Discussion Paper

Sustainable Agricultural Practices and Agricultural Productivity in Ethiopia: Does Agroecology Matter?

Apr 29, 2009 | Menale Kassie, Precious Zikhali, John Pender, Gunnar Kohlin

This was created in partnership with Environment for Development .


Sustainable agricultural practices, in as far as they rely on renewable local or farm resources, present desirable options for enhancing agricultural productivity for resource-constrained farmers in developing countries. In this paper, we used two sets of plot-level data—from a low-rainfall area and from a high-rainfall area of Ethiopia—to investigate the impact of sustainable agricultural practices on crop productivity, with a particular focus on reduced tillage. Specifically, we sought to investigate whether reduced tillage results in more or less productivity gain than chemical fertilizer. The nature of the two sets of data allows us to examine whether the productivity of these technologies is conditioned by agroecology. Interestingly, our results revealed a clear superiority of reduced tillage over chemical fertilizers in enhancing crop productivity in the low-rainfall region. In the high-rainfall region, however, chemical fertilizer is overwhelmingly superior and reduced tillage potentially results in productivity losses. Thus, our results underscore the need to understand the role of agroecology in determining the profitability (in terms of productivity gains) of farm technologies. This has particular importance in formulating policies that promote technology adoption. In this particular case, our results support encouraging resource-constrained farmers in semi arid areas to adopt sustainable agricultural practices, especially since they enable farmers to reduce production costs, provide environmental benefits, and—as our results confirm—enhance crop productivity.