Factors affecting efficiency of smallholder cotton producers in Zambia
Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa is considered as an engine of economic growth and has the potential to reduce rural poverty of smallholder farmers through increased food security and household income. However, Zambia and other Sub-Saharan Africa countries are faced with low agricultural productivity and that undermines the potential the sector has of reducing poverty. Focusing on smallholder cotton producers of Zambia, the study aimed at determining the efficiency of cotton farmers in Zambia. It further aimed at determining socio-economic and farm specific factors that were likely to influence the efficiency in cotton production. Efficiency in this study was considered as productivity at optimal values and was investigated in three ways; technical, allocative and economic efficiencies. The study used the 2008 supplemental survey data collected by the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Central Statistics Office and Food Security Research Project. Using Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA), technical, allocative and economic efficiency indices were determined at 46%, 37% and 20% respectively. This means that Zambia’s cotton farmers are relatively inefficient and they could reduce input use and production cost without altering the output but by just improving technical and allocative efficiency by 54% and 63% respectively. Using the Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression, the econometric results indicated that female headed households, number of years of formal education, use of crop residues, and productive assets were some of the factors found to positively influenced efficiency. Therefore, the study recommended that cotton stakeholders devise strategies of involving more women in cotton production, improve access to productive assets, and encourage adoption of conservation farming techniques such as the use of crop residues in the field as the means of improving cotton production efficiency.
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