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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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