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.
In many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia smallholder farmers are among the most vulnerable to climatic changes, and the observed shocks and stresses associated with these changes impact agricultural systems in many ways. This research brief offers findings on observed or measured changes in precipitation, temperature or both, on five biophysical pathways and systems including variable or changing growing seasons, extreme events, biotic stressors, plant species density, richness and range, impacts to streamflow, and impacts on crop yield. These findings are the result of a review of relevant documents cited in Kilroy (2015), references included in the IPCC draft Special Report on Food Security, and targeted searches from 2015 - present for South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Studies of improved seed adoption in developing countries almost always draw from household surveys and are premised on the assumption that farmers are able to self-report their use of improved seed varieties. However, recent studies suggest that farmers’ reports of the seed varieties planted, or even whether seed is local or improved, are sometimes inconsistent with the results of DNA fingerprinting of farmers' crops. We use household survey data from Tanzania to test the alignment between farmer-reported and DNA-identified maize seed types planted in fields. In the sample, 70% of maize seed observations are correctly reported as local or improved, while 16% are type I errors (falsely reported as improved) and 14% are type II errors (falsely reported as local). Type I errors are more likely to have been sourced from other farmers, rather than formal channels. An analysis of input use, including seed, fertilizer, and labor allocations, reveals that farmers tend to treat improved maize differently, depending on whether they correctly perceive it as improved. This suggests that errors in farmers' seed type awareness may translate into suboptimal management practices. In econometric analysis, the measured yield benefit of improved seed use is smaller in magnitude with a DNA-derived categorization, as compared with farmer reports. The greatest yield benefit is with correctly identified improved seed. This indicates that investments in farmers' access to information, seed labeling, and seed system oversight are needed to complement investments in seed variety development.
According to AGRA's 2017 Africa Agriculture Status Report, smallholder farmers make up to about 70% of the population in Africa. The report finds that 500 million smallholder farms around the world provide livelihoods for more than 2 billion people and produce about 80% of the food in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Many development interventions and policies therefore target smallholder farm households with the goals of increasing their productivity and promoting agricultural transformation. Of particular interest for agricultural transformation is the degree to which smallholder farm households are commercializating their agricultural outputs, and diversifying their income sources away from agriculture. In this project, EPAR uses data from the World Bank's Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) to analyze and compare characteristics of smallholder farm households at different levels of crop commercialization and reliance on farm income, and to evaluate implications of using different criteria for defining "smallholder" households for conclusions on trends in agricultural transformation for those households.
Land tenure refers to a set of land rights and land governance institutions which can be informal (customary, traditional) or formal (legally recognized), that define relationships between people and land and natural resources (FAO, 2002). These land relationships may include, but are not limited to, rights to use land for cultivation and production, rights to control how land should be used including for cultivation, resource extraction, conservation, or construction, and rights to transfer – through sale, gift, or inheritance – those land use and control rights (FAO, 2002). In this project, we review 38 land tenure technologies currently being applied to support land tenure security across the globe, and calculate summary statistics for indicators of land tenure in Tanzania and Ethiopia.
By examining how farmers respond to changes in crop yield, we provide evidence on how farmers are likely to respond to a yield-enhancing intervention that targets a single staple crop such as maize. Two alternate hypotheses we examine are: as yields increase, do farmers maintain output levels but change the output mix to switch into other crops or activities, or do they hold cultivated area constant to increase their total production quantity and therefore their own consumption or marketing of the crop? This exploratory data analysis using three waves of panel data from Tanzania is part of a long-term project examining the pathways between staple crop yield (a proxy for agricultural productivity) and poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa.
A growing body of evidence suggests that empowering women may lead to economic benefits (The World Bank, 2011; Duflo, 2012; Kabeer & Natali, 2013). Little work, however, focuses specifically on the potential impacts of women’s empowerment in agricultural settings. Through a comprehensive review of literature this report considers how prioritizing women’s empowerment in agriculture might lead to economic benefits. With an intentionally narrow focus on economic empowerment, we draw on the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI)’s indicators of women’s empowerment in agriculture to consider the potential economic rewards to increasing women’s control over agricultural productive resources (including their own time and labor), over agricultural production decisions, and over agricultural income. While we recognize that there may be quantifiable benefits of improving women’s empowerment in and of itself, we focus on potential longer-term economic benefits of improvements in these empowerment measures.
This report reviews and summarizes the existing evidence on the impact of access to financial services/products on measures of production, income and wealth, consumption and food security, and resilience for smallholder farmers and other rural customers and their households in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study covers four main types of financial products/services: 1) credit; 2) savings; 3) insurance; 4) transactional products. We also review the very limited evidence on the effectiveness of bundling these products/services together and of combining them with other offerings such as trainings or support for access to markets, and of providing them via digital channels. We note when financial products/services have been specifically designed to serve the needs of rural customers or smallholder farmers, since the needs of these groups are often very different from those of other stakeholders.
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.