Integrated assessment of the determinants of the maize yield gap in Sub-Saharan Africa: towards farm innovation and enabling policies

Type of practice:

Background, aims and objectives

According to the latest FAO projections, agricultural production in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) will have to triple to fulfil demand by 2050. Around 80 % of the projected growth will have to come from intensification, predominantly an increase in yields through better use of inputs. Yield gap estimations and explanations provide important information on the scope for production increases on existing agricultural land through better farming systems, farm management and enabling policies. In order to increase agricultural productivity, it is important to better understand the biophysical and socioeconomic factors, and their interactions that prevent closing the yield gap.

The aim of this project is to identify the key bio-physical and farm and crop management factors that determine the maize yield gap in SSA and how these are related to existing institutional, infrastructural, socio-economic and policy constraints. The research focuses on the major food crop in SSA, maize, mainly produced by small scale farmers. Maize is consumed in almost all Sub-Saharan African countries, accounting for 30-50 % of low-income household expenditure. Addressing yield performance in maize is therefore valuable from both a food security and poverty perspective. The project will focus on Ghana and Ethiopia as maize-growing case study countries where we can build on existing data and local partnerships. We assume that enhanced understanding for these two countries from West and East Africa will have wider meaning.

The main research questions are:

  1. What is a scientifically sound and applicable generic framework linking agronomic, socio-economic, institutional, infrastructural and policy factors, explaining maize yield gaps in SSA?
  2. What are the main biophysical and farm and crop management factors that help to explain yield gaps in the case study countries?
  3. What are the main infrastructural, institutional, socio-economic and policy factors that explain farm and crop management and consequently yield gaps?
  4. Which policies and farm management options are key for increasing yield performance in SSA?

Environmental impacts:

Year of IA Practice:

2015 to 2017