Does off-farm employment contribute to agriculture-based environmental pollution? New insights from a village-level analysis in Jiangxi Province, China
This study examines the conventional wisdom that off-farm employment contributes to environmental pollution by increasing the use of agro-chemicals. In order to analyse the role of household decision making and village factor markets in more detail, we run simulations with a hybrid farm household/village computable general equilibrium model that is applied to a village in Northeast Jiangxi Province. We find that the negative lost-labour effect of off-farm employment on agricultural incomes is much stronger than the (small) positive income effect. As a result of reduced labour resources and increased leisure consumption, farm households reduce the intensity of rice cultivation as well as the production of (especially) cash crops. The shift in production activities is stronger for migration than for off-farm employment, because migrants cannot combine off-farm work with onfarm work, and because migration reduces the village market price of oxen services. The shift towards less intensive rice production means that off-farm employment (and migration in particular) reduces the levels of chemical inputs and manure used in agricultural production. The decline in fertilizer input is much larger than the decline in manure use, because manure is a nontradable commodity and is applied only once per year. We therefore conclude that migration and, to a lesser extent, local off-farm employment lead to lower incomes from agricultural production, but have benign effects on environmental quality.
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