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Financing Smallholder Agriculture: An Experiment with Agent-Intermediated Microloans in India

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  • Pushkar Maitra
  • Sandip Mitra
  • Dilip Mookherjee
  • Alberto Motta
  • Sujata Visaria

Abstract

Recent evaluations of traditional microfinance loans have found no significant impacts on borrower incomes or productive activities. We examine whether this can be remedied by (a) modifying loan features to facilitate financing of working capital needs of farmers, and (b) delegating selection of borrowers for individual liability loans to local trader-lender agents incentivized by repayment-based commissions. We conduct a field experiment in West Bengal where this design (called TRAIL) was offered in randomly selected villages. In remaining villages a more traditional design (called GBL) was offered, wherein five-member groups applied for joint liability loans with terms otherwise similar to TRAIL loans. TRAIL loans increased cultivation of potatoes (the major cash crop in the region) and farm incomes by 17–21%, whereas GBL loans had insignificant and highly dispersed effects. We argue this was because TRAIL agents selected borrowers that were low-risk and highly productive, whereas the GBL scheme attracted farmers that were riskier on average and highly heterogeneous in terms of productivity. TRAIL loans also achieved higher repayment and take-up rates, and lower administrative costs.

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  • Pushkar Maitra & Sandip Mitra & Dilip Mookherjee & Alberto Motta & Sujata Visaria, 2014. "Financing Smallholder Agriculture: An Experiment with Agent-Intermediated Microloans in India," NBER Working Papers 20709, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:20709
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    Cited by:

    1. Pushkar Maitra & Sandip Mitra & Dilip Mookherjee & Alberto Motta & Sujata Visaria, 2014. "Helping Microfinance Fulfill its Promise: Raising Borrower Incomes through Agent-Intermediated Lending," HKUST IEMS Thought Leadership Brief Series 2015-03, HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies, revised Oct 2014.
    2. Sandip Mitra & Dilip Mookherjee & Maximo Torero & Sujata Visaria, 2018. "Asymmetric Information and Middleman Margins: An Experiment with Indian Potato Farmers," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 100(1), pages 1-13, March.
    3. Casaburi, Lorenzo & Macchiavello, Rocco, 2017. "Firm and Market Response to Saving Constraints: Evidence from the Kenyan Dairy Industry," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 322, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    4. Casaburi, Lorenzo & Reed, Tristan, 2017. "Competition in Agricultural Markets: An Experimental Approach," CEPR Discussion Papers 11985, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Shilpa Aggarwal & Eilin Francis & Jonathan Robinson, 2018. "Grain Today, Gain Tomorrow: Evidence from a Storage Experiment with Savings Clubs in Kenya," NBER Working Papers 24391, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    6. Pushkar Maitra & Sandip Mitra & Dilip Mookherjee & Sujata Visaria, 2017. "The Equity Impacts of Targeted Smallholder Agricultural Credit," HKUST IEMS Working Paper Series 2017-41, HKUST Institute for Emerging Market Studies, revised Mar 2017.
    7. Mookherjee, D. & Motta, A., 2016. "A theory of interactions between MFIs and informal lenders," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 121(C), pages 191-200.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O16 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Financial Markets; Saving and Capital Investment; Corporate Finance and Governance
    • O17 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Formal and Informal Sectors; Shadow Economy; Institutional Arrangements
    • Q14 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Agricultural Finance

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