Interplay between agro-ecology and poverty prevalence amongst rural households

Mapping the global extent of soil constraints to crop growth plays an important role in developing strategies for agricultural production, environmental protection, and sustainable development at regional and global scales. The most widely used dataset is the Soil Fertility Capability Classification System (FCC) developed by Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) and the Tropical Agriculture Program of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

HarvestChoice facilitated developing an updated version of FCC using the Harmonized World Soil Database v1.1. This new dataset will play a key role in HarvestChoice's forthcoming flagship study on the biophysical/economic impact assessment of agricultural production constraints in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Using estimates at the district level (level-2) we are studying the spatial distribution of poor and ultra-poor rural households across four Sub-Saharan countries (Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria).

Initially we're looking at the relationship between poverty (as measured by per capita expenditure from recent national surveys) and agro-ecological variables.

Our goal is extend this type of analysis to include other physical variables (rainfall variability, soil quality and crop yield potentials) with a view to better inform targeted interventions. The spatial – and not just social and economic –  marginalization of poverty has long been recognized, with poorer rural households typically leaving in less-favorable environment, poorer soils and under harsher climatic conditions, and poorer urban households occupying fringes of cities beyond the boundaries of basic public services. More empirical evidence is needed however to better understand the interplay between spatial and economic exclusion.


Kenya - Interplay between agro-ecology and poverty prevalence amongst rural households

Maps of Ghana and Kenya above show agro-ecological zones next to poverty prevalence. In both cases the spatial concentration of poor rural households (under $1.25/day per capita) and "ultra-poor" rural households (under $.75/day per capita) seems to be highly linked to overall climatic conditions, with higher poverty prevalence rates recorded in arid and semi-arid zones.


HarvestChoice, 2010. "Poverty Prevalence and Agro-Ecology: Investigations." International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC., and University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN. Available online at

Sep 29, 2010