Title page for ETD etd-09052012-165054

Document Type Doctoral Thesis
Author Gouse, Marthinus
URN etd-09052012-165054
Document Title Farm-level and socio-economic impacts of a genetically modified subsistence crop : the case of smallholder farmers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Degree PhD
Department Agricultural Economics, Extension and Rural Development
Advisor Name Title
Prof C Thirtle Co-Supervisor
Prof J Kirsten Supervisor
  • smallholder farmers
  • genetically modified subsistence crop producer
  • KwaZulu-Natal South Africa
Date 2012-09-07
Availability restricted
Internationally, genetically modified (GM) crops have been the fastest adopted agricultural technology in recent history with a 67-fold increase in global area planted between 1996 and 2007. The first plantings of insect resistant (Bt) white maize in 2001/02 established South Africa as the first GM subsistence crop producer in the world. South African commercial farmers’ adoption of GM seed technologies has been impressive and in 2009/10 approximately 69 percent of the total South African maize area was planted to GM maize. The interesting question is however whether South African resource poor smallholders were able to benefit from the introduction of GM crops. The South African smallholder GM maize experience has to date and internationally been the only example of where a subsistence crop is produced by subsistence farmers using GM seed. Their experience with GM crops is thus of great interest to African decision makers and other role players.

The international literature on the socio-economic impacts of subsistence GM maize production in Africa is limited to publications by the author of this thesis and research collaborators but reported findings are based on one or at most three seasons of data and inconclusive. This study is the first of its kind to comprehensively assess the farm-level and socio-economic impacts of GM maize adoption by smallholder maize producers over an extended period of time. This study analyses data collected from farmers in the Hlabisa district of KwaZulu-Natal for eight seasons 2001/02-2007/8 and 2009/10. This thesis comprehensively answers the general research question: Taking into consideration the immense variability in production conditions between seasons and in production practises between farmers, have smallholders benefited from the adoption of insect resistant (Bt) and / or herbicide tolerant (HT) maize seed?

The thesis supplies background information on the project’s research methodology and challenges in order to inform possible future socio-economic impact assessments and importantly to contextualise the project findings. The empirical assessment part of the thesis is presented in the form of two chapters. First the socio-economic and farm-level impacts of GM maize adoption are assessed using partial productivity and profitability methods. This approach can be misleading as it does not present the aggregate effect of the total impact of all production factors on output. To deal with this shortcoming, econometrically estimated production functions are then employed to include variation in applicable inputs in the assessment. This approach is however also not ideal as it tacitly assumes that all farms are efficient. In order to address this issue and to calculate comparable efficiency measures for individual farmers and different seed technology adopting groups, a stochastic production frontier approach is employed.

The partial productivity and production function and frontier analysis show that smallholder Bt adopters enjoyed higher yields than their conventional maize planting counterparts and in most seasons were better off despite paying more for their maize seed and not saving on insecticides. The analyses also showed that HT maize seed adopting smallholder farmers benefitted through higher yields brought about by more effective chemical weed control, compared to the manual weed control practices of conventional maize planting farmers. The total labour saving benefit of HT maize however depends on farmers’ production system with farmers making use of “planting-without-ploughing” using significantly less labour than farmers doing land preparation with tractors or oxen and only then planting.

HT maize rendered the highest net farm income in three of the four latter study seasons and HT maize planting farmers were more efficient than both conventional maize planting farmers and Bt farmers. Farmers seem to be willing to pay for the weed control convenience of HT maize and based on adoption figures, farmers value the yield increasing and labour saving benefit of HT maize higher than the borer control insurance of Bt maize.

© 2012 University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Gouse, M 2012, Farm-level and socio-economic impacts of a genetically modified subsistence crop : the case of smallholder farmers in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, PhD thesis, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-09052012-165054/ >


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