Research Topics

Publication Date: 11/22/2019
Type: Research Brief

While literature on achieving Inclusive Agricultural Transformation (IAT) through input market policies is relatively robust, literature on the effect of output market policies on IAT is rarer. We conduct a selective literature review of output market policies in low- and middle-income countries to assess their influence on IAT and find that outcomes are mixed across all policy areas. We also review indicators used to measure successful IAT,  typologies of market institutions involved in IAT, and agricultural policies and maize yield trends in East Africa. This report details our findings on these connected, yet somewhat disparate elements of IAT to shed more light on a topic that has not been the primary focus of the literature thus far.

EPAR Technical Report #388
Publication Date: 05/30/2019
Type: Data Analysis

Designing effective policies for economic development and sustainable rural transformation, and monitoring progress toward the associated policy goals, often entails categorizing populations by their rural or urban status. Yet there exists no universal definition of what constitutes an "urban" area; countries alternately apply criteria related to settlement size, population density, or economic advancement. In this study, we explore the implications of applying different urban definitions in Tanzania and Nigeria, drawing from a wide set of data sources (administrative, remotely-sensed, and survey-based) to understand how urban categorizations align across data types and based on different criteria. To understand how an analysis of rural change is affected by the urban/rural definition applied, we begin with the nationally representative Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA), collected in Tanzania (2008-2014) and Nigeria (2010-2015). This data set contains rich information on household demographics and income-generating activities, and crucially contains household geo-coordinates. Nine urban definitions are assessed, based on local administrative designations used by the National Bureaus of Statistics in Tanzania and Nigeria; settlement size (drawing from the Africapolis geospatial database of cities in Africa); population density (drawing from WorldPop); night lights intensity (drawing from the NOAA Nighttime Lights of the World dataset); impervious surface cover (drawing from the NASA Global Man-made Impervious Surface dataset from Landsat); local economic orientation (drawing from the LSMS-ISA); and our subjective assessment of daytime satellite imagery available via Google Earth.

Preliminary results indicate that the urban population share can vary considerably across different definitions, ranging from 11-35% in Tanzania and 20-60% in Nigeria. Nigeria is often found to be more urbanized than Tanzania, although this ordering is reversed for two definitions. In Tanzania, most urban definitions applied are relatively conservative, as compared with the administrative categorization. Thus, it is rare to see segments of the population re-categorized from rural to urban when using another definition, though some officially urban households are recategorized as rural. In Tanzania, these definitions sometimes lead to different conclusions regarding the concentration of poverty in rural versus urban areas, alternately indicating that poverty is increasingly a rural or urban problem. They also produce somewhat diverging stories regarding trends in welfare and farm income shares in the rural population. For example, while most definitions suggest that a growing share of rural homes now access electricity, this time trend disappears when using an economy-focused definition. The pace at which rural households have been shifting away from agriculture (a key component of structural transformation) is estimated to be twice as fast when relying on a night lights urban definition, as compared to the local administrative definition. At the same time, these different definitions paint a consistent picture of the rural farming population in terms of levels of engagement with input and output markets. This reflects the manner in which definitional decisions especially affect the categorization of non-farming (though possibly rural) households.

Publication Date: 05/08/2019
Type: Research Brief

In many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia smallholder farmers are among the most vulnerable to climatic changes, and the observed shocks and stresses associated with these changes impact agricultural systems in many ways. This research brief offers findings on observed or measured changes in precipitation, temperature or both, on five biophysical pathways and systems including variable or changing growing seasons, extreme events, biotic stressors, plant species density, richness and range, impacts to streamflow, and impacts on crop yield. These findings are the result of a review of relevant documents cited in Kilroy (2015), references included in the IPCC draft Special Report on Food Security, and targeted searches from 2015 - present for South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Publication Date: 03/17/2019
Type: Research Brief

Much literature discusses the importance of investing in human capital—or “the sum of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, experience, and habits” (World Bank, 2018, p. 42)—to a country’s economic growth. For example, the World Bank reports a “chronic underinvestment” in health and education in Nigeria, noting that investing in human capital has the potential to significantly contribute to economic growth, poverty reduction, and societal well-being (World Bank, 2018). This research brief reports on the evidence linking investment in human capital—specifically, health and education—with changes in economic growth. It reviews the literature for five topic areas: Education, Infectious Diseases, Nutrition, Primary Health Care, and Child and Maternal Health. This review gives priority focus to the countries of Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Tanzania. For each topic area, we report the evidence in support of a pathway from investing in human capital to economic growth.

EPAR Technical Report #363
Publication Date: 02/10/2019
Type: Data Analysis

Studies of improved seed adoption in developing countries almost always draw from household surveys and are premised on the assumption that farmers are able to self-report their use of improved seed varieties. However, recent studies suggest that farmers’ reports of the seed varieties planted, or even whether seed is local or improved, are sometimes inconsistent with the results of DNA fingerprinting of farmers' crops. We use household survey data from Tanzania to test the alignment between farmer-reported and DNA-identified maize seed types planted in fields. In the sample, 70% of maize seed observations are correctly reported as local or improved, while 16% are type I errors (falsely reported as improved) and 14% are type II errors (falsely reported as local). Type I errors are more likely to have been sourced from other farmers, rather than formal channels. An analysis of input use, including seed, fertilizer, and labor allocations, reveals that farmers tend to treat improved maize differently, depending on whether they correctly perceive it as improved. This suggests that errors in farmers' seed type awareness may translate into suboptimal management practices. In econometric analysis, the measured yield benefit of improved seed use is smaller in magnitude with a DNA-derived categorization, as compared with farmer reports. The greatest yield benefit is with correctly identified improved seed. This indicates that investments in farmers' access to information, seed labeling, and seed system oversight are needed to complement investments in seed variety development.

Publication Date: 01/16/2019
Type: Data Analysis

Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in Sub-Saharan Africa can be defined as mutual assistance organizations through which individuals undertake collective action in order to improve their own lives. “Collective action” implies that individuals share their time, labor, money, or other assets with the group. In a recent EPAR data analysis, we use three nationally-representative survey tools to examine various indicators related to the coverage and prevalence of Self-Help Group usage across six Sub-Saharan African countries. EPAR has developed Stata .do files for the construction of a set of self-help group indicators using data from the Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA), Financial Inclusion Index (FII), and FinScope.

We compiled a set of summary statistics for the final indicators using data from the following survey instruments:

  • Ethiopia:
    • Ethiopia Socioeconomic Survey (ESS), Wave 3 (2015-16)
  • Kenya:
    • Kenya FinScope, Wave 4 (2015)
    • Kenya FII, Wave 4 (2016)
  • Nigeria
    • Nigeria FII, Wave 4 (2016)
  • Rwanda:
    • Rwanda FII, Wave 4 (2016)
  • Tanzania:
    • Tanzania National Panel Survey (TNPS), Wave 4 (2014-15)
    • Tanzania FinScope, Wave 4 (2017)
    • Tanzania FII, Wave 4 (2016)
  • Uganda:
    • Uganda FinScope, Wave 3 (2013)
    • Uganda FII, Wave 4 (2016)

The raw survey data files are available for download free of charge from the World Bank LSMS-ISA website, the Financial Sector Deepening Trust website, and the Financial Inclusion Insights website. The .do files process the data and create final data sets at the household (LSMS-ISA) and individual (FII, FinScope) levels with labeled variables, which can be used to estimate summary statistics for the indicators.

All the instruments include nationally-representative samples. All estimates from the LSMS-ISA are household-level cluster-weighted means, while all estimates from FII and FinScope are calculated as individual-level weighted means. The proportions in the Indicators Spreadsheet are therefore estimates of the true proportion of individuals/households in the national population during the year of the survey. EPAR also created a Tableau visualization of these summary statistics, which can be found here.

We have also prepared a document outlining the construction decisions for each indicator across survey instruments and countries. We attempted to follow the same construction approach across instruments, and note any situations where differences in the instruments made this impossible.

The spreadsheet includes estimates of the following indicators created in our code files:


  • Proportion of individuals who have access to a mobile phone
  • Proportion of individuals who have official identification
  • Proportion of individuals who are female
  • Proportion of individuals who use mobile money
  • Proportion of individuals who have a bank account
  • Proportion of individuals who live in a rural area
  • Individual Poverty Status
    • Two Lowest PPI Quintiles
    • Middle PPI Quintile
    • Two Highest PPI Quintiles

Coverage & Prevalence

  • Proportion of individuals who have interacted with a SHG
  • Proportion of individuals who have used an SHG for financial services
  • Proportion of individuals who depend most on SHGs for financial advice
  • Proportion of individuals who have received financial advice from a SHG
  • Proportion of households that have interacted with a SHG
  • Proportion of households in communities with at least one SHG
  • Proportion of households in communities with access to multiple farmer cooperative groups
  • Proportion of households who have used an SHG for financial services

In addition, we produced estimates for 29 indicators related to characteristics of SHG use including indicators related to frequency of SHG use, characteristics of SHG groups, and individual/household trust of SHGs.

EPAR Technical Report #354
Publication Date: 11/29/2018
Type: Research Brief

Precise agricultural statistics are necessary to track productivity and design sound agricultural policies. Yet, in settings where intercropping is prevalent, even crop yield can be challenging to measure. In a systematic survey of the literature on crop yield in low-income settings, we find that scholars specify how they estimate the yield denominator in under 10% of cases. Using household survey data from Tanzania, we consider four alternative methods of allocating land area on plots that contain multiple crops, and explore the implications of this measurement decision for analyses of maize and rice yield. We find that 64% of cultivated plots contain more than one crop, and average yield estimates vary with different methods of calculating area planted. This pattern is more pronounced for maize, which is more likely than rice to share a plot with other crops. The choice among area methods influences which of these two staple crops is found to be more calorie-productive per ha, as well as the extent to which fertilizer is expected to be profitable for maize production. Given that construction decisions can influence the results of analysis, we conclude that the literature would benefit from greater clarity regarding how yield is measured across studies.

EPAR Research Brief #360
Publication Date: 02/05/2018
Type: Research Brief

In this brief, we report on measures of economic growth, poverty and agricultural activity in Ethiopia. For each category of measure, we first describe different measurement approaches and present available time series data on selected indicators. We then use data from the sources listed below to discuss associations within and between these categories between 1994 and 2017. 

EPAR Technical Report #330
Publication Date: 11/22/2017
Type: Data Analysis

A large and growing body of scholarship now suggests that many household outcomes, including children’s education and nutrition, are associated with a wife’s bargaining power and control over household decision-making. In turn, bargaining power in a household is theorized to be driven by a wife’s financial and human capital assets – in particular the degree to which these assets contribute to household productivity and/or to the wife’s exit options. This paper draws on the detailed Farmer First dataset in Tanzania and Mali to examine husband and wife reports of a wife’s share of decision-making authority in polygynous households, where multiple wives jointly contribute to household productivity, and where exit options for any single wife may be less credible. We find that both husbands and wives assign less authority to the wife in polygynous households relative to monogamous households. We also find that a wife’s assets are not as strongly associated with decision-making authority in polygynous versus monogamous contexts.  Finally, we find that responses to questions on spousal authority vary significantly by spouse in both polygynous and monogamous households, suggesting interventions based on the response of a single spouse may incorrectly inform policies and programs.

EPAR Technical Report #335
Publication Date: 11/21/2017
Type: Data Analysis
EPAR has developed Stata do.files for the construction of a set of agricultural development indicators using data from the Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA). We are sharing our code and documenting our construction decisions both to facilitate analyses of these rich datasets and to make estimates of relevant indicators available to a broader audience of potential users. 
Code, Code, Code, Code