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Does population pressure induce farm intensification? Empirical evidence from Tigrai Region, Ethiopia

Hadush, Muuz, Holden, Stein T., Tilahun, Mesfin
Agricultural economics 2019 v.50 no.3 pp. 259-277
cattle feeds, cows, farm income, farm size, farmers, grazing, herd size, livestock production, milk, milk yield, population density, population growth, population pressure, prices, small farms, straw, Ethiopia
The scarcity of land for crop and livestock production is critical in countries with growing populations. The idea that increasing population density leads to natural resource depletion and economic failure, as predicted by Malthus, or rather to farm intensification, as hypothesized by Boserup, motivates this research. This article examines how high population pressure in northern Ethiopia influences smallholders’ farm intensification by applying recursive estimation with a control function approach using data from 518 randomly selected farmers. Although our empirical results are more in favor of the Boserupian hypothesis, the findings also reveal that both Malthusian and Boserupian forces coexist. Consistent with Malthus theory, high population pressure is found to be associated with small farm size and herd size. Population pressure affected both technology use (breed cow, stall feeding, and modern cattle feed) and output supply (milk yield, milk income, and straw output). As predicted by Boserup's theory, the use of modern input and output supply initially increases with increasing population pressure but declines again when population densities pass a critical threshold (800 persons/km²), supporting Malthus’ hypothesis. The estimation results also revealed that both milk and straw supply responded positively to prices. Free grazing and stall feeding are found to be complementary activities. Likewise, crop farm income and off‐farm job have a nonlinear relation with population pressure, implying that both initially increase and then decrease with rising population pressure.