Randomised impact evaluation of farmer participatory innovative agricultural practices

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Low production and productivity are problems that characterise the agricultural sector in Mozambique. Although most people in Mozambique practice agriculture, the sector contributes to a relatively low proportion of the country's GDP. Modern technologies such as chemical fertisers, improved seeds, irrigation, etc, could potentially increase agricultural productivity, but, even when such technologies are available in the market, they are often not taken up for use in smallholder farms.

This study builds up on previous literature on behavioral biases and adoption of agricultural technologies to test a program that could increase adoption of profitable technologies and practices among smallholder farmers. Conventionally, farmers are taught about new technologies through extension workers demonstrations plots (demos) and lectures. This strategy has often resulted in farmers' initial acceptance of technologies but not in their sustained use for many years.

This study pilots a randomised impact evaluation of farmers' own experimentation with new technologies on their knowledge about the technology returns, the optimal mix of inputs, and adoption of the technology. To do so, we will implement a randomised control trial (RCT) where farmers are randomly assigned to adopting the modern technology in their own demo plots, to having access to an extension workers demo plot or to a comparison group. This methodology will be used so differences in outcomes of these groups can be attributed to the interventions received by each group.

More broadly, this research agenda will be useful to inform agricultural development interventions, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa where the use of modern technologies in agriculture lags far behind the rest of the world. Our results may also be useful for policymakers to design development interventions in other fields where technological innovation can play an important role (such as finance or energy), and the best strategies to promote its effective adoption that are key to meaningful development impact.