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Can Smallholder Extension Transform African Agriculture?


  • Joshua W. Deutschmann
  • Maya Duru
  • Kim Siegal
  • Emilia Tjernström


Agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa lags behind all other regions of the world. Decades of investment in agricultural research and extension have yielded more evidence on what fails than on what works—especially for the small-scale producers who dominate the sector. We study a program that targets multiple constraints to productivity at once, similar to anti-poverty “graduation” interventions. Analyzing a randomized controlled trial in western Kenya, we find that participation causes statistically and economically significant gains in output, yields, and profits. In our preferred specification, the program increases maize production by 26% and profits by 16%. The program increases yields uniformly across the sample, while treatment effects on total output and profit impacts are slightly attenuated at the top end of the distribution.

Suggested Citation

  • Joshua W. Deutschmann & Maya Duru & Kim Siegal & Emilia Tjernström, 2019. "Can Smallholder Extension Transform African Agriculture?," NBER Working Papers 26054, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:26054
    Note: DEV PR

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Carter, Michael R. & Tjernström, Emilia & Toledo, Patricia, 2019. "Heterogeneous impact dynamics of a rural business development program in Nicaragua," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 138(C), pages 77-98.
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    3. Kondylis, Florence & Mueller, Valerie & Zhu, Jessica, 2017. "Seeing is believing? Evidence from an extension network experiment," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 1-20.
    4. Kibrom A. Abay & Leah E. M. Bevis & Christopher B. Barrett, 2021. "Measurement Error Mechanisms Matter: Agricultural Intensification with Farmer Misperceptions and Misreporting," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 103(2), pages 498-522, March.
    5. Abay, Kibrom A. & Bevis, Leah E.M. & Barrett, Christopher B., 2019. "Measurement Error Mechanisms Matter: Agricultural intensification with farmer misperceptions and misreporting," 2019 Sixth International Conference, September 23-26, 2019, Abuja, Nigeria 295189, African Association of Agricultural Economists (AAAE).
    6. Gourlay,Sydney & Kilic,Talip & Lobell,David & Gourlay,Sydney & Kilic,Talip & Lobell,David, 2017. "Could the debate be over ? errors in farmer-reported production and their implications for the inverse scale-productivity relationship in Uganda," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8192, The World Bank.
    7. Sheahan, Megan & Black, Roy & Jayne, T.S., 2013. "Are Kenyan farmers under-utilizing fertilizer? Implications for input intensification strategies and research," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 39-52.
    8. Desiere, Sam & Jolliffe, Dean, 2018. "Land productivity and plot size: Is measurement error driving the inverse relationship?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 130(C), pages 84-98.
    9. Derek Byerlee & Alain de Janvry & Elisabeth Sadoulet, 2009. "Agriculture for Development: Toward a New Paradigm," Annual Review of Resource Economics, Annual Reviews, vol. 1(1), pages 15-31, September.
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    Cited by:

    1. Meili Huan & Fengxia Dong & Liang Chi, 2022. "Mechanization services, factor allocation, and farm efficiency: Evidence from China," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(3), pages 1618-1639, August.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • O12 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Microeconomic Analyses of Economic Development
    • O13 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development - - - Agriculture; Natural Resources; Environment; Other Primary Products
    • Q12 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Agriculture - - - Micro Analysis of Farm Firms, Farm Households, and Farm Input Markets

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