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Can minimum tillage enhance productivity? Evidence from smallholder farmers in Kenya

Jena, Pradyot Ranjan
Journal of cleaner production 2019 v.218 pp. 465-475
agricultural conservation practice, agricultural management, agricultural productivity, corn, crop production, developed countries, developing countries, farmers, farming systems, females, fertilizers, households, income, irrigation, labor, minimum tillage, surveys, Kenya
Conservation agriculture has been touted as a sustainable and productivity enhancing agricultural practice and increasingly being promoted in the developing countries. Previous research shows that this practice has increased agricultural productivity in the developed countries. This paper revolves around the central question – whether minimum tillage practice, which has succeeded in the developed countries under large scale farming, could bring out similar impacts for smallholder farmers in the developing countries. To examine this, plot level survey data are collected from a randomly selected sample households from the maize-dominant farming system of Kenya. Quasi experimental impact evaluation methods like endogenous switching regression has been applied to elucidate the impact of adoption of minimum tillage. Results show that adoption of minimum tillage has saved on labour by reducing the average total and female labour use in maize production thereby creating scope for undertaking other income generating activities. However, maize productivity is not found to have increased as an effect of minimum tillage adoption. Findings show that a major reason for such absence of yield impact is due to the fact that farmers adopting minimum tillage are often not practicing it together with other components of conservation agriculture. More importantly there is also serious irregularities in which other required supporting inputs, namely fertilizer and irrigation and agricultural management practices are used.