|dc.description.abstracteng||Despite remarkable advances, overcoming rural poverty and food insecurity in developing countries remains one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century. Increasing production and income opportunities in the agricultural sector is one of the key factors to achieve these goals. While researchers and policy makers have not paid a lot of attention to traditional food crops like millets, fonio, or tef in the past decades, these crops could make a valuable contribution to poverty alleviation and food security in many regions of the developing world.
In this dissertation we examine the potential and constraints in the production and marketing of the traditional food crop finger millet in western Kenya. Finger millet (Eleusine coracana) used to be one of the most important food crops in western Kenya, but was almost completely replaced by maize over the past century. While maize offers a higher yield potential and requires less labor input than finger millet, the limits of a maize-based production system and maize-based diets have become visible over the past decades. Maize yields have been stagnating or declining due to increasingly erratic rainfall patterns and ongoing soil erosion. Furthermore, maize-based diets have led to widespread micronutrient deficiencies in the region. Finger millet is not only more nutritious than maize, but also better adapted to poor soils and erratic weather conditions. In addition, finger millet prices have been far higher than maize prices over the past years.
The analyses of the present dissertation are based on household data from 270 finger millet producers that was collected in western Kenya in 2012. In a first part of our empirical analysis, we examine the determinants of the adoption of improved agricultural practices in finger millet and maize production and their effect on finger millet yields. In a second part, we assess the factors that influence market participation of small-scale farmers and the selling prices obtained by the farmers. Finally, we compare the profitability and the technical efficiency estimates of finger millet and maize production and assess the factors that influence the efficiency in the production of the two crops.
Adoption of improved agricultural practices is essential to achieve production and productivity increases in the agricultural sector. We estimate a multivariate probit model to analyze the factors that influence the adoption of modern varieties and chemical fertilizer in finger millet and maize production. The results show that social networks and connectedness have a strong impact on the adoption of improved finger millet practices, but are of marginal importance in the adoption of improved maize practices. These findings reflect the sparse availability of information and modern seeds in the case of finger millet, which makes connectedness, e.g. through participation in village groups, ownership of a cell phone, or access to extension services, more important in the adoption
process. A Cobb-Douglas production function demonstrates that modern varieties and chemical fertilizer significantly increase finger millet yields.
Besides increasing agricultural production, increasing farm incomes is a key to lift small-scale farmers out of poverty. The poorest and least endowed farmers are often excluded from agricultural markets, especially high-value agricultural markets, due to high transaction costs. Furthermore, female farmers often face particularly high market barriers, e.g. due to a weak bargaining position. A probit model on the households’ decision to market finger millet shows that there are no particular market barriers for poor households or female producers in the case of finger millet. However, the selling price varies greatly between households. A linear regression model on selling prices shows that female farmers face price disadvantages unless they are organized in groups.
To assess whether finger millet is an economically viable cropping alternative to maize, we compare the per-acre profitability of finger millet and maize. As long as labor opportunity costs are not taken into account, the per-acre profits obtained from finger millet and maize production do not differ substantially. However, accounting for labor opportunity costs, maize profits are more than twice as large as finger millet profits. We estimate the technical efficiency in finger millet and maize production using a stochastic frontier approach. For both crops, the average technical efficiency is substantially lower than the technical efficiency of the best performing farms. However, the efficiency gap is considerably higher in finger millet production. Results of the efficiency equation show that in the case of finger millet, group membership increases efficiency, while female farmers produce less efficiently than male farmers on the average.
We conclude that a mix of technological and institutional changes is necessary to make finger millet more attractive to the farmers. In terms of technology, the yield potential has to be increased and the labor requirements decreased. In terms of institutions, social networks such as village groups are of particular importance in the production of traditional food crops and foster the adoption of improved and more efficient production technologies. Village groups are of particular importance for female farmers, who face larger challenges in the production and marketing of finger millet than their male counterparts.||de