Non-Traditional Exports, Traditional Constraints: The Adoption and Diffusion of Cash Crops among Smallholders in Guatemala
More than two decades after non-traditional export crops (NTXs) were introduced to the central highlands of Guatemala to link farmers to global markets and foster rural development, this study uses duration analysis to explore how time-varying household characteristics and external trends play into both the adoption and diffusion processes of NTX among smallholders. Adoption was widespread and rapid, which led the project to be hailed as a pro-poor success, reaching all but the smallest landholders. Potential benefits of NTXs have proven to be high, but constraints to sustained adoption also numerous, particularly in the second decade of the period considered. Over time, more than two-thirds of adopters eventually dropped out, reverting back to more traditional crops, or leaving agriculture altogether. Based on a second round of a 20-year panel survey carried out by the authors, the analysis suggests that smallholders are quite responsive to price incentives when making their repeated decision to continue adopting overtime. Also, in line with previous findings, land size does not seem important in the decision to adopt. However, land quality emerges as a significant factor in prolonging NTX production over time. Overall, the findings suggest that, in the long-run, NTX production does not appear to have been as pro-poor as initially hoped, and that institutions and policy interventions were able to only partially offset these difficulties in favor of less endowed farmers.
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