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Sustainable intensification in Western Kenya: Who will benefit?

Keiji Jindo, Antonius G.T. Schut and Johannes W.A. Langeveld

Agricultural Systems, 2020, vol. 182, issue C

Abstract: Sustainable Intensification (SI) is essential for Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to meet the food demand of the growing population under conditions of increasing land scarcity. However, access to artificial fertilizers is limited, and the current extension system is not effective in serving smallholder farmers. This paper studies farmers' response to improved fertilizer availability under field conditions. Data on farms and families were collected from 267 smallholder farms, while data on fertilizer use and crop response to fertilizer were collected on 127 farm plots. Fertilizer applications and maize yields were measured, and benefit to cost ratio (BCR) of fertilizer application was calculated and to assess its effect on food security. Farm household typologies were used to determine differences in farm endowment and food security classes. Fertilizer application did not significantly improve maize yields in 2017 due to unfavorable weather conditions and pest infestations, whereas significant yield responses were observed in 2018. Consequently, fertilizer application was economically beneficial (BCR >1) for only 45% of the farmers in 2017, compared to 94% in 2018 when 80% of the farmers passed the technology adaptation point (BCR > 2). Surprisingly, economic returns did not vary significantly between household types, implying that fertilizer application provides comparable benefits across all farm types. This is partly explained by the fact that soil fertility varied little between farm types (soil carbon content, for example, showed no correlation with farmer endowment). Still, large differences were observed in farmers' willingness to invest in larger fertilizer applications. Only a small proportion of farmers is expected to increase fertilizer applications as recommended. Our work demonstrates the need to address risks for smallholders and shows that socio-economic aspects are more important than biophysical constraints for policies promoting sustainable intensification.

Keywords: Sustainable intensification; Fertilizer use; Food security; Smallholder farmers (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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Persistent link: https://EconPapers.repec.org/RePEc:eee:agisys:v:182:y:2020:i:c:s0308521x19311114

DOI: 10.1016/j.agsy.2020.102831

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