General as well as specific characteristics of farms and their operators shape overall levels of production and productivity, generating differential returns to farming endeavors. Such characteristics as farm size, use of conservation practices, irrigation and water availability, land tenure, as well as household demographics and assets, have all been shown to exert some influence over enterprise and technology choice, input use and market participation. In sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of farmers operate less than 2 hectares of cropland, and as such are defined as smallholders, although the definition differs across country and agro-ecological zone. Limited farm size is seen as one of the major factors hampering the transition from household-based subsistence farm economies to commercially-oriented production systems. Conservation practices, irrigation, and water availability have an important bearing on both long-term farm income and resource sustainability. Secure land tenure provides operators with a solid basis for investment, as land can often be used as collateral for loans. Besides farm characteristics, the socio-demographic traits of farmers - education level, knowledge of farming practices, access to agricultural assets, level of poverty, age and gender structure of the household - can greatly affect farm performance. HarvestChoice attempts to systematically compile and conform household data on many of these indicators, drawing on information from a wide variety of primary as well as secondary data sources.

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