Steffen Abele:
Innovations for Plant Production in the Risky Environment of Semi-arid Niger -- A Multi-level Modelling Assessment


International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Center, Uganda

The paper deals with sustainable technological innovation for smallholder agriculture in semi-arid Niger. For these farmers, a set of low-input technologies, amongst them pocket placed phosphorous fertiliser techniques, mulching and no-input techniques like selected weeding, have been developed in the nineties to increase the productivity of their millet farming systems. Technology assessment cannot be restricted to plot or farm alone but has to take into account also markets and marketing patterns. Consequently, a sequence of three models was applied: On plot level, technical production functions of intercropping systems were estimated. The parameters estimated depicted the influence of inputs and agro-ecological conditions on crop yields. By feeding different rainfall scenarios into the model, crop yield variability was depicted. The yields resulting from the model scenarios were fed in a Markowitz-Portfolio"=farm model type by means of nonlinear programming to test the innovations at farm level. The model assumes risk and risk aversion as decisive factors for cropping decisions, with risk defined as the variability of yields and resulting financial returns. The base run was done at stable prices. The scenarios were run at declining prices which were obtained from the third modelling stage, an interregional trade model. The trade model was shocked by the excess obtained from the yield gains of the innovations. A certain amount of the production had to be marketed, even at declining prices, assuming that farmers had to cover their monetary costs of production from markets, especially for mineral fertiliser innovations. Results show that due to risk aversion and high price volatility of output markets, farmers adopt the more cost intensive technologies, like mineral fertiliser applications, to a lesser degree than expected. Instead, they switch to other low"=input techniques, like field management such as selected weeding, which requires far less financial inputs. It can thus be concluded that, in a risky environment like the semi"=arid Niger, low to zero cost management techniques are more likely to be adopted than more productive but more risky fertiliser technologies.

Keywords: Agricultural development, innovations, Niger, plant production, risk management, small scale farming

Full paper:


Contact Address: Steffen Abele, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Eastern and Southern Africa Regional CenterP.O. Box 7878, Kampala, Uganda, e-mail:
Andreas Deininger, September 2004