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Empirical assessment of subjective and objective soil fertility metrics in east Africa: Implications for researchers and policy makers

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  • Berazneva, Julia
  • McBride, Linden
  • Sheahan, Megan
  • Güereña, David

Abstract

Bringing together emerging lessons from biophysical and social sciences as well as newly available data, we take stock of what can be learned about the relationship among subjective (reported) and objective (measured) soil fertility and farmer input use in east Africa. We identify the correlates of Kenyan and Tanzanian maize farmers’ reported perceptions of soil fertility and assess the extent to which these subjective assessments reflect measured soil chemistry. Our results offer evidence that farmers base their perceptions of soil quality and soil type on crop yields. We also find that, in Kenya, farmers’ reported soil type is a reasonable predictor of several objective soil fertility indicators while farmer-reported soil quality is not. In addition, in exploring the extent to which publicly available soil data are adequate to capture local soil chemistry realities, we find that the time-consuming exercise of collecting detailed objective measures of soil content is justified when biophysical analysis is warranted, because farmers' perceptions are not sufficiently strong proxies of these measures to be a reliable substitute and because currently available high-resolution geo-spatial data do not sufficiently capture local variation. In the estimation of agricultural production or profit functions, where the focus is on averages and in areas with low variability in soil properties, the addition of soil information does not considerably change the estimation results. However, having objective (measured) plot-level soil information improves the overall fit of the model and the estimation of marginal physical products of inputs. Our findings are of interest to researchers who design, field, or use data from agricultural surveys, as well as policy makers who design and implement agricultural interventions and policies.

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  • Berazneva, Julia & McBride, Linden & Sheahan, Megan & Güereña, David, 2018. "Empirical assessment of subjective and objective soil fertility metrics in east Africa: Implications for researchers and policy makers," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 105(C), pages 367-382.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:105:y:2018:i:c:p:367-382
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.12.009
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    Cited by:

    1. Kosmowski, Frederic & Chamberlin, Jordan & Ayalew, Hailemariam & Sida, Tesfaye & Abay, Kibrom & Craufurd, Peter, 2021. "How accurate are yield estimates from crop cuts? Evidence from smallholder maize farms in Ethiopia," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 102(C).
    2. Maertens, Annemie & Chari, A.V., 2020. "What’s Your Child Worth? An Analysis of Expected Dowry Payments in Rural India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 130(C).
    3. Kibrom A. Abay & Leah E. M. Bevis & Christopher B. Barrett, 2021. "Measurement Error Mechanisms Matter: Agricultural Intensification with Farmer Misperceptions and Misreporting," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 103(2), pages 498-522, March.
    4. Pradyot Ranjan Jena & Hugo Groote & Bibhu Prasad Nayak & Annina Hittmeyer, 2021. "Evolution of Fertiliser Use and its Impact on Maize Productivity in Kenya: Evidence from Multiple Surveys," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 13(1), pages 95-111, February.
    5. Annemie Maertens & Hope Michelson & Vesall Nourani, 2021. "How Do Farmers Learn from Extension Services? Evidence from Malawi," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 103(2), pages 569-595, March.
    6. David B Lobell & George Azzari & Marshall Burke & Sydney Gourlay & Zhenong Jin & Talip Kilic & Siobhan Murray, 2020. "Eyes in the Sky, Boots on the Ground: Assessing Satellite‐ and Ground‐Based Approaches to Crop Yield Measurement and Analysis," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 102(1), pages 202-219, January.
    7. David M.A. Murphy & Dries Roobroeck & David R. Lee & Janice Thies, 2020. "Underground Knowledge: Estimating the Impacts of Soil Information Transfers Through Experimental Auctions†," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 102(5), pages 1468-1493, October.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Natural resource management; Soil fertility; Agricultural productivity; Farmers’ perceptions; Kenya; Tanzania;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets
    • Q24 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Renewable Resources and Conservation - - - Land
    • Q56 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environment and Development; Environment and Trade; Sustainability; Environmental Accounts and Accounting; Environmental Equity; Population Growth

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