Category: Impact Evaluation

Quinoa Nonsense, or Why the World Still Needs Agricultural Economists

Cooked Red Quinoa. (Source: WikiMedia Commons.)









First came this post by Joanna Blythman on The Guardian‘s Comment Is Free blog:

Quinoa was, in marketing speak, the “miracle grain of the Andes,” a healthy, right-on, ethical addition to the meat avoider’s larder (no dead animals, just a crop that doesn’t feel pain). Consequently, the price shot up – it has tripled since 2006 – with more rarefied black, red and “royal” types commanding particularly handsome premiums.

But there is an unpalatable truth to face for those of us with a bag of quinoa in the larder. The appetite of countries such as ours for this grain has pushed up prices to such an extent that poorer people in Peru and Bolivia, for whom it was once a nourishing staple food, can no longer afford to eat it. Imported junk food is cheaper. In Lima, quinoa now costs more than chicken. Outside the cities, and fueled by overseas demand, the pressure is on to turn land that once produced a portfolio of diverse crops into quinoa monoculture. Continue reading

Small Farmers, NGOs, and a Walmart World

Despite more than a decade of NGO and government activities promoting developing world farmer participation in high-value agricultural markets, evidence regarding the household welfare effects of such initiatives is limited. This article analyzes the geographic placement of supermarket supply chains in Nicaragua between 2000 and 2008 and uses a difference-in-differences specification on measures of supplier and nonsupplier assets to estimate the welfare effects of small farmer participation. Though results indicate that selling to supermarkets increases household productive asset holdings, they also suggest that only farmers with advantageous endowments of geography and water are likely to participate.

The abstract of a new article by my friend, coauthor, and grad school colleague Hope Michelson in the American Journal of Agricultural EconomicsHere is recent ungated version the paper. Continue reading

Managing Basis Risk with Index Insurance in West Africa

Exposure to risk is one of life’s few certitudes. For people who live in developing countries, where underdevelopment almost always extends to financial markets, and where financial instruments to hedge against risk are fewer and further between than in industrialized countries, risk is even more prevalent. The rise of microfinance over the last 20 years has brought about the development of financial instruments designed to protect the poor against some of the risk they face. We first develop an innovative index insurance contract for West African cotton producers, whose harvests are highly variable. The main feature of this contract is that relative to commonly used index insurance contracts, it considerably reduces the basis risk faced by West African cotton producers. We then describe an ongoing evaluation of the impacts of the double-trigger insurance contract in Mali and Burkina Faso. Continue reading

#SWEDOW on Steroids

The One Laptop Per Child organization is trying something new in two remote Ethiopian villages — simply dropping off tablet computers with pre-loaded programs and seeing what happens.

The goal: to see if illiterate kids with no previous exposure to written words can learn how to read all by themselves, by experimenting with the tablet and its preloaded alphabet-training games, e-books, movies, cartoons, paintings, and other programs. Continue reading