Working Paper

The Tilling of Land in a Changing Climate: Panel Data Evidence from the Nile Basin of Ethiopia

Mar 1, 2017 | Hailemariam Teklewold, Alemu Mekonnen

This was created in partnership with Environment for Development .


Empirical studies point to reduced tillage as a means to increase yields and reverse land degradation. A relatively neglected avenue of research concerns why farmers increase tillage frequencies. Using household plot–level panel data from the Nile Basin of Ethiopia, this article applies a random effects ordered probit endogenous switching regression model to empirically investigate the impact of weather events and other conditioning factors on farmers’ choice of tillage intensity and the effect of changing tillage frequencies on differences in farm returns. Results indicate that, while low-frequency tillage is more likely in drier areas, plot-level shocks (such as pests and diseases) are key variables in the choice of high-frequency tillage. Adoption of a low-till approach leads to increasing farm returns in low-moisture areas but high-frequency tillage provides higher returns in high-rainfall areas. Understanding how farmers’ tillage options correlate with climatic conditions and farm economies is salient for developing effective adaptation and mitigation plans.