Types of Research
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Precise agricultural statistics are necessary to track productivity and design sound agricultural policies. Yet, in settings where intercropping is prevalent, even crop yield can be challenging to measure. In a systematic survey of the literature on crop yield in low-income settings, we find that scholars specify how they estimate the yield denominator in under 10% of cases. Using household survey data from Tanzania, we consider four alternative methods of allocating land area on plots that contain multiple crops, and explore the implications of this measurement decision for analyses of maize and rice yield. We find that 64% of cultivated plots contain more than one crop, and average yield estimates vary with different methods of calculating area planted. This pattern is more pronounced for maize, which is more likely than rice to share a plot with other crops. The choice among area methods influences which of these two staple crops is found to be more calorie-productive per ha, as well as the extent to which fertilizer is expected to be profitable for maize production. Given that construction decisions can influence the results of analysis, we conclude that the literature would benefit from greater clarity regarding how yield is measured across studies.
Cereal yield variability is influenced by initial conditions such as suitability of the farming system for cereal cultivation, current production quantities and yields, and zone-specific potential yields limited by water availability. However, exogenous factors such as national policies, climate, and international market conditions also impact farm-level yields directly or provide incentives or disincentives for farmers to intensify production. We conduct a selective literature review of policy-related drivers of maize yields in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda and pair the findings with FAOSTAT data on yield and productivity. This report presents our cumulative findings along with contextual evidence of the hypothesized drivers behind maize yield trends over the past 20 years for the focus countries.
Common estimates of agricultural productivity rely upon crude measures of crop yield, typically defined as the weight harvested of a crop divided by the area harvested. But this common yield measure poorly reflects performance among farm systems combining multiple crops in one area (e.g., intercropping), and also ignores the possibility that farmers might lose crop area between planting and harvest (e.g., partial crop failure). Drawing on detailed plot-level data from Tanzania’s National Panel Survey, our research contrasts measures of smallholder productivity using production per hectare harvested and production per hectare planted.
An initial analysis (Research Brief - Rice Productivity Measurement) looking at rice production finds that yield by area planted differs significantly from yield by area harvested, particularly for smaller farms and female-headed households. OLS regression further reveals different demographic and management-related drivers of variability in yield gains – and thus different implications for policy and development interventions – depending on the yield measurement used. Findings suggest a need to better specify “yield” to more effectively guide agricultural development efforts.
A farmer’s decision of how much land to dedicate to each crop reflects their farming options at the extensive and intensive margins. The extensive margin represents the total amount of agricultural land area that a farmer has available in a given year (referred to interchangeably as ‘farm size’ or ‘agricultural land’). A farmer increases land use on the extensive margin by planting on new agricultural land. The intensive margin represents area planted of crops as a proportion of total farm size. A farmer increases the intensive margin by increasing output within a fixed area. This analysis examines cropping patterns for households in Tanzania between 2008 and 2010 using data from the Tanzania National Panel Survey (TZNPS). This brief describes changes in farm size, total area planted, and area planted of select annual crops to highlight the dynamic nature of farmer’s cropping choices for a sample population of 2,246 agricultural households that reported having any agricultural land in 2008 or 2010. Throughout the brief, we present summary statistics at the national level and compare them with household-level data to show how results vary depending on how the sub-population is defined and how average measures can mask household level changes. We analyze these questions in the context of smallholders (defined as households with total agricultural land area as less than two hectares) and farming systems.
This report provides a general overview of the markets for yams in Nigeria. The first section describes trends in yam production and consumption and international trade since 1990. The second section summarizes the varieties grown in Nigeria and their uses, followed by a discussion of the importance of yams as a source of nutrition and household income. The final section provides details about the production and marketing systems for yams in Nigeria, including environmental and gender considerations. Nigeria is the world’s largest yam producer in terms of quantity. Yam production and consumption have increased over the past twenty years, though more recently, production has been somewhat in decline and yields have been stagnant. The Nigerian government has played a more active role in improving agricultural production and export of root and tuber crops including yams in recent years, but so far with limited success. Yam producers and traders report diverse constraints to their full participation in the market, including high cost of inputs, planting materials and labor, lack of credit, limited access to proper, secure storage facilities, and high transportation costs.
This report provides a general overview of the sweet potato value chain in Tanzania. The first section describes trends in sweet potato production and consumption since 1990. The second section describes the uses and importance of sweet potatoes in Tanzania. The final section outlines current practices and constraints in production, post-production, and marketing. Tanzania ranks fifth in the world in quantity of sweet potatoes produced. Production and consumption of sweet potatoes have been relatively constant over the past 10 years, although both production and consumption in this period have been high in comparison to earlier decades. We find that sweet potato yields increased in the early 2000s, but have stagnated since, and are far short of potential yields. Sweet potato consumption is almost entirely domestic and plays an important role in nutrition and food security for smallholder farmers. Sweet potato production faces a variety of constraints, including pests and disease, short shelf life, lack of planting materials, damage during handling, and lack of market access.
This report provides a general overview of the market for yams in Ghana. We begin by describing historical trends in yam production and consumption since 1996, recent international trade, and prices. The second section summarizes the varieties grown in Ghana and their uses. The next several sections review available information about the production and marketing systems, followed by a discussion of the importance of yams as a source of nutrition and household income. The limited information available on sweet potato production in Ghana is presented in the appendix. We find that yam production in Ghana has increased steadily over the last 15 years, and that while yam yields have increased from 12.8 MT/Ha in 1996 to 15.6 MT/Ha in 2011, an estimated yield gap of 33.4 MT/Ha persists. Yam export levels have varied over the past 15 years, but show a generally positive trend. Most yam farmers are male smallholders with low levels of education, while most retailers, wholesalers and cross-border traders are women.
Cassava is a tuber crop originating in South America and grown in tropical and subtropical areas throughout the world. Cassava use varies significantly by region. In Africa, cassava is primarily grown for food. In Asia, production is typically for industrial purposes, including ethanol, while in Latin America and the Caribbean it is commonly used in animal feed. Both roots and leaves are consumed, though most information on production focuses on roots. There are bitter and sweet varieties; bitter cassava has a high cyanide content and must be processed prior to consumption, while sweet varieties can be eaten directly. This report presents information about current production, constraints, and future potential of cassava. We discuss cassava’s importance in Africa, current worldwide production, projections for supply and demand, production constraints, and current policies affecting cassava production and trade. We include global information but focus on Africa, particularly Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, and Tanzania.
This brief explores how two datasets – The Tanzania National Panel Survey (TZNPS) and the TNS-Research International Farmer Focus (FF) – predict the determinants of inorganic fertilizer use among smallholder farmers in Tanzania by using regression analysis. The (TZNPS) was implemented by the Tanzania National Bureau of Statistics, with support from the World Bank Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) team and includes extensive information on crop productivity and input use. The FF survey was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and implemented by TNS Research International and focuses on the on the behaviors and attitudes of smallholder farmers in Tanzania. The two datasets produce relatively comparable results for the primary predictors of inorganic fertilizer use: agricultural extension and whether or not a household grows cash crops. However, other factors influencing input use produce results that vary in magnitude and direction of the effect across the two datasets. Distinct survey instrument designs make it difficult to test the robustness of the models on input use other than inorganic fertilizer. This brief uses data inorganic fertilizer use, rather than adoption per se. The TZNPS did not ask households how recently they began using a certain product and although the FF survey asked respondents how many new inputs were tried in the past four planting seasons, they did not ask specifically about inorganic fertilizer.
Over the past 20 years, global wheat production and consumption have increased significantly. Production has increased 28%, or about 1.3% annually, and consumption has increased about 24%, or 1.1% annually. A small number of countries consistently account for over 90% of the export market, but the import market is more diversified and involves many more countries. Wheat is primarily used for food, seed, and industry; only 20% of wheat production is used for animal feed. This brief provides a global overview of the wheat value chain, but with specific attention to three focus countries: Ethiopia, India (specifically the Bihar region), and Bangladesh. While these three countries currently have a limited impact in the global wheat market, projections of wheat production and demand suggest that over the next 20 years demand in Bangladesh and Ethiopia will increasingly exceed supply, while India will become a net importer by 2030.