Research Topics

EPAR Technical Report #355 and EPAR Research Briefs #355A & #355B & #355C
Publication Date: 06/15/2018
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Many low- and middle-income countries remain challenged by a financial infrastructure gap, evidenced by very low numbers of bank branches and automated teller machines (ATMs) (e.g., 2.9 branches per 100,000 people in Ethiopia versus 13.5 in India and 32.9 in the United States (U.S.) and 0.5 ATMs per 100,000 people in Ethiopia versus 19.7 in India and 173 in the U.S.) (The World Bank 2015a; 2015b). Furthermore, only an estimated 62 percent of adults globally have a banking account through a formal financial institution, leaving over 2 billion adults unbanked (Demirgüç–Kunt et al., 2015). While conventional banks have struggled to extend their networks into low-income and rural communities, digital financial services (DFS) have the potential to extend financial opportunities to these groups (Radcliffe & Voorhies, 2012). In order to utilize DFS however, users must convert physical cash to electronic money which requires access to cash-in, cash-out (CICO) networks—physical access points including bank branches but also including “branchless banking" access points such as ATMs, point-of-sale (POS) terminals, agents, and cash merchants. As mobile money and branchless banking expand, countries are developing new regulations to govern their operations (Lyman, Ivatury, & Staschen, 2006; Lyman, Pickens, & Porteous, 2008; Ivatury & Mas, 2008), including regulations targeting aspects of the different CICO interfaces. 

EPAR's work on CICO networks consists of five components. First, we summarize types of recent mobile money and branchless banking regulations related to CICO networks and review available evidence on the impacts these regulations may have on markets and consumers. In addition to this technical report we developed a short addendum (EPAR 355a) which includes a description of findings on patterns around CICO regulations over time. Another addendum (EPAR 355b) summarizes trends in exclusivity regulations including overall trends, country-specific approaches to exclusivity, and a table showing how available data on DFS adoption from FII and GSMA might relate to changes in exclusivity policies over time. A third addendum (EPAR 355c) explores trends in CICO network expansion with a focus on policies seeking to improve access among more remote or under-served populations. Lastly, we developed a database of CICO regulations, including a regulatory decision options table which outlines the key decisions that countries can make to regulate CICOs and a timeline of when specific regulations related to CICOs were introduced in eight focus countries, Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Uganda.

EPAR Technical Report #359
Publication Date: 11/13/2017
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Cash transfer programs are interventions that directly provide cash to target specific populations with the aim of reducing poverty and supporting a variety of development outcomes. Low- and middle-income countries have increasingly adopted cash transfer programs as central elements of their poverty reduction and social protection strategies. Bastagli et al. (2016) report that around 130 low- and middle-income countries have at least one UCT program, and 63 countries have at least one CCT program (up from 27 countries in 2008). Through a comprehensive review of literature, this report primarily considers the evidence of the long-term impacts of cash transfer programs in low- and lower middle-income countries. A review of 54 reviews that aggregate and summarize findings from multiple studies of cash transfer programs reveals largely positive evidence on long-term outcomes related to general health, reproductive health, nutrition, labor markets, poverty, and gender and intra-household dynamics, though findings vary by context and in many cases overall conclusions on the long-term impacts of cash transfers are mixed. In addition, evidence on long-term impacts for many outcome measures is limited, and few studies explicitly aim to measure long-term impacts distinctly from immediate or short-term impacts of cash transfers.

EPAR Technical Report #333
Publication Date: 03/29/2016
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

In this report, we analyze the evidence that improved and expanded access to financial services can be a pathway out of poverty in Bangladesh and Tanzania. A brief background review of finance and poverty reduction evidence at the country, household, and individual level emphasizes the importance of a functioning financial system and the need to remove individual and household barriers to capital accumulation. We follow with an in-depth literature review on studies that link poverty reduction in Bangladesh or Tanzania with one or more of five financial intervention categories: remittances; government subsidies; conditional and unconditional cash transfers; credit; and combination programs. The resulting empirical evidence from these sources reveal a high share (61%) of positive reported associations between a financial intervention and outcome measure related to our five chosen financial interventions. The remaining studies found insignificant or mixed associations, but very few (3 out of 56) indicate that access to a financial mechanism was associated with worsened poverty. The heterogeneity of study types and interventions makes it difficult to draw conclusions about the efficacy of one intervention over another, and more research is needed on whether such approaches constitute a durable, long-term exit from poverty.

EPAR Research Brief #332
Publication Date: 02/26/2016
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Household survey data are a key source of information for policy-makers at all levels. In developing countries, household data are commonly used to target interventions and evaluate progress towards development goals. The World Bank’s Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) are a particularly rich source of nationally-representative panel data for six Sub-Saharan African countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda. To help understand how these data are used, EPAR reviewed the existing literature referencing the LSMS-ISA and identified 415 publications, working papers, reports, and presentations with primary research based on LSMS-ISA data. We find that use of the LSMS-ISA has been increasing each year since the first survey waves were made available in 2009, with several universities, multilateral organizations, government offices, and research groups across the globe using the data to answer questions on agricultural productivity, farm management, poverty and welfare, nutrition, and several other topics.

EPAR Research Brief #316
Publication Date: 12/13/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

The literature on poverty’s causes and cures in developing countries posits a variety of contributing factors. Most researchers acknowledge that a sustained exit from poverty is complex and no single causal pathway from poverty to non-poverty exists. In this review, we present a summary framework for categorizing the various theorized pathways out of poverty, and evaluate the empirical evidence for which interventions and resulting outcomes are most frequently and most strongly associated with poverty alleviation. We conducted a literature review on pathways out of poverty for low-income households in developing countries and identified and categorized general strategies and outcomes demonstrated to be empirically associated with poverty alleviation. We organized the general strategies into four asset groups that could be targeted to alleviate poverty: human, natural, built / financial, and social / political. Much of the literature presents positive results on poverty alleviation, but it is difficult to compare across studies because many of the studies were conducted in different countries and at different scales, and use a variety of outcome measures.

EPAR Technical Report #307
Publication Date: 09/30/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This report reviews and summarizes the existing evidence on the impact of access to financial services/products on measures of production, income and wealth, consumption and food security, and resilience for smallholder farmers  and other rural customers and their households in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study covers four main types of financial products/services: 1) credit; 2) savings; 3) insurance; 4) transactional products. We also review the very limited evidence on the effectiveness of bundling these products/services together and of combining them with other offerings such as trainings or support for access to markets, and of providing them via digital channels. We note when financial products/services have been specifically designed to serve the needs of rural customers or smallholder farmers, since the needs of these groups are often very different from those of other stakeholders.

EPAR Technical Report #311
Publication Date: 08/06/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This report provides a summary of findings from six Financial Inclusion Insights (FII) data analysis reports conducted by various agencies for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF). These reports investigate barriers to financial inclusion and use of digital financial services (DFS) in Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Uganda. We compile comparable gender-specific statistics, summarize the authors’ findings to determine commonalities and differences across countries, and highlight gender-specific conclusions and recommendations provided in the studies. 

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 #60
Publication Date: 03/05/2010
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

In recent years, product supply chains for agricultural goods have become increasingly globalized. As a result, greater numbers of smallholder farmers in South Asia (SA) and Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) participate in global supply chains, many of them through contract farming (CF). CF is an arrangement between a farmer and a processing or marketing firm for the production and supply of agricultural products, often at predetermined prices. This literature review finds empirical evidence that demonstrates that the economic and social benefits of CF for smallholder farmers are mixed. A number of studies suggest that CF may improve farmer productivity, reduce production risk and transaction costs, and increase farmer incomes. However, critics caution that CF may undermine farmers’ relative bargaining power and increase health, environmental, and financial risk through exposure to monopsonistic markets, weak contract environments, and unfamiliar agricultural technologies. There is consensus across the literature that CF has the best outcomes for farmers when farmers have more bargaining power to negotiate the terms of the contract. In reviewing the literature on CF, we find a number of challenges to comparing studies and evaluating outcomes across contracts. This literature review summarizes empirical findings and analyses regarding contract models and best practices to increase farmers’ bargaining power and decrease contract default.

EPAR Research Brief #32
Publication Date: 06/30/2009
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Though not indigenous to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), cassava plays, to varying degrees, five major roles in African development: famine-reserve crop, rural food staple, cash crop for urban consumption, livestock feed, and industrial raw material. Cassava production in SSA was historically a significant staple crop for smallholder farmers and continues to be the second most important food crop in Africa (after maize) in terms of calories consumed. Subsistence crops such as cassava are often considered women’s crops with the standard explanation that women are responsible for feeding the family and thus prefer to grow crops for the household. This brief reviews the role that women play in cassava production, and considers ways to better address gender issues from planting through post-harvest production. We find that the potential gains to cassava production made possible through improved technology will not be fully realized without the participation of women farmers and without women farmers having access to credit, markets, and extension services. Additionally, evidence from SSA suggests that labor for harvesting and processing, rather than labor for weeding, has become the key labor constraint for cassava, and addressing this concern may be more important than further yield increases for raising production levels.