Hostname: page-component-758b78586c-cmtlc Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-11-29T10:54:14.868Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Food-for-work for poverty reduction and the promotion of sustainable land use: can it work?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 January 2006

Department of Economics and Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, P.O.Box 5033, 1432 ÅS, Norway Email:
Department of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University, 315 Warren Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-7801 USA
Mekelle University, Mekelle, Tigray, Ethiopia


Food-for-work (FFW) programs are commonly used both for short-term relief and long-term development purposes. This paper assesses the potential of FFW programs to reduce poverty and promote sustainable land use in the longer run. There is a danger that such programs distort labor allocation or crowd out private investments and therefore have unintended negative effects. We explore this issue using survey evidence from northern Ethiopia that we use to motivate a simple theoretical model, a more detailed version of which we then implement through an applied bio-economic model calibrated to northern Ethiopia. The analysis explores how FFW project outcomes may depend on FFW project design, market conditions, and technology characteristics. We show that FFW programs may either crowd out or crowd in private investments and highlight factors that condition whether FFW promotes or undercuts sustainable land use.

Research Article
© 2006 Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


We thank John McPeak, Miles Lambert, Simeon Ehui, John Pender, Peter Hazell, Mark Rosegrant, and three anonymous referees and participants at the May 2003 conference at Cornell University on ‘Reconciling Rural Poverty Reduction and Resource Conservation’ for helpful comments on an earlier draft and earlier versions of the models. Bekele Shiferaw and Jens Aune contributed substantially to the development of earlier versions of the simulation model. International Food Policy Research Institute, International Livestock Research Institute, Mekelle University, and Soil Conservation Research Project facilitated the fieldwork in Ethiopia. We acknowledge support from the Research Council of Norway, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through grant No. LAG-A-00-96-90016-00 to the BASIS CRSP. Any remaining errors are solely our own.