This paper aims to engage in alternative perspectives of agricultural commercialisation to shift thinking and ways of framing the debates, arguing for a diverse range of commercialisations, locally specific trajectories, and differentiated engagement with domestic and export markets. The overarching question here is how to translate pro-smallholder commercialisations policy into practice. Growth-poverty reduction linkages for smallholder farmers through commercialised agriculture do not lie along just one or two channels. Indirect (or multiplier) effects are also key, especially those through labour markets.
Focusing on crops, the paper attempts to get away from the idea that there is one, ideal commercial agriculture, following a linear path to some clearly defined end point. Hence the plural: commercialisations. This also allows for concepts of commercial agriculture that go beyond simple distinctions often made, such as those between 'food' and 'cash' crops.
Drawing on existing literature, the paper sets out a framework for describing the different kinds of commercialisation that co-exist. It attempts also to give a sense of what might be emerging in relation to this framework, the diverse forms of commercialisation that respond to distinct livelihood needs and local contexts. This allows a time dimension, dynamics and future scenarios, and moves away from any presumption of a singular type of transition to a particular type of 'commercial' agriculture. This framework can be used to pose questions for empirical studies and to examine potential implications of different policy options, in terms of implementation as well as outcomes.