M. Coronese, Occelli M., F. Lamperti and A. Roventini AgriLOVE: agriculture, land-use and technical change in an evolutionary, agent-based model 

Ecological Economics [forthcoming ] - available here 

This paper presents a dynamic agent-based model of land use and agricultural production  under environmental boundaries, finite available resources and endogenous technical change. In particular, we model a spatially explicit smallholder farming system populated by boundedly-rational agents competing and innovating to fulfill an exogenous demand for food, while coping with a changing environment shaped by their production choices. Given the strong technological and environmental uncertainty, agents learn and adaptively employ heuristics which guide their decisions on engaging in innovation and imitation activities, hiring workers, acquiring new farms, deforesting virgin areas and abandoning unproductive lands. Such activities in turn impact farm productivity, food production, food prices and land use. We firstly show that the model can replicate key stylized facts of the agricultural sector. We then extensively explore its properties across several scenarios featuring different institutional and behavioral settings. Finally, we simulate the model across different applications considering deforestation and land abandonment; human-induced soil degradation; and climate impacts. AgriLOVE offers a flexible simulation environment to study the endogenous emergence of different agricultural production regimes from the interaction of spatially dispersed farms subject to resource constraints, spatial influence and climate change. 

Caldarola B., Grazzi M., Occelli M. and Sanfilippo M. Mobile internet, skills and structural transformations in Rwanda 

ILO working paper 60 []

This paper looks at the relation between mobile internet, employment and structural transformation in Rwanda. Internet coverage, by enabling access to a wide range of ICT technologies, has the potential to greatly affect the dynamics and the composition of employment. To this end we combine the GSMA network coverage maps with individual information from national population censuses and labor force surveys, creating a district-level dataset of Rwanda that covers the period 2002 - 2019. Our results show that an increase in mobile internet coverage affects the labour market in two ways. First, by increasing employment opportunities. Second, by contributing to changes in its composition. Education, migration and shifts in demand to explain our findings.


Occelli M., Mantino A., Ragaglini G., Dell'Acqua M., Fadda C., Pè M.E. and A. Nuvolari Traditional knowledge affects the soil management ability of smallholder farmers in marginal areas

Agronomy for Sustainable Development, 41(9) []

Soil fertility is key to sustainable intensification of agriculture and food security in sub-Saharan Africa. However, when soil nutrients are not adequately managed, smallholder farming practices slowly erodes soils to almost inert systems. We interview 280 smallholder households in two areas of the Ethiopian highlands, while collecting measures of 11 soil parameters at their main field. By analyzing soil compositions at tested households, we identify a novel measure of soil ability, which provides an effective empirical characterization of the soil managing capacity of a household. Regression analysis is used to evaluate effects of household knowledge on the soil ability derived from laboratory analysis.  Results highlight the complexity of knowledge transmission in low-input remote areas. We are able to disentangle a home learning and a social learning dimension of the household knowledge and appraise how they can result in virtuous and vicious  cycles of soil ability.  We show that higher soil ability is associated with farmers relying to a great extent on farming knowledge acquired within the household, as a result of practices slowly elaborated over the years. 

E. Gotor, M.A. Usman, M. Occelli, B. Fantahun, C. Fadda, Y.G. Kidane, D. Mengistu, A.Y. Kiros, J.N. Mohammed, M. Assefa, T. Woldesemayate and F. Caracciolo Wheat Varietal Diversification Increases Ethiopian Smallholders' Food Security: Evidence from a Participatory Development Initiative

Sustainability, 13 []

This study assesses the impact of a participatory development program called Seeds For Needs, carried out in Ethiopia to support smallholders in addressing climate change and its consequences through the introduction, selection, use, and management of suitable crop varieties. More specifically, it analyzes the program’s role of boosting durum wheat varietal diversification and agrobiodiversity to support higher crop productivity and strengthen smallholder food security. The study is based on a survey of 1008 households across three major wheat-growing regional states: Amhara, Oromia, and Tigray. A doubly robust estimator was employed to properly estimate the impact of Seeds For Needs interventions. The results show that program activities have significantly enhanced wheat crop productivity and smallholders’ food security by increasing wheat varietal diversification. This paper provides further empirical evidence for the effective role that varietal diversity can play in improving food security in marginal environments, and also provides clear indications for development agencies regarding the importance of improving smallholders’ access to crop genetic resources.