Impact of cash cropping on smallholder farming households’ food security in Shamva District, Zimbabwe.
Rubhara, Theresa Tendai.
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Over 1.5 million Zimbabweans were food insecure in the 2015/2016 season, with the majority being in the rural areas. Land reform programmes have been implemented to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers. Smallholder farmers now constitute over 90% of farmers. There is a drive to commercialise small-scale agriculture by increasing the smallholder farmers’ involvement in cash crop production. However, despite those efforts, food insecurity remains high in the smallholder farming sector. As farmers shift towards cash crop production, an understanding of the implications of this shift on the household food security level is required. The objective of the study was to analyse factors determining cash crop production choices at the household level and the impact of such choices on household food security status. The research was conducted in Shamva district, Mashonaland Central Province of Zimbabwe. Data was collected in 2016 through a survey of 281 randomly selected households. Data was analysed using the SPSS and STATA. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and independent t tests for mean area under different crops were used for analysis of crop production patterns guided by the Sustainable Livelihoods Framework. The Tobit regression models were used to measure determinants of commercialisation and impact of cash cropping on food security in chapters four and five respectively. The independent t-test was used to test for significance in average monthly income and expenditure between male-headed and female-headed households. The Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) was also used to model the determinants of household food expenditure. Maize and groundnuts were the main food crops grown in the area. About 95% of the sampled households grew maize in the 2015/2016 season and used about 61% of the total cultivated area. Tobacco covered 17% of the area and was the main cash crop. Male-headed household had more access to markets (p<0.1) and extension services (p<0.05) than female-headed households. Statistically significant differences between male-headed and female-headed (p<0.01) were observed in cash crops production with female-headed households planting less tobacco than male-headed households do. The average yield per hectare of maize (p<0.01) and tobacco (p<0.01) was significantly higher in A1 resettlement than communal farmers. The household commercialisation index, a ratio of marketed output to the value of crops produced captured the level of cash cropping. The average household commercialisation level was 0.45 implying that farmers sell less than half of the value of their produce. Household characteristics such as the age of household head (p<0.01) and gender of household head (p<0.05) influenced commercialisation. Furthermore, resource endowments such as labour (p<0.1) and number of cattle (p<0.05) also positively affected farmers’ decision to commercialise. Non-far income (p<0.05) was negatively associated with commercialisation. The target group for commercialisation interventions should be smallholder farmers with fewer sources of income as they are likely to be motivated to grow more cash generating crops. Descriptive statistics showed low levels of access to agricultural finance (6.76% of households had access to finance), albeit, its importance in improving production and commercialisation levels. Since communal land holding was negatively associated with commercialisation future land redistribution should continue to decongest smallholder farmers and provide them with support. Communal farmers with increased support are more likely to commercialise. Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) measured food security. The mean HFIAS was 1.89 implying a higher level of food security. Cash crop production had a significantly positive (p< 0.01) impact on food security. A unit increase in the proportion of cash crop resulted in an increase in food security by 4.3 units. This implies Cash crop production ensures that farmers can have more income that can be used for purchasing of food at the household level, thus improving their diet quality. Cash crop production only should not be regarded as a panacea to food security as quantity of maize harvested (p<0.05) had a direct positive impact on food security. Policies that target food crop production only as a means for ensuring food security maybe unsustainable in the end. Therefore, there is need for combining both cash and food crops. Other variables significantly positively influencing food security included non-farm income (p<0.05), access to markets (p<0.1) and access to draft power (p<0.05). However, household size (p<0.1) was negatively associated with food security. The main sources of farm income were cash crop sales, food crop sales and livestock sales, contributing, 64% of the annual household cash income. Food expenditure constituted the main expenditure category and accounted for over 60% of total expenditure. The variables household size (p<0.01), dependant ratio (p<0.05) and income (p<0.01) positively affected household food expenditure. The study revealed that improved cash crop production may be an option for improving food security as it provides an immediate source of farm income. There is need for further research to derive optimum combinations of cash and food crops in the crop mixture for smallholder farmers to achieve food security. Stakeholders including government and marketing firms should promote commercialisation by improving access to services such as finance and extension. Furthermore, opportunities for off-farm livelihoods options should be developed since non-farm income was also positively significantly associated with food expenditure and food security.