To simultaneously enhance agricultural productivity and lower negative impacts on the environment, food systems need to be much more efficient in using resources such as land, water, and fertilizer. This study examines resource use efficiency of maize production among smallholder farmers in Nyando, Kenya. The main objective is to assess the degree of technical efficiency of smallholder farmers and identify the impact of so-called “climate smart practices” on technical efficiency. The method of Stochastic Frontier Analysis is used to simultaneously estimate a stochastic production frontier and a technical inefficiency effect model. Data for 324 subplots farmed by 170 households were available for this analysis. The study reveals that maize production in Nyando is associated with mean technical efficiency of 45% and that soil conservation practices such as residue management, legume intercropping, and improved varieties significantly increase farmers’ technical efficiency. Soil carbon is found to be a critical factor of production. These results imply that there is potential to more than double production using the same resources and that soil conservation practices can be very “climate smart,” at once increasing soil carbon, production, climate resilience, and technical efficiency.
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