Types of Research
Recent research has used typologies to classify rural households into categories such as “subsistence” versus “commercialized” as a means of targeting agricultural development interventions and tracking agricultural transformation. Following an approach proposed by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, we examine patterns in two agricultural transformation hallmarks – commercialization of farm output, and diversification into non-farm income – among rural households in Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Tanzania from 2008-2015. We classify households into five smallholder farm categories based on commercialization and non-farm income levels (Subsistence, Pre-commercial, Transitioning, Specialized Commercial, and Diversified Commercial farms), as well as two non-smallholder categories (Largeholder farms and Non-farm households). We then summarize the share of households in each of these categories, examine geographic and demographic factors associated with different categories, and explore households’ movement across categories over time. We find a large amount of “churn” across categories, with most households moving to a different (more or less commercialized, more or less diversified) category across survey years. We also find many non-farm households become smallholder farmers – and vice versa – over time. Finally, we show that in many cases increases in farm household commercialization or diversification rates actually reflect decreased total farm production, or decreased total income (i.e., declines in the denominators of the agricultural transformation metrics), suggesting a potential loss of rural household welfare even in the presence of “positive” trends in transformation indicators. Findings underscore challenges with using common macro-level indicators to target development efforts and track progress at the household level in rural agrarian communities.
The purpose of this literature review is to identify the linkages between increases in agricultural productivity and poverty reduction. The relevant literature includes economic theory and evidence from applied growth and multiplier models as well as micro-level studies evaluating the impact of specific productivity increases on local poverty outcomes. We find that cross-country and micro-level empirical studies provide general support for the theories of a positive relationship between growth in agricultural productivity and poverty alleviation, regardless of the measures of productivity and poverty that are used. The evidence also suggests multiple pathways through which increases in agricultural productivity can reduce poverty, including real income changes, employment generation, rural non-farm multiplier effects, and food prices effects. However, we find that barriers to technology adoption, initial asset endowments, and constraints to market access may all inhibit the ability of the poorest to participate in the gains from agricultural productivity growth.