"Ecological, Social, and Economic Enabling Factors for Food Security and Escapes from Poverty in sub-Saharan Africa"
In the face of persistent food and nutrition insecurity across large areas of sub-Saharan Africa, scholars and development practitioners have dedicated attention to smallholder farmers, among the most vulnerable populations, seeking to understand how smallholders’ resource management decisions affect household food security and wellbeing. While research over the past decade has shown that in many low-income countries rural households are increasingly diversifying their income portfolios away from farming, specialization in small-scale agriculture has remained the norm across much of Africa. Farm-based income accounts for more than 50% of household incomes in most sub-Saharan countries, and more than 80% in some. Effective targeting of development interventions to support food security, resilience and inclusive agricultural and economic transformation thus requires an understanding of rural smallholders’ agricultural livelihood strategies across a range of local contexts.
Drawing on large nationally representative survey datasets including the Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) and the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS), Dr. Reynolds summarizes patterns across countries and over time in farm management, market access, and household wellbeing metrics in Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda, with a focus on low-income smallholders. He further emphasizes emerging opportunities to integrate existing farm- and household-level survey data with other publicly available administrative, geospatial, and remotely-sensed data to pursue novel research questions around how global climate change, biodiversity loss, and land degradation intersect with national policies, regional and local markets, and local institutions and cultural norms to shape smallholder livelihood outcomes.
Reynolds also highlights ongoing efforts by the Evans School Policy Analysis and Research Group (EPAR) to increase the accessibility of complex household survey datasets like the LSMS-ISA, through open-access statistical code reducing barriers to researchers seeking to use these data (and enhancing transparency for practitioners seeking to make decisions based on them). He further emphasizes the importance of local partnerships – with examples from his work with Bahir Dar University (Ethiopia), the CGIAR center Bioversity International (Uganda), and Obafemi Awolowo University (Nigeria) – in effectively integrating and analyzing existing publicly available datasets to provide insights into rural poverty and agricultural development trends.
Travis W. Reynolds, PhD is an agricultural and applied economist with a background in public policy analysis, rural development, environmental studies, and organic farming. He holds the rank of Assistant Professor of Community Development and Applied Economics (CDAE) at the University of Vermont, and is a faculty affiliate of the UVM Food Systems Program, and a faculty member of the Evans School Policy Analysis and Research Group (EPAR) at the University of Washington. For the past decade, Dr. Reynolds has studied relationships between farm management, economic development, and ecosystem services – with an emphasis on poverty alleviation, sustainability, and resilience in low-income smallholder farming communities in sub-Saharan Africa. With grant funding from the National Science Foundation, USDA, and private and philanthropic organizations, Dr. Reynolds has led teams of international and interdisciplinary scholars, graduate students, and undergraduate students from diverse backgrounds in applied research at the intersection of agriculture, food security, and the environment. Dr. Reynolds presently serves on the board of the International Consortium on Applied Bioeconomy Research (ICABR), and his work has been published in top interdisciplinary and agricultural development journals including World Development, Journal of Development Studies, Risk Analysis, and Food Security.