The importance of off-farm employment for smallholder farmers in Rwanda
Article publication date: 8 January 2018
Based on unique data the authors analyze the Rwandan non-farm employment expansion in rural areas and its relation to agricultural productivity. The purpose of this paper is to analyze the factors that determine off-farm work hours in Rwanda, and how farmers’ off-farm employment affects agricultural output. Since production efficiency may depend on off-farm work and off-farm work depend on production efficiency (Lien et al., 2010), both production and off-farm work are endogenous. While controlling for endogeneity, the authors investigate the relationship between off-farm work and agricultural production.
In this paper the authors use a unique panel data set spanning over 26 years originating from household surveys conducted in the northwest and densely populated districts of Rwanda. Econometric estimations are based on a random effects two-stage Tobit model to control for endogeneity.
The study confirms theoretical and empirical findings from other developing countries that off-farm employment is one of the essential conditions for having an economically viable agricultural business and vice versa.
The study is carried out in only one district of Rwanda. Even though most rural areas in Rwanda have similar features the findings cannot necessarily be generalized for the entire country of Rwanda. As in any study, the raw data set suffer from a number of shortcomings which cannot be fully eliminated by the econometric estimation, but this is a new data set which has the best data available for this research question in Rwanda.
The authors can conclude that there are synergy effects of investing government resources into both on-farm and off-farm employment expansions. Thus, in Rwanda on-farm investments can actually partly contribute to a future natural smooth transformation to more off-farm total output and productivity and vice versa. Though there are still limited off-farm employment opportunities in the studied area, there are considerable potentials to generate income and increase agricultural production through the purchase of additional inputs.
The findings imply that a favorable business climate for off-farm businesses creates spill-over effects which enhance the smallholder farmers’ opportunities to survive, generate wealth, create employment and in effect reduce poverty.
From the best of the authors’ knowledge, similar studies have not been conducted in Rwanda, nor elsewhere with this type of data set. The findings provide original insights regarding off-farm and agricultural relationships in rural areas under dense population pressure. The results provide some indications that off-farm employment in developing countries (such as Rwanda) is one of the essential conditions for having an economically viable agricultural business and vice versa. The second wave of data was collected by the authors and was used solely for the purpose of this paper.
Musafiri, I. and Sjölander, P. (2018), "The importance of off-farm employment for smallholder farmers in Rwanda", Journal of Economic Studies, Vol. 45 No. 1, pp. 14-26. https://doi.org/10.1108/JES-07-2016-0129
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