“What Are the Drivers of (Low) Farm Productivity? Smallholder Coconut Farming in the Philippines.”
by Canberk Üçel
University of Pennsylvania
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Meeting ID: 683 469 0808
Increasing the productivity of Philippine smallholder coconut farms that are well below world standards could improve the livelihoods of 3.4 million farming families, most living in poverty. Government and international organizations have long promoted Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) that public research suggests would double farm productivity with little capital investment. I analyze unique data on the productivity and operations of two thousand farms in the Philippines to identify in unprecedented micro-detail best practices for five key operations: salt fertilizer use, mulching, pruning, weeding, and pest control. I find strong suggestive evidence that (1) blanket GAP recommendations for salt fertilizer use practices are not effective when farm environments vary, tailoring practices to which can yield 10% to 20% short-term productivity gains, and (1) the best practices for the other four operations, each of which can contribute between 5% and 30% greater farm productivity, differ from the respective GAPs in such micro-details as the minimum quantity of coconut husk (a common farm waste) per tree to apply as mulch. My results suggest that supporting organizations should focus on developing better customized farming advice for smallholders and assist farmers with the finer details of implementation, a course of action not currently preferred by the industry, but increasingly possible through emerging information technologies. Customized farming advice communicated in fine detail, extended beyond the Philippine context, could potentially improve the circumstances of more than two billion people worldwide whose incomes are dependent on smallholder farms.