Selected Activities:

China’s agricultural economy in transition
Ever since the reforms towards a socialist market economy started in the late 1970s, the conditions under which Chinese farmers have to operate are changing rapidly. Liberalization of trade policies and the changes in food patterns because of urbanization and increasing incomes have much impact on farmers. To analyze these developments and their likely impact on world markets, SOW-VU has been engaged in the last decade in a series of projects about the future of China’s agricultural economy. Read more>>>
The impact of climate change on crop production and health in West Africa
The Middle Belt zone in West Africa is a very fertile area to which farmers from bordering regions continue to migrate. Global climate change could though, cause a shortage of water in the zone. The SOW-VU studied the possible impact of climate change on the Middle Belt part of the Oueme River Basin, located in Central Benin. The study shows that agricultural yields are currently so far below their biophysical potential that climate change does not reduce them further, provided cropping patterns adjust sufficiently. The study further shows that the prevalence of diarrhea in the Basin is more related to socio-economic characteristics of households than to good water availability. Diarrhea prevalence in Benin is, however, not only a disease of the poor. Therefore, improved access to good water is an important investment and can be achieved at little cost. Read more>>>
Novel crop insurance products for rural Africa
Farm communities worldwide face difficulties when trying to insure income against price and weather fluctuations. Traditional insurrance arrangements prove to be insufficient. Through self-insurance, poor farmers cannot afford large stocks and protect their crops through irrigation. Mutual insurance is not an option either, because all participants would be faced with the same price-weather conditions at the same time. The next option of market insurance is plagued by excessive monitoring cost in avoidance of moral hazard and adverse selection. Consequently, new types of insurance are needed. Index-based insurance is currently receiving much attention. Index-based insurance offers an indemnification according to an index function that depends on agreed upon price and weather conditions rather than on an assessment of damage at individual farm level. SOW-VU research improved the design of index-based insurance products. The technique was applied to Ghana, where according to our database, 47 percent of the farm population fell below the poverty line. Read more>>>
Towards a Food Atlas for Sub-Saharan Africa: food availability, deficits and aid deliveries
Even though food aid cannot offer the solution of the problems of Sub-Saharan Africa, it definitely has been contributing significantly to the alleviation of its most acute food shortages. Yet, as is well known, inappropriate use of the instrument can be detrimental as well. The provision of food aid is a very subtle issue that calls for dedicated decision support tools. Ideally, such tools should, on the basis of the latest information about the current availability of staples on the fields and in stocks as well as about the nutritional status and the purchasing power of the recipient population, enable the agencies in charge to coordinate their actions along the chains of delivery and to anticipate the impact of the operations on local markets. At SOW-VU research is done to develop a spatially explicit model for the optimal delivery of food. Read more>>>