Effects of Agricultural Commercialization on Food Crop Input Use and Productivity in Kenya
January 1, 1999 - Author: Paul J. Strasberg, T.S. Jayne, Takashi Yamano, James Nyoro, Daniel Karanja, and John Strauss
IDWP 71. Paul J. Strasberg, T.S. Jayne, Takashi Yamano, James Nyoro, Daniel Karanja, and John Strauss. 1999. 28 pp. Effects of Agricultural Commercialization on Food Crop Input Use and Productivity in Kenya
It is commonly argued that productivity growth in African agriculture will require a
transformation out of the semisubsistence, low-input, low-productivity agriculture that
characterizes most of rural Africa. Given population growth and the limits of area expansion as a
means to increase crop production, productivity growth will increasingly entail the intensification
and commercialization of smallholder agriculture, involving more intensive use of productivity
enhancing inputs and more market oriented patterns of crop production.
The impacts of agricultural commercialization on smallholder welfare has been discussed for
decades. Smallholder commercialization featuring high value nonfood crops has frequently been
criticized in African contexts as having a negative effect on food production and food security.
Without reliable and efficient food markets, commercialized cropping patterns may expose
smallholder households to major risks of food insecurity. In contrast to this view, studies from a
range of African countries demonstrate potential synergies between cash crop investment and
food crop production. These studies found that the presence of commercially viable cash crops
such as cotton and groundnuts had positive spillover benefits for smallholder food production in
selected regions. These spillover benefits included increased adoption of fertilizer on food crops
made possible by cash crop input delivery channels, and increased availability of farm credit
through cash crop schemes with which to hire additional labor and finance investments in
productive assets such as draft oxen and traction equipment. These studies raise the possibility
that the promotion of cash crop production may, if suitably implemented, have important positive
spillover effects on food crop intensification and productivity.