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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

James K. Boyce

Second Advisor

Ceren Soylu

Third Advisor

Mwangi wa Githinji

Fourth Advisor

Richard Chu

Subject Categories

Growth and Development


Of late, development institutions and economists have argued that one way to accomplish the modernization, and thus, poverty alleviation in the rural sector is through smallholder incorporation- partnerships between agribusiness firms and smallholders in order to cultivate high valued export crops. Smallholders in developing countries often face numerous challenges that result in low incomes, and limited opportunities. As a result of these challenges, smallholders in developing countries continue to cultivate subsistence crops, or, use less technologically intensive techniques. Thus, many are unable to maximize the use of their holdings. Agribusiness firms may provide the material inputs, infrastructure, and transport needed for smallholders to overcome these challenges, and thus, expand their income earning capacities.

However, case studies by development scholars, and civil society organizations have identified instances where agribusiness partnerships result in low incomes and even the effective dispossession of smallholders. Further, empirical studies find that agribusiness firms tend to target countries that have little regard for local land rights. What explains these outcomes? How does the process of contracting between smallholders and agribusiness firms result in smallholders ceding rights to their land? Under what conditions do investors prefer to locate in countries with little regard for smallholder land? The three essays of this dissertation seek to answer these questions.

The first essay uses a field investigation among Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs) in the Davao Region of the Philippines to identify factors that compel smallholders to accept partnerships where they effectively cede control over land to investors. The second essay formalizes the contracting process between smallholders and investors in a game-theoretic model where contracts are defined by a degree of control over land. The third essay employs a game-theoretic model to identify conditions under which investors would prefer environments that offer little protections for local land rights.