Market access, agro-ecological conditions, and Boserupian agricultural intensification patterns in Kenya: Implications for agricultural programs and research
October 15, 2019 - Author: Sarah Kopper and Thomas S. Jayne
Kopper, S and T. S. Jayne. 2019. Market access, agro-ecological conditions, and Boserupian agricultural intensification patterns in Kenya: Implications for agricultural programs and research. World Development, forthcoming, December 2019.
While Boserupian intensification processes have been documented in many parts of Africa, there is regional variation in the trends in relative prices of land, labor, and capital inputs such as fertilizer. Some rural areas are experiencing unprecedented spikes in land values associated with growing land scarcity, improved market access, and agricultural commercialization potential, while others remain economically isolated and less influenced by the transformational changes occurring elsewhere in the region. This study uses a panel spanning 13 years of 1208 smallholders in Kenya to assess whether households’ response to changes in relative factor prices varies by agro-ecological potential and market access. In areas of low agro-ecological potential, households respond to rising land prices by cultivating less land and applying fertilizer more intensively but do not appear to adjust fertilizer use in response to changing fertilizer prices. By contrast, households in areas of high agro-ecological potential do not appear to adjust the quantity of land under cultivation in response to changing input prices but increase fertilizer use as land prices rise and fertilizer prices fall. Finally, households with better market access conditions appear slightly more responsive to land price changes than do those with poor market access. Given anticipated trends in factor price ratios, this heterogeneity suggests that sustainable forms of agricultural productivity growth will require anticipating the kinds of farm management technologies that will be suitable for farmers in different conditions. This highlights the need for agricultural technology generation and diffusion programs that assist smallholders to overcome the constraints that may prevent them from adapting sufficiently on their own.