Smallholder Income and Land Distribution in Africa: Implications for Poverty Reduction Strategies

This paper provides a micro-level foundation for discussions of income and asset allocation within the smallholder sector in Eastern and Southern Africa, and explores the implications of these findings for rural growth and poverty alleviation strategies in the region. Results are drawn from nationally-representative household surveys in five countries between 1990 and 2000: Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, and Zambia. The paper addresses five major points: (1) why geographically-based poverty reduction or targeting strategies-e.g., focusing on marginal areas-is likely to miss a significant share of the poor in any particular country regardless of targeting efficiency in these areas; (2) why current enthusiasm for community-driven development approaches will require serious attention to how resources are allocated at local levels; (3) why sustained income growth for the poorest strata of the rural population will depend on agricultural growth in most countries, even though the poor generally lack the land and other productive resources to respond directly or immediately to policies and investments to stimulate agricultural growth; (4) why agricultural productivity growth, while most easily generating gains for better-off smallholder farmers, is likely to offer the best potential for pulling the poorest and land-constrained households out of poverty; and (5) why meaningful poverty alleviation strategies in many countries will require fundamental changes to make land more accessible to smallholder farmers. This could be accomplished through various processes, including improvement in land rental markets or perhaps land redistribution. We briefly elaborate on each of these findings.

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International Development Paper

 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-25

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