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Ghana’s Ministry of Food and Agriculture currently operates an agricultural extension agency program to help teach smallholder farmers the most current farming techniques, but there are not enough agents to provide a constant presence in local communities. As part of the Disseminating Innovative Resources and Technologies to Smallholder Farmers (DIRTS) project, researchers collaborated with the ministry to test a new community agricultural extension agent program, which selected and trained local agents to supplement the existing MOFA agents and provide more frequent teaching and support.

Key Findings*

After three years:

  • Community extension agents successfully increased local farmers’ knowledge and improved their practices.
  • Delivering specific information about a practice close to the time when the practice should be adopted may be an important component of a successful program.
  • However, farmers’ improved knowledge and implementation of best practices did not ultimately translate into increased yields or more earnings for the farmers.
  • Farmers who received the program invested more in the use of chemicals, but not other inputs.

*These results are preliminary and may change after further data collection and/or analysis.

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Brief
Date:
May 01, 2018
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Improved seeds varieties can generate significantly higher agricultural yields for farmers, but recent data indicates that only 20 percent of farmers in northern Ghana use improved seeds. This study, known as the Testing Agricultural Technologies (TAT) project, compared yields and profits of several seed varieties and looked at farmer purchasing decisions to understand the performance and adoption of seed varieties in northern Ghana.

Key Findings*

Over the course of one growing season:

  • The seed comparison found a wide variety in yields between seeds, with farmers who grew the foreign hybrid seed, Adikanfo, on average yielding more than double that yielded from the local hybrid seed, Mamaba.
  • Contrary to expectations, the commonly-used local seed, Obaatanpa, outperformed the local hybrid seed, Mamaba.
  • The study suggests a farmer cultivating one hectare of land who switched from Obaatanpa to Adikanfo would harvest about 1.8 tons more maize, translating into an increase in profit of more than 1,600 GHC.
  • It is important to note these results are particular to this context and conditions, and during the growing season studied there was ample rainfall. These results cannot speak to characteristics of seeds not tested under these conditions, such as drought resistance.

*Results are preliminary and may change after further data collection and/or analysis. Note this study was not a randomized evaluation.

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May 01, 2018
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In Ghana, and many other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, farmers invest little in inputs, such as improved seed, fertilizer, and other chemicals to improve their yields. One reason for this may be risk associated with factors out of their control, such as weather. As part of the “Disseminating Innovative Resources and Technologies to Smallholder Farmers” project, researchers partnered with a weather forecasting firm to test the impact of providing daily short-term weather forecasts by SMS.

Key Findings

After 1 year:

  • Farmers who received the forecasts, as well as farmers living nearby, used this information to change their behavior, timing planting and chemical application for days when light rain was forecast.
  • However, there was no discernable impact of the service on farmers’ overall profits.
  • Overall, the results suggest that forecasts are inexpensive and effective at changing farmer behavior, but they were not sufficient to increase overall profits alone.
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Type:
Brief
Date:
May 01, 2018
English

Improved seeds varieties can generate significantly higher agricultural yields for farmers, but recent data indicates that only 20 percent of farmers in northern Ghana use improved seeds. This study, known as the Testing Agricultural Technologies (TAT) project, compared yields and profits of several seed varieties and looked at farmer purchasing decisions to understand the performance and adoption of seed varieties in northern Ghana.

Country:
Program area:
Type:
Brief
Date:
May 01, 2018

Large and regular seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets appear to offer African farmers substantial inter-temporal arbitrage opportunities, but these opportunities remain largely unexploited: small-scale farmers are commonly observed to "sell low and buy high" rather than the reverse. In a field experiment in Kenya, we show that credit market imperfections limit farmers' abilities to move grain inter-temporally. Providing timely access to credit allows farmers to buy at lower prices and sell at higher prices, increasing farm revenues and generating a return on investment of 28%. To understand general equilibrium effects of these changes in behavior, we vary the density of loan offers across locations. We document significant effects of the credit intervention on seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets, and show that these GE effects shape individual level profitability estimates. In contrast to existing experimental work, the results indicate a setting in which microcredit can improve firm profitability, and suggest that GE effects can substantially shape microcredit's effectiveness. In particular, failure to consider these GE effects could lead to underestimates of the social welfare benefits of microcredit interventions.

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Working Paper
Date:
April 24, 2018
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Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) is a research and policy non-profit that discovers and promotes effective solutions to global poverty problems. IPA brings together researchers and decision-makers to design, rigorously evaluate, and refine these solutions and their applications, ensuring that the evidence created is used to improve the lives of the world’s poor. Since our founding in 2002, IPA has worked with over 575 leading academics to conduct over 650 evaluations in 51 countries. Future growth will be concentrated in focus countries, such as Myanmar, where we have local and international staff, established relationships with government, NGOs, and the private sector, and deep knowledge of local issues.

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February 20, 2018
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Three-quarters of the world’s poor live in rural areas and depend largely on farming. Identifying ways for these farming families to increase productivity and earn more money has the potential to improve food security, increase financial stability, and alleviate poverty.

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Date:
February 01, 2018
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Social networks are an important mechanism for diffusing information when institutions are missing, but there may be distributional consequences from targeting only central nodes in a network. After implementing a social network census, one of three village-level treatments determined which treated nodes in the village received information about composting: random assignment, nodes with the highest degree, or nodes with high betweenness. We then look at how information diffuses through the network. We find information diffusion declines with social distance, suggesting frictions in the diffusion of information. Aggregate knowledge about the technology did not differ across targeting strategies, but targeting nodes using betweenness measures in village-level networks excludes less-connected nodes from new information. Women farmers are less likely to receive information when betweenness centrality is used in targeting, suggesting there are important gender differences, not only in the relationship between social distance and diffusion, but also in the social learning process.

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Working Paper
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January 31, 2018
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IPA Zambia is pleased to share its final bulletin from 2017. This bulletin features updates from our Saving for Safe Delivery study and the scale-ups of the food constraints and Catch Up projects. This bulletin also highlights IPA Zambia's dissemination events for the "Making Ghanaian Girls Great!" and "Interpersonal Communication to Encourage Use of Female Condoms in Zambia" studies.

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Brief
Date:
January 16, 2018
English

Large and regular seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets appear to offer African farmers substantial inter-temporal arbitrage opportunities, but these opportunities remain largely unexploited: small-scale farmers are commonly observed to “sell low and buy high” rather than the reverse. In a field experiment in Kenya, we show that credit market imperfections limit farmers’ abilities to move grain inter-temporally. Providing timely access to credit allows farmers to purchase at lower prices and sell at higher prices, increasing farm profits and generating a return on investment of 28%. To understand general equilibrium effects of these changes in behavior, we vary the density of loan offers across locations. We document significant effects of the credit intervention on seasonal price fluctuations in local grain markets, and show that these GE effects greatly affect our individual level profitability estimates. We also find suggestive evidence that these GE effects generate benefits for program non-recipients, benefits which are unlikely to be recouped by a financial institution and suggest a potential role for public intervention. In contrast to existing experimental work, our results thus indicate a setting in which microcredit can improve firm profitability, and suggest that GE effects can substantially shape estimates of microcredit’s effectiveness. Failure to consider these GE effects could lead to substantial misestimates of the social welfare benefits of microcredit interventions.

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Working Paper
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October 12, 2017
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In Rwanda, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Rwandan poor. 

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Brief
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October 01, 2017
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In Sierra Leone, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work described in this brief offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the poor in Sierra Leone.

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Brief
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June 08, 2017
English

In Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Mali, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Examples of our work below offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Francophone West African poor.

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April 24, 2017
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This paper presents an experimental approach to measure competition in agricultural markets, based on the random allocation of subsidies to competing traders. We compare prices of subsidized and unsubsidized crop traders to recover the key market structure parameter in a standard model of imperfect competition. By combining the experimental results with quasi-experimental estimates of the pass-through rate, we also estimate market size, or the effective number of traders competing for farmers’ supply. In the context of the Sierra Leone cocoa industry, our results point to a competitive agricultural trading sector and suggest that the market size is substantially larger than the village. The methodology developed in this paper uses purely individual-level treatment to shed light on market structure. This approach may be useful for the many cases in which market-level randomization is not feasible.

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Working Paper
Date:
April 01, 2017
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Three hundred million of the world’s rural poor suffer from seasonal income insecurity, which often occurs between planting and harvest when the demand for agricultural labor falls and the price of food rises. Those who undergo a lean season typically miss meals for a two- to three-month period. This is especially problematic for pregnant women and young children since poor nutrition for even a short time can limit long-term cognitive and physical development. Seasonal hunger and deprivation is perhaps the biggest challenge to the reduction of global poverty that has remained largely under the radar.

Members of some families in poor rural areas migrate to urban areas for work to cope with seasonal deprivation. In Bangladesh, however, researchers observed that many vulnerable households, who could potentially reap large benefits from temporary migration, didn’t send anyone away to work, thereby risking hunger. Why weren’t more people migrating? Would these households improve food security if they were to send a migrant to these areas during the lean season? More broadly, why were so many people sticking around in relatively unproductive rural areas, in the face of persistent gaps in wages and productivity between urban and rural areas? Was this akin to the proverbial $100 bills being left on the sidewalk?

A research team from Yale University, the London School of Economics, the University of Sydney, and Innovations for Poverty Action investigated these questions in Northern Bangladesh during 2008-2011, testing whether providing information or small financial incentives, worth about the cost of a bus ticket, increased migration and in turn, improved household welfare. They found that households offered either a grant or loan to migrate were substantially more likely to send someone to work outside the village during the lean season, and those families increased caloric intake relative to those not offered the incentives. Many of those households chose to re-migrate on their own a year later. A replication and expansion of the study during 2014-2016 not only confirmed these findings, it also showed that larger scale emigration increases wages and work hours in the village of origin, indirectly benefiting other residents who stay back.

Read about Evidence Action's scale-up of the program here. 

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Brief
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December 29, 2016

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