Are Agricultural Subsidies Gender Sensitive? Heterogeneous Impacts of the Farmer Input Support Program in Zambia


August 7, 2019 - Author: Henry Machina, Hambulo Ngoma, Auckland N. Kuteya

Henry Machina, Hambulo Ngoma, and Auckland N. Kuteya, 2019. Are Agricultural Subsidies Gender Sensitive? Heterogeneous Impacts of the Farmer Input Support Program in Zambia. Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research Paper 141. East Lansing: Michigan State University.

Smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa face several challenges including low productivity, food insecurity and low agricultural diversification, which contribute to high poverty. To address these challenges, governments in the region have been implementing agricultural subsidy programs to raise productivity and promote household food security, among other things. The subsidy programs have been associated with some positive impacts on productivity but not so much on stimulating overall agricultural growth and poverty reduction. In some instances, subsidies have been found to crowd out demand for commercial fertilizer. However, there is a dearth of empirical evidence on whether subsidies can reduce the gendered productivity gaps in agriculture. This paper contributes towards filling this gap. In particular, we assess the gendered impacts of receiving FISP on productivity and assess whether these impacts are heterogeneous between female- and malemanaged plots. Unlike past studies done at household level, our analysis is at the plot level and distinguishes between male- and female-managed plots.

We applied panel data methods to the two-wave Rural Agricultural Livelihoods Surveys data collected in 2012 and 2015.

The study highlights several findings as follows:

First, there were several notable differences in the main variables between female-managed and male-managed plots. The main outcome variable—the measure for agricultural productivity—yield, averaged about 1,400kg /ha. Male-managed plots had a 34kg/ha yield advantage over femalemanaged plots. These results are suggestive of gendered productivity gaps.

Second, there were many differences in plot-specific characteristics. Male-managed plots were on average larger than female managed plots and male household heads managed more plots than female heads. A larger proportion of female-mangers accessed more FISP and commercial fertilizers, and consequently used more basal and top dressing fertilizers than their male counterparts. The male-managers, however, used more seed. Despite the almost equal access to credit, female-managers accessed larger amounts than their male counterparts among those that accessed credit. Finally, male-plot managers were on average more educated, younger, wealthier and had more social capital more than their female counterparts.

Third, the main empirical results suggest that access to FISP does not disproportionately raise crop productivity for female-managed plots. This implies that FISP alone is not sufficient to address the gendered productivity gaps in agriculture. These results should not be understood to suggest that FISP is bad per se, but rather that FISP is insufficient to address the male-female productivity gaps. Access to FISP is associated with an average yield gain of 0.8% regardless of the gender of the plot manager.

As a way forward, the government and other stakeholders involved in promotion of FISP need to promote a more gender sensitive program that targets more female headed households to promote gender equality. There is also need to address the social-cultural norms that tip the balance of power dynamics, rights and entitlements towards men. This can be done through educational and sensitizations activities.


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