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Abstract

This paper analyzes how a set of widely promoted agricultural practices, including reduced tillage, crop rotations, legume intercropping as well as the use of modern inputs, affect crop yields and their resilience (i.e. probability of disastrously low yields) in Zambia using panel data from the Rural Incomes and Livelihoods Surveys (RILS). The RILS data are merged with a novel set of climatic variables based on geo-referenced historical rainfall and temperature data to understand whether and how the effects of the practices analyzed here change with climatic conditions. We estimate the impacts on the level of maize yields and the probability of very low yields controlling for time invariant unobservable household characteristics. We find no significant impact of minimum soil disturbance, positive impact of legume intercropping and a negative impact of crop rotation on maize yields, which is off-set by a significantly positive impact under highly variable rainfall conditions. We also find that the average positive impacts of modern input use are conditioned by climatic variables, whereas that of legume intercropping is robust to shocks. Timely access to fertilizer is the most robust determinant of yields and resilience. This paper provides important insights into the interplay between food security outcomes and climatic variables, and provides policy implications for targeted interventions to improve the productivity and the resilience of smallholder agriculture in Zambia in the face of climate change.

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