Types of Research
This brief presents an overview of EPAR’s previous research on nutrition and food security and outlines summaries and key findings from 15 technical reports and research briefs. Key findings are drawn from our own original analyses as well as from other sources, which are cited in the individual reports. We also include appendices briefly summarizing EPAR’s research on health and climate change, topics somewhat related to nutrition and food security, and EPAR’s confidential work on nutrition and food security.
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.
Labor is one of the most productive assets for many rural households in developing countries. Despite the importance of labor—and time use more generally—little research has empirically examined the quality of time-use data in household surveys. Many household surveys rely on respondent recall, the reliability of which may decrease as recall length increases. In addition, respondents often report on time allocation for the entire household, which they may not know or recall as clearly as their own time allocation. Finally, simultaneous activities such as tending children while preparing dinner, may lead to the systematic underestimation of certain activities, particularly those that tend to be performed by women. This paper examines whether the identity of the survey respondent affects estimates of time allocation within the household. Drawing on the Ugandan LSMS-ISA household survey, we find that individuals responding for themselves report higher levels of time use over the previous week than when responding for other household members. Moreover, male respondents tend to underreport time allocation for females over the age of 15 as compared to female respondents, especially time spent on domestic activities. In addition, an analysis of the effects of two economics shocks—having a baby and floods or droughts—suggests that the identity of the respondent can affect substantive conclusions about the effects of shocks on household time use.
Mobile technology is associated with a variety of positive development and social outcomes, and as a result reaching the “final frontier” of uncovered populations is an important policy issue. We use proprietary 2012 data on mobile coverage from Collins Bartholomew to estimate the proportion of the population living in areas without mobile coverage globally and in selected regions and countries, and use spatial analysis to identify where these populations are concentrated. We then compare our coverage estimates to data from previous years and estimates from the most recent literature to provide a picture of recent trends in coverage expansion, considering separately the trends for coverage of urban and rural populations. We find that mobile coverage expansion rates are slowing, as easier to reach urban populations in developing countries are now almost entirely covered and the remaining uncovered populations are more dispersed in rural areas and therefore more difficult and costly to reach. This analysis of mobile coverage trends was the focus of an initial report on mobile coverage estimates. In a follow-up paper prepared for presentation at the 2016 APPAM International Conference, we investigate the assumption that levels of mobile network coverage are related to the degree of market liberalization at the country level.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, 12% of adults now report having a mobile money account, representing over a quarter of the share of those who have any kind of financial account at all. As mobile money expands, there is interest in how regulatory frameworks develop to support digital financial services (DFS) and also support broader financial inclusion. In theory, protecting consumers from risk, and ensuring that they have the information and understanding required to make informed decisions, may increase their confidence and trust in mobile money systems, leading to higher adoption and usage rates. However, consumer protection regulations may also carry certain trade-offs in terms of cost, usage, and innovation. The challenge, according to proponents of consumer protection, is to develop regulations that promote access and innovation, yet still offer an acceptable level of consumer protection. We review the literature on consumer protection institutions and regulatory documents for DFS (particularly mobile money) in 22 developing countries, and identify examples of specific consumer protection regulations relevant to mobile money in each country.
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.
Common aid allocation formulas incorporate measures of income per capita but not measures of poverty, likely based on the assumption that rising average incomes are associated with reduced poverty. If declining poverty is the outcome of interest, however, the case of Nigeria illustrates that such aid allocation formulas could lead to poorly targeted or inefficient aid disbursements. Using data from the World Bank and the Nigerian National Bureau of Statistics, we find that while the relationship between economic growth and poverty in Nigeria varies depending on the time period studied, overall from 1992-2009 Nigeria’s poverty rate has only declined by 6% despite a 70% increase in per capita gross domestic product (GDP). A review of the literature indicates that income inequality, the prominence of the oil sector, unemployment, corruption, and poor education and health in Nigeria may help to explain the pattern of high ongoing poverty rates in the country even in the presence of economic growth. Our analysis is limited by substantial gaps in the availability of quality data on measures of poverty and economic growth in Nigeria, an issue also raised in the literature we reviewed, but our findings support arguments that economic growth should not be assumed to lead to poverty reduction and that the relationship between these outcomes likely depends on contextual factors.
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 the LSMS-ISA in Tanzania, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, we show how various yield measurement decisions affect estimates of smallholder yields for a variety of crops. We consider the effect of measuring production by plot area, area planted, and area harvested, of trimming the top 1% and 2% of values, and of considering different groups of farmers according to total area planted.
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.
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.