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Rethinking Land Endowment and Inequality in Rural Africa: The Importance of Soil Fertility

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  • Turner, Matthew D.

Abstract

Access to land has been a major emphasis of previous work on socioeconomic differentiation within rural African communities. Land endowment has generally been measured in terms of area without much consideration to variation in the qualities of land at the level of village territories. Building from work on the variation of soil fertility, this paper considers the potential relationship between soil fertility variation and wealth inequality within rural communities in Sahelian West Africa. The management history, yields, and characteristics (livestock and land wealth, labor, tenure security, cropped area) of the households managing and owning 181 sampled fields within two village territories in southwestern Niger are analyzed to evaluate the relative importance of land area and soil fertility in affecting the ability of households to produce food and the factors that affect household investments into soil fertility. Soil fertility variation is found to play a major role in the crop production achieved in the study area. This variation results in part from contemporary and historic investments by farmers largely through manure application. Manuring rates are found not to be affected by the extent of land owned or managed nor by the security of land tenure. Instead, these investments are determined by livestock wealth, the major store of wealth in rural parts of the Sahel. These findings point to a major mechanism for increased inequality in areas where subsistence cropping prevails—a mechanism that is mediated through soil fertility variation.

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  • Turner, Matthew D., 2016. "Rethinking Land Endowment and Inequality in Rural Africa: The Importance of Soil Fertility," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 87(C), pages 258-273.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:87:y:2016:i:c:p:258-273
    DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2016.06.014
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    Cited by:

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    3. Xiaojing Li & Apurbo Sarkar & Xianli Xia & Waqar Hussain Memon, 2021. "Village Environment, Capital Endowment, and Farmers’ Participation in E-Commerce Sales Behavior: A Demand Observable Bivariate Probit Model Approach," Agriculture, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(9), pages 1-20, September.

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