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Nudging Farmers to Utilize Fertilizer: Theory and Experimental Evidence from Kenya

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  • Duflo, Esther
  • Kremer, Michael
  • Robinson, Jonathan

Abstract

While many developing-country policymakers see heavy fertilizer subsidies as critical to raising agricultural productivity, most economists see them as distortionary, regressive, environmentally unsound, and argue that they result in politicized, inefficient distribution of fertilizer supply. We model farmers as facing small fixed costs of purchasing fertilizer, and assume some are stochastically present-biased and not fully sophisticated about this bias. Even when relatively patient, such farmers may procrastinate, postponing fertilizer purchases until later periods, when they may be too impatient to purchase fertilizer. Consistent with the model, many farmers in Western Kenya fail to take advantage of apparently profitable fertilizer investments, but they do invest in response to small, time-limited discounts on the cost of acquiring fertilizer (free delivery) just after harvest. Later discounts have a smaller impact, and when given a choice of price schedules, many farmers choose schedules that induce advance purchase. Calibration suggests such small, time-limited discounts yield higher welfare than either laissez faire or heavy subsidies by helping present-biased farmers commit to fertilizer use without inducing those with standard preferences to substantially overuse fertilizer.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 7402.

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Date of creation: Aug 2009
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:7402

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Keywords: hyperbolic discounting; technology adoption;

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References

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  1. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2007. "Estimating Discount Functions with Consumption Choices over the Lifecycle," NBER Working Papers 13314, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Michael Morris & Valerie A. Kelly & Ron J. Kopicki & Derek Byerlee, 2007. "Fertilizer Use in African Agriculture : Lessons Learned and Good Practice Guidelines," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 6650, October.
  3. Gulati, Ashok & Narayanan, Sudha, 2003. "The Subsidy Syndrome in Indian Agriculture," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780195662061.
  4. Esther Duflo & Michael Kremer & Jonathan Robinson, 2008. "How High Are Rates of Return to Fertilizer? Evidence from Field Experiments in Kenya," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 482-88, May.
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Cited by:
  1. Rodríguez-Planas, Núria, 2010. "Longer-Term Impacts of Mentoring, Educational Services, and Incentives to Learn: Evidence from a Randomized Trial," IZA Discussion Papers 4754, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Rodrigo Wagner & Andrés Zahler, 2011. "New Exports from Emerging Markets:Do Followers Beneit from Pioneers ?," Working Papers 18, Facultad de Economía y Empresa, Universidad Diego Portales.
  3. Rodríguez-Planas, Núria, 2010. "Mentoring, Educational Services, and Incentives to Learn: What Do We Know About Them?," IZA Discussion Papers 5255, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

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