Land Constraints and Agricultural Intensification in Ethiopia: A Village-Level Analysis of High-Potential Areas

40 Pages Posted: 23 Oct 2013

See all articles by Derek D. Headey

Derek D. Headey

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Mekdim Dereje Regassa

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Jacob Ricker-Gilbert

Purdue University - Department of Agricultural Economics

Anna Josephson

Purdue University - Department of Agricultural Economics

Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)

Date Written: September 2013

Abstract

Highland Ethiopia is one of the most densely populated regions of Africa and has long been associated with both Malthusian disasters and Boserupian agricultural intensification. This paper explores the race between these two countervailing forces, with the goal of informing two important policy questions. First, how do rural Ethiopians adapt to land constraints? And second, do land constraints significantly influence welfare outcomes in rural Ethiopia? To answer these questions we use a recent household survey of high-potential areas. We first show that farm sizes are generally very small in the Ethiopian highlands and declining over time, with young rural households facing particularly severe land constraints. We then ask whether smaller and declining farm sizes are inducing agricultural intensification, and if so, how. We find strong evidence in favor of the Boserupian hypothesis that land-constrained villages typically use significantly more purchased input costs per hectare and more family labor, and achieve higher maize and teff yields and high gross income per hectare. However, although these higher inputs raise gross revenue, we find no substantial impact of greater land constraints on net farm income per hectare once family labor costs are accounted for. Moreover, farm sizes are strongly positively correlated with net farm income, suggesting that land constraints are an important cause of rural poverty. We conclude with some broad policy implications of our results.

Keywords: Ethiopia, East Africa, Africa south of Sahara, Africa, Agricultural productivity, farm size, intensification, Land allocation, Land management, Land use, Population density, Smallholders

Suggested Citation

Headey, Derek D. and Regassa, Mekdim Dereje and Ricker-Gilbert, Jacob and Josephson, Anna and Taffesse, Alemayehu Seyoum, Land Constraints and Agricultural Intensification in Ethiopia: A Village-Level Analysis of High-Potential Areas (September 2013). IFPRI Discussion Paper 01290, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2343179 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2343179

Derek D. Headey (Contact Author)

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Mekdim Dereje Regassa

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

Jacob Ricker-Gilbert

Purdue University - Department of Agricultural Economics ( email )

West Lafayette, IN 47907-1145
United States

Anna Josephson

Purdue University - Department of Agricultural Economics ( email )

West Lafayette, IN 47907-1145
United States

Alemayehu Seyoum Taffesse

International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ( email )

1201 Eye St, NW,
Washington, DC 20005
United States

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