Recent micro level data from East Africa is used to benchmark aggregate data and assess the role of agricultural inputs in explaining variation in crop yields on smallholding plots. Fertilizer, improved seeds, protection against erosion and pesticides improve crop yields in Rwanda and Ethiopia, but not Uganda, possibly associated with lack of use there. With all positive yield determinants in place, wheat and maize yields could increase fourfold.
The data hints at the negative effect of climate change on yields and the benefits of accompanying measures to mitigate its adverse impact (access to finance and protection against erosion). The adverse effect of crop damage on yields varies between 12/13 percent (Rwanda, Uganda) to 36 percent (Ethiopia). Protection against erosion and investment financing mitigate these effects considerably.
A large share of cross-country differences in productivity is explained by differences in agricultural productivity. Using a combination of sub-national agricultural statistics and geospatial datasets on crop-specific potential yields, we study the main drivers of this variation from a macroeconomic perspective. We find that differences in geographically-induced crop-specific comparative advantages can explain a substantial share of the variation in yields across the world. Data reveal substantial gaps between potential and observed yields in most countries. When decomposing these within country gaps, we find that crop selection gaps are on average larger than those induced by input usage alone. The results highlight the importance of understanding the interaction of geography and crop selection drivers in assessing aggregate agricultural productivity differences.