Property rights, market access and crop cultivation in Southern Rhodesia: evidence from historical satellite data

Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP03/2019
 
Publication date: March 2019
 
Author(s):
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University)
[protected email address] (Department of Economics, Stellenbosch University and Institute of Labor Economics (IZA), Bonn)
 
Abstract:

Agriculture plays a central role in the efforts to fight poverty and achieve economic growth. This is especially relevant in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where the majority of the population lives in rural areas. A key issue that is generally believed to unlock agriculture potential is the recognition of property rights through land titling, yet there is no overwhelming empirical evidence to support this in the case of SSA (Udry, 2011). This paper investigates access to markets as an important pre-condition for land titles to result in agricultural growth. Using the case of Southern Rhodesia, we investigate whether land titles incentivised African large-scale holders in the Native Purchase Areas (NPAs) to put more of their available land under cultivation than their counterparts in the overcrowded Tribal Trust Areas (TTAs). We create a novel dataset by applying a Support Vector Machine (SVM) learning algorithm on Landsat imagery for the period 1972 to 1984 - the period during which the debate on the nexus between land rights and agricultural production intensified. Our results indicate that land titles are only beneficial when farmers are located closer to main cities, main roads and rail stations or sidings.

 
JEL Classification:

C81, N37, Q13, Q15

Keywords:

land titling, access to markets, machine learning, remote sensing

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BER Weekly

8 March 2021
Some weeks more than others one is struck by the large amount of work that still needs to be done to mend the trust deficit between the key social partners in SA, and to improve institutions. Last week was one of those weeks....

Read the full issue