Research Topics

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 #288
Publication Date: 09/17/2014
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This report summarizes current trends in the application of Development Finance Institution (DFI)-based returnable capital finance in developing countries, with an emphasis on “pro-poor” development initiatives. We begin by reviewing the financial instruments used by DFIs. We then review the major DFI providers of returnable-capital based finance, drawing on past and present peer-reviewed articles and published reports exploring trends in the uses of different returnable capital instruments over time. Finally, we conclude by further examining recent efforts to use returnable capital to finance development initiatives explicitly targeting the poor.

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 #158
Publication Date: 08/03/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This literature review examines the environmental impacts of water buffalo in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and South America). The environmental impacts of water buffalo are less widely studied than those of the other livestock species included in this series; typically, the environmental impacts of water buffalo are incorporated into discussions of cattle without more detailed impacts being broken down by bovine type. In Asia and India, where the majority of buffalo are raised, buffalo are typically kept in small herds of only a few animals, which may minimize the local impacts of their grazing on vegetation, soil erosion and water pollution. Some aspects of buffalo feeding and life cycle patterns, as observed in the Amazon, may cause their greenhouse gas emissions to differ from those of cattle: buffalo can fatten on a wider range of grasses, reach market size in a shorter time, transition better from dry to wet seasons, and are more resistant to bovine diseases. While buffalo grazing and trampling can lead to land degradation, buffalo can contribute to nutrient and resource cycling in farming systems because their manure is considered good fertilizer and they can remove and utilize biomass grown on agricultural plots. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest improved productivity to reduce land conversion, modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, water use and consumption, farm and pastures, and waste), and the reduction of livestock numbers altogether.

EPAR Research Brief #155
Publication Date: 07/31/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This literature review examines the environmental impacts of cattle in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Cattle are frequently cited as having the most severe overall environmental impacts among livestock species due to: methane and nitrous oxide released from digestion and manure; land use and conversion; desertification; inefficient ratio of weight of feed and water consumed to weight of meat and dairy produced; conflicts between livestock herders and wildlife; the large volume of wastewater produced in meat and hide processing; and overgrazing of riparian areas. However, cattle have also been found to provide several environmental benefits such as keeping wildlife corridors open, preventing the spread of noxious weeds, and promoting the growth of local vegetative species. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest improved productivity to reduce land conversion, modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, water use and consumption, farm and pastures, grain and other feed, and waste), and the reduction of livestock numbers altogether. 

EPAR Research Brief #156
Publication Date: 07/31/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This literature review examines the environmental impacts of goats in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. We find that the most notable environmental implications of goats stem from their ability to graze on a wide variety of biomass sources in frequently marginal environments; while this intensive grazing stimulates biodiversity loss and may be more severe than grazing by other livestock species, goats are not a major driver of forest clearing due to their low economic value. Environmental benefits of goat production include keeping wildlife corridors open, preventing the spread of noxious weeds, and promoting the growth of local vegetative species through moderate grazing. Goats are also more water-efficient than large ruminants such as cattle. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest improved productivity to reduce land conversion, modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, water use and consumption, grazing intensity and frequency, and waste), and the reduction of livestock numbers altogether.

EPAR Research Brief #157
Publication Date: 07/31/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This literature review examines the environmental impacts of chickens in pastoral and mixed farming systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Compared to ruminant species (cattle, water buffalo, and goats), chickens produce lower carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide emissions, are a less significant driver of human expansion into natural habitat or of overgrazing, have lower impacts on the water cycle, and cause less destruction of natural habitats. Poultry’s major impacts on land degradation result from the production of their grain-intensive feed. Chicken production also poses a threat to avian biodiversity, as chickens are susceptible to viruses and act as vectors of disease transmission to avian wildlife. Chicken manure is widely viewed as a valuable fertilizer in developing countries, although transportation costs limit manure sales in local markets and the high nitrogen-phosphorous ratio can impact certain soils and water. Mitigation strategies vary by category of environmental impact, but largely suggest modified management systems (e.g., biodiversity, health, livestock feed efficiency, and waste).

EPAR Results Coding #138
Publication Date: 05/12/2011
Type: Literature Review
Abstract

This presentation summarizes the biotic (insects, viruses, fungi, bacteria, weeds, and post-harvest pests) and abiotic (drought and soil nutrients) stresses that may be addressed or countered in order to improve crop yield in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Data is sourced from FAOSTAT, GAEZ, a series of academic papers by Waddington & Dixon, and IMPACT model estimates. Slides compare area harvested, yield, and yield gap percentage with total calories per year, the 2005 value of production, and projected growth between 2005-2030.