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1.1       Background of the study

In Nigeria, despite the dominance of the oil sector, agriculture still plays significant roles in economic development. It provides food for the growing population and raw materials for industries. It also serves as a source for foreign exchange and capital formation (Awotide and Agbola, 2010). Nigeria is endowed with enormous arable land. Yet, agriculture is dominated by small holder farmers who operate several small and scattered farms. The small size and scattered nature of the farms is because of land fragmentation which is a logical consequence of inheritance practices. It is through inheritance procedures that land is fragmented in Nigeria. There is controversy over the benefits and costs of land fragmentation. Some researchers have claimed that land fragmentation allows farmers with scattered plots to benefit from risk management through the use of multiple eco-zones and the practice of crop scheduling. It also enables farmers to disperse and reduce risk by a variety of soils and other micro-climatic and micro-environmental variations. Fragmentation also makes it possible for farmers to grow a variety of crops that mature and ripen at different times; so that they can concentrate their labour on different plots at different times thereby avoiding household labour bottlenecks (Bentley, 1987). Despite this position by Bentley, the most popular and widely accepted position by scholars and land tenure researchers is that land fragmentation constraints agricultural development.

This category of farms produces high percentage of the total food output in Nigeria as majority of the population is involved in Agriculture. In spite of the contribution of small and scattered landholders, there has been controversy on the benefits and costs of the phenomena. Bentley (1987) claimed that fragmentation allows farms with scattered plots to benefit from risk management through the use of multiple eco-zones and the practice of crop scheduling. Thus, fragmentation enables farmers to disperse and reduce risk by using a variety of soils and other micro-climatic and micro- environmental variations. Fragmentation also makes it possible for farmers to grow a variety of crops that mature and ripen at different times, so that they can concentrate their labor on different plots at different   times, thereby avoiding household labor bottlenecks. In addition, farmers grow variety of crops, which cannot be intercropped, so they need to open more land to cultivate such crops. The costs associated with high levels of fragmentation are seen principally in terms of inefficient resource allocation (labor and capital) and the resulting cost increase in agricultural production (Shuhao, 2005).

Land fragmentation simply put is a phenomenon that exists when a household operates a number of owned or rented noncontiguous plots at the same time. In spite of this simple definition, measures of land fragmentation are diverse. There are two approaches to measuring land fragmentation namely: single dimension indicators and integrated indicators. In the case of single dimension, one indicator is used to measure the extent of land fragmentation. Land fragmentation indicators like farm size, total number of plots in the farm, average plot size, distribution of plot sizes, spatial distribution of plots, and the shape of plots are commonly used in the literature (Bentley, 1987; Simmons, 1988). Farm size is used to measure the total holding of a farm but among the remaining parameters, size and spatial distribution (i.e. distance) are often considered to be most significant (Shuhao, 2005).

On the other hand, some benefits that have been associated with farm fragmentation include the enhancement of household food security through diversification of crops grown on plots of different soil quality, management of production and price risks through crop scheduling and use of multiple micro- environments (Van Hung et al, 2007; Kakwagh et al, 2011; Nguyen, 2014).  In addition, land fragmentation may be detrimental to agricultural production by causing physical problems, operational difficulties and foregone investment to individual farmer. Finally, due to the existence of scale effects and externalities, investments in improved agricultural facilities, soil and water conservation, and so on are less profitable on farms with severe land fragmentation. Existing literature in Nigeria reported that these farms are characterized by low level of operation, low literacy of operators and a labour intensive production technology with hired labour cost constituting about 60% of the total cash cost of production (Olayemi, 1980; Aromolaran, 1992). In the same vein, the low level of agricultural production in the country has been linked with problems such as lack of individual responsibility on farmlands, farmland fragmentation leading to scattering of plots, little incentive for improvements, lack of security of tenure, restricted scale of operations and problems encountered in obtaining credit etc. (Fabiyi, 1983; Famoriyo et al., 1977; and Idowu, 1990). In spite of the associated costs, land fragmentation is still persistent and wide spread in Nigerian agriculture.

The fragmentation of land has been attributed to several causal factors which have generally been classified into two major categories. These are demand-side and supply-side causes (Blarel et al, 1992; Van Hung et al, 2007). Demand-side causes of land fragmentation occur when farmers fragment their land because they assign some benefits (such as risk-spreading, crop diversification and seasonal labour spreading) to land fragmentation. The supply-side causes of land fragmentation indicate that farmers involuntarily use several plots for their agricultural activities due to certain factors which include population pressure, geographical issues and partible inheritance (Hristov, 2009; Van Hung et al, 2007). Land fragmentation has been expressed using several parameters and combinations of parameters which include farm size, number of parcels, average distance of parcels from home (Lerman, 2005), size of the parcels, size and spatial distributions of the parcels and the shape characteristics of the parcels (King and Burton, 1982).

This study is rooted in the diverse opinion of researchers on land fragmentation. Therefore, the study aims to empirically relate land fragmentation to maize farmers’ productivity in Nigeria with a view to provide recent information to policy makers. The empirical results on land fragmentation and productivity are wanting in Nigerian agriculture. Attempts had been made by team of researchers, for example, Idowu and Oladeebo (1999) specified gross farm income as a function of total number of plots cultivated while Alene and Manyong (2006) specified technical efficiency as a function of total number of plots cultivated. The paper went a step further to specify Simpson index (a measure of land fragmentation) as a function of technical efficiency of the farmers.  

1.2       Statement of problems

Land fragmentation is the practice of farming a number of spatially separated plots of owned or rented land by the same farmer (McPherson, 1982). According to Melmed-Sanjak et al., (1998) “it’s a phenomenon of agricultural land distributed in undersized holdings as well as holdings that consist of noncontiguous and spatially dispersed plots of land. The main causes of fragmentation may be cited as partial inheritance and land shortage. “Traditional inheritance practices of transferring property equally to all children in each generation has, over time, divided land in Macedonia into increasingly smaller holdings”. The division of parcels continues in practice due to differences in land quality and location. The influence of inheritance on fragmentation has been reduced by the joint operation of separately inherited holdings, the redistribution of land among families by gift, lease, or purchase, and land market transactions with other farmers.  Land shortage and ineffective land market activity extends the fragmentation issues as well. But according to Simmons (1987) the pros and cons of land fragmentation may be examined irrespective of the source.  “In the small-holder private agricultural sector, the most common and frequently cited disadvantages of fragmentation include increased labor costs, increased transportation time and cost, land lost to border markings and access roads, and difficulty in accessing the parcels” (Melmed-Sanjak et al.,1998). Fragmentation may also affect the access to irrigation networks as well as inefficient use of modern agricultural technologies which on long run may cause less efficient production.

In the view of this, the study will try to provide answers to the following research questions;

  1. What are the socio-economic characteristics of peasant farmers in the study area?
  2. What are the cost and return of peasant farmer’s production in the fragmentation area?
  3. What are the factors influencing land fragmentation among the peasant farmers?
  4. What are the effects of land fragmentation on agricultural productivity in the study area?

1.3       Objectives of the study

The main objective of this study is to analyze factors influencing land fragmentation among small holder farmers in Ogo-Oluwa Local Government, Ogbomoso, Oyo State.

Specifically, the objectives are to;

  1. describe the socio-economic characteristics of the peasant farmers in the study area
  2. estimate the cost and return of peasant farmers production in the study area.
  3. estimate the factors influencing land fragmentation among peasant farmers in the study area
  4. examine the effect of land fragmentation on agricultural productivity in the study area

1.4      Hypothesis of the study

      Null hypothesis

1.5      Justification of the study

The effect of land fragmentation cannot be overestimated in the developing countries making its effect on agricultural productivity to remain a significant area of research, So, the study became necessary because the knowledge of the link between land fragmentation   and agricultural productivity will help policy maker to formulate policies on the effect of land fragmentation on agricultural productivity on smallholder farmers. The result of this study will also provide information on the problems and benefit of land fragmentation in agricultural production.