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Food vs. Wood: Dynamic Choices for Kenyan Smallholders

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  • Peralta, Maria Alexandra
  • Swinton, Scott M.

Abstract

Smallholder farmers in areas of the semiarid tropics are planting exotic tree species that provide alternative income sources, fuel and building materials. While providing other benefits, these trees occupy land that could produce annual food crops. Eucalyptus is one fast-growing tree species that is grown globally, including in East Africa. This study uses a polyperiod linear programming whole-farm model to explore the opportunity cost of planting eucalyptus trees versus crops in the Nyando watershed of western Kenya. The model indicates that over a ten-year time horizon, a profit maximizing representative farmer facing would allocate 30 percent of a 4-acre farm to producing eucalyptus poles, a typical level reported in farmer individual interviews. Depending on the price of poles, land planted to eucalyptus ranged from 8 to 80 percent. Firewood was less remunerative and did not enter the solution unless poles were excluded. The results are consistent with observed behavior, suggesting that smallholder farmers in western Kenya are responsive to relative prices between timber tree products and crops, and that they grow eucalyptus for its high profitability in the medium term. Timber production is not likely to replace food crops given the high cost of meeting household subsistence requirements from marketed grains.

Suggested Citation

  • Peralta, Maria Alexandra & Swinton, Scott M., 2009. "Food vs. Wood: Dynamic Choices for Kenyan Smallholders," 2009 Annual Meeting, July 26-28, 2009, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 49401, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:aaea09:49401
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.49401
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Labarta, Ricardo A. & White, Douglas S. & Swinton, Scott M., 2008. "Does Charcoal Production Slow Agricultural Expansion into the Peruvian Amazon Rainforest?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 527-540, March.
    2. Fafchamps, Marcel, 2000. "Ethnicity and credit in African manufacturing," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 205-235, February.
    3. Amacher, Gregory S. & Merry, Frank D. & Bowman, Maria S., 2009. "Smallholder timber sale decisions on the Amazon frontier," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(6), pages 1787-1796, April.
    4. Jalota, R. K. & Sangha, K. K., 2000. "Comparative ecological-economic analysis of growth performance of exotic Eucalyptus tereticornis and indigenous Dalbergia sissoo in mono-culture plantations," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 487-495, June.
    5. Niskanen, Anssi, 1998. "Value of external environmental impacts of reforestation in Thailand," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 287-297, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Call, Isabel & Vosti, Stephen A. & Boucher, Stephen R. & Luedeling, Eike, 2012. "Technology Adoption and Climate-Related Policy Evaluation among East African Smallholders: A Bioeconomic Model of the Trade-offs between Trees and Subsistence," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 125015, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Crop Production/Industries; International Development; Production Economics; Resource /Energy Economics and Policy;
    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

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