Date of Graduation

8-2018

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Agricultural Economics (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness

Advisor

Lawton Nalley

Committee Member

Marijke D'haese

Second Committee Member

Thula Dlamini

Third Committee Member

Heather Price

Keywords

Climate Change, Eswatini, Smallholder Farmer, Sugar Cane

Abstract

Sugar cane is the largest industry in Eswatini with 16 percent of the total workforce working directly or indirectly in the sugar industry. Like all agricultural industries the sugar industry in Eswatini is heavily dependent on an abundant labor supply and climatic conditions. Labor efficiency and abundance is a defining factor of food security and profitability in Eswatini, having one of the highest national HIV/AIDS rates in the world. Small-scale sugar cane producers are often the hardest hit by HIV/AIDS as they traditionally rely on family labor more than hired labor. The 2016 Eswatini Vulnerability Assessment Report indicated that over half of the population in Eswatini required livelihood support, mainly in the form of food aid due to the ongoing El Niño drought. Droughts and variable weather patterns will continue to increase in frequency and magnitude globally. The implication for Eswatini is rain-fed agriculture yields could fall by up to 50 percent by 2020, threatening the livelihoods of the rural poor, a majority of whom earn their living through subsistence agriculture.

This study set out to model the effect of farm size on producer revenue in Eswatini using field-level data from 454 individual sugar cane producers from 2004-2015, coupled with location specific climatic data. Given the lack of extension services throughout Africa, one fear is that large producers may have an inherent advantage in that they can afford crop consultants, higher levels of mechanization and inputs such as inorganic fertilizer. Further, smaller farms may be hit harder by the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Eswatini. Second, given the unprecedented drought of the last decade this study estimates the effects of extreme temperatures and drought on yield and sucrose percentage, which are the drivers of revenue. This study is only one part of a larger effort to develop sustainable sugar cane production in Eswatini. Continued observation of the interaction between increasingly variable weather conditions and sugar cane production outcomes will allow refinement and enhancement of this study and agricultural policy makers in Eswatini with

important direction for sustaining production and enhancing livelihoods of the poorest of the poor in an increasingly hot future.

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