A key constraint to smallholder cassava production systems in Africa is the cassava whitefly pest species. These pests are a group of several cryptic species within Bemisia tabaci that cause direct damage to cassava and vector viruses that cause disease. We employ a farm-level stochastic production frontier (SPF) model to determine the impacts of the cassava whitefly pests on the productivity and technical efficiency (TE) of smallholder cassava farmers in Malawi, Tanzania, and Uganda. Primary data were collected from a sample of cassava farmers using a structured survey questionnaire. A total of 1200 farmers were selected from Malawi (400), Tanzania (350) and Uganda (450), and interviewed using a multi-stage sampling technique. Cassava output was significantly correlated with land area, the quantity of cuttings used to propagate the crop, and total labor used. We found that whitefly infestations as well as several socio-economic factors significantly affected the technical inefficiency of cassava farmers. Whitefly and disease infestations contributed to higher levels of technical inefficiency of cassava farmers. The mean TE score was significantly lower (50%) for cassava farms with whitefly infestation compared to those without any infestation (80%). These findings underscore the need for policies to ensure that cassava farmers have better access to improved inputs, especially clean planting materials, and the knowledge to integrate this technology into their farming system effectively.
Key words: Cassava, productivity, smallholder, whitefly pest.
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