Intrahousehold Efficiency of Fertilizer Use on Dryland Cereals in Mali

Melinda Smale, Véronique Thériault, and Hamza Haider. 2017. Intrahousehold Efficiency of Fertilizer Use on Dryland Cereals in Mali. Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy Research Paper 63. East Lansing: Michigan State University.

We examine fertilizer use among sorghum growers within Malian households in the Sudan Savanna. Dryland cereals in this region are typically produced by extended family members who are vertically (i.e., unmarried sons, married sons and their families) or horizontally (i.e., brothers; multiple wives) related to the head of the family farm enterprise. The head is usually an elder patriarch, or a work leader he designates.  The head guides the organization of production on large plots labored collectively with the goal of meeting the staple food needs of the extended family. Custodian of the family’s land use rights, he also allocates individual plots to household members who cultivate them privately to meet personal needs. We test intrahousehold differences in fertilizer adoption, efficiency and productivity by plot manager’s gender and relationship to head. We apply a well-known econometric approach applied previously by researchers to data collected in Mali and Burkina Faso. In comparison with earlier research, we are able to control for unobserved variation in soil characteristics. We find that fertilizer application per ha on sorghum is on average higher among women than men. When we control for unobserved soil quality, we find little evidence that intrahousehold fertilizer allocation is inefficient, although productivity differentials persist. Further, differences in marginal products of nitrogen between female- and male-managed sorghum plots are not statistically significant. Findings have implications for design of programs to support cereals intensification in Mali.

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