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Improving agricultural productivity and farm level resilience to agricultural production shocks is a critical component of reducing poverty and improving household food security throughout the developing world, and particularly in Ethiopia which is among the poorest countries in the world. This paper explores how agricultural households in the Hararghe region of eastern Ethiopia, an area rich in crop genetic diversity, but with low and variable agricultural productivity and high rates of poverty, manage their crop genetic resources to cope with drought, a prevalent source of agricultural production shocks. Our analysis looks at reasons for cultivating modern varieties versus landrace crop varieties of sorghum, and the implications for farm level resilience to drought as well as choice of coping strategy when such shocks occur. The analysis is run using a unique dataset collected during 2002-2003 production season when eastern Ethiopia experienced a major drought with widespread crop failure ensuing. Our results indicate that there are linkages between crop genetic diversity and the choice of mechanism for coping with drought that households adopt. The results suggest that MV adoption is not an ex ante risk coping strategy, and that indeed households growing modern sorghum varieties are more likely to have a crop failure than those who grow only landrace sorghum. The results indicate also that small and medium producers on marginal lands are most likely to be vulnerable to a crop failure, particularly if they are also MV adopters moreover location is found to be a critical determinant of the choice to replant sorghum. Further analysis is requires to formulate any definitive policy prescriptions, however our results suggest that sorghum MVs despite their early maturity, are not resilient in the face of a drought related production shocks, and that local sorghum crop genetic diversity is an important means of coping with these shocks.


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