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University of Oslo (UiO) (2011)

Fighting hunger through small scale farming ? : Investigating the farm size-productivity relationship in Zambian food production

Eidsvoll, Sunniva Pettersen

Titre : Fighting hunger through small scale farming ? : Investigating the farm size-productivity relationship in Zambian food production

Auteur : Eidsvoll, Sunniva Pettersen

Université de soutenance : University of Oslo (UiO)

Grade : Master of Philosophy in Environmental and Development Economics 2011

Résumé
In this thesis I use Zambia as a country case to discuss the role small-scale agriculture can play in achieving the MDG no. 1 on halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger. Within the field of agricultural development there is an ongoing debate concerning the future of small-scale farming in developing economies. The question is whether small-scale, owner-occupied farms can play a vital role in fighting hunger and poverty, or if further development of large mechanized farms is needed to feed the world’s increasing population. At the core of this discussion we find a widely debated economic theory concerning the relationship between land size and productivity. This theory from development economics points out that small land plots are more productive than larger farms, and the reason is that small-scale farmers are able to better take advantage of the resources available to them, and especially land. In this thesis I use economic theory on the inverse relationship and results from empirical observations on the farm size-productivity relation to investigate the role of small-scale farmers in fighting hunger in Zambia. I discuss my findings in light of updated research on opportunities and constraints for Zambian peasants. I show that there is evidence of a negative relationship between farm size and productivity for a large proportion of the most marginalized Zambian smallholders, and this has important policy implications for the development of the agricultural sector in Zambia. My analysis of the farm size-productivity relationship indicates a potential poverty trap for small-scale farmers. Increasing returns to farm size is evident, however only above a threshold plot size of 3 hectares. The potential poverty trap is caused by market imperfections in rural markets and the fact that most small-scale farmers rely on wage-income from casual work on larger farms. This makes them potential losers on export-led agricultural growth. Because of this small-scale farming can play a key role in fighting hunger, however it can also do the direct opposite and instead keep farmers stuck in a low level equilibrium. Smallholder farmers dependent on agricultural wage-income are possible losers on agricultural growth, and it is essential to address the constraints faced by this group.

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