Research Topics

EPAR Technical Report #240
Publication Date: 07/28/2016
Type: Data Analysis
Abstract

There is a wide gap between realized and potential yields for many crops in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Experts identify poor soil quality as a primary constraint to increased agricultural productivity. Therefore, increasing agricultural productivity by improving soil quality is seen as a viable strategy to enhance food security. Yet adoption rates of programs focused on improving soil quality have generally been lower than expected. We explore a seldom considered factor that may limit farmers’ demand for improved soil quality, namely, whether farmers’ self-assessments of their soil quality match soil scientists’ assessments. In this paper, using Tanzania National Panel Survey (TZNPS) data, part of the Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA), we compare farmers’ own assessments of soil quality with scientific measurements of soil quality from the Harmonized World Soil Database (HWSD). We find a considerable “mismatch” and most notably, that 11.5 percent of survey households that reported having “good” soil quality are measured by scientific standards to have severely constrained nutrient availability. Mismatches between scientific measurements and farmer assessments of soil quality may highlight a potential barrier for programs seeking to encourage farmers to adopt soil quality improvement activities. 

EPAR Technical Report #337
Publication Date: 06/20/2016
Type: Data Analysis
Abstract

Relative to chronic hunger, seasonal hunger in rural and urban areas of Africa is poorly understood. No estimates are compiled, and limited evidence exists on prevalence, causes, and impacts. This paper contributes to the body of evidence by examining the extent and potential drivers of seasonal hunger using panel data from the Malawi Integrated Household Panel Survey (IHPS). Farmers are commonly thought to use various strategies to smooth consumption, including planting “off-season” crops, investing in post-harvest storage technologies, or generally diversifying farm portfolios including livestock products and/or wild crops. Similarly, when markets are available, farmers may diversify through off-farm income sources in order to purchase food in lean seasons. We investigate whether seasonal hunger – distinct from chronic hunger – exists in Malawi, drawing on two waves of panel data from the LSMS-ISA series. We examine the extent of seasonal hunger, factors associated with variation in seasonal hunger, and how recurring and longer-term seasonal hunger might be associated with various household welfare measures. We find that both urban and rural households report experiencing seasonal hunger in the pre-harvest months, with descriptive evidence suggesting male gender, age, and education of household head, livestock ownership, and storage of crops are associated with lower levels of seasonal hunger. In addition, we find that Malawian households with seasonal hunger harvest crops earlier than average – a short-term coping mechanism that can reduce the crop’s yield and nutritional value, possibly perpetuating hunger.

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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 #325
Publication Date: 01/30/2016
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This brief reviews the various definitions of global public goods (GPGs) and regional public goods (RPGs) found in the literature and provides examples of each in six frequently discussed sectors: environment, health, knowledge, security, governance, and infrastructure. We identify multiple alternative definitions that have gained some traction in the literature, but GPGs are generally agreed to exhibit publicness in consumption, distribution of benefits, and decision-making. Because policy choices determine what is and what is not a GPG, there cannot be a fixed list of such goods; some always have the property of global publicness, while others have over time changed from being local or national to being global in terms of benefits and costs. GPGs are thus redefined as goods that are in the global public domain. GPG and RPG financing mechanisms include payments by users and beneficiaries, taxes, fees, and levies, private funding by non-profit corporations, profit-making firms, and philanthropic individuals and organizations, national and international public resources, and partnerships between several sources of financing. We conclude with an analysis of trends in GPG and RPG financing through Official Development Assistance (ODA) using time series data from the OECD’s Creditor Reporting System and other sources. We find that 14% of ODA in 2014 was allocated to sub-sectors labelled by Reiner et al. as GPGs, while 15% of ODA was allocated to RPGs, and that GPG and RPG spending has steadily increased from 2002-2014.

EPAR Research Brief #319
Publication Date: 01/29/2016
Type: Research Brief
Abstract

This four-part analysis describes the current suite of food security measures, then analyzes the respective relationships between food security and poverty, GDP, and crop yields using findings from in-depth literature reviews. Food security measures are criticized for inaccurately characterizing food security at individual, household, and national scales, yet guidelines exist to prescribe a food security measure for a given situation. Some authors see the potential of a combination of indicators that apply at different scales rather than a single, universal food security measure. Limited literature exists on the relationship between food security and poverty, GDP, or crop yields. The relationship between food security and poverty is particularly challenging because neither term has a consistent definition, and the limited literature suggests a lack of consensus among experts. Little empirical research exists on the relationship between food security and GDP, though studies generally note an association between the two Studies that evaluate food security and crop yields provide limited evidence that the two are associated, though many studies use measures of crop yield as food security indicators and vice versa. More research is needed to establish whether there are preferred food security measurement tools for specific scales and situations, and to further explore the relationship between food security and poverty, GDP, and crop yields.

EPAR Research Brief #320
Publication Date: 01/29/2016
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This brief provides a summary of background research for future aid-related EPAR projects. We first review prominent measures of aid, examining the definition and scope of Official Development Assistance (ODA) as well as common criticisms and alternatives to this measurement. We also provide a summary of current research on bilateral and multilateral aid allocation trends. The aid allocation literature broadly concludes that donor countries target aid based on both the needs of recipients and on strategic interests, but that aid allocation criteria differ by donor and by type of aid. Finally, we summarize current aid effectiveness literature and key challenges in exploring the impact of aid. A number of challenges in determining the effectiveness of aid were common in the literature, including the micro-macro paradox, difficulties in identifying causal mechanisms and direction of causality, and data limitations.

EPAR Technical Report #300
Publication Date: 08/21/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This report reviews approaches to results measurement used by multilateral and bilateral donor organizations and highlights trends and gaps in how donors measure and report on their performance. Our review consists of assessing donor organizations in terms of their institutional design and levels of evaluation for results measurement, their organizational processes for measuring types of results including coordination and alignment with recipients, outputs and implementation, outcomes and impacts, and costs and effectiveness, and their processes for reporting and using results information. We collect evidence on 12 bilateral organizations and 10 multilateral organizations. The evidence review includes multi-country reviews of aid effectiveness, peer reviews by other donor organizations, donor evaluation plans and frameworks, and donor results and reporting documents. The report is based on an accompanying spreadsheet that contains the coded information from the 22 donor organizations. We find that donors report several types of results, but that there are challenges to measuring certain results at the aggregate donor level, due to challenges with funding and coordination for results measurement at the project, country, portfolio, and donor levels. Approaches to results measurement vary across donor organizations. We identify some trends and differences among groups of donors, notably between bilateral and multilateral donors, but overall there are no clear delineations in how donors approach results measurement. 

EPAR Technical Report #303
Publication Date: 08/10/2015
Type: Data Analysis
Abstract

Common estimates of agricultural productivity rely upon crude measures of crop yield, typically defined as the weight harvested of a crop divided by the area harvested. But this common yield measure poorly reflects performance among farm systems combining multiple crops in one area (e.g., intercropping), and also ignores the possibility that farmers might lose crop area between planting and harvest (e.g., partial crop failure). Drawing on detailed plot-level data from Tanzania’s National Panel Survey, our research contrasts measures of smallholder productivity using production per hectare harvested and production per hectare planted.

An initial analysis (Research Brief - Rice Productivity Measurement) looking at rice production finds that yield by area planted differs significantly from yield by area harvested, particularly for smaller farms and female-headed households. OLS regression further reveals different demographic and management-related drivers of variability in yield gains – and thus different implications for policy and development interventions – depending on the yield measurement used. Findings suggest a need to better specify “yield” to more effectively guide agricultural development efforts.

 

EPAR Research Brief #312
Publication Date: 07/30/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This brief reviews the evidence of realized yield gains by smallholder farmers attributable to the use of high-quality seed and/or improved seed varieties. Our analysis suggests that in most cases, use of improved varieties and/or quality seed is associated with modest yield increases.  In the sample of 395 trials reviewed, positive yield changes accompanied the use of improved variety or quality seed, on average, in 10 out of 12 crops, with rice and cassava as the two exceptions.

EPAR Technical Report #299
Publication Date: 04/22/2015
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

Aid results information is often not comparable, since monitoring and evaluation frameworks, information gathering processes, and definitions of “results” differ across donors and governments. This report reviews approaches to results monitoring and evaluation used by governments in developing countries, and highlights trends and gaps in national monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems. We collect evidence on 42 separate government M&E systems in 23 developing countries, including 17 general national M&E systems and 25 sector-specific national M&E systems, with 14 focused on HIV/AIDS, 8 on health, and 3 on agriculture. The evidence review includes external case studies and evaluations of M&E systems, government M&E assessments, M&E plans, strategic plans with an M&E component, and multi-country reviews of M&E, accountability, and aid effectiveness. We evaluate harmonization of government and development partner M&E systems, coordination and institutionalization of government M&E, challenges in data collection and monitoring, and analysis and use of results information. We also report on key characteristics of M&E systems in different sectors.