Explaining Agricultural Yield Gaps in Cameroon
Abstract: Increasing food production is a key step towards attaining food security in Cameroon. For the last half century, increase in production has been achieved by bringing more land under cultivation. In consequence of competition for land between agriculture and other uses that particular route to increasing production to meet the country’s growing demand is now limited. The alternative is to increase yields on land already being cultivated. The question then is by how much can this yield be increased? In addition, it is necessary to understand what are the main obstacles to narrowing the gap between actual yields and potential yields? This thesis uses a mixture of quantitative and qualitative methods to explore these questions. The results show that there are large yield gaps between actual yields and maximum attainable yields for major food crops in Cameroon. These yield gaps are principally due to agronomic factors and not biophysical factors. Small-scale farmers are knowledgeable about the reasons behind these yield gaps and reasons for low agricultural production in general. These small-scale farmers are vulnerable to shocks such as floods and droughts. Support in a variety of forms can buffer yields and food production from such shocks. A key requirement for narrowing the yield gap would be the implementation of better nutrient management strategies to restore the declining productivity of soils. Given current socio-economic and environmental conditions, reliance on inorganic forms of fertilization is unlikely to be a feasible option. Sustainable intensification with an emphasis on organic agriculture offers significant benefits and promise for closing the yield gap. State support would be indispensable in creating an enabling environment for implementing and sustaining the above system. There is also need to re-design the socio-economic framework of small-scale agricultural practice in which gendered differences in access to production resources and opportunities are reduced, and farmers are included as meaningful stakeholders in agricultural decision-making processes.
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