Fabregas, R, Kremer, M, Robinson, J and Schilbach, F, 2017, Evaluating agricultural information dissemination in western Kenya, 3ie Impact Evaluation Report 67. New Delhi: International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie)
In partnership with the Kenyan Agriculture and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO), this study evaluates the impacts of two extension approaches that increase the adoption of locally important agricultural technologies. The study seeks to investigate the market for local agricultural information in Western Kenya, the effectiveness of institutional arrangements that could support the creation of local knowledge, and the impact of obtaining this information on farmer’s knowledge and agricultural practices.
Farmers require timely information about local soil conditions and best practices to adjust their agricultural inputs and practices. However, despite an abundance of locally relevant agricultural practices, adoption of these technologies will only occur with increased awareness of their benefits and uses. KALRO seeks to increase farmer productivity through increasing uptake of locally appropriate integrated soil fertility management (ISFM) technologies by working with farmer organisations to facilitate the use of these practices, encourage the sharing of agricultural information, and increase farmers’ knowledge through multiple interactive platforms.
The study evaluates interventions aimed at increasing farmer’s knowledge about soil types and locally appropriate inputs. More specifically it looks at:
- How much are farmers willing to pay for information from soil testing on their own and neighbouring farms?
- How does willingness to pay compare to the cost of generating and sharing the information?
- Does provision of information affect uptake or choice of agricultural inputs such as fertiliser or lime?
This evaluation focuses on the information dissemination aspect of KALRO’s scaling up of ISFM technologies program. The information delivery component aims to increase productivity through (i) farmer field day (FFD) events with demonstration plots for showing technologies and practices specific to local agro-ecologies, and (ii) an e-extension program which sends farmers 15 text messages throughout the agricultural season to encourage the use of inputs and timely practices. Additionally, this evaluation seeks to determine farmers’ willingness to pay (WTP) for local soil tests; a farming practice that is encouraged through the FFD and demonstration plots. This evaluation will explore the scope for different institutional arrangements to provide relevant agricultural information to smallholder farmers and will assess their cost effectiveness.
Theory of change
The theory of change predicts that KALROs extension services will improve productivity in Western Kenya by providing farmers with information that will close their knowledge gaps. An increase in relevant knowledge can lead to increases in experimentation, adoption and ultimately improvements in agricultural productivity levels. This suggests that the dissemination of information through FFDs and mobile extension services can make it possible to localise agricultural information to farmers at a fraction of the current costs. This will in turn contribute to an enhanced input uptake, and consequently, higher agricultural production. Hence, the farmers may be willing to pay to partially or fully cover the costs of the generation and distribution of information on soil type.
A randomised controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate the effectiveness of the FFDs and e-extension services on information uptake and inputs use was conducted using a sample of 1,249 randomly selected farmers residing in Western Kenya. The data used in this study was collected through fieldwork led by Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) Kenya from 2014-2016, spanning two agricultural seasons. In order to elicit WTP for different types of soil analysis information, an additional 400 farmers were selected and evaluated. Face-to-face interviews were conducted with farmers from both treatment and control groups in order to gather information on farmers’ knowledge, beliefs regarding inputs use, community relationships and experiences with the intervention.
The results suggest that FFD did not increase the use of agricultural lime, a heavily promoted input, but increased awareness and changed reported beliefs about it.
Using administrative data from local agricultural supply dealers, authors do not detect increases in the purchase of agricultural lime. Instead, authors find that when provided with a discount coupon, farmers chose to purchase a chemical fertilizer that is already widely known in the region.
Authors do not find consistent evidence that the advice through mobile phones was effective at increasing knowledge or use of recommended inputs.
Baseline findings showed that less than ten per cent of the farmers had used agricultural lime, a key input to correct the high levels of acidity in the soil in the region. To increase awareness of lime usage, KALRO increased emphasis on the appropriate use of lime in its messaging to farmers during FFD.
About this impact evaluation
In partnership with KARI (Kenyan Agriculture Research Institute), the study seeks to investigate the market for local agricultural information in Western Kenya, the effectiveness of institutional arrangements that could support the creation of local knowledge, and the impact of obtaining this information on farmers’ knowledge and agricultural practices.