Does Zero Tillage Improve the Livelihoods of Smallholder Cropping Farmers?
The biophysical benefits of zero tillage (ZT) are well documented in the literature. However, the literature on its economic benefits, especially in the context of small and medium-scale farmers in the temperate developing world is scanty. Using a study of 621 wheat farmers in Syria, we provide empirical evidence on the impacts of adoption of ZT on farm income and wheat consumption. We use propensity score matching (PSM) and endogenous switching regression (ESR) approaches to account for potential selection biases. After controlling for confounding factors, we find that adoption of the ZT technology leads to a US$ 189/ha (33%) increase in net crop income and a 26 kg (34%) gain in per capita wheat consumption per year (adult equivalent) – an indication of meaningful changes in the livelihoods of the farm households. Besides the biophysical and environmental benefits documented elsewhere, our results suggest that adoption of ZT can also be justified on economic and food security grounds. Therefore, ZT can have sizeable impacts in transforming the agricultural sector in the temperate developing world provided that the technology is well promoted and adopted.