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Open Access Publications from the University of California

CEGA is a hub for research on global development, with a network of over 60 academic researchers extending across the University of California, Stanford University, and the University of Washington. Our faculty affiliates design and test solutions for the problems of poverty, generating actionable evidence for policy-makers in less developed countries. Using rigorous field trials, behavioral experiments, and tools from data science, we measure and maximize the impacts of economic development programs throughout the world.

Cover page of The influence of collective property rights on grazing management in a semi-arid region

The influence of collective property rights on grazing management in a semi-arid region


The paper reports on a series of field experiments based on a non-standard common-pool resource model and carried out with communal farmers in southern Africa. We frame an experimental design used by Cardenas et al. (2008) in Thailand and Colombia according to the grazing situation in semi-arid regions. We analyse the efficiency of two simple, imperfectly enforced property-rights mechanisms that base on both, informal realworld arrangements practised in the communal areas as well as on the procedure pursued by the Namibian government, where mostly those farmers with big herd sizes get granted access to resettlement farms. Our results suggest that in the short run, the introduction of property rights increases the economic returns and has positive ecological effects, but that these effects diminish in the long-run if imperfectly enforced. It further seems that players’ propensity to co-operate is constant across the experiment: farmers who behave less co-operatively in an open access situation do so as well when they get granted exclusive property rights.

Cover page of Transaction Costs and Smallholder Farmers’ Participation in Banana Markets in the Great Lakes Region

Transaction Costs and Smallholder Farmers’ Participation in Banana Markets in the Great Lakes Region


This article analyses the determinants of the discrete decision of a household on whether to participate in banana markets using the FIML bivariate probit method. The continuous decision on how much to sell or buy is analyzed by establishing the supply and demand functions while accounting for the selectivity bias.

Results indicate that buying and selling decisions are not statistically independent and the random disturbances in the buying and selling decisions are affected in opposite directions by random shocks. Transaction cost related factors such as geographical location of households, market information sources and travel time to the nearest urban centre do influence participation. Other factors such as labour availability, farming experience, gender of household head, off-farm income and the asset base of the household also affect the likelihood and intensity of participation.

Policies guiding central and local governments towards increased investment in rural infrastructure (i.e. feeder roads networks, trunk roads, telecommunication services and establishment of market places) can help reduce transaction costs and thereby improve participation of smallholder farmers in markets. Policies supporting group formation may lead to improving economies of scale and flow of information amongst farmers which may increase market participation.

Cover page of Impact of Public Market Information System (PMIS) on Farmers Food Marketing Decisions: Case of Benin

Impact of Public Market Information System (PMIS) on Farmers Food Marketing Decisions: Case of Benin


To sell their surpluses of maize, the main staple in Benin, farmers may choose among three modes of transaction: they may sell under a contract with itinerant traders, or they may sell without a contract at the farmgate or on distant markets. It has been postulated that farmers may choose a profitable mode of transaction if they have good access to information on the prevailing market conditions. Using detailed farm household survey data from Benin, this paper applies the Nested Logit model to test this hypothesis. The results show that farmers are likely to opt for selling at the farmgate without a contract if they have good access to information. However, such a decision may not be related to access to information through the government supported 'Public Market Information System' but rather it is likely to be induced by access to information through farmers' own social networks.

Cover page of Assessing the impact of improved agricultural technologies in rural Mozambique.

Assessing the impact of improved agricultural technologies in rural Mozambique.


This paper analyzes the use of improved agricultural technologies, and implications for food security and poverty reduction in rural Mozambique. The results are drawn from a nationally representative household survey covering the agricultural season of 2004/05. As a robustness check, the paper uses three econometric approaches: the doubly robust estimator, regression and matching, and sub-classification and regression. The results show that the impact of improved technologies is positive, conditional on irrigation use. Additionally, the results attest to the importance of increasing agricultural productivity in tandem with improvements on farmers’ ability to store food.

Cover page of Contract Farming, Smallholders and Commercialization of Agriculture in Uganda: The Case of Sorghum, Sunflower, and Rice Contract Farming Schemes.

Contract Farming, Smallholders and Commercialization of Agriculture in Uganda: The Case of Sorghum, Sunflower, and Rice Contract Farming Schemes.


Contract farming has expanded in Uganda due to the promotional efforts of various actors: private, public, and/or international aid agencies. While motives for promoting contract farming may vary by actor, it is argued in this study that contract farming is crucial in the commercialization of smallholder agriculture and hence, poverty reduction in Uganda. However, smallholder farmers in Uganda have reportedly experienced some contractual problems when dealing with large agribusiness firms, resulting in them giving up contract farming. Similarly, agribusinesses have also reportedly encountered some contractual problems when dealing with some smallholder farmers that could have led to the exclusion of the latter from contract farming. Therefore, the main objective of this study was to examine the role of contract farming in the commercialization of smallholder agriculture in Uganda by using sunflower, sorghum, and rice contract schemes as case studies. Specifically, the study sought to characterize the sorghum, sunflower, and rice contract schemes as well as identify benefits and problems associated with them. Primary data were collected by a combined use of survey and informal interview methods. A survey of both contracted and non contracted farmers was conducted in Soroti District (Sorghum), Apac District (Sunflower), and Bugiri District (Rice). Informal interviews were held with agribusiness firms (Nile Breweries Limited, Mukwano Industries, and Tilda (U) Limited), their agents, and support organizations. Data were then analyzed using descriptive statistics and non parametric tests (Chi-square and F-tests). While most of the findings from this study are general in nature, some of them are idiosyncratic to the case studies investigated. It was generally found contract farming contributed a great deal to the commercialization of smallholder agriculture in Uganda, especially in the sorghum (Epuripur) and sunflower sub-sectors. While agribusinesses obtained assured supply of raw materials for their processing needs, smallholder farmers on the other hand had access to critical inputs such as improved seeds and extension services, in addition to access to a guaranteed market for their produce. However, there were still some challenges in the organization and operation of the contract farming schemes. Thus, both agribusinesses and policy makers have separate roles to play in making sure contract farming is properly nurtured for the benefit of smallholder farmers in Uganda.

Cover page of Vulnerability, Risk Management, and Agricultural Development

Vulnerability, Risk Management, and Agricultural Development


For many poor farmers in developing countries, vulnerability to risk is a dominant feature of their livelihoods. Households' desires to protect themselves against shocks is thought to affect their production and savings decisions. Farmers who are fearful of future loss of earnings may be reluctant to adopt technological innovations with a variable or unknown return. This paper examines the relationship between agricultural development, vulnerability to shocks, and the risk management practices of small farmers in developing countries. It finds that adoption of new agricultural inputs and practices is a combination of both rational and behavioral motives, with peer effects appearing more important through studies of social networks and reinforcement and diffusion effects.

Cover page of Inequality, Agricultural Production and Poverty: With Focus on Large-scale / Small-scale Sugarcane Farms in South Africa.

Inequality, Agricultural Production and Poverty: With Focus on Large-scale / Small-scale Sugarcane Farms in South Africa.


International development agencies have renewed interest over agriculture’s pro-poor potentials. South Africa’s agriculture though contributes less than 3% to GDP, has the highest employment per unit of GDP. The sector is sharply divided into small and large farms. Data reveals an increasing land productivity gap between both types of farms. Using data from various sources1, this paper assesses the agricultural production impacts of inequality and land redistribution, first in the whole agricultural sector, then the sugarcane sub-sector, comparing small-scale and largescale farm performances and considering the causes of the productivity gap. It also analyses the comparative poverty effects of both farm-types. Time series are corrected for unit roots and estimated using robust estimation, which corrects for heteroskedasticity and outliers. Specification tests help to determine the right panel model for sugarcane. The results suggest that inequality (land redistribution) is associated with slower (enhanced) agricultural productivity. This positive effect of land redistribution can be because land constraints in South African large farms may not be binding and therefore the negative impact on large-farms does not dominate. The impact of land redistribution though negative for large-scale and positive for small-scale producers is not significant. This implies that redistribution efforts must be accompanied by significant ease of other constraints facing small farmers. Other inputs like fertiliser and irrigation facilities show more significant impact on small farm production than land alone. Much of the difference in productivity arises from disparity in input use, specifically fertiliser and irrigation. There is possibility of positive external effects from large-scale chemical and labour use to small-scale production as they attenuate the gap in productivities. The finding also suggests the need to strengthen the human capital (particularly education) of small-scale producers. Both large and small-scale sugarcane production have significant poverty reduction effects, but the effect from small-scale production is clearly higher.

Cover page of What determines the price received by farmers? The case of cocoa in Cameroon

What determines the price received by farmers? The case of cocoa in Cameroon


Various works have demonstrated that small-scale agricultural producers from developing countries do not generally obtain the potential gains linked to marketing. What can be done to help them obtain better prices? In this article, we examine two different solutions: increasing the bargaining power of individual producers and collective marketing through producer organizations (POs). We use data on 2,487 cocoa transactions undertaken by producers in Cameroon during the 2005/2006 season (IITA survey 2006). We first of all explore bargaining theories to identify the determinants of the price received by producers who sell their produce individually, and the, analyse the effect of collective marketing. We show that when the bargaining situation is least favourable to the producers (because the prices are nonnegotiable and there is information asymmetry which favours the traders), the traders seize the entire surplus generated by the trade. In order to improve the prices received by producers, it should be necessary to manage their access to credit (so that they will not be bound to any buyer the had obtained credits from, thus ameliorate arbitrate and negotiate the price), and enable them delay their sale until after the start of the school year (so that traders could no longer know the producers financial need). We also show that selling produce via the POs generally results in a price increase of 9% caused by improvement in a reduction in transaction costs (through economies of scale) and improved bargaining power. The article also examines whether or not the mere presence of a PO in a specific zone enables all the producers in this zone (even those who sell individually) to benefit from higher prices. However, a clear conclusion does not arise in this respect.

Cover page of Moving towards pro-poor systems of land administration: Challenges for land and asset distribution in Africa

Moving towards pro-poor systems of land administration: Challenges for land and asset distribution in Africa


There are three reasons why land policies in Africa are attracting greater amounts of attention. First, it is recognized that enhancing smallholder productivity is critical for sustainable and broad-based growth as well as poverty reduction (World Bank 2007). However, land-related investment, technology adoption, establishment of processing, markets, and value chains, all are unlikely to come about unless land tenure is secure. Moreover, increased productivity will be capitalized in land values and unless explicit attention is devoted to traditional land rights and land access by weaker groups, in particular women, interventions aiming to increase agricultural productivity may have negative social consequences. This is particularly relevant in contexts where current interpretations of customary systems define women's rights only through their relationship with men and women are often unable to inherit land which is considered the property of their husband's lineage. Negative implications for productivity can be severe, in particular if, as almost everywhere, women make a major contribution to agricultural production and its management.

Second, demand for land, and in many cases land prices, have vastly increased with population growth, urbanization, and overall economic development. While higher land values makes land registration more rewarding, leaving land rights undefined increases the risk of having them appropriated by outsiders in a way that may neither be consistent with principles of equity nor conducive to the most productive use of this resource.

Third, in a decentralized setting, land administration can not only help provide public goods and improve government finance but also that are rural areas will not develop based on agriculture alone. Nonagricultural development will imply migration of households out of agriculture that requires secure land rights so as to allow transfer of land rights, either through rental on a temporary basis or through sale, to others who are able to make more effective use of it without the fear of losing it. In many cases, this is now complemented by demand for land by investors who want to use it for food production, bio-fuels, or in anticipation of carbon payments has increased significantly in the wake of recent commodity price booms. It has highlighted that, without clear processes to process requests or assign of land rights, land acquisition by outsiders may end up fostering corruption and leading to inequality and dispossession of traditional land users rather than as a positive force for growth.

This paper examines the theories identifying channels through which land rights can affect socioeconomic outcomes, points to realities which often prevent such effects from materializing, summarizes quantitative evidence on the actual impact of land registration interventions to assess the validity of theoretical arguments, and derives conclusions that can help guide applied work in this area. An example from Ethiopia is used to illustrate the potentially far-reaching impacts of ‘new' models of formalizing land rights and a number of policy conclusions are drawn.