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Determinants of yield differences in small-scale food crop farming systems in Cameroon

Yengoh, Genesis T
Agriculture & food security 2012 v.1 no.1 pp. 33
animals, composting, crop yield, extension education, farm management, farmers, farms, food crops, food industry, food production, food security, gender, governance, issues and policy, mineral fertilizers, pests, poverty, production technology, right of access, seed development, seeds, small-scale farming, women, Cameroon
BACKGROUND: In sub-Saharan Africa, small-scale farmers make up the majority of food producers. While recognizing that the yields per hectare for main food crops are generally low in small-scale food production systems in this region, there are considerable differences in yield output among individual farmers. At the very local scale, why do these differences exist? By examining factors that are associated with yield differences, policy can be better informed and tailored to respond to challenges of food production among this important group of producers. RESULTS: When the influence of biophysical factors is controlled by sampling farmers within the same environment, the analysis distinguishes three clusters of factors with which food crop yield differences can be associated: the input, management and socio-cultural clusters. In the input cluster, the use of basic inputs such as animal droppings and improved seeds do significantly improve yields. However, there are constraints at farm and household levels that may have to be overcome to optimize the availability and use of these inputs. In the farm management cluster, the method of residue management and the control of pests and crop diseases are important in determining yield differences. Issues of gender rights and access to agricultural production resources dominate socio-cultural clusters. CONCLUSIONS: Small investments that are properly targeted to improve basic techniques of farming can make an appreciable difference in food crop yields and food security at the local level. While directed investments in services such as extension may contribute significantly to propagate the use of some technologies (composting, residue management, manure use), cost constraints limit the propagation of other technologies (advanced seed development and improvement, production of inorganic fertilizers) to higher levels of food governance systems. Women form an important population among small-scale farmers and play an indispensable role in food production. Addressing constraints to their access to food production resources (physical, financial, cultural, legal) would be a vital step towards sustainably improving food production. Present food demand trends in sub-Saharan Africa offer an opportunity through which many small-holder farming communities can be drawn out of poverty if some local-level challenges to yield improvement can be overcome.