Staple Crop Diversity and Risk Mitigation- Potatoes in Bolivia
Castelhano, Michael Joseph
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Rural areas of most developing nations are dependent on agriculture. In the most remote areas, sometimes referred to as the â less favored areasâ (LFAs), the economic importance of agriculture is paramount. An important obstacle to development in these areas is that agriculture is at the mercy of nature, which may not be particularly friendly. These areas have remained remote due to natural shortcomings causing economic development to occur slower than more advantaged areas elsewhere. Cochabamba Department, in central Bolivia, is home to some of these LFAs. Most Cochabamban producers are located in the â high climatic riskâ (CIP-WPA) Andean highlands. Farmers in LFAs surrounding Cochabamba city produce (among other things) potatoes for market and home consumption; the potato is the main source of food and income for most residents. Previous studies and anecdotal evidence have shown that Andean potato farmers may plant upwards of 10 varieties of potatoes on small amounts of land (Brush, 92). Because of the low rates of improved crop variety adoption in many LFAâ s, efforts are needed to understand farmer objectives and needs with respect to variety characteristics. The goal of this study is to determine how exposure to risk factors impacts potato planting decisions through demand for potato variety characteristics. The main source of data for this project is a survey of 145 farm households implemented during the last quarter of 2007 in 3 communities of Cochabamba. These data were used to estimate an econometric model that evaluated the role of household, regional and variety characteristics in farmer decision making. Decisions about planting each variety were modeled with a Tobit framework and estimated by the Heckman method (as suggested by Cameron and Trivedi), with the impact of individual variety characteristics restricted to be the same for each variety. Several hypotheses were confirmed such as the importance of yield, though many results were different than expected. Blight tolerance was found to be negatively correlated with selection, although most farmers report taking some kind of action to decrease damage from blight. Possible explanations for this negative correlation are discussed in this paper, and strategies for overcoming these obstacles are suggested.
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