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Submitted by Alberto Valdés on

A broad comment on farm productivity and family welfare.

When interpreting the debate over productivity and farm size, we should recognize that the welfare implications at the household level (not the farm as production unit) depend on a wider context of rural income sources, level of development, and importantly the opportunity cost of management and family labor dedicated to the farm. The situation in sub-Saharan Africa is likely very different than that of middle-income countries in Latin America. The analysis based on land productivity tends to overlook that, while smaller farmers might have higher land productivity, total income generated by the farm would not allow the family to exit poverty. Out-migration or diversifying farm family labor off-farm is one way of increasing total income; the other is to expand farm size. Both are occurring in high- and middle-income countries. By contrast, according to Hazell, farm size in low-income countries is shrinking. One could be seeing both an increase in land productivity and a stagnation in household welfare.