Research Topics

EPAR Technical Report #298
Publication Date: 03/23/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Cassava production is prone to many constraints throughout the production cycle, including biotic, abiotic, and management constraints. This brief reviews the literature on the production impacts of two key cassava stressors: cassava bacterial blight (CBB) and postharvest physiological deterioration (PPD). We summarize available estimates of the frequency and magnitude of these constraints relative to other drivers of cassava production losses that affect smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), review the control strategies proposed in the literature, report on the views of several experts in the field, and identify research gaps where relatively little appears to be known about CBB or PPD yield impacts or best practices for CBB or PPD management. 

EPAR Technical Report #283
Publication Date: 12/11/2014
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Donors and governments are increasingly seeking to implement development projects through self-help groups (SHGs) in the belief that such institutional arrangements will enhance development outcomes, encourage sustainability, and foster capacity in local civil society – all at lower cost to coffers. But little is known about the effectiveness of such institutional arrangements or the potential harm that might be caused by using SHGs as ‘vehicles’ for the delivery of development aid.  This report synthesizes available evidence on the effectiveness of Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in promoting health, finance, agriculture, and empowerment objectives in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. Our findings are intended to inform strategic decisions about how to best use scarce resources to leverage existing SHG interventions in various geographies and to better understand how local institutions such as SHGs can serve as platforms to enhance investments. 

EPAR Technical Report #287
Publication Date: 10/09/2014
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This report draws on past and present peer-reviewed articles and published reports by institutions including the World Health Organization (WHO), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and others to provide a scoping summary of the household-level spillovers and broader impacts of a select group of health initiatives. Rather than focusing on estimates of the direct health impacts of investments (e.g., reductions in mortality from vaccine delivery), we focus on estimates of the less-often reported spillover effects of specific health investments on household welfare or the broader economy. The brief is designed to give a concise overview of major theories linking health improvements to broader social and economic outcomes, followed by more in-depth summaries of available local- and country-level estimates of broader impacts, defined as project spillovers offering local, regional and national social and economic benefits not typically reported in project evaluations.

EPAR Technical Report #269
Publication Date: 05/21/2014
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

The commercial alcohol industry in Africa may provide opportunities to increase market access and incomes for smallholder farmers by increasing access to agriculture-alcohol value chains. Despite the benefits of increased market opportunities, the high costs to human health and social welfare from increased alcohol use and alcoholism could contribute to a net loss for society. To better understand the tradeoffs between increased market access for smallholders and societal costs associated with harmful alcohol consumption, this paper provides an inventory of the societal costs of alcohol in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). We examine direct costs associated with addressing harmful effects of alcohol and treating alcohol-related illnesses, as well as indirect costs associated with the goods and services that are not delivered as a consequence of drinking and its impact on personal productivity. We identified resources using Google Scholar and the University of Washington libraries, and utilized the Global Burden of Disease (GBD) database by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) and the World Health Organization’s Global Information System on Alcohol and Health (GISAH) database. We also utilized FAOSTAT to retrieve raw data on national-level alcohol production and export statistics. We find that hazardous alcohol use contributes to early mortality and morbidity, loss of productivity, property damage, and other social costs and harms for drinkers and those around them. Drinking also affects vulnerable segments of the population disproportionately. Policymakers, local authorities, and donor agencies can use the information presented in this paper to plan and prepare for the higher consumption levels and subsequent social costs that may follow through agricultural development and economic growth in the region.  

EPAR Research Brief #228
Publication Date: 04/18/2014
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) is a widely-grown staple food in the tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. In this brief we examine the environmental constraints to, and impacts of, smallholder cassava production systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA), noting where the analysis applies to only one of these regions. We highlight crop-environment interactions at three stages of the cassava value chain: pre-production (e.g., land clearing), production (e.g., soil, water, and input use), and post-production (e.g., crop storage). At each stage we emphasize environmental constraints on production (poor soil quality, water scarcity, crop pests, etc.) and also environmental impacts of crop production (e.g., soil erosion, water depletion and pesticide contamination). We then highlight good practices for overcoming environmental constraints and minimizing environmental impacts in smallholder cassava production systems. Evidence on environmental issues in smallholder cassava production is relatively thin, and unevenly distributed across regions. The literature on cassava in South Asian smallholder systems is limited, reflecting a crop of secondary importance (though it is widely found elsewhere in Asia such as South East Asia), in comparison to cassava in much of SSA. The majority of the research summarized in this brief is from SSA. The last row of Table 1 summarizes good practices currently identified in the literature. However, the appropriate strategy in a given situation will vary widely based on contextual factors, such as local environmental conditions, market access, cultural preferences, production practices and the policy environment.

EPAR Technical Report #254
Publication Date: 03/20/2014
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This overview introduces a series of EPAR briefs in the Agriculture-Environment Series that examine crop-environment interactions for a range of crops in smallholder food production systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA). The briefs cover the following important food crops in those regions; rice (#208), maize (#218), sorghum/millets (#213), sweet potato/yam (#225), and cassava (#228).

Drawing on the academic literature and the field expertise of crop scientists, these briefs highlight crop-environment interactions at three stages of the crop value chain: pre-production (e.g., land clearing and tilling), production (such as water, nutrient and other input use), and post-production (e.g., waste disposal and crop storage). At each stage we emphasize environmental constraints on crop yields (including poor soils, water scarcity, crop pests) and impacts of crop production on the environment (such as soil erosion, water depletion and pest resistance). We then highlight best practices from the literature and from expert experience for minimizing negative environmental impacts in smallholder crop production systems.

This overview (along with the accompanying detailed crop briefs) seeks to provide a framework for stimulating across-crop discussions and informed debates on the full range of crop-environment interactions in agricultural development initiatives.

A paper based on this research series was published in Food Security in August 2015.

EPAR Research Brief #242
Publication Date: 01/08/2014
Type: Data Analysis
Abstract

The purpose of this analysis is to provide a measure of marketable surplus of maize in Tanzania. We proxy marketable surplus with national-level estimates of total maize sold, presumably the surplus for maize producing and consuming households. We also provide national level estimates of total maize produced and estimate “average prices” for Tanzania which allows this quantity to be expressed as an estimate of the value of marketable surplus. The analysis uses the Tanzanian National Panel Survey (TNPS) LSMS – ISA which is a nationally representative panel survey, for the years 2008/2009 and 2010/2011. A spreadsheet provides our estimates for different subsets of the sample and using different approaches to data cleaning and weighting. The total number of households for Tanzania was estimated with linear extrapolation based on the Tanzanian National Bureau of Statistics for the years 2002 and 2012. The weighted proportions of maize-producing and maize-selling households were multiplied to the national estimate of total households. This estimate of total Tanzanian maize-selling and maize-producing households was then multiplied by the average amount sold and by the average amount produced respectively to obtain national level estimates of total maize sold and total maize produced in 2009 and 2011.

EPAR Research Brief #225
Publication Date: 10/15/2013
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

After cereals, root and tuber crops - including sweetpotato and yam (in addition to cassava and aroids), are the second most cultivated crops in tropical countries. This literature review examines the environmental constraints to, and impacts of, sweetpotato and yam production systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA). The review highlights crop-environment interactions at three stages of the sweetpotato/yam value chain: pre-production (e.g., land clearing), production (e.g., soil, water, and input use), and post-production (e.g., waste disposal, crop storage and transport). We find that sweetpotato and yam face similar environmental stressors. In particular, because sweetpotato and yam are vegetatively propagated, the most significant (and avoidable) environmental constraints to crop yields include disease and pest infection transmitted through the use of contaminated planting materials. Published estimates suggest yield gains in the range of 30–60% can be obtained through using healthy planting material. Moreover, reducing pest damage in the field can greatly increase the storage life of root and tuber crops after harvest – currently losses from rot and desiccation can claim up to 100% of stored sweetpotato and yam on smallholder farms.

EPAR Research Brief #215
Publication Date: 08/31/2013
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Maize has expanded through the 20th and into the 21st century to become the principle staple food crop produced and consumed by smallholder farm households in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and maize production has also expanded in South Asia (SA) farming systems. In this brief we examine the environmental constraints to, and impacts of, smallholder maize production systems in SSA and SA, noting where findings apply to only one of these regions. We highlight crop-environment interactions at three stages of the maize value chain: pre-production (e.g., land clearing), production (e.g., fertilizer, water, and other input use), and post-production (e.g., waste disposal and crop storage). At each stage we emphasize environmental constraints on maize production (such as poor soil quality, water scarcity, or crop pests) and also environmental impacts of maize production (such as soil erosion, water depletion, or chemical contamination). We then highlight best or good practices for overcoming environmental constraints and minimizing environmental impacts in smallholder maize production systems. Evidence on environmental constraints and impacts in smallholder maize production is uneven. Many environmental concerns such as biodiversity loss are commonly demonstrated more broadly for the agroecology or farming systems in which maize is grown, rather than specifically for the maize crop. And more research is available on the environmental impacts of agrochemical-based intensive cereal farming in Asia (where high-input maize is a common component) than on the low-input subsistence-scale maize cultivation more typical of SSA. Decisive constraint and impact estimates are further complicated by the fact that many crop-environment interactions in maize and other crops are a matter of both cause and effect (e.g., poor soils decrease maize yields, while repeated maize harvests degrade soils). Fully understanding maize-environment interactions thus requires recognizing instances where shortterm adaptations to environmental constraints might be exacerbating other medium- or long-term environmental problems. Conclusions on the strength of published findings on crop-environment interactions in maize systems further depend on one’s weighting of economic versus ecological perspectives, physical science versus social science, academic versus grey literature, and quantity versus quality of methods and findings.

EPAR Research Brief #213
Publication Date: 08/31/2013
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

 In this brief we examine the environmental constraints to, and impacts of, smallholder sorghum and millet production systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA). Millet in this paper primarily refers to pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), although a number of other millets of significance to smallholder production and food security are also discussed. Sorghum and millets are known for being more tolerant of major environmental stresses including drought and poor soil quality than other major cereals. But water availability is still among the greatest constraints to increased grain production, and soil fertility also significantly limits yields, especially in cases where cultivation occurs on marginal lands and where crop residues are removed for alternative uses. Ultimately sorghum and millets’ relatively higher tolerance to abiotic stresses is expected to promote an increase in global cropping area for sorghum and millets as an adaptation to climate change. Sorghum and millet exhibit relatively few of the environmental impacts commonly associated with more intensively cultivated crops such as fertilizer runoff, pesticide contamination, or water depletion, since both of these crops are overwhelmingly grown by smallholder farmers with few, if any, chemical or irrigation inputs. Nevertheless, the tendency to grow sorghum and millet on marginal and heavily sloped lands does pose some environmental risks – including soil degradation and erosion – that can be mitigated through the adoption of best practices as described in the brief.