Intensification and Intrahousehold Decisions: Fertilizer Adoption in Burkina Faso

January 1, 2017 - Hamza Haider, Melinda Smale, and Veronique Theriault 

IDWP 152. Hamza Haider, Melinda Smale, and Veronique Theriault. 2017. Intensification and Intrahousehold Decisions: Fertilizer Adoption in Burkina Faso 

Collective organization of farm production by extended family households is a social norm in the dryland farming systems of West Africa, including Burkina Faso. Farms in these systems are often managed by extended family households that are organized under the leadership of a senior male head, including multiple generations and several nuclear households. The head bears ultimate responsibility for ensuring the food security of the extended family. He supervises, or designates a team leader to supervise farm production. Today, extended family households in this region farm a mixture of collectively and individually managed fields. Larger, collective fields are worked with family labor input and those allocated to individual family members serve to supplement their personal needs. Proceeds from larger collective fields are consumed by the family or sold to purchase common goods; in times of duress, fields managed privately by individuals may also serve as food reserves for the extended family. Following patrilocal norms, upon marriage, women join the family of their husband and gain the right to cultivate a plot. In addition to the married sons and their wives, unmarried sons and younger brothers of the head, as well as widows, may be allocated individual fields. While individual plots proliferate, production on large collective fields continues to serve as the basis for family food security. Some researchers suggest that the head’s strategy is to encourage hard work on these fields by granting private plots as rewards to family members. Intensification, including the adoption of modern inputs such as fertilizer, may also explain individualization of production processes. We explore the adoption of fertilizer in this paper—developing a conceptual model that enables us to test econometrically the nature of the linkage between collective and individual field. The unitary model of household decision-making is ill suited to exploring technology adoption in this context; intrahousehold bargaining models, which are more appropriate, are largely absent from the literature on technology adoption. We contribute to this literature by illustrating how fertilizer adoption is affected by intrahousehold bargaining. We test hypotheses by applying bivariate probit and tobit models to nationally representative, panel data from Burkina Faso.

The significance, direction, and magnitude of the regression coefficient reveal information about the negotiations between the head who manages the collective field on behalf of the extended family and individuals who have been allocated plots to meet some of their personal needs. We find evidence of input sharing, though bargaining is inadequate to sustain efficient allocation of fertilizer. Plot manager characteristics that influence bargaining power, such as literacy, gender, age, contact with extension, and membership in farmer organizations differ between collectively- and individually managed plots—confirming the differential status of household members in technology adoption. Agroforestry practices are strongly and positively associated with fertilizer use, regardless of plot manage type, which could be related to tenure security.

Our model can be easily adapted to the study of various intrahousehold bargaining processes in agricultural production, including husband-wife and intergenerational decision-making. Findings have implications for the design and outcomes of programs aimed at supporting agricultural intensification. When family resources are managed both individually and collectively, the relative bargaining position of family members affects the intended and unintended outcomes of policies and programs. Here, using fertilizer as a case in point, we demonstrate how the diffusion of new technologies could be affected by the bargaining positions of household members. Despite its low average use in Burkina Faso relative to other countries, fertilizer is fundamental for enhancing productivity and is the most widely adopted modern input.


Accessibility Questions:

For questions about accessibility and/or if you need additional accommodations for a specific document, please send an email to ANR Communications & Marketing at