Publication Date: 05/08/2019
Type: Research Brief

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. 

EPAR Technical Report #363
Publication Date: 02/10/2019
Type: Data Analysis

Studies of improved seed adoption in developing countries almost always draw from household surveys and are premised on the assumption that farmers are able to self-report their use of improved seed varieties. However, recent studies suggest that farmers’ reports of the seed varieties planted, or even whether seed is local or improved, are sometimes inconsistent with the results of DNA fingerprinting of farmers' crops. We use household survey data from Tanzania to test the alignment between farmer-reported and DNA-identified maize seed types planted in fields. In the sample, 70% of maize seed observations are correctly reported as local or improved, while 16% are type I errors (falsely reported as improved) and 14% are type II errors (falsely reported as local). Type I errors are more likely to have been sourced from other farmers, rather than formal channels. An analysis of input use, including seed, fertilizer, and labor allocations, reveals that farmers tend to treat improved maize differently, depending on whether they correctly perceive it as improved. This suggests that errors in farmers' seed type awareness may translate into suboptimal management practices. In econometric analysis, the measured yield benefit of improved seed use is smaller in magnitude with a DNA-derived categorization, as compared with farmer reports. The greatest yield benefit is with correctly identified improved seed. This indicates that investments in farmers' access to information, seed labeling, and seed system oversight are needed to complement investments in seed variety development.

Publication Date: 01/16/2019
Type: Data Analysis

Self-Help Groups (SHGs) in Sub-Saharan Africa can be defined as mutual assistance organizations through which individuals undertake collective action in order to improve their own lives. “Collective action” implies that individuals share their time, labor, money, or other assets with the group. In a recent EPAR data analysis, we use three nationally-representative survey tools to examine various indicators related to the coverage and prevalence of Self-Help Group usage across six Sub-Saharan African countries. EPAR has developed Stata .do files for the construction of a set of self-help group indicators using data from the Living Standards Measurement Study - Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA), Financial Inclusion Index (FII), and FinScope.

We compiled a set of summary statistics for the final indicators using data from the following survey instruments:

  • Ethiopia:
    • Ethiopia Socioeconomic Survey (ESS), Wave 3 (2015-16)
  • Kenya:
    • Kenya FinScope, Wave 4 (2015)
    • Kenya FII, Wave 4 (2016)
  • Nigeria
    • Nigeria FII, Wave 4 (2016)
  • Rwanda:
    • Rwanda FII, Wave 4 (2016)
  • Tanzania:
    • Tanzania National Panel Survey (TNPS), Wave 4 (2014-15)
    • Tanzania FinScope, Wave 4 (2017)
    • Tanzania FII, Wave 4 (2016)
  • Uganda:
    • Uganda FinScope, Wave 3 (2013)
    • Uganda FII, Wave 4 (2016)

The raw survey data files are available for download free of charge from the World Bank LSMS-ISA website, the Financial Sector Deepening Trust website, and the Financial Inclusion Insights website. The .do files process the data and create final data sets at the household (LSMS-ISA) and individual (FII, FinScope) levels with labeled variables, which can be used to estimate summary statistics for the indicators.

All the instruments include nationally-representative samples. All estimates from the LSMS-ISA are household-level cluster-weighted means, while all estimates from FII and FinScope are calculated as individual-level weighted means. The proportions in the Indicators Spreadsheet are therefore estimates of the true proportion of individuals/households in the national population during the year of the survey. EPAR also created a Tableau visualization of these summary statistics, which can be found here.

We have also prepared a document outlining the construction decisions for each indicator across survey instruments and countries. We attempted to follow the same construction approach across instruments, and note any situations where differences in the instruments made this impossible.

The spreadsheet includes estimates of the following indicators created in our code files:


  • Proportion of individuals who have access to a mobile phone
  • Proportion of individuals who have official identification
  • Proportion of individuals who are female
  • Proportion of individuals who use mobile money
  • Proportion of individuals who have a bank account
  • Proportion of individuals who live in a rural area
  • Individual Poverty Status
    • Two Lowest PPI Quintiles
    • Middle PPI Quintile
    • Two Highest PPI Quintiles

Coverage & Prevalence

  • Proportion of individuals who have interacted with a SHG
  • Proportion of individuals who have used an SHG for financial services
  • Proportion of individuals who depend most on SHGs for financial advice
  • Proportion of individuals who have received financial advice from a SHG
  • Proportion of households that have interacted with a SHG
  • Proportion of households in communities with at least one SHG
  • Proportion of households in communities with access to multiple farmer cooperative groups
  • Proportion of households who have used an SHG for financial services

In addition, we produced estimates for 29 indicators related to characteristics of SHG use including indicators related to frequency of SHG use, characteristics of SHG groups, and individual/household trust of SHGs.

EPAR Research Brief #50
Publication Date: 12/29/2009
Type: Research Brief

EPAR’s Political Economy of Fertilizer Policy series provides a history of government intervention in the fertilizer markets of eight Sub-Saharan African countries: Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tanzania. The briefs focus on details of present and past voucher programs, input subsidies, tariffs in the fertilizer sector, and the political context of these policies. The briefs illustrate these policies’ effect on key domestic crops and focus on the strengths and weaknesses of current market structure. Fertilizer policy in SSA has been extremely dynamic over the last fifty years, swinging from enormous levels of intervention in the 1960s and 70s to liberalization of markets of the 1980s and 1990s. More recently, intervention has become more moderate, focusing on “market smart” subsidies and support. This executive summary highlights key findings and common themes from the series.

EPAR Research Brief #52
Publication Date: 11/09/2009
Type: Literature Review

Ecological farming and conventional farming are two approaches to producing food. The term “ecological farming” describes a range of agricultural systems that seek to provide food and environmental and social benefits by using natural processes and local resources rather than off-farm, purchased inputs (commonly referred to as “external inputs”). Recent debate about the merits of ecological farming over conventional methods has centered on each system’s ability to increase production in the context of numerous and varied biophysical and social constraints. A review of the literature suggests that ecological farming can offer some benefits to smallholder farmers, but that specific approaches must be tailored to local climate and soil conditions and availability of labor, training, and organic inputs.

EPAR Research Brief #75
Publication Date: 11/02/2009
Type: Literature Review

In Tanzania, agriculture represents approximately 50 percent of GDP, 80 percent of rural employment, and over 50 percent of the foreign exchange earnings. Yet poor soil fertility and resulting low productivity contribute to low economic growth and widespread poverty. Chemical fertilizer has the potential to contribute to crop yield increases. Yet high prices and weaknesses in the fertilizer market keep fertilizer use low. This literature review examines the history of government interventions that have intended to increase access to fertilizers, and reviews current policies, market structure, and challenges that contribute to the present conditions. We find that despite numerous strategies over the last fifty years, from heavy government involvement to liberalization, major weaknesses in Tanzania’s fertilizer market prevent efficient use of fertilizer. High transportation costs, low knowledge level of farmers and agrodealers, unavailability of improved seed, and limited access to credit all contribute to the market’s problems. The government’s current framework, the Tanzania Agriculture Input Partnership (TAIP), acknowledges this interconnectedness by targeting multiple components of the market. This model could help Tanzania tailor solutions relevant to specific road, soil, and market conditions of different areas of the country, contributing to enhanced food security and economic growth.

EPAR Research Brief #44
Publication Date: 08/17/2009
Type: Literature Review

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.

EPAR Technical Report #28
Publication Date: 08/10/2009
Type: Literature Review

Smallholder farmers in Africa are largely located in poor rural areas, are often geographically dispersed, and have limited access to road and communication infrastructure, thus raising the cost of market participation. This is especially true for farmers growing relatively low value staple crops. This literature review summarizes research on the challenges and innovations in linking smallholder producers of staple grains to markets in Sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on post-harvest issues including storage, aggregation, and transportation. For each post-harvest stage, we describe challenges faced by farmers and current efforts to address these challenges. In our review, we find a large amount of literature on the constraints to smallholder production and marketing but relatively few examples of innovative or novel technologies designed to improve storage and transportation for rural smallholder producers in Africa. Existing technologies have often been available for some time but have not seen widespread adoption, apparently due to high costs or inadequate funding for on-farm testing and extension. We conclude that the literature is somewhat divided as to whether interventions linking smallholder farmers to markets should be entirely market-driven and focus on linkages that can be profitable without subsidization, or whether NGO- and donor-driven interventions should play a role.

EPAR Research Brief #79
Publication Date: 07/29/2009
Type: Literature Review

The Government of Kenya (GoK) has historically encouraged its farmers to use fertilizer by financing infrastructure and supporting fertilizer markets.  From 1974 to 1984, the GoK provided a fertilizer importation monopoly to one firm, the Kenya Farmers Association.  However, the GoK saw that this monopoly impeded fertilizer market development by prohibiting competing firms from entering the market and, in the latter half of the 1980s, encouraged other firms to enter the highly regulated fertilizer market. This report examines the state of fertilizer use in Kenya by reviewing and summarizing literature on recent fertilizer price increases, Kenya’s fertilizer usage trends and approaches, market forces, and the impact of government and non-government programs. We find that most studies of Kenya’s fertilizer market find it to be well functioning and generally competitive, and conclude that market reform has stimulated fertilizer use mainly by improving farmers’ access to the input through the expansion of private retail networks. Overall fertilizer consumption in Kenya has increased steadily since 1980, and fertilizer use among smallholders is among the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. Yet fertilizer consumption is still limited, especially on cereal crops, and in areas where agroecological conditions create greater risks and lower returns to fertilizer use.

EPAR Research Brief #51
Publication Date: 07/02/2009
Type: Research Brief

Yam is a major staple in West and Central Africa and an important supplementary food in East Africa. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), virtually all yams are produced for human consumption, with women responsible for processing yams for consumption. This brief provides an overview of the role of women in yam production, and provides a framework for analyzing barriers to women and technology’s impact on women throughout the cropping cycle. We find that though yam was traditionally considered a man’s crop, it is clear that women farmers contribute greatly to yam cultivation, especially during weeding, harvesting, and processing. Propagation of improved varieties with resistance to pests and diseases like yam mosaic disease has great potential to benefit women farmers. Increased yields and lower post-harvest losses will increase household food security.  However, because yams extract high amounts of nutrients from the soil, soil and land management techniques are necessary to ensure future gains in yield. Women’s groups serve as potential venues for dissemination of new yam cultivation and processing technologies.  Additionally, women’s groups can undertake new propagation techniques as income generating activities.  Women farmers need increased extension efforts to fully benefit from technology improvements.