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.

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. 

EPAR Technical Report #374
Publication Date: 04/25/2019
Type: Portfolio Review
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 #115
Publication Date: 12/14/2010
Type: Literature Review

As part of the Crops & Climate Change series, this brief is presented in three parts: 1) An evaluation of the importance of Sorghum and Millet in SSA, based on production, net exports, and caloric need, 2) A novel analysis of historical and projected climate conditions in Sorghum and Millet growing regions, followed by a summary of the agronomic and physiological vulnerability of Sorghum and Millet crops, 3) A summary of current resources dedicated to sorghum and millet, based on research and development investments and National Adaptation Programmes of Action. Our analysis indicates that sorghum and millets may become increasingly important in those areas of SSA predicted to become hotter and subject to more variable precipitation as a result of climate change. Although sorghum and millet are currently grown on marginal agricultural lands and consumed for subsistence by poorer population segments, climate change could render these drought- and heat-tolerant crops the most viable future cereal production option in some areas where other cereals are currently grown. Fewer international development resources are currently devoted to sorghum and millet than are devoted to other cereal grains, and current resource allocation may not reflect the increased reliance on these grains necessitated by projected climactic changes.

EPAR Technical Report #114
Publication Date: 12/14/2010
Type: Literature Review

As part of the Crops & Climate Change series, this brief is presented in three parts: 1) An evaluation of the importance of wheat in SSA, based on production, net exports, and caloric need, 2) A novel analysis of historical and projected climate conditions in wheat-growing regions, followed by a summary of the agronomic and physiological vulnerability of wheat crops, 3) A summary of current resources dedicated to wheat, based on research and development investments and National Adaptation Programmes of Action. Overall, this analysis indicates that the importance of wheat as an imported product remains high throughout SSA, though food crop production and dependence is concentrated in a relatively small area. Wheat-growing regions throughout SSA are likely to face yield decreases as a result of predicted rises in temperatures and possible changes in precipitation. Resources intended to aid adaptation to climate change flow primarily from public sector research and development efforts, though country-level adaptation strategies have not prioritized wheat.

EPAR Technical Report #102
Publication Date: 12/13/2010
Type: Literature Review

Water is a critical input for significantly enhancing smallholder farmer productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where less than 5% of farm land is irrigated, and in India where 42% of farm land is irrigated.  For many years, donors have invested in human-powered treadle pump technologies as a point of entry for smallholder farmers unable to afford motorized pumps. In spite of some successes in treadle pump promotion, however, there is a widespread perception that as soon as smallholder farmers can afford to they quickly transition to motorized diesel- powered pumps. While diesel pumps substantially ease farmers’ workload, they pollute excessively (both in terms of local air quality and greenhouse gas emissions), pump excessive amounts of water, and put farmers at the mercy of cyclical spikes in fuel prices. This brief provides an overview of state-of-the-art alternative energy pumps, including technologies available and implementation lessons learned from China, India, Africa, South America and other regions. Through a literature review, written surveys and phone interviews with water pump producers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) we evaluate the availability, affordability, and adoption rates of alternative energy technologies in developing countries. Our findings suggest that no single alternative energy water pumping system is a “silver bullet” for rural smallholder irrigation needs. Biofuels may prove a successful short- to intermediate-term solution for farmers who already have access to diesel pumps, but other problems associated with diesel engines, including high maintenance costs and excessive water use remain even when biofuels are used. Solar systems eliminate pollution almost entirely, reduce water consumption, and eliminate the need to purchase fuels. However solar systems are typically prohibitively expensive for smallholder farmers. Wind powered pumping solutions have not proven successful to date, with high costs and irregular wind patterns (either too little or too much wind) proving substantial barriers to widespread adoption.

EPAR Presentation #103
Publication Date: 11/08/2010
Type: Literature Review

This presentation reviews and presents definitions and theories around incorporating sustainability into agricultural productivity. We review ecological, social, and economic sustainability and examine agricultural productivity through the lenses of nutrition, gender, environment, and climate change. The annotated bibliography identifies critical work from academic literature to aid in defining sustainable agricultural productivity. The methodology to generate these reports included searching the University of Washington Libraries system, Google Scholar, the University of Minnesota’s AgEcon Search, as well as the websites of the FAO, World Bank, and CGIAR. We also reviewed the most recent (2010) publications of the Handbook of Agricultural Economics and the Handbook of Development Economics. 

EPAR Technical Report #106
Publication Date: 11/02/2010
Type: Literature Review

How development organizations, NGOs, and governments can best allocate scarce resources to those in need has long been debated. As opposed to universal allocation of resources, a more targeted approach attempts to minimize program costs while maximizing benefits among those with the greatest need or market opportunity. Drawing on literature from several sectors,this brief presents two categories of beneficiary targeting in the development context: administrative targeting and self-targeting. The paper includes a brief overview of targeting and segmentation in development, a summary of reasons for targeting, theoretical and practical critiques of targeting, and a discussion of targeting methods in research and practice, including examples from the literature. Implementation examples cited in this body of research include food aid program targeting by self-reported household income in Egypt; fertilizer use in low-potential zones of Uganda; and seven strategic initiatives to improve drought and disease resistance in crops in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.  We find that beneficiary segmentation has several theoretical advantages.  Improved targeting may increase the efficiency and equity of organizational and program efforts and help better match interventions to recipient preferences, increasing the likelihood of adoption and participation. Development organizations may improve the focus of both their strategic priorities and budgets through customized targeting methods. However, concerns exist regarding the accuracy, reliability, cost, and time-constraints of targeting methodologies. Creating valid and reliable target groups with implementation potential remains a significant challenge.