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Agriculture and Rural Development

Skills and agricultural productivity

Markus Goldstein's picture
Do skills matter for agricultural productivity?   Rachid Laajaj and Karen Macours have a fascinating new paper out which looks at this question.   The paper is fundamentally about how to measure skills better, and they put a serious amount of work into that.    But for those of you dying to know the answer – skills do matter, with cognitive, noncognitive, and technical skills explaining about 12.1 to 16.6 of the variation in yields.   Before we delve into that

What Drives Technology Adoption in Agriculture? Disentangling regulation and rising wages in Brazil: Guest Post by C. Austin Davis

This is the fifth in our series of posts by Ph.D. students on the job market this year
Something dramatic happened in Brazilian agriculture between 2007 and 2013: the previously-steady labor intensity of a major crop, sugarcane, fell by 70 percent (see Figure). This drop was the result of the rapid, widespread adoption of mechanical harvesting.  My job market paper, “Why Did Sugarcane Growers Suddenly Adopt Existing Technology,” studies how mechanization was achieved.

Are Agricultural Traders Colluding? Experimental Evidence on Competition in Kenyan Maize Markets: Guest Post by Lauren Falcao Bergquist

This is the second in our series of posts by Ph.D. students on the job market this year
Setting food-price policy is hard. Smallholder farmers are better off with higher crop prices, but consumers want lower prices. So what is a policymaker to do?
Well-integrated agricultural markets can tackle both sides of this food-price policy dilemma, by pulling crops out of surplus areas (to boost prices received by farmers) and pushing food into deficit areas (to reduce prices faced by consumers).
But, alas, agricultural markets in sub-Saharan Africa are not well-integrated. Wide variation in prices across regions and seasons is common, and large gaps between farmer and consumer prices are the norm. There are many possible causes. One issue is that trade is expensive to conduct in the region. To move crops from surplus to deficit areas, agricultural traders must pay high transport costs, spend time and money searching for sellers and buyers, and battle institutional failures like poor credit availability and contact enforcement. Yet, there may be another important driver of the gap between farmer and consumer prices – one that has been voiced by policymakers but is much less well-documented empirically: agricultural traders may be engaging in imperfect competition and extracting rents. 

Get more farmers off their farms

David McKenzie's picture
Justin Wolfers had a nice piece in the Upshot about new work on how growing up in a bad neighborhood has long-term negative consequences for kids. The key point of the new work is that the benefits of moving from bad neighborhoods may be particularly high for kids whose parents won’t voluntarily move, but only move because their public housing is demolished.

What works for improving welfare in agriculture: version 0.001

Markus Goldstein's picture
Two years ago, Mike O’Sullivan and I did a post on gender and agriculture.  One of the things we pointed out was that there was a pretty dismal lack of evidence on interventions in agriculture (forget gender).  So I was pretty excited when the recent Campbell Collaboration systematic review on “the effects of training, innovation and new technology on African smallholder farmers’ economic outcomes and food

A spatial odyssey: The impacts of land formalization in Benin

Markus Goldstein's picture
This post is co-authored with Michael O’Sullivan.  
Effective property rights matter for development. And heck, they even got a couple of shout outs in the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals.  And we know from earlier work that weaker rights can lead to reduced agricultural productivity.  So what happens when folks move to better property rights?  

Why did the farmer cross the road? To bridge the productivity divide: Guest Post by Sam Asher

This is the sixth in our series of posts by students on the job market this year.
 The productivity of workers in agriculture is generally much lower than in other sectors of the economy (Gollin, Lagakos and Waugh, 2014). This is particularly true in low-income countries, yet these countries generally have the highest shares of the population living in rural areas and working in agriculture (McMillan et al, 2014). So why don’t workers switch jobs into higher productivity (and better paid) occupations? Development economists as far back as Lewis (1954) and Sen (1966) have studied the labor market imperfections that may keep workers in low productivity agriculture despite higher wages elsewhere.

Increasing Prosperity for the Poorest using Social Networks: Guest post by Kathryn Vasilaky

Social networks affect all of our lives; the people we know influence what we're exposed to and the actions we take. Gaining weight? Blame your network. Got a job promotion? Thank your network. In the developed world, the term "social networks" often illicits thoughts of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram and many, many more. In the rural developing world, networks still depend, for the most part, on offline interactions. Access to information is by word of mouth, and a few central individuals often disseminate information from the top down to the remainder of a village.

Poverty Reduction: Sorting Through the Hype

Berk Ozler's picture
After seeing PowerPoint slides of the preliminary findings over the course of more than a year, it’s nice to be able to report that the six-country study that is evaluating the “ultra-poor graduation” approach (originally associated with BRAC) is finally out.