Types of Research
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Water is a critical input for significantly enhancing smallholder farmer productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) where less than 5% of farm land is irrigated, and in India where 42% of farm land is irrigated. For many years, donors have invested in human-powered treadle pump technologies as a point of entry for smallholder farmers unable to afford motorized pumps. In spite of some successes in treadle pump promotion, however, there is a widespread perception that as soon as smallholder farmers can afford to they quickly transition to motorized diesel- powered pumps. While diesel pumps substantially ease farmers’ workload, they pollute excessively (both in terms of local air quality and greenhouse gas emissions), pump excessive amounts of water, and put farmers at the mercy of cyclical spikes in fuel prices. This brief provides an overview of state-of-the-art alternative energy pumps, including technologies available and implementation lessons learned from China, India, Africa, South America and other regions. Through a literature review, written surveys and phone interviews with water pump producers and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) we evaluate the availability, affordability, and adoption rates of alternative energy technologies in developing countries. Our findings suggest that no single alternative energy water pumping system is a “silver bullet” for rural smallholder irrigation needs. Biofuels may prove a successful short- to intermediate-term solution for farmers who already have access to diesel pumps, but other problems associated with diesel engines, including high maintenance costs and excessive water use remain even when biofuels are used. Solar systems eliminate pollution almost entirely, reduce water consumption, and eliminate the need to purchase fuels. However solar systems are typically prohibitively expensive for smallholder farmers. Wind powered pumping solutions have not proven successful to date, with high costs and irregular wind patterns (either too little or too much wind) proving substantial barriers to widespread adoption.
How development organizations, NGOs, and governments can best allocate scarce resources to those in need has long been debated. As opposed to universal allocation of resources, a more targeted approach attempts to minimize program costs while maximizing benefits among those with the greatest need or market opportunity. Drawing on literature from several sectors,this brief presents two categories of beneficiary targeting in the development context: administrative targeting and self-targeting. The paper includes a brief overview of targeting and segmentation in development, a summary of reasons for targeting, theoretical and practical critiques of targeting, and a discussion of targeting methods in research and practice, including examples from the literature. Implementation examples cited in this body of research include food aid program targeting by self-reported household income in Egypt; fertilizer use in low-potential zones of Uganda; and seven strategic initiatives to improve drought and disease resistance in crops in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. We find that beneficiary segmentation has several theoretical advantages. Improved targeting may increase the efficiency and equity of organizational and program efforts and help better match interventions to recipient preferences, increasing the likelihood of adoption and participation. Development organizations may improve the focus of both their strategic priorities and budgets through customized targeting methods. However, concerns exist regarding the accuracy, reliability, cost, and time-constraints of targeting methodologies. Creating valid and reliable target groups with implementation potential remains a significant challenge.
The purpose of this literature review is to examine research and decision-making tools that model the impacts of agricultural interventions. We begin with a short explanation of what model features are being described. We then review decision-support tools and user-end modeling tools (menu-driven tools with an interface designed for easy use), as well as academic and professional research models for assessing the potential impacts of agricultural interventions. This review also includes decision tools and models for analyzing agricultural and environmental policies outside of technology impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The other tools mentioned here, for example a tool that considers nutritional intervention impacts, are included to help provide a broader understanding of the structure and availability of user-end, decision-making tools. In the final section of this brief, we review the most complex models used more in academic research than for in-field decision-making.
How development organizations, NGOs, and governments can best allocate scarce resources to those in need has long been debated. As opposed to universal allocation of resources, a more targeted approach attempts to minimize program costs while maximizing benefits among those with the greatest need or market opportunity. Many international development organizations strategically target clients based on geographic location (e.g., community, region, country) or socio-economic indicators, such as the World Bank’s “$1 a day” poverty line. Drawing on literature from several sectors, this brief presents additional methods of beneficiary targeting that international development organizations might consider. We find that beneficiary targeting/segmentation has the potential to make organizational and program efforts more equitable and efficient. With limited resources, smaller organizations have tended to use single robust indicators or simple heuristics, whereas agribusinesses and private sector firms have used more data-intensive marketing tools to position their products. Technological innovation and better access to data have made targeting more prevalent and potentially more affordable in agricultural development. However, creating valid and reliable target segments remains the most significant challenge.
Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems, such as provisioning of fresh water, food, feed, fiber, biodiversity, energy, and nutrient cycling. Agricultural production can substantially affect the functioning of ecosystems, both positively and negatively. The purpose of this report is to provide an overview of the impacts of agricultural technologies and practices on ecosystem services such as soil fertility, water, biodiversity, air, and climate. The report describes the environmental impacts of different aspects of intensive cropping practices and of inputs associated with intensification. We further explore these impacts by examining intensive rice systems and industrial crop processing. Although this report focuses on the impacts of agricultural practices on the environment, many of the practices also have implications for plant, animal, and human health. Farmers and others who come in contact with air, water, and soils polluted by chemical fertilizers and pesticides may face negative health consequences, for instance. By impacting components of the ecosystem, these practices affect the health of plants and animals living within the ecosystem. We find that the unintended environmental consequences of intensive agricultural practices and inputs are varied and potentially severe. In some cases, sustaining or increasing agricultural productivity depends upon reducing impacts to the environment, such as maintaining productive soils by avoiding salinization from irrigation water. However, in other cases, eliminating negative environmental impacts may involve unacceptable trade-offs with food provision or other development goals. Determining the appropriate balance of costs and benefits from intensive agricultural practices is a location-specific exercise requiring knowledge of natural, economic, and social conditions.
This literature review provides a summary of the risks that potentially limit private sector agribusiness investment in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and some responses to those risks. The report reviews risks that limit private sector investment and interventions used to mitigate risk to agricultural investment including government policy, international financial institutions, philanthropic efforts and other private initiatives. Risk is defined as a potential negative impact to assets, investments, or profitability of investments in the agricultural industry that may arise from some present process or future event. There is currently limited information examining how particular risk factors influence private-sector agribusiness investment in the region. However, the information that is available suggests that economic and political instability are among the most significant risks to agribusiness investors in SSA. Further, the literature notes that agricultural risks in SSA are particularly pronounced due to environmental risks that contribute to unreliable cash flows and uncertain profitability. We find that these risk factors are compounded by a lack of data and information for investors to use in assessing and pricing risks appropriately.
Over the past several decades, donors, multilateral organizations and governments have invested substantial resources in developing and disseminating improved varieties of sorghum and millet in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Researchers believe that sorghum and millet have the ability to improve food security and mitigate the influence of climate change on food production for some of the most vulnerable populations. As a result, agricultural scientists have focused on developing improved cultivars to increase the relative benefits of these two crops and disseminate this technology to a larger number of farmers. This report provides an overview of the development and dissemination of improved sorghum and millet cultivars, factors that influence the adoption of improved cultivars among farmers in SSA, and examples of interventions designed to encourage adoption in SSA. We find that while national governments and international research institutes have successfully developed a number of improved sorghum and millet cultivars, adoption rates in SSA (particularly in West and Central Africa) are low. The literature suggests that overall efforts have increased adoption rates, but at varying costs.
Bt maize technology involves developing hybrid maize crops that incorporate genes from the soil-dwelling bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The primary benefit of Bt maize technology is the heightened crop protection from stem borers, which are maize pests that can inflict serious crop losses. Bt maize has been cultivated in Mexico, South Africa and several countries in the European Union, with limited cultivation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This report provides a summary of literature on the potential benefits and challenges associated with Bt maize production in SSA. Research studies of Bt maize in the Philippines and South Africa are also briefly reviewed. There is little peer-reviewed literature available, with evidence challenging the assumed benefits of Bt maize for smallholder farmers in SSA. As a result, we also review research briefs and conference proceedings available from reputable international organizations. Although some of the available literature references the ethical concerns over Bt maize production, we focus on searching for science-based discussions related to any potential biodiversity, biosafety, or socio-economic impacts of Bt maize technology for smallholder farmers in SSA.
Though not indigenous to Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), cassava plays, to varying degrees, five major roles in African development: famine-reserve crop, rural food staple, cash crop for urban consumption, livestock feed, and industrial raw material. Cassava production in SSA was historically a significant staple crop for smallholder farmers and continues to be the second most important food crop in Africa (after maize) in terms of calories consumed. Subsistence crops such as cassava are often considered women’s crops with the standard explanation that women are responsible for feeding the family and thus prefer to grow crops for the household. This brief reviews the role that women play in cassava production, and considers ways to better address gender issues from planting through post-harvest production. We find that the potential gains to cassava production made possible through improved technology will not be fully realized without the participation of women farmers and without women farmers having access to credit, markets, and extension services. Additionally, evidence from SSA suggests that labor for harvesting and processing, rather than labor for weeding, has become the key labor constraint for cassava, and addressing this concern may be more important than further yield increases for raising production levels.
This report provides a general overview of trends in public and private agricultural research and development (R&D) funding and expenditures in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The request is divided into two sections, covering public funding and private funding. Within each section, relevant data is presented on historical funding patterns, the types of research conducted, and which countries within SSA are financing R&D at the highest level. We find that the majority of growth in African public agricultural research funding took place in the 1960s, when real public spending on agricultural research increased 6% a year. From 1971 to 2000 annual growth averaged 1.4% a year. Public financing of agricultural R&D experienced a moderate shift in the 1990s from bilateral and multilateral donor funding to domestic government financing. The shift varied by country, but donor funding dropped for all SSA countries an average of 10%. Private research and development funding is heavily concentrated in developed countries with the United States and Japan the two biggest spenders. Within SSA, private R&D expenditures comprise 2% of all R&D spending. The main private actors in SSA are companies based in South Africa and Nigeria. The private sector is focused on research areas that involve marketable inputs, such as chemicals, seeds, and machines/