Integrated assessment of the determinants of the maize yield gap in Sub-Saharan Africa: towards farm innovation and enabling policies

Lead Research Organisation: Wageningen University
Department Name: Dept. of Plant Sciences

Abstract

Yield gaps estimations and explanations provide important information on the scope for production increases on existing agricultural land through better farming systems, farm management and enabling policies. The aim of this project is to develop and implement a framework that identifies the key bio-physical and management factors that influence the maize yield gap in SSA and how these are related to existing institutional, infrastructural, socio-economic and policy constraints. The research focuses on the major food crop in SSA, maize, mainly produced by small scale farmers. Maize is an important food crop in almost all Sub-Saharan African countries. Addressing yield performance in maize is therefore valuable from both a food security and poverty perspective. The project will focus on Ghana and Ethiopia as maize-growing case study countries where it builds on existing data and local partnerships. It is assumed that enhanced understanding for these two countries from West and East Africa will have wider meaning.

The innovative part of this project is the use of a framework that integrates agronomic and economic approaches to assess the yield gap and analyse agricultural performance at the farm and plot level. The analysis consists of three stages. In the first stage crop growth and economic production models are used to calculate potential, technical efficient ('best practice') and economic ceiling yields at the national and regional level, which are subsequently combined with actual yield data from surveys to compute the various yield gaps. In the second stage, econometric techniques are used to analyse variations in the observed yield gaps in space and relate them to plot-level, farm-level and context determining factors. In the third stage, a small number of local case studies are organised at the village level to deepen the analyses and to thoroughly understand the determinants of yield gaps to allow identification of farm and management innovations and policy interventions.

Information on yield potentials and actual yields will be taken from the Global Yield Gap Atlas (GYGA) that is currently being developed by University of Nebraska, Wageningen University and many partners from SSA. Farm/household level data and plot level information for Ethiopia and Ghana will be taken from the World Bank's Living Standards Measurement Study-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) and EGC-ISSER Ghana (expected to become available end of 2013). In addition, a survey in each of the case-study regions will be organised to collect additional and detailed information on plot-level crop production and management such as soil characteristics, cultivation history and agronomic management.

The results will be used to derive targeted policy and farming recommendations that account for the complex environments in which male and female farmers in the SSA-region operate and incorporate the basic mechanisms that link farm performance to the broader enabling environment. This process will be supported by initiating participatory on-farm demonstration trials on the one hand and a policy dialogue with stakeholders on the other hand.

Planned Impact

The research will benefit:
(1) Local and national policymakers and planners in Ghana and Ethiopia that are responsible for agricultural policy formulation in the target countries.
(2) National agricultural research institutes that partner in the project.
(3) Farmers and national/regional farmers associations, in particular those that are active in the target regions and countries.
(4) International donors that support agricultural development in the target countries.
(5) International institutions and research organisations that are engaged in future assessments of food security, climate change and economic development.

How will they benefit from this research?
(1) The identification of major constraints and drivers of agricultural performance will provide policymakers with essential information to design targeted interventions at farm management and policy level that may narrow the yield gaps in the study regions and the wider economy. Yield gap estimations will also provide policymakers with information on the potential to increase maize production in the future and the implications for future food security in the region.
(2) Participating in the project will contribute to the capacity of national agricultural research institutes to combine socio-economic and bio-physical theories and approaches to analyse yield gaps and agricultural productivity.
(3) Through their engagement in village level demonstrations, farmers and extension agents will acquire useful information and knowledge on improved practices, leading to the adoption of these practices and ultimately higher agricultural productivity. farmers will benefit from enhance agricultural support policies.
(4) International donors can use the outcomes of the research to better target their agricultural and food security initiatives.
(5) It is expected that the framework to integrate bio-physical and economic approaches to yield gap analysis that will be applied and deepened in this project can also be applied to other regions and countries. It would be interesting to explore possibilities to combine this framework with existing integrated global and national models to assess future land use, climate change and food security (e.g. GTAP, IMPACT and IMAGE).

What will be done to ensure that they have the opportunity to benefit from this activity?
Information on promising options for improved farm management will be communicated to farmers and agricultural extension agents who are the primary actors operating at farm level in the case study sites. Joint learning by researchers, farmers and extension agents will be fostered through on-farm demonstration trials and field visits during which the trialled options are evaluated and discussed.
For policy makers, information on where yield gaps are large, potential areas where yield gaps can be narrowed relatively easily, and the necessary policy interventions and enabling institutions, are critical. The project will engage with policy makers by providing a platform for them to access this information and share and discuss it with other stakeholders such as farmer representatives, public and private sector agents, NGOs and local and international researchers. This will encourage mutual understanding, lead to better targeting of necessary policy interventions and ultimately to socio-economic-institutional environments that are more conducive to high agricultural productivity. In total two roundtables (each in one of the case-study countries) will be organised with policy makers and other stakeholders.
Besides the engagement activities, which form the core of our strategy to impact, farmers and extension agents will be informed through leaflets and radio broadcasts on good management practices. Furthermore, country-specific policy briefs in which the main findings and policy recommendations are summarised will be prepared.
 
Description This will be completed by April 14, 2018 as requested in an email by Mr. Conrad Blake, February 8, 2018
Exploitation Route To be completed by April 14, 2018
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

 
Description Two policy workshops were organized in Ethiopia, in April 2017 and January 2018, and one in Ghana in December 2018, while regional stakeholders from the two study regions in See also the document sent per email to Louise Shaxson on March 14, 2018. Ghana, also participated in the project workshop in May 2017. The first workshop in Ethiopia had 24 attendees, and the second 30. The policy workshop in Ghana had 49 attendees. The latter was published on the website of the government of Ghana: http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/media-center/news/4266-isser-hosts-roundtable-policy-workshop-on-reducing-maize-yield-gap. In Ethiopia, policy makers expressed interest in follow-up workshops in relation to related projects TAMASA and Crop Nutrient Gaps. In addition, two policy briefs were published and disseminated in both countries. Further, a high level delegation from Ethiopia visited Wageningen, and the concepts and results from IMAGINE were presented. In general, the concept of yield gaps, indicating the scope for yield increase, is gaining much visibility. The paper by Van Ittersum et al. (2016), 'Can Sub-Saharan Africa feed itself?' in PNAS has received much media attention across the globe. The application of the framework by Van Dijk et al. (2017) for Ethiopia has been extended by emphasizing the link to policies, and presented in the policy workshops. Policy makers and extension officers start to realize that integrated policies are needed, as yield gaps can only be reduced if multiple changes are made, both at the policy level and the farm management level.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Title Demonstration trails Ghana 
Description Field book for demonstration trails, Ghana 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Title Household Questionnaire Ethiopia, 2015 
Description This research tool facilitates the recording of household and agronomic data for maize produciong households in Ethiopia. The questionnaire is developed in such a way that records can be used by another research project (TAMASA; see collaborations). 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Sharing of data with another research project is enhanced. 
 
Title Household Questionnaire Ghana 2015 
Description This research tool facilitates the recording of household and agronomic data for maize produciong households in Ghana. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Title Household questionnaire Adami Tulu, Ethiopia 2016 
Description This research tool facilitates the recording of household and agronomic data for maize produciong households in Ghana. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Title Household questionnaire Bako Tibe, Ethiopia 2016 
Description This research tool facilitates the recording of household and agronomic data for maize produciong households in Ethiopia. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact N/A 
 
Title Household questionnaire Ghana, Nkoranza minor season 2016 
Description This research tool facilitates the recording of household and agronomic data for maize produciong households in Ghana. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Title Household questionnaire Nkoranza, Ghana major season 2016 
Description This research tool facilitates the recording of household and agronomic data for maize produciong households in Ghana. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Title Village Questionnaire Ethiopia 
Description This tool facilitates the recording on facilities, inititatives and commodity prices in a village in Ethiopia 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Title Village Questionnaire Ghana 
Description This tool facilitates the recording on facilities, inititatives and commodity prices in a village in Ghana. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Title Yield Gap Note 
Description This method provides an integrate dframework that is aimed to disentangle agronomic and economic yield gaps. 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact In the course of creating the framework, collaboration between agronomic and economic research has been intensified. Preliminary results show that some agronomic yield gaps will never be bridged due to economic circumstances, which emphasizes the need for an integrated approach. 
 
Title Demonstration experiment Adami Tulu, Ethiopia 2016 
Description Demonstration experiment Adami Tulu, Ethiopia 2016 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The demonstration experiment led to farmer awareness on several Agricultural practices. 
 
Title Demonstration experiment Bako Tibe, Ethiopia 2016 
Description Demonstration experiment Bako Tibe, Ethiopia 2016 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The demonstration experiment led to farmer awareness on several Agricultural practices. 
 
Title Demonstration experiment Savelugu, Ghana 2017 
Description Demonstration experiment Savelugu, Ghana 2017 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The demonstration experiment led to farmer awareness on several Agricultural practices. 
 
Title Demonstration experiment dataset Ghana Nkoranza 2016 
Description Demonstration experiment dataset Ghana Savelugu 2016 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The demonstration experiment led to farmer awareness on several Agricultural practices. 
 
Title Demonstration experiment dataset Ghana Savelugu 2016 
Description Demonstration experiment dataset Savelugu 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact N/A 
 
Title Demonstration experiment dataset Nkoranza, Ghana 2017 
Description Demonstration experiment dataset Nkoranza, Ghana 2017 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The demonstration experiment led to farmer awareness on several Agricultural practices. 
 
Title Household dataset Ethiopia 2015 
Description Household survey in Ethiopia with 80 farmers. 40 in Bako Tibe and 40 in Adami Tulu. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact N/A 
 
Title Household dataset Ethiopia 20156 
Description Household survey among 80 farmers in Ethiopia, 40 in Adami Tulu and 40 in Bako Tibe. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact N/A 
 
Title Household dataset Ghana 
Description Dataset with 90 household observations in two areas in Ghana. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Title Household dataset Ghana major season Nkoranza 2016 
Description Household dataset Ghana minor season Nkoranza 2016 of 45 households. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact N/A 
 
Title Household dataset Ghana minor season Nkoranza 2016 
Description Household survey conducted at 45 households in Nkoranza, Ghana during the minor season in 2016 on plot level characteristics 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact N/A 
 
Title Soil sample data set Ghana 
Description Collection of soil samples from maizefields from 90 households in Ghana 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact More precise estimation of soil quality 
 
Title Soil sample report generator 
Description This model supports the generation of multiple soil sample reports at once. 
Type Of Material Data handling & control 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The process of feeding back soil sample reports to individual farmers is improved. 
URL https://www.researchgate.net/publication/293816753_Soil_sample_report_generator_using_R_facilitating...
 
Title VSA in ODK 
Description This model and database processes and records results from FAO's Visual Soil Assessment together with images and geo-locations. 
Type Of Material Data handling & control 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact Availability of geo-locations of soil sampling helped to improve the soil sampling strategy of field workers. Processed data was stored safely directly after the field work was finished. 
URL https://www.researchgate.net/publication/293649999_FAO%27s_Visual_Soil_Assessment_in_ODK_Using_table...
 
Title Village dataset 
Description Dataset of 6 villages on facilities, innovation groups and commodity prices in maize producing villages. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact NA 
 
Title Yield sample dataset Ghana 
Description Actual maize yield data from fields of 90 households in Ghana. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact More precise estimations of yields. 
 
Description ISRIC soil samples 
Organisation The Global Health Network
Department International Severe Acute Respiratory Infection Consortium (ISARIC)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Sharing of soil sample results.
Collaborator Contribution Giving feedback on soil sampling strategy
Impact No outputs yet
Start Year 2015
 
Description SIMLESA data 
Organisation International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT)
Country Mexico 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution We aim to help with data analysis of interesting datasets on maize production in Ethiopia.
Collaborator Contribution Co-authoring scientific articles.
Impact Not applicable yet
Start Year 2015
 
Description TAMASA (Taking Maize Agronomy to Scale in Africa ) 
Organisation International Centre for Maize and Wheat Improvement (CIMMYT)
Country Mexico 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution TAMASA asked us to host 2 sandwich PhD students, focussing on Ethiopia. Their work will be aligned with IMAGINE
Collaborator Contribution Household surveys of IMAGINE and TAMASA will be aligned, to make most out of both.
Impact Aligned Household surveys. PhD theses will produced, and peer-reviewed articles. Capacity building by delivering two doctors.
Start Year 2015