Application of Multiple Unsupervised Models to Validate Clusters Robustness in Characterizing Smallholder Dairy Farmers

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The heterogeneity of smallholder dairy production systems complicates service provision, information sharing, and dissemination of new technologies, especially those needed to maximize productivity and profitability. In order to obtain homogenous groups within which interventions can be made, it is necessary to define clusters of farmers who undertake similar management activities. This paper explores robustness of production cluster definition using various unsupervised learning algorithms to assess the best approach to define clusters. Data were collected from 8179 smallholder dairy farms in Ethiopia and Tanzania. From a total of 500 variables, selection of the 35 variables used in defining production clusters and household membership to these clusters was determined by Principal Component Analysis and domain expert knowledge. Three clustering algorithms, K-means, fuzzy, and Self-Organizing Maps (SOM), were compared in terms of their grouping consistency and prediction accuracy. The model with the least household reallocation between clusters for training and testing data was deemed the most robust. Prediction accuracy was obtained by fitting a model with fixed effects model including production clusters on milk yield, sales, and choice of breeding method. Results indicated that, for the Ethiopian dataset, clusters derived from the fuzzy algorithm had the highest predictive power (77% for milk yield and 48% for milk sales), while for the Tanzania data, clusters derived from Self-Organizing Maps were the best performing. The average cluster membership reallocation was 15%, 12%, and 34% for K-means, SOM, and fuzzy, respectively, for households in Ethiopia. Based on the divergent performance of the various algorithms evaluated, it is evident that, despite similar information being available for the study populations, the uniqueness of the data from each country provided an over-riding influence on cluster robustness and prediction accuracy. The results obtained in this study demonstrate the difficulty of generalizing model application and use across countries and production systems, despite seemingly similar information being collected.




Nyambo, D. G., Luhanga, E. T., Yonah, Z. O., & Mujibi, F. D. N. (2019). Application of Multiple Unsupervised Models to Validate Clusters Robustness in Characterizing Smallholder Dairy Farmers. Scientific World Journal, 2019.

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