Conventional Wisdom Dictates That Improving Agricultural Productivity

Decent Essays
Conventional wisdom dictates that improving agricultural productivity, either through irrigation projects or the introduction of genetically modified crops, is the key step in ending rural poverty in sub-Saharan poverty. Our research overturns this assumption. By using a global poverty map and standard soil productivity measures, we find that the regions in sub-Saharan Africa with better soil quality actually experience higher rates of poverty. Our dataset consisted of 5334 subnational units from 46 sub-Saharan African countries. For soil quality, we used a seven-dimension indicator published by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis as part of the Harmonized World Soil Database, as well as the index of soil production by the FAO. As a measure of poverty, we used the Global Poverty Map, derived from satellite data and published by the National Geophysical Data Center. The large negative correlation between soil quality and district-level poverty remained even when controlling for many of the possible determinate of poverty, using fixed effects at the country and regional level, and performing a number of robustness checks. To explain this counterintuitive result, we examined the relationship between transportation infrastructure, soil quality, and poverty. We found that the positive relationship between poverty and soil quality only exists in areas with insufficient infrastructure, and that poverty is at its worst when there is a combination of
Get Access