Types of Research
This brief provides a summary of background research for future aid-related EPAR projects. We first review prominent measures of aid, examining the definition and scope of Official Development Assistance (ODA) as well as common criticisms and alternatives to this measurement. We also provide a summary of current research on bilateral and multilateral aid allocation trends. The aid allocation literature broadly concludes that donor countries target aid based on both the needs of recipients and on strategic interests, but that aid allocation criteria differ by donor and by type of aid. Finally, we summarize current aid effectiveness literature and key challenges in exploring the impact of aid. A number of challenges in determining the effectiveness of aid were common in the literature, including the micro-macro paradox, difficulties in identifying causal mechanisms and direction of causality, and data limitations.
The literature on poverty’s causes and cures in developing countries posits a variety of contributing factors. Most researchers acknowledge that a sustained exit from poverty is complex and no single causal pathway from poverty to non-poverty exists. In this review, we present a summary framework for categorizing the various theorized pathways out of poverty, and evaluate the empirical evidence for which interventions and resulting outcomes are most frequently and most strongly associated with poverty alleviation. We conducted a literature review on pathways out of poverty for low-income households in developing countries and identified and categorized general strategies and outcomes demonstrated to be empirically associated with poverty alleviation. We organized the general strategies into four asset groups that could be targeted to alleviate poverty: human, natural, built / financial, and social / political. Much of the literature presents positive results on poverty alleviation, but it is difficult to compare across studies because many of the studies were conducted in different countries and at different scales, and use a variety of outcome measures.
Cereal yield variability is influenced by initial conditions such as suitability of the farming system for cereal cultivation, current production quantities and yields, and zone-specific potential yields limited by water availability. However, exogenous factors such as national policies, climate, and international market conditions also impact farm-level yields directly or provide incentives or disincentives for farmers to intensify production. We conduct a selective literature review of policy-related drivers of maize yields in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda and pair the findings with FAOSTAT data on yield and productivity. This report presents our cumulative findings along with contextual evidence of the hypothesized drivers behind maize yield trends over the past 20 years for the focus countries.
This report reviews and summarizes the existing evidence on the impact of access to financial services/products on measures of production, income and wealth, consumption and food security, and resilience for smallholder farmers and other rural customers and their households in Sub-Saharan Africa. This study covers four main types of financial products/services: 1) credit; 2) savings; 3) insurance; 4) transactional products. We also review the very limited evidence on the effectiveness of bundling these products/services together and of combining them with other offerings such as trainings or support for access to markets, and of providing them via digital channels. We note when financial products/services have been specifically designed to serve the needs of rural customers or smallholder farmers, since the needs of these groups are often very different from those of other stakeholders.
This report reviews approaches to results measurement used by multilateral and bilateral donor organizations and highlights trends and gaps in how donors measure and report on their performance. Our review consists of assessing donor organizations in terms of their institutional design and levels of evaluation for results measurement, their organizational processes for measuring types of results including coordination and alignment with recipients, outputs and implementation, outcomes and impacts, and costs and effectiveness, and their processes for reporting and using results information. We collect evidence on 12 bilateral organizations and 10 multilateral organizations. The evidence review includes multi-country reviews of aid effectiveness, peer reviews by other donor organizations, donor evaluation plans and frameworks, and donor results and reporting documents. The report is based on an accompanying spreadsheet that contains the coded information from the 22 donor organizations. We find that donors report several types of results, but that there are challenges to measuring certain results at the aggregate donor level, due to challenges with funding and coordination for results measurement at the project, country, portfolio, and donor levels. Approaches to results measurement vary across donor organizations. We identify some trends and differences among groups of donors, notably between bilateral and multilateral donors, but overall there are no clear delineations in how donors approach results measurement.
Common estimates of agricultural productivity rely upon crude measures of crop yield, typically defined as the weight harvested of a crop divided by the area harvested. But this common yield measure poorly reflects performance among farm systems combining multiple crops in one area (e.g., intercropping), and also ignores the possibility that farmers might lose crop area between planting and harvest (e.g., partial crop failure). Drawing on detailed plot-level data from Tanzania’s National Panel Survey, our research contrasts measures of smallholder productivity using production per hectare harvested and production per hectare planted.
An initial analysis (Research Brief - Rice Productivity Measurement) looking at rice production finds that yield by area planted differs significantly from yield by area harvested, particularly for smaller farms and female-headed households. OLS regression further reveals different demographic and management-related drivers of variability in yield gains – and thus different implications for policy and development interventions – depending on the yield measurement used. Findings suggest a need to better specify “yield” to more effectively guide agricultural development efforts.
This brief reviews the evidence of realized yield gains by smallholder farmers attributable to the use of high-quality seed and/or improved seed varieties. Our analysis suggests that in most cases, use of improved varieties and/or quality seed is associated with modest yield increases. In the sample of 395 trials reviewed, positive yield changes accompanied the use of improved variety or quality seed, on average, in 10 out of 12 crops, with rice and cassava as the two exceptions.
The review consists of a summary of the emergence of agribusiness clusters, SEZs and incubators since 1965 (with a focus on smallholder agriculture-based economies in Latin America, Africa, and Asia), followed by a series of brief case studies of example programs with particular relevance for guiding proposed clusters/incubators in the countries of Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria and the Eastern Indian states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Odisha. Summary conclusions draw upon published reports and primary analysis of case studies to highlight apparent determinants of success and failure in agribusiness investment clusters and incubators, including characteristics of the business environment (markets, policies) and characteristics of the organizational structure (clusters, accelerators) associated with positive smallholder outcomes.
Aid results information is often not comparable, since monitoring and evaluation frameworks, information gathering processes, and definitions of “results” differ across donors and governments. This report reviews approaches to results monitoring and evaluation used by governments in developing countries, and highlights trends and gaps in national monitoring and evaluation (M&E) systems. We collect evidence on 42 separate government M&E systems in 23 developing countries, including 17 general national M&E systems and 25 sector-specific national M&E systems, with 14 focused on HIV/AIDS, 8 on health, and 3 on agriculture. The evidence review includes external case studies and evaluations of M&E systems, government M&E assessments, M&E plans, strategic plans with an M&E component, and multi-country reviews of M&E, accountability, and aid effectiveness. We evaluate harmonization of government and development partner M&E systems, coordination and institutionalization of government M&E, challenges in data collection and monitoring, and analysis and use of results information. We also report on key characteristics of M&E systems in different sectors.
A farmer’s decision of how much land to dedicate to each crop reflects their farming options at the extensive and intensive margins. The extensive margin represents the total amount of agricultural land area that a farmer has available in a given year (referred to interchangeably as ‘farm size’ or ‘agricultural land’). A farmer increases land use on the extensive margin by planting on new agricultural land. The intensive margin represents area planted of crops as a proportion of total farm size. A farmer increases the intensive margin by increasing output within a fixed area. This analysis examines cropping patterns for households in Tanzania between 2008 and 2010 using data from the Tanzania National Panel Survey (TZNPS). This brief describes changes in farm size, total area planted, and area planted of select annual crops to highlight the dynamic nature of farmer’s cropping choices for a sample population of 2,246 agricultural households that reported having any agricultural land in 2008 or 2010. Throughout the brief, we present summary statistics at the national level and compare them with household-level data to show how results vary depending on how the sub-population is defined and how average measures can mask household level changes. We analyze these questions in the context of smallholders (defined as households with total agricultural land area as less than two hectares) and farming systems.