Types of Research
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In many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia smallholder farmers are among the most vulnerable to climatic changes, and the observed shocks and stresses associated with these changes impact agricultural systems in many ways. This research brief offers findings on observed or measured changes in precipitation, temperature or both, on five biophysical pathways and systems including variable or changing growing seasons, extreme events, biotic stressors, plant species density, richness and range, impacts to streamflow, and impacts on crop yield. These findings are the result of a review of relevant documents cited in Kilroy (2015), references included in the IPCC draft Special Report on Food Security, and targeted searches from 2015 - present for South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Much literature discusses the importance of investing in human capital—or “the sum of a population’s health, skills, knowledge, experience, and habits” (World Bank, 2018, p. 42)—to a country’s economic growth. For example, the World Bank reports a “chronic underinvestment” in health and education in Nigeria, noting that investing in human capital has the potential to significantly contribute to economic growth, poverty reduction, and societal well-being (World Bank, 2018). This research brief reports on the evidence linking investment in human capital—specifically, health and education—with changes in economic growth. It reviews the literature for five topic areas: Education, Infectious Diseases, Nutrition, Primary Health Care, and Child and Maternal Health. This review gives priority focus to the countries of Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Tanzania. For each topic area, we report the evidence in support of a pathway from investing in human capital to economic growth.
The share of private sector funding, relative to public sector funding, for drug, vaccine, and diagnostic research & development (R&D) differs considerably across diseases. Private sector investment in overall health R&D exceeds $150 billion annually, but is largely concentrated on non-communicable chronic diseases with only an estimated $5.9 billion focused on "global health", targeting diseases that primarily affect low and middle-income countries (LMICs). We examine the evidence for five specific disincentives to private sector global health R&D investment: scientific uncertainty, weak policy environments, limited revenues and market uncertainty, high fixed and sunk costs, and downstream rents from imperfect markets. Though all five may affect estimates of net returns from an investment decision, they are worth examining separately as each calls for a different intervention or remediation to change behavior.
Cash transfer programs are interventions that directly provide cash to target specific populations with the aim of reducing poverty and supporting a variety of development outcomes. Low- and middle-income countries have increasingly adopted cash transfer programs as central elements of their poverty reduction and social protection strategies. Bastagli et al. (2016) report that around 130 low- and middle-income countries have at least one UCT program, and 63 countries have at least one CCT program (up from 27 countries in 2008). Through a comprehensive review of literature, this report primarily considers the evidence of the long-term impacts of cash transfer programs in low- and lower middle-income countries. A review of 54 reviews that aggregate and summarize findings from multiple studies of cash transfer programs reveals largely positive evidence on long-term outcomes related to general health, reproductive health, nutrition, labor markets, poverty, and gender and intra-household dynamics, though findings vary by context and in many cases overall conclusions on the long-term impacts of cash transfers are mixed. In addition, evidence on long-term impacts for many outcome measures is limited, and few studies explicitly aim to measure long-term impacts distinctly from immediate or short-term impacts of cash transfers.
By examining how farmers respond to changes in crop yield, we provide evidence on how farmers are likely to respond to a yield-enhancing intervention that targets a single staple crop such as maize. Two alternate hypotheses we examine are: as yields increase, do farmers maintain output levels but change the output mix to switch into other crops or activities, or do they hold cultivated area constant to increase their total production quantity and therefore their own consumption or marketing of the crop? This exploratory data analysis using three waves of panel data from Tanzania is part of a long-term project examining the pathways between staple crop yield (a proxy for agricultural productivity) and poverty reduction in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The concept of global public goods represents a framework for organizing and financing international cooperation in global health research and development (R&D). Advances in scientific and clinical knowledge produced by biomedical R&D can be considered public goods insofar as they can be used repeatedly (non-rival consumption) and it is difficult or costly to exclude non-payers from gaining access (non-excludable). This paper considers the public good characteristics of biomedical R&D in global health and describes the theoretical and observed factors in the allocation R&D funding by public, private, and philanthropic sources.
A growing body of evidence suggests that empowering women may lead to economic benefits (The World Bank, 2011; Duflo, 2012; Kabeer & Natali, 2013). Little work, however, focuses specifically on the potential impacts of women’s empowerment in agricultural settings. Through a comprehensive review of literature this report considers how prioritizing women’s empowerment in agriculture might lead to economic benefits. With an intentionally narrow focus on economic empowerment, we draw on the Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index (WEAI)’s indicators of women’s empowerment in agriculture to consider the potential economic rewards to increasing women’s control over agricultural productive resources (including their own time and labor), over agricultural production decisions, and over agricultural income. While we recognize that there may be quantifiable benefits of improving women’s empowerment in and of itself, we focus on potential longer-term economic benefits of improvements in these empowerment measures.
After cereals, root and tuber crops - including sweetpotato and yam (in addition to cassava and aroids), are the second most cultivated crops in tropical countries. This literature review examines the environmental constraints to, and impacts of, sweetpotato and yam production systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA). The review highlights crop-environment interactions at three stages of the sweetpotato/yam value chain: pre-production (e.g., land clearing), production (e.g., soil, water, and input use), and post-production (e.g., waste disposal, crop storage and transport). We find that sweetpotato and yam face similar environmental stressors. In particular, because sweetpotato and yam are vegetatively propagated, the most significant (and avoidable) environmental constraints to crop yields include disease and pest infection transmitted through the use of contaminated planting materials. Published estimates suggest yield gains in the range of 30–60% can be obtained through using healthy planting material. Moreover, reducing pest damage in the field can greatly increase the storage life of root and tuber crops after harvest – currently losses from rot and desiccation can claim up to 100% of stored sweetpotato and yam on smallholder farms.
Maize has expanded through the 20th and into the 21st century to become the principle staple food crop produced and consumed by smallholder farm households in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and maize production has also expanded in South Asia (SA) farming systems. In this brief we examine the environmental constraints to, and impacts of, smallholder maize production systems in SSA and SA, noting where findings apply to only one of these regions. We highlight crop-environment interactions at three stages of the maize value chain: pre-production (e.g., land clearing), production (e.g., fertilizer, water, and other input use), and post-production (e.g., waste disposal and crop storage). At each stage we emphasize environmental constraints on maize production (such as poor soil quality, water scarcity, or crop pests) and also environmental impacts of maize production (such as soil erosion, water depletion, or chemical contamination). We then highlight best or good practices for overcoming environmental constraints and minimizing environmental impacts in smallholder maize production systems. Evidence on environmental constraints and impacts in smallholder maize production is uneven. Many environmental concerns such as biodiversity loss are commonly demonstrated more broadly for the agroecology or farming systems in which maize is grown, rather than specifically for the maize crop. And more research is available on the environmental impacts of agrochemical-based intensive cereal farming in Asia (where high-input maize is a common component) than on the low-input subsistence-scale maize cultivation more typical of SSA. Decisive constraint and impact estimates are further complicated by the fact that many crop-environment interactions in maize and other crops are a matter of both cause and effect (e.g., poor soils decrease maize yields, while repeated maize harvests degrade soils). Fully understanding maize-environment interactions thus requires recognizing instances where shortterm adaptations to environmental constraints might be exacerbating other medium- or long-term environmental problems. Conclusions on the strength of published findings on crop-environment interactions in maize systems further depend on one’s weighting of economic versus ecological perspectives, physical science versus social science, academic versus grey literature, and quantity versus quality of methods and findings.
In this brief we examine the environmental constraints to, and impacts of, smallholder sorghum and millet production systems in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and South Asia (SA). Millet in this paper primarily refers to pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), although a number of other millets of significance to smallholder production and food security are also discussed. Sorghum and millets are known for being more tolerant of major environmental stresses including drought and poor soil quality than other major cereals. But water availability is still among the greatest constraints to increased grain production, and soil fertility also significantly limits yields, especially in cases where cultivation occurs on marginal lands and where crop residues are removed for alternative uses. Ultimately sorghum and millets’ relatively higher tolerance to abiotic stresses is expected to promote an increase in global cropping area for sorghum and millets as an adaptation to climate change. Sorghum and millet exhibit relatively few of the environmental impacts commonly associated with more intensively cultivated crops such as fertilizer runoff, pesticide contamination, or water depletion, since both of these crops are overwhelmingly grown by smallholder farmers with few, if any, chemical or irrigation inputs. Nevertheless, the tendency to grow sorghum and millet on marginal and heavily sloped lands does pose some environmental risks – including soil degradation and erosion – that can be mitigated through the adoption of best practices as described in the brief.