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Title: Investing for impact : finance and farming in the southern highlands of Tanzania
Author: Watts, Natasha Alice
ISNI:       0000 0004 7226 8831
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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African agriculture has attracted increased global policy attention over the last 10 years due to concerns over both food security and economic growth. In this context, social impact investing (SII)—where investors use financial models to achieve positive social impacts as well as financial returns—is presented as a viable means of financing agricultural development in the context of reduced public funding This thesis is concerned with how SII (and its understandings, assumptions, and models of agricultural development) interact with smallholder farming in Tanzania. I unpack how the concept of SII takes shape, how it is translated into the Tanzanian context, and how it interacts with farmer livelihoods through a case study of Cheetah Development in Lower Kilolo District. I take a political ecology approach drawing mainly on qualitative methods. The concept of assemblages is employed to investigate how diverse actors enter into relationships, how those relationships hold together, and how they fall apart. I focus on three key analytical themes: power (discursive, disciplinary, and institutional), moral economies, and the role of socio-material entities. My findings show that SII is being driven by the pursuit for new profit frontiers and concerns over business risks, and also by a belief that a more ethical capitalist economy can be built. This has resulted in a narrative of ‘Africa rising’. How exactly ‘social impact’ is being defined and the motivations for pursuing it, however, differ widely within SII. To investigate how agricultural SII is translated in Tanzania I focus on Cheetah Development, an American social impact investor that provides agricultural inputs on credit to smallholder farmers and attempts to involve them in new maize value chains. Cheetah’s model identifies existing maize value chains centred around middlemen as features of an immoral capitalism. It also views smallholders as not only lacking market access and inputs, but also lacking in business-orientated mindsets. The Cheetah model builds various mechanisms to discipline farmers and render them bankable. Through examining farmer livelihoods, I find that farmers conduct diverse livelihood activities, and maize plays a variety of roles in village life. Farmer livelihoods are underpinned by a moral economy involving flexible relations of borrowing and lending. I conclude that assumptions of ethical capitalism embedded in the Cheetah model clash with farmer livelihoods and their conceptions of just socio-economic relationships.
Supervisor: Scales, Ivan Sponsor: ESRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Agriculture ; Social Impact Investing ; Tanzania ; Political Ecology