An arial map of electrical power supply in Kenya

Over the past century, rural electrification has served as a key benchmark for economic development and social progress. Researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of offering subsidies to connect to the power grid on the demand for rural electrification in Kenya.

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There are an estimated 411 million mobile money accounts worldwide, allowing even the poor in remote areas to send and receive money at low cost. How access to this financial tool affects long-term financial well-being, however, is not well understood. In Kenya, IPA worked with researchers to track the economic progress of households as the M-PESA mobile money service expanded over six years.

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A sugar cane farm in Kenya

Farming is risky: a drought, bad harvest, or dip in crop prices can leave small farmers in developing countries without much-needed income. Attempts to mitigate these risks with agricultural insurance have typically been unsuccessful because farmers have chosen not to buy insurance. Researchers partnered with a large sugar cane company to see if delaying the premium payment until after the harvest would increase farmers’ demand for insurance.

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Traditional savings accounts often have low or negative returns, which may explain why many poor households do not use them to boost their savings. Researchers are investigating the impact of a new product that allows Kenyans to invest small amounts of money in a low-risk, high-return infrastructure bond using their mobile phones.

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A child is given deworming medicine in Kenya

Intestinal helminths—including hookworm, roundworm, whipworm, and schistosomiasis—infect more than one in four people worldwide. Researchers evaluated the long-run impacts of a mass school-based deworming program in Western Kenya. Approximately 10 years after treatment, researchers found that the program increased women’s educational attainment and men’s labor supply, with accompanying shifts in occupation choice.

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A local bank in rural Kenya

The vast majority of the world’s poor save, yet they often do so informally even when research findings suggest that accessing savings accounts at formal institutions can help low-income households increase their savings, investments, and ultimately their income. Could temporary interest rate incentives increase formal account use among the poor?

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Over a billion people worldwide, most of whom live in sub-Saharan Africa, lack electricity, and mainly rely on kerosene lanterns for light. Recently, prices for solar lanterns have been dropping and they may help supply clean, affordable lighting and phone charging to those who are not connected to the electric grid. Yet little rigorous evidence is available on how this new technology is being adopted and used and how it affects people’s lives.

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Business training is one of the most common ways that governments and organizations support small businesses around the world, but there is little rigorous evidence on the impacts of many of these training programs. In Kenya, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of the International Labour Organization’s Gender and Enterprise Together (GET Ahead) business training program on the profitability, growth, and survival of women-owned businesses.

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Many students in Sub-Saharan Africa are not learning to read in their first years of school and literacy rates remain low in the region. Researchers partnered with the Kenyan Ministry of Education to evaluate the impact of two strategies aimed at improving the literacy skills of school children in Kenya: enhanced literacy instruction, through teacher training and text message support, and child-to-child reading groups.

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Adoption of agricultural technologies like fertilizer and improved seeds is low in African countries compared to other developing countries and evidence suggests that using these technologies can dramatically increase farm productivity and income. In an ongoing study, researchers are collaborating with One Acre Fund to examine the effect of credit and savings on the adoption of fertilizer and hybrid seeds, farm productivity, and farmer livelihoods.

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Providing cash grants to the poor without any strings attached has been shown to have important welfare benefits for recipients, including significant increases in income, assets, psychological wellbeing, and female empowerment. Yet less is known about how this sudden influx of income affects the rest of the village, and in particular, the effects on non-recipients.

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Health remains a major barrier to economic development in poor rural areas. Access to effective health products, whether preventive or curative, has so far remained limited due in large part to poverty and the absence of financial markets that would enable poor households to invest in health on credit. Given such constraints, poor households should save in anticipation of future health shocks.

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Intestinal worm infections are among the world’s most widespread diseases, with roughly one in four people infected worldwide. Research has shown that when children are treated with deworming medication, worm infections become less prevalent not only for children who received the medication, but for those who live in the same environment as treated children.

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A mobile phone used to receive cash transfers in Kenya

Unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) allow poor households the choice and flexibility of allocating resources to meet the needs they find most pressing. In Rarieda, Kenya, researchers conducted a randomized evaluation to measure the impact of GiveDirectly’s UCT program on poor rural households’ economic and psychological well-being. Results demonstrated that the program had significant welfare-improving impacts, both economically and psychologically, for transfer recipients.

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There is little evidence on whether existing water quality, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions lead to lasting improvements in children’s health, growth and development and whether nutrition programs are more effective when combined with WASH interventions. In Kenya, researchers are measuring the individual and combined effects of these interventions on child health, growth, and development in the first two years of life.

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