Three Essays On Smallholder Welfare: Market Access And The Dynamics Of Technology Adoption

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The last decade has witnessed an increase in policies with the dual objective of tackling food insecurity and poverty. Whether both objectives can be optimally achieved with the same policy instrument, however, warrants closer examination. This dissertation is comprised of three independent studies examining such policies. The first study evaluates a local food aid procurement project conducted in Guatemala for food emergency relief based on five different dimensions: impact on market prices, recipient satisfaction, timeliness, costliness and smallholder development. We find no price or price volatility associations with local procurement but find mixed results along the other dimensions highlighting the need for decision-makers to clearly identify and prioritize among the objectives of food assistance interventions. The second study examines the impact of a significant demand shock in the export pineapple market on smallholder farmer welfare in southern Ghana. Using two stage least squares, we estimate duration pre- and post-shock using a bivariate tobit model in the first stage and a fixed effects model in the second stage. We then compare mean asset wealth for different categories of farmers defined by their time of entry and exit relative to the shock. Early adopters (disadopters) are better off than later adopters (disadopters), and non-adopters are as well off as early adopters who disadopt early, questioning the long-term welfare gains of smallholders often associated with the adoption of cash crops. The final study uses panel experimental data from maize field trials geographically dispersed throughout Malawi to estimate the expected marginal physical returns to fertilizer use conditional on a range of agronomic factors. Using these estimated returns and historical price and weather data, we simulate the expected marginal profitability of fertilizer application and the correlation of those expected returns with headcount poverty rates. We find that the fertilizer bundles distributed under Malawi's subsidy program are almost always profitable, but the correlation between the expected gains to increased fertilizer use and a location's poverty level is weak at best, calling into question how effectively fertilizer subsidies help reduce rural poverty.

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technology adoption and disadoption; smallholder market access; food insecurity


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Union Local


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Barrett, Christopher

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Kaiser, Harry Mason
Gomez, Miguel I.

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Agricultural Economics

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Ph. D., Agricultural Economics

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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