Types of Research
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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.
In the decades following independence in 1960, Côte d’Ivoire stood out as a shining example of economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. GDP increased at an annual average of 8.1 percent from 1960 to 1979, led largely by cocoa and coffee exports. Low export earnings from a fall in world cocoa prices and a heavy public debt burden halted this growth in the 1980s, followed by civil conflict beginning in 1999. Three decades of focus on export crops rather than food crops also left Côte d’Ivoire with a growing food deficit. This literature review examines the state of agriculture in Côte d’Ivoire and the history of government involvement in the agricultural sector. We find that while the country is poised to reemerge from a decade of economic stagnation and civil war after signing the Ouagadougou Political Accord in 2007, the political economy of Côte d’Ivoire is still heavily dependent upon and influenced by the production of cocoa. Cocoa is the top export, and cocoa export taxes provide one of the largest sources of revenue for the Government of Côte d’Ivoire (GoCI). Cocoa is not heavily dependent on fertilizer inputs and growers have increased production by expanding cropland. The small contribution of fertilizer to the production of this essential crop may help explain the GoCI’s low priority on expanding fertilizer production and use. Given that a large part of government revenue comes from the export of cocoa and coffee, the government has chosen to focus resources on crops that increase revenue. Even with the food riots in 2008, the GoCI has not made increasing domestic food production an important focus of agricultural policy.
Agriculture is the most important sector in the Ghanaian economy. In 2008, it accounted for over 32 percent of GDP and employed over half of the labor force. Economic development in Ghana has historically been dependent on the success of agriculture, particularly the main export crop, cocoa. Despite the sector’s importance, Ghanaian farmers have one of the lowest fertilizer application rates in Sub-Saharan Africa. The combination of a dominant agricultural sector, nutrient-poor soils, low fertilizer use among smallholder farmers, and the absence of locally produced inorganic fertilizers has prompted the government of Ghana (GoG) to intervene in the fertilizer market. This literature review examines the state of agriculture in Ghana, the history of the fertilizer market, and the current market structure. We find that the GoG has been a major actor in the inorganic fertilizer market over the past 50 years, from exercising total control of the domestic supply chain in the 1960s and 1970s to more indirect interventions in later years. In recent years, agricultural growth has averaged 5.5 percent as compared to 5.2 percent growth in the rest of the economy. However, most of this growth has been due to land expansion and favorable weather conditions rather than increased productivity. Increased fertilizer use among smallholder farmers has the potential to contribute to future agricultural growth and continued economic success.
In Tanzania, agriculture represents approximately 50 percent of GDP, 80 percent of rural employment, and over 50 percent of the foreign exchange earnings. Yet poor soil fertility and resulting low productivity contribute to low economic growth and widespread poverty. Chemical fertilizer has the potential to contribute to crop yield increases. Yet high prices and weaknesses in the fertilizer market keep fertilizer use low. This literature review examines the history of government interventions that have intended to increase access to fertilizers, and reviews current policies, market structure, and challenges that contribute to the present conditions. We find that despite numerous strategies over the last fifty years, from heavy government involvement to liberalization, major weaknesses in Tanzania’s fertilizer market prevent efficient use of fertilizer. High transportation costs, low knowledge level of farmers and agrodealers, unavailability of improved seed, and limited access to credit all contribute to the market’s problems. The government’s current framework, the Tanzania Agriculture Input Partnership (TAIP), acknowledges this interconnectedness by targeting multiple components of the market. This model could help Tanzania tailor solutions relevant to specific road, soil, and market conditions of different areas of the country, contributing to enhanced food security and economic growth.
Governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have often intervened in the fertilizer sector to promote more optimal levels of fertilizer use. Many West African nations, in particular, have inherited a legacy of government involvement, stemming from French colonial policies that encouraged state participation in the agricultural sector. Senegal's colonial past has influenced much of its present economy, from its principal export crop (peanuts) to its major food import (rice). The colonial legacy includes a relatively high degree of urbanization; limited domestic industrial capacity; institutions, policies, and agricultural networks focused on supporting a single export crop; and a history of state intervention into markets. After government intervention in the 1960s and 1970s, followed by a period of liberalization in the 1980s and 1990s, Senegal is again defining its agricultural policy. This literature review examines the state of agriculture in Senegal and the history of Senegalese agricultural policy in order to understand past and current trends in fertilizer usage. We find that Senegal continues to experience a high level of food price fluctuations as it imports increasing amounts of rice to cover its food deficit. Increased use of fertilizer, along with irrigation technology may help improve rice production and increase food security. To achieve this goal, the Government of Senegal (GoS) has embarked on several initiatives, notably the Agro-Silvo-Pastoral Law (LOASP) and the Grande Offensive Agricole pour la Nourriture et l’Abondance (GOANA), employing subsidies to increase fertilizer demand and making food sovereignty a national priority. In the coming years, GoS will need to determine what role the government should play in the agricultural sector, and what level of intervention can be sustained in the long-term.
Nigeria’s experience with fertilizer subsidy programs has been different than that of other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Nigeria is one of the only African countries capable of producing fertilizer domestically. But Nigeria is also large and densely populated. This makes national agricultural policy difficult due to logistical problems with implementation and the unique fertilizer needs of the various agro-ecological zones. This research brief discusses the effects of Nigeria’s input subsidy programs on maize production and fertilizer consumption. It focuses on the years 2000 to 2007, but also includes a discussion of Nigeria’s subsidy history from the early 1970s to 2009. Researchers have had difficulty studying Nigeria’s subsidy schemes due to a lack of data. In spite of decades of authoritarian, centralized leadership, Nigeria’s states have significant power to implement their own subsidies. This complicates any evaluation of a program’s effectiveness, in part due to the variety of subsidies at any given time, as well as inconsistent accounting practices.
The Government of Kenya (GoK) has historically encouraged its farmers to use fertilizer by financing infrastructure and supporting fertilizer markets. From 1974 to 1984, the GoK provided a fertilizer importation monopoly to one firm, the Kenya Farmers Association. However, the GoK saw that this monopoly impeded fertilizer market development by prohibiting competing firms from entering the market and, in the latter half of the 1980s, encouraged other firms to enter the highly regulated fertilizer market. This report examines the state of fertilizer use in Kenya by reviewing and summarizing literature on recent fertilizer price increases, Kenya’s fertilizer usage trends and approaches, market forces, and the impact of government and non-government programs. We find that most studies of Kenya’s fertilizer market find it to be well functioning and generally competitive, and conclude that market reform has stimulated fertilizer use mainly by improving farmers’ access to the input through the expansion of private retail networks. Overall fertilizer consumption in Kenya has increased steadily since 1980, and fertilizer use among smallholders is among the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet fertilizer consumption is still limited, especially on cereal crops, and in areas where agroecological conditions create greater risks and lower returns to fertilizer use.