Better Technology, Better Plots or Better Farmers? Identifying Changes in Productivity and Risk Among Malagasy Rice Farmers
In assessing the productivity gains of a new technology, it is often difficult to determine the extent to which observed output gains are due to the technology itself, rather than to the skill of the farmer or the quality of the plot on which the new technology is tried. This problem of attribution is especially important when technologies are not embodied in purchased inputs such as seed or machinery but result instead from changed farmer cultivation practices. Using data based on observations of farmers in Madagascar who simultaneously practice both a newly introduced and traditional rice production methods, we introduce a method for properly attributing observed productivity and risk changes among new production methods, farmers and plots by controlling for farmer and plot heterogeneity using differential production and yield risk functions. Our results help resolve several outstanding puzzling associated with observed low and incomplete uptake and high rates of disadoption of the new system of rice intensification (SRI) in spite of consistent, sharp yield increases on small farmers' fields without application of additional external inputs.
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