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Burkina Faso | Integrated soil fertility management

Background

Together with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), 3ie, and local partner GRAD we are involved in the impact evaluation of an integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) program in Burkina Faso.

Burkina Faso is a landlocked country in the Sahel and West Africa sub-region. In spite of agriculture being the main source of livelihoods for millions of people living in rural areas, agricultural productivity is very low in Burkina Faso. According to data from the 2008 agricultural census, yields of the main cereals are well below their potential. Several factors explain these low agricultural yields. They range from poor farming practices such as continuous monoculture to low use of agricultural inputs such as improved seeds and sustainable agricultural technologies.

Evaluation

With financial support by AGRA, Burkina Faso based GRAD Consulting Group launched a comprehensive program that targets farmer organizations across two provinces of the country. The first and main goal of the program is to disseminate ISFM technologies and subsequently increase their adoption rate. ISFM refers to a set of agricultural practices that combines use of inputs (improved varieties, organic and mineral fertilizers), relevant knowledge and improved land-use planning. In addition, GRAD strives to facilitate access to agricultural inputs and credit by establishing and supporting aggregation centers. The underlying idea of these programs is to strengthen farmer’s capacities.

The evaluation project specifically investigates the impact of dissemination activities, which are implemented through various channels including demonstration plots. By randomizing the demonstration plots among 100 farmer organizations we intend to examine the rate of adoption of both labor and capital intensive technologies among the demonstrator farmers’ close network, as well as program effects on agricultural yields and income.

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Zambia | Rural financial sector development

Background

In a large evaluation project for the Zambian government, the development of the rural financial sector is supported and assessed.

Zambia hosts a large rural population, which, given the low population density, is neither well served by the formal banking system nor by the microfinance sector. However, village savings and loan associations exist as informal savings clubs that provide access to credits.

Evaluation

To bolster these village institutions and to develop linkages to the formal financial sector, credit linkages and insurance components are introduced and evaluated via a large-scale randomized controlled trial in about 1000 communities

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Senegal | Rural cooperatives and trust building

Picture: courtesy of A. Avdeenko

Background

In Senegal we partnered with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to evaluate – via a randomized control trial – training and trust building interventions meant to improve the functioning of rural smallholder organizations.

Smallholder farmers in Africa not only face low productivity of soils and agricultural technologies but also considerable obstacles in marketing their produce. Substantial diseconomies of scale and limited market power are main sources of low productivity and relatively low yields, and lead to disadvantages with respect to input and output prices. Smallholder producer organizations can alleviate some of these problems. Yet many farmer cooperatives in Senegal struggle with low participation of their members in group marketing. A lack of trust in the cooperative’s ability to obtain real improvements was identified as one reason for such limited involvement.

Evaluation

In order to improve the functioning of rural smallholder organizations in Senegal, training and trust building interventions were implemented and subsequently evaluated via a randomized control trial design. Trust-building workshops and leadership training of different intensities were tested against a control group. The workshops were intended to instill confidence and trust among the members and leaders. To this end, we varied the content of these workshops and also the composition of participants, including and excluding leaders as well as regular members of the cooperatives, also in order to learn how knowledge and trust spill over within the cooperative. It was found that training improved the functioning of the farmer cooperative by significantly increasing the trust in leaders and fellow members.

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Ethiopia | Saving products for smallholder farmers

Picture: courtesy of A. Avdeenko / A. Bohne

Background 

We partnered with a local microfinance institution and Mekelle University in Ethiopia to design and conduct a randomized controlled trial to test new saving products for farmers. In this area of the country, the majority of the population consists of smallholder farmers. These smallholder farmers are exposed to high levels of income volatility due to the agricultural cycle: they have high income in the harvest season and low income for the rest of the year. Household savings are therefore crucial to overcome financial hardships at some periods of the year and to enable farmers to make necessary investments in land and agriculture or other areas. Increased savings has been shown to improve a range of development outcomes (Karlan, Ratan and Zinman 2014). Previous research has found a number of reasons why people may be prevented from achieving their optimal savings level, many of them motivated by results from behavioral economics such as time-inconsistent preferences.

Evaluation 

The savings innovation takes into account the farmers’ agricultural and cash flow cycles, and seeks to nudge them to save some of their income for further investments. In collaboration with local partners, moneyboxes were randomly distributed to rural households, along with individually-tailored savings plans. Moreover, the participants were given specific recommendations regarding their savings goal amount. The aim of this project was to test for alternative barriers to savings, especially over- and under-confidence, and to see how they can be overcome using a simple and effective savings technology.

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Ethiopia | Integrated Soil Fertility Management

Picture: courtesy of A. Avdeenko / A. Bohne

Background 

In an ongoing project in cooperation with the GIZ Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Government we analyze the impacts of improved soil fertility management methods in Ethiopia’s highlands on agricultural practices and productivity.

The second most populated country on the African continent, Ethiopia is also one of the least urbanized countries in the world, with 80% of the population residing in rural areas (ECOSOC 2016), mostly in the highlands, where the overwhelming part of cultivable land is to be found (Mulualem & Yebo, 2015). Accordingly, a large share of the population (about 85%, CSA 2015) relies on agriculture as a main source of income. In spite of the importance of the agricultural sector and of the natural potential of the highland region, both soil fertility and agricultural yields remain low and poverty and under-nutrition are widespread. A complex set of biophysical, soil-related and socio-economic factors underlie the phenomenon. The rugged topography of highland areas, as well as the brevity and intensity of rain, result in strong natural erosion. Man-made factors accelerate soil erosion and degradation. The use of inappropriate agricultural methods such as (mineral) fertilizer as a blanket solution, deforestation or overgrazing exacerbate the situation. The increasing soil degradation comes along with rapid demographic growth, both factors leading to undermined food insecurity.

Evaluation

To increase agricultural productivity and thereby reduce farmers’ vulnerability, an integrated soil fertility management project (ISFM+) was launched in 2015 in Amhara, Oromia and Tigray Regional States of Ethiopia. The project is led by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) in close cooperation with the Ethiopian Government (Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources (MoANR)), and has been commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). ISFM+ focuses on soil protection and rehabilitation in the Ethiopian highlands, and aims at influencing the soil characteristics in ways that optimize plant growth and improve the availability of scarce nutrients. The integrated approach chosen makes use of farmers’ own resources and farming practices, including conserving soil and water, and crop rotation in the fields. It targets in particular wheat, maize and teff production. Through advice, capacity building and support to Ethiopia’s agricultural extension service and agricultural bureaus, the project is expected to achieve a wider use of integrated soil fertility management technologies and increased crop yields.

The research approach, a randomized controlled trial (RCT), allows for rigorous assessment of the project’s impacts by comparing treatment, control and super-control micro- watersheds (MWS) as units of intervention. This impact evaluation will contribute to the effectiveness of the ISFM+’s training-based program by providing knowledge on soil productivity, farmers’ attitudes toward innovative technologies, evidence of farmers already employing practices similar to those introduced by the project, and more generally, farmers’ agricultural approaches. The insights generated by the evaluation will thereby inform soil-protection and food-security strategies.

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Uganda | Cash-on-delivery for smallholder farmers

Background

In partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute, we conducted a randomized control trial (RCT) impact evaluation on cash-on-delivery and information on sales to enhance the capabilities of rural producer organizations in Uganda.

Dysfunctional farmer cooperatives are a main concern in Uganda and hamper rural development. Smallholder farmers in Uganda often face substantial market access barriers to selling their produce at decent prices. Rural cooperatives, in which smallholder farmers join forces and cooperate in marketing or production, can potentially help them obtain better input and/or output prices. However, these rural cooperatives have been found to fail to work effectively in several areas of Uganda. One of the reasons is the prevalence of side selling through local traders, which is weakening the cooperatives’ market power as well as group cohesion.

Evaluation

To enhance the capabilities of rural producer organizations, three interventions were implemented. The first intervention, cash-on-delivery, addresses liquidity constraints of the members and allows avoiding substantial delays in payment of the cooperative. In fact liquidity constraints can force the coffee farmers to sell their produce directly at the farm gate to itinerant traders, thereby bypassing the mediator of the cooperatives. In the innovative system set up as part of the intervention, advance payments were provided to the farmers at delivery of the harvest to the producer organization in order to increase bulking. A second intervention, information on sales, improves the reliability of the producer organization’s leaders. Finally, the combination of both interventions was also implemented. The three program implementation modalities were evaluated through a randomized control trial. Both interventions were found to help the cooperatives improve their group marketing and sales.

Burkina Faso | Integrated soil fertility management
Zambia | Rural financial sector development
Senegal | Rural cooperatives and trust building
Ethiopia | Saving products for smallholder farmers
Ethiopia | Integrated Soil Fertility Management
Uganda | Cash-on-delivery for smallholder farmers