Using Cacao to Catalyze Development: Productivity drivers and technology adoption amongst smallholder farmers in Montes de María, Colombia

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Smallholder farmers produce a large portion of the world’s total food supply, but are often times limited by economic, social or demographic factors that larger farmers find easier to overcome. The body of literature surrounding smallholder farmer crop production is large and addresses a wide range of topics, from gender equality to agronomic considerations. This thesis expands this body of literature by adding a two-step approach that examines what makes some smallholder farmers more productive than others, focusing on the case of cacao. Step one determines which production technologies have the strongest relationship with yields amongst a certain group of farmers, and step two determines which socioeconomic and demographic factors have the largest impact on the adoption of the technologies identified in step one. We use cross-sectional survey data from 277 smallholder cacao producers in the Montes de María region of northern Colombia to carry out this process. Based on the findings, we make recommendations that are useful to association leaders and government technicians in the area, who are interested in promoting cacao as an engine for regional economic development. We find that harvest intensity and fertilizer use have strong positive relationships with yields, whereas herbicide use exhibits a strong negative relationship with yields. Our results suggest that association membership status and the number of buyers a farmer sells to have causal relationships with cacao yields, which are mediated positively through an increase in harvest intensity. Finally, we find that formal and informal training are highly associated with the adoption of production technologies, but that formal training seems to be more strongly related to adoption of pruning, grafting, herbicide use and pesticide use, while informal training is more strongly related to increases in fertilizer use and harvest intensity.

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Technology Adoption; Agriculture; Agriculture economics; Agricultural Development; Agricultural Production; Cacao; Smallholder Farmers; Structural Equation Modeling


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Gomez, Miguel I.

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Lee, David R.

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Applied Economics and Management

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M.S., Applied Economics and Management

Degree Level

Master of Science

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dissertation or thesis

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