The returns to empowerment in a diversified rural economy: evidence from Niger

Start date
Thursday, 2 March 2017, 13:00
End date
Thursday, 2 March 2017, 14:00
Room 4.01

Research in Progress Seminar by Fleur Wouterse, Research Fellow IFPRI c/o ISS


A fundamental characteristics of small-scale farmers and their agricultural communities in rural Africa is diversification of income. Diversification patterns reflect a household’s voluntary exchange of assets and their allocation of assets across various activities so as to achieve an optimal balance between expected returns and risk exposure conditional on the constraints they face. A household’s assets including its endowment of human capital plays a crucial role in affecting activity choices and incomes. Human capital is multidimensional and empowerment has recently come to the forefront as an important measure of the non-cognitive ability of household members.

In this study, we use new household and individual level empowerment data from the Tahoua region of Niger and regression analysis to quantify the effects of a range of human capital measures including empowerment, on the activity portfolio and activity-incomes of rural households. We find a positive role for human capital variables including empowerment in a mixed diversification strategy which means combining staple cropping with non-farm activities and migration. This is a “last resort” strategy for households in lower landholding quintiles to ensure food security and complement an inadequate resource base. We also find that controlling for activity choice, empowerment strongly and positively affects income from staple and cash cropping, which on average makes up about 90 percent of household income. In fact, empowerment is the only human capital variable that strongly and positively affects total household income opening up interesting avenues for policy interventions aimed at increasing incomes of the rural poor.


Publication date: 23 January 2017