Productivity of small-scale maize farmers in Lesotho
Maseatile, Mpho Sylvia Mamokuru
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Low productivity in agriculture has been observed to be a problem against increased food security. Enhancement of agricultural productivity is a key to improved food security and it can be achieved by improving technical efficiency of maize farm households. There is little empirical work on technical efficiency of small-scale farmers in Lesotho, hence the need for this study. Maize is a staple food in the country however, its production is not keeping pace with the increasing population, thus, it is not considered suitable for food security. The study therefore investigated the potential to raise maize productivity in Leribe and Mafeteng districts of Lesotho. The primary objective of this study was to identify factors affecting the productivity of small-scale maize farmers in Lesotho, using stochastic frontier production analysis (SFA). Due to high levels of multicolinearity principal component regression was used to relate technical efficiency scores to hypothesised factors that affect technical efficiency. Primary data were used in order to provide estimates of technical efficiency and its determinants. The primary data were obtained by way of personal interviews through the use of well-structured questionnaires administered in Leribe and Mafeteng districts of Lesotho. A simple random sampling technique was used to select a sample of 150 maize farmers drawn from the two districts. The empirical results revealed that nitrogen (N) and potassium (K) have a significant positive impact on maize production, suggesting that these variables are important intermediate inputs in enhancing agricultural productivity in the study area. Phosphorus was negative and significant implying that it led to a decrease in production. The importance of labour and seed quantity on maize output was not statistically explained, even though their estimated coefficient quantities were positive as expected. It was found from the estimated gamma (g ) of 0.196 that technical inefficiency is a significant component of the composed error term of the stochastic specification. The gamma value indicates that about 19.6% of total variation in maize output was due to technical inefficiency. The gamma value results in this study indicate that the low maize productivity levels in Lesotho are largely due to random shocks, rather than being technical inefficient. The results of the analysis further showed that the estimated level of efficiency ranged from 11% to 100% with a mean of 87%. The mean technical efficiency of 87% implies that maize farmers were not fully technically efficient, there was 13% allowance for improving efficiency using technology from best-practiced maize farmers. However, about 91.5% had the technical efficiency exceeding 60%. There was a significant difference in the levels of technical efficiency across maize farmers in the two regions. Leribe region attaining high levels of TE should be utilised as a source of knowledge that could be transferred more easily to Mafeteng region which is less efficient. Some of the variables of interest in this study contributing to efficiency increase were age, seed quality, tractor power, farm-experience, market access, credit access and off-farm income. Gender and extension visits were not statistically significant in increasing the level of technical efficiency. The estimated coefficients of household size, primary education, animal power and farm training were positive, thus increasing technical inefficiency of farmers in the study area. The policy implication arising from this study is that stress tolerant maize varieties should be planted to address the climate change effect on maize production in the study area. Improvement of maize market infrastructure throughout the country could also be an incentive for farmers to increase maize outputs.
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