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

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  • Esther Duflo
  • Michael Kremer
  • Jonathan Robinson

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Esther Duflo & Michael Kremer & Jonathan Robinson, 2009. "Nudging Farmers to Use Fertilizer: Theory and Experimental Evidence from Kenya," NBER Working Papers 15131, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:15131
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. 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 482-488, May.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O33 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Technological Change: Choices and Consequences; Diffusion Processes

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