Farmers in western Kenya have limited knowledge of farm inputs suitable for the agro-ecological conditions they face, and use of agricultural inputs in the region is low. This study in western Kenya evaluates how farmer experimentation and learning about different inputs impacts farmers’ subsequent use of high-quality inputs and the productivity of their farms.

Policy Issue 

Rising world food prices and fears of food shortages have refocused attention of many policymakers on the challenge of increasing agricultural productivity in developing countries. While many parts of the developing world have experienced boosts in food production in recent decades, agricultural productivity has remained relatively low in Sub-Saharan Africa, which may be attributable to low adoption of new technologies. Understanding the reasons underlying this lack of adoption is key for the design of interventions or policies to increase agricultural productivity. This research focuses on information constraints as a possible barrier to technological adoption. Specifically, this research examines how giving farmers the opportunity to experiment and learn about new technologies affects future adoption and farm productivity.

Context of the Evaluation 

Farmers in western Kenya have limited knowledge of farm inputs suitable for the agro-ecological conditions they face, and use of agricultural inputs is low. Yet the opportunity to experiment with different products, such as parasite-resistant maize seeds, and to learn about integrated soil fertility management, may improve farming practices and increase agricultural productivity.

Integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) is a set of agricultural practices adapted to local conditions to maximize the efficiency of nutrient and water use and improve agricultural productivity. ISFM strategies center on the combined use of mineral fertilizers and locally available soil amendments (such as lime and phosphate rock) and organic matter (crop residues, compost and green manure) to replenish lost soil nutrients.

Results and Policy Lessons