Date of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Agricultural Economics

First Advisor

Philip C. Abbott

Committee Member 1

John H. Sanders

Committee Member 2

Raymond J. G. M. Florax


Sub-Saharan African countries' agricultural production has accelerated in the twenty-first century. This study shows that aggregate African agricultural production exhibits a breakthrough after 2000. More specifically, agricultural production breakthroughs occurred in 24 sub-Saharan African countries after 2000. 15 of them were caused by yield improvement and 8 of them were caused by area expansion. These breakthroughs helped these countries meet their increasing food consumption demands and lower their dependency on agricultural imports. However, we also found these breakthroughs were fragile. In addition to the influences of recent natural disasters and drought, these fertilizer-enabled production accelerations might also have been negatively impacted by the world food crisis due largely to higher fertilizer prices from 2008 to 2010. To understand the role of agricultural foreign aid on these breakthroughs, we grouped countries into four categories based on whether they experienced a breakthrough (Group A and B) and their reasons if they had a breakthrough. Group A1 includes countries that experienced breakthrough due to yield improvement and Group A2 includes countries with breakthrough due to area expansion.

We first quantitatively compared agricultural aid received by different groups of countries, and then we used instrumental variable regression, accounting for endogeneity in aid allocation, to estimate agricultural aid's influence on agricultural productivity. The results show that agricultural aid positively affected agricultural productivity, and countries that realized production breakthroughs, especially those achieved via yield improvement, received more agricultural aid. We found a positive correlation between aid and TFP growth. Aid also helped countries to lower their dependency on imports. The international donors are playing important roles in helping sub-Saharan Africa feed itself. The total flow of agricultural aid should definitely increase, and more emphasis could be put on improving agricultural yields in recipient countries. Agricultural research has proven to be a promising category to which to donate, but more research is called for to better understand the impact of other sub-categories of agricultural aid on sub-Saharan Africa's agricultural production.