The effect of land fragmentation on the productivity and technical efficiency of smallholder maize farms in Southern Rwanda
par Karangwa Mathias
Makerere University - M.sc Agricultural and Applied Economics; Bachelors in Economics(Money and Banking) 2007
Rwanda is a landlocked country whose size is 26,338 km2. Arable land is estimated to be 13, 850 km2, which is just about 52% of Rwanda's total surface area. The rate of population growth was estimated at 3.1% in 1998. By 2006, Rwanda's population stood at nearly 9 million and was growing at a rate of about 2.5% per year, a rate that may double the 2006 population in about 28 years (Republic of Rwanda, 2006).
Like many other African economies, Rwanda's economy largely depends on agriculture. The annual contribution of agriculture to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was more than 40% from 1990 to 2002 (Table 1.1). From 2003 to 2007, the annual contribution of agriculture to GDP was still above 35%.
Source: Republic of Rwanda (2008), Rwanda in Statistics and Figures and Republic of Rwanda (2003), Rwanda Development Indicators.
The major food crops in Rwanda are maize, rice, banana, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes and cassava. Rwanda's maize yield was in 2003 the lowest compared to the maize yield of Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda (Figure 1.1).
Source: Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO (2003).
However, maize is regarded as a major food crop in Rwanda (Table 1.2) with a 12% increase in its production from 2006 to 2007. It is followed by sweet potatoes (with 9% increase), cassava (with 5% increase) and banana (with 2% increase).
Source: Republic of Rwanda (2006). Rwanda Development Indicators
Furthermore, the encouragement to grow maize from the government to constitute cereal reserves to face unexpected hunger periods, contributed to the expansion of maize crop. Currently it is the leading crop and certainly the leading cereal in Rwanda
(Republic of Rwanda , 2009)
Even though maize is a major food crop in Rwanda, there are some parts of Rwanda where production of maize is still low. In 2006, Gisagara district produced 795 tons of maize (Figure 1.2), which was less than 1 percent of national maize output.
Source: Republic of Rwanda (2006), season statistics 2006B.
There are perhaps factors that may be hindering efficient maize production in Gisagara district. It has been presumed that poor land use and management practices (especially land fragmentation) in highly populated areas can lead to inefficiencies in crop production (Gebeyehu, 1995). Gisagara district has a very high population and land fragmentation is so common (Musahara, 2006).
The Rwandan government believes that the cultivation of small fragmented land holdings leads to inefficiencies in agricultural production. Consequently, land reform programs have been introduced and generally include the land law (passed in 2005), the land policy (adopted in 2004) and the villagization policy (the setting up of communal settlements aimed at freeing more land for agriculture). These land reforms strongly encourage land consolidation (Republic of Rwanda, 2004). Under article 20 of the new land law, farmers will have to consolidate their land and/or not fragment land holdings below one hectare since it is argued that to be economically productive, a household farm must not be less than 0.9 hectare, a limit set by the Food and Agricultural Organization, FAO (Mosley, 2004). However, the Rwandan government adopted the land reform programs without carrying out a study to assess the effects of land fragmentation on the productivity and efficiency of farms.
It is not yet clear whether such land reforms will successfully replace the informal rules (especially the customary land tenure system) that encouraged land inheritance and continuous subdivision of farms. Secondly, it is hard to predict that farmers will adopt land consolidation especially because previous studies in Rwanda confirmed that land consolidation does not necessarily lead to efficient crop production ( Blarel Benoit, Peter Hazell, Frank Place and John Quiggin, 1992) and land fragmentation was used by farmers as a coping mechanism to deal with problems related to land scarcity and to benefit from regional agro-climatic differences (Marara and Takeuchi, 2003).
Production efficiency studies normally hypothesize that technical inefficiency is influenced by farm-specific and household-specific characteristics. The focus of this study was to especially determine whether farm specific characteristics (with a particular focus on land fragmentation) have negative effects on maize production in Gisagara district. Maize was chosen because it is the most important food crop in Rwanda. Since previous studies reported the existence of higher fragmentation levels in Gisagara district (Musahara, 2006), Gisagara was chosen as a case study.