enacted water access limitations this year pressured income generation. This study assesses SAGCOT’s success in improving livelihoods based on its ability to address these obstacles and benefit the lowest-income smallholders. Specific attention is paid to rising income inequalities and its impacts on landholding. Methods include semi-structured and in-depth interviews and narrative analysis. One key finding is that expanding markets and contract farming indeed contributes to incomes. However, these coordination types mostly benefit the existing better-off farmers and fail to improve the cultivation capacities of the poorest farmers. These farmers consequently abandon their lands and experience further losses in their livelihoods. These and further insights garnered in this study seek to inform policymakers about the limits of SAGCOT as a poverty alleviation strategy and suggest alternatives.
Date of Award27 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorNaho Mirumachi (Supervisor)

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