Agricultural Reform in Rwanda

Authoritarianism, Markets and Zones of Governance

By (author) Chris Huggins

Publication date:

15 October 2017


Zed Books



ISBN-13: 9781786990006

International observers have lauded Rwanda as an example of an African country taking control of its own development trajectory, and as a market-friendly destination for investment. A key component of this narrative has been an ambitious programme of agricultural reform, involving private firms, NGOs, and international charities. The Rwandan government claims these reforms have been a resounding success, tripling crop yields and helping to combat hunger. 

Chris Huggins argues, however, that Rwanda’s liberal, modernising image sits poorly with the regime’s continuing authoritarian tendencies. Featuring in-depth case studies of the effects of agricultural reform in three different regions, and drawing on hundreds of interviews, Huggins shows that the much-vaunted ‘liberalization’ of agriculture has in fact depended on the coercion of Rwandan farmers, and in many cases has had a detrimental impact on their livelihoods.

With the Kagame regime now coming under increasing international scrutiny, this work provides a timely look at the impact of ‘market friendly authoritarianism’ in contemporary Africa, making essential reading for students and scholars of development in the fields of sociology, anthropology, political science, and economics.

Key features

  • The first in-depth study of agricultural reform in Rwanda
  • Based on extensive, unique in-country fieldwork, including over 300 interviews
  • Author has accumulated a wide range of professional experience in the region, including as a researcher for Human Rights Watch and a consultant for USAID.
  • Rwanda is a very contentious and high-profile country both amongst those studying Africa and policymakers

‘Based on detailed fieldwork, this book substantially advances our understanding of the Rwandan story. Anyone interested in the political economy of African agriculture should read this book.’
Ian Scoones, co-editor of Africa's Land Rush: Rural Livelihoods and Agrarian Change

‘An extraordinary study of the state-directed commercialization of Rwandan agriculture. In this nuanced account, Huggins reworks the contemporary agrarian question.’
Philip McMichael, author of Food Regimes and Agrarian Questions

‘An in-depth analysis of Rwanda’s problematic rural reengineering project. It is an essential contribution to the contemporary literature on post-conflict reconstruction and development.’
An Ansoms, co-author of Losing your Land: Dispossession in the Great Lakes

'A very informed, nuanced analysis of agriculture in Rwanda, spanning zones of governance, compliance and resistance in a “developmental” state. As always, only some citizens and communities benefit. This book shows us why.'
Timothy M. Shaw, University of Massachusetts Boston

‘A well researched book on Rwanda, using an interesting blend of theoretical insights. It highlights the drama in Africa associated with capturing peasants for national development while at the same time avoiding elite capture of the public good.’
Goran Hyden, University of Florida (Emeritus)

‘Drawing on his deep knowledge of Rwanda and extensive fieldwork, Huggins convincingly demonstrates that Rwanda’s agricultural development programs represent an extension of the state’s authoritarian control, and lead to popular resentment and resistance.’
Timothy Longman, Director of the African Studies Center at Boston University

‘Theoretically sophisticated and rich in empirical detail. The book deserves a wide readership and can profitably be read by scholars and policy makers alike.’
Rita Abrahamsen, University of Ottawa

‘In a nuanced and compelling account, Chris Huggins explores why Rwanda’s ambitious agricultural modernization program has undermined the livelihoods of many of the country’s smallholder farmers. It should be required reading for scholars and practitioners engaged with state-sponsored rural development in Africa.’
Catharine Newbury, Smith College (Emeritus)

'An important contribution to the literature on postgenocide Rwanda. It is also, more broadly, a must-read for anyone interested in the global processes of agrarian transformation.'
African Affairs