The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.
The Impact Initiative has closed. This website has now been archived and will no longer be updated.

Factor endowments, biased technological change, wages and poverty reduction: can genetically modified crops bring a green revolution to Africa?

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Principal Investigator: Colin Graham Thirtle. Lead Organisation: Imperial College London

Co-investigators: Jenifer Piesse; Andrew Ross Doward; Marthinus Gouse; Johann Frederick Kirsten; Colin Poulton

Agricultural productivity growth increases the incomes of farmers and lowers food prices, benefiting both the rural and urban poor who spend much of their incomes on food. The labour-using green revolution reduced poverty in land scarce, labour abundant Asia, but has not had sustained impacts in SSA, where scarce factor is often labour.  Now, herbicide tolerant, genetically modified (GM) white maize, is being adopted by resource-poor smallholders in KwaZulu Natal. 

Whereas the Green Revolution was land saving and labour using, GM maize halves labour at planting time. If there is no land to allow expansion, employment could be halved and poverty increased, but if planting labour is the bottleneck and land is not scarce, expansion can double output, increase employment in all the other seasons and reduce poverty. So determining the factor scarcities in SSA is essential for policy makers to know if GM will result in output expansion or labour displacement.

This project will try to answer this question by combining a study of the past impacts of biased technical change and factor endowments with surveys of the impacts of GM maize on employment and the incomes of small farmers in southern Africa.

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Grant Category: 
Research Grant
Lead Organisation Department: 
The Centre for Environmental Policy
Fund Start Date: 
November 1st, 2006
Fund End Date: 
October 31st, 2008
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