Smallholder farmers in less developed countries produce less output per unit of land than their counterparts in more developed countries. One of the potential reason for this is that they lack knowledge about modern growing techniques or how to best manage their crops. Consequently, a lot of resources are spent annually on agricultural programs utilizing extension workers to teach such techniques. Early studies on the impact of such extension services on agricultural productivity or poverty reduction found significant positive impacts of agricultural extension services, however, many of these studies suffered from several methodological issues, selection bias being the primary one. Increasingly, program evaluation research avoids selection bias by randomly assigning individuals or groups (in this case, farmers) access to particular interventions, which is what this study intends to do.
Ignosi Research assumed primary responsibility for implementing pilot activities for the study. Our tasks on this project thus far have included:
- Project planning and management: budgeting, recruiting, training & supervising field teams, recruiting research participants (listing), and ensuring adherence to prescribed research protocols.
- Quantitative data collection management: designing and piloting household level survey instruments both for pre and post intervention phases of the study, electronic survey programming, plus data cleaning and quality control.
- Study Coordination: liaising between Principal Investigators at IFPRI and local implementing partners; obtaining ethical clearance for the research, plus providing support on the development of research protocols.
- Collecting basic information on the plots on which each sample farmer grows coffee (number of productive trees, relative distance to household, other crops grown, whether coffee has been sold prior to harvest), and so on.
- Coffee yield measurement: measuring plot size and collecting and measuring yield from randomly selected coffee trees on one of the plots owned by each sample farmer. This entails physically stripping selected trees and measuring the volume of cherries and buds by maturity category.
- Collecting coffee harvest data from sample farmers and coffee sales data from both coffee buyers and the sellers (coffee farmers).
The study will proceed in a staged manner, with each stage contingent on a positive outcome of the previous stage. In stage one, from August 2017 through April 2018, a detailed proposal to evaluate the envisaged training program in Uganda will be developed. To foster a collaborative relationship between implementers and evaluators, the research team will co-develop evaluation plans with each of the firms selected as finalists by BSZ and Enveritas to implement the farmer training program during this stage. A pilot study will also be conducted during this stage to determine the level at which the evaluation should be randomized, and to test approaches for measuring the adoption of recommended practices and coffee yields.
The study seeks to evaluate the direct and indirect impacts of an agronomy training intervention targeted at smallholder coffee farmers in Uganda. It will be aimed both at measuring the impact of such a focused agronomy training approach and at providing information that could be useful in refining and improving the approach over time. The objective of the study will be to understand what works to increase farmers’ coffee yields, production, profit, and consumption levels, and to characterize the reasons that underlie the success or failure of various approaches.