Innovations to improve staple crop germplasm can reduce poverty and otherwise improve farmer livelihoods through complex and multiple pathways. This paper reviews the evidence for one prominent pathway—through increased incomes (in cash and kind) for poor farmers who adopt the technology.
An important determinant of poverty reduction is the ability of poor producers to adopt productivity-enhancing varieties, and the paper analyzes recent household-level data from two African countries to examine if poor producers face unique barriers to adoption. A second determinant of poverty reduction is the area available to plant these varieties and whether the intensity of adoption is great enough to significantly reduce poverty. The paper uses a double-hurdle estimation framework to model the adoption/area planted joint decision for maize farmers in Ethiopia and sweet potato farmers in Uganda. The focus of the analysis is the effect of poverty-related variables on adoption/area planted decisions. Farmer wealth, landholding, education, location, and access to support and information services are included to understand how correlates of poverty affect adoption decisions.
We find evidence that landholding size is an important barrier to poverty reduction; poor farmers are able to adopt improved varieties, but their intensity is constrained by land availability. In Uganda, farmers at the 95th percentile of adoption area received about $0.13 per person per day from the incremental yield, covering < 50% of the mean household poverty gap. This gain only comes under optimistic assumptions and most adopters do not have sufficient area for the direct income effect to be large. The evidence suggests that direct, short-term impacts of increased productivity to increased income may be limited in magnitude. Nonetheless, we recognize that other, less direct pathways may be important, particularly over longer times. Impacts through indirect pathways are, however, more difficult to measure. This has implications for the design of M&E and the crafting of appropriate targets for outcomes of research on staple crops which should focus perhaps on the other pathways where poverty reduction is more probable.