Brazil’s influence in agricultural development in Africa has become noticeable in recent years. South–South cooperation is one of the instruments for engagement, and affinities between Brazil and African countries are invoked to justify the transfer of technology and public policies.
In this article, we take the case of one of Brazil’s development cooperation programs, More Food International (MFI), to illustrate why policy concepts and ideas that emerge in particular settings, such as family farming in Brazil, do not travel easily across space and socio-political realities. Taking a discourse-analytical perspective, we consider actors’ narratives of family farming and the MFI program, and how these narratives navigate between Brazil and three African countries – Ghana, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe. We find that in Brazil, family farming has multiple meanings that expose contrasting visions of agricultural development as determined by history, geography and class-based power struggles.
These multiple meanings are reflected in the disparate ways MFI is portrayed and practiced by Brazilian actors who emphasize commercial opportunity, political advocacy, or technological modernization. We also find that African countries adopt their own interpretations of family farming and MFI, and that these are more attuned with mercantilist and modernization perspectives, and less mindful of Brazil’s domestic political struggles. This has prompted a reaction from those on the Brazilian side fighting for an alternative agricultural development trajectory. The significance of this reaction is yet to be determined.