The Effect of Land Scarcity on Farm Structure: Empirical Evidence from Mali
We analyze the individualization of farm units in Mali in the sense of a transformation of purely collective farms into mixed units in which private plots coexist with collective fields. While a moral-hazard-in-team problem plagues production on the latter, a dilemma arises insofar as the household head extracts his income form it. The head thus faces a trade-off between efficiency and capture. We show, within the framework of a patriarchal farm household model, that the choice is tilted toward private plot as land becomes more scarce. On the basis of first hand data collected in Southern Mali, we test and confirm the above prediction. Moreover, the relationship between land scarcity and the presence of individual plots holds only when there are at least one married couple (besides the head) within the household. The explanation we put forward is that the presence or suspicion of labour-shirking on the collective field arise only when there are interferences by in-laws and differences in the size of conjugal units.
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