Natural Resources, Rural Poverty and China-Africa Trade: Equity and Sustainability in Informal Commodities Value Chains

Lead Research Organisation: International Institute for Env and Dev
Department Name: Natural Resources Group

Abstract

This project addresses two key development challenges and opportunities concerning Africa's natural resource governance today: the growing informal commodity trade and engagement with China. It focuses on the impacts of Chinese actors in informal agriculture, mining and timber trade along two fast-developing trade corridors connected to the Indian Ocean. The first corridor is a transit route for commodities such as timber and minerals from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) through East Africa for export from Kenya. The second corridor links central southern Africa (Zambia and DRC's Katanga province to Beira port in Mozambique, from where agricultural products, timber and, increasingly minerals are exported).

Examining the two trade routes that link Africa's informal natural resource sectors to the ever-growing Chinese market, this work will provide urgently needed insights on natural resource governance, global trade patterns, and the positive and deleterious effects of informal resource exploitation on local poverty and the natural environment. It builds on ongoing efforts by IIED and CIFOR in relation to these topics, expanding and deepening research in the area and using a well-connected policy network to achieve impact.

Specifically, the research involves four work streams over the course of 36 months: i) value chain analysis of selected commodity chains with a particular focus on power dynamics and benefit distribution among actors, ii) political-economic analysis of regulatory and customary regimes governing the selected commodity trade, iii) environmental impacts analysis through land-use/land cover change and iv) cross-sector synthesis of the three sectors' findings and key policy lessons.

The proposed research addresses all the objectives of the DFID-ESRC China and Africa Research Programme Call. First, it takes Africa's development challenges (the growing informal economy and depleting natural resource base) as starting points to examine Chinese engagement in the context of informal commodity trade. Envisioned as one of the first systematic examinations of micro-level Chinese activities in Africa's natural resource governance, this research will provide rigorous evidence and dispel misconceptions about Chinese trade and investment in Africa's informal economy.

Second, it benefits economically-marginalized actors (such as rural resource users, women and youth not integrated in the formal economy) in the selected African countries by identifying opportunities and challenges for poverty alleviation and sustainable resource use associated with Africa's growing informal economy and China-Africa commodity trade

Third, it confronts two cross-cutting themes: gender and fragile states through gender-disaggregated value chain and livelihoods analysis and inclusion of the DRC as a research site.

Fourth, it supports national and international policymaking by generating an evidence-based body of knowledge strongly demanded by Chinese, African and international policymakers, businesses as well as rural African resource users - their requests for accurate information have been highlighted through the previous research, personal communications and policy engagement work by IIED, CIFOR, GEI and the African institutions (see Pathways to Impact).

Finally, it adds to the development literature by extending and adopting existing methodologies to informal economy research - a field that is rapidly growing in importance for studying economic development in the global South. It also takes a multidisciplinary approach through environmental impact assessment using GIS remote sensing, which is critical to obtaining a comprehensive understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with sustainable development.

Planned Impact

This research will benefit policymakers, businesses (both formal and small-scale entrepreneurs/resource users) and practitioners in Africa, China and internationally, who work on issues related to China's natural resource governance, trade and investment in Africa.

In the policymaking arena, we have identified a strong demand for evidence-based information from Chinese, African and western/international policymakers through previous research and policy engagement. As listed on "Pathways to Impact," Chinese and African policymakers have asked for better, field-based assessment of the micro-level Chinese engagement. International policymakers have also been concerned with the growing role of Chinese trade and investment and their associated social and environmental impacts. These stakeholders will directly benefit from our research because the project establishes a rigorous evidence base for them to design appropriate policies.

Local loggers, miners and farmers in the informal sector will benefit by engaging with the national policymaking process and having their interests represented as part of our stakeholder consultations and research outreach. The large formal (both Chinese and non-Chinese) businesses will receive accurate information on the informal small-scale activities that interface with their economic activities - enabling them better to interact with small-scale producers and suppliers from upstream communities. Civil society organizations will benefit from an accurate understanding of informal sector activities and the associated challenges and opportunities for poverty reduction and sustainable resource use.

"Pathways to Impact" further elaborates on the perspectives of and benefits for the different stakeholders. It also explains our targeted methods of engagement as well as the desired impacts and potential indicators to measure these for each stakeholder group.

Policy engagement will be a priority throughout the project starting with stakeholder consultation meetings. One meeting per sector (in Nairobi for logging and mining, in Lusaka for agriculture) will be convened during the inception phase. Each meeting will involve policymakers from the relevant ministry, customs and port authorities, Chinese businesses (both large and small-scale enterprises), civil society members representing the informal actors (whenever possible, informal actors will attend in person) and local researchers on this topic. Each session will identify stakeholders' common interests as well as create a relevant research agenda allowing for co-production of knowledge.

A full results framework and strategies for in-country policy engagement will be developed after the first six months based on the scoping study's findings and stakeholder consultations in the selected African countries as well as China.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Agriculture package: Zambia's policy engagement workshop was conducted in October with 30 key attendants from the government, private sector and farmers' representatives and academia; the research was well received by the participants as critical information which may help steer the future of the cotton sector in the country (detailed report available upon request). Zimbabwe's polity engagement workshop was conducted in October with 44 key attendants from government, private sector and farmers' representatives and academia; similarly, the research was very well received and was considered highly valuable in shaping the discussion for the country's cotton sector (detailed report available). Internationally, the Zambian and Zimbabwean teams attended the 76th Plenary of the International Cotton Advisory Committee, held in October 2017 in Tashkent, Uzbekistan where the teams made a presentation of our research to over 100 attendants from governments and other key organisations. The presentation was considered as highly valuable inputs from the ground based on solid research on a pertinent topic affecting the future of the industry in the region. The research team was requested by the Committee to spearhead research on reviving the cotton sector in the region (a detailed report available upon request).
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description DEGRP/ODI policy impact support for photo essay
Amount £5,000 (GBP)
Organisation Overseas Development Institute (ODI) 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2017 
End 03/2017
 
Description Artisanal Mining Workshop in Tanzania 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact The project co-funded and participated in the Artisanal Mining Workshop in Tanzania in November, attended by ca. 100 participants with strong representation of key government departments and the private sector. The research was presented to the audience in a session titled "upgrading artisanal mining and foreign investments." The stakeholders considered the research to be highly relevant to the on-going sector reforms.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.iied.org/time-right-for-dialogue-about-sustainable-asm-tanzania
 
Description China-Zambia forestry cooperation dialogue 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A meeting between a Chinese delegation (consisting of the Forestry department and Ministry of Commerce, private sector and academia) and the Zambian Forestry Department and the industry was conducted in October; the meeting facilitated better understanding of the nature of the China-Zambia timber trade and discussion of collaboration between the two countries. Furthermore, a validation meeting with the Forestry Department in Zambia was conducted in December and attended by the Director and several key senior officials of the Department (detailed report available). The research was well received and further engagement plans have been discussed.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Cotton policy engagement workshop in Zambia and Zimbabwe 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Zambia's policy engagement workshop was conducted in October with 30 key attendants from the government, private sector and farmers' representatives and academia; the research was well received by the participants as critical information which may help steer the future of the cotton sector in the country (detailed report available upon request). Zimbabwe's polity engagement workshop was conducted in October with 44 key attendants from government, private sector and farmers' representatives and academia; similarly, the research was very well received and was considered highly valuable in shaping the discussion for the country's cotton sector (detailed report available)
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Cotton validation workshop in Chipata Zambia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact 20+ cotton company managers attended the validation workshop in Chipata Zambia to discuss the preliminary results from our research and provide more insights about how to make the cotton policies in Zambia better for farmers and companies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Cotton validation workshop in Zimbabwe 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact Preliminary results from our research in Zimbabwe were presented to cotton businesses and farmers to seek their inputs regarding improving cotton policies before finalizing the report.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Photo story on the cotton sector in Zambia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A photo story detailing the role of smallholder farmers in cotton farming in Zambia and the impact of side-trading and the need for improved policymaking.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.iied.org/cotton-crossroads
 
Description Timber photo essay 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A photo story detailing the role of and impacts on rural small-scale loggers in the rosewood mukula trade, intended to reach the development community and change perceptions about the appropriate responses to illegal logging and trade.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://www.iied.org/saving-trees-or-improving-lives
 
Description Web blog 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The blog intended to share intermediate results from the research and stir discussion about cross-regional forestry policymaking among professionals based on our research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL http://blog.cifor.org/48662/the-chicken-or-the-egg?fnl=en