Can Smallholder Extension Transform African Agriculture?
Agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) lags far behind all other regions of the world. A long list of policy experiments has yielded more evidence on what fails than on what works. We analyze a randomized control trial of a rare scaled-up success story: One Acre Fund’s small farmer program. Much like anti-poverty "graduation" interventions, the program aims to relax multiple constraints to productivity simultaneously. We show that participation causes statistically and economically significant increases in output, yields, and profits. In our preferred specification, maize production increases by 24% and profits by 16%. We find little evidence of heterogeneous treatment effects on yields, but observe some attenuation of impacts on total output and profits at the top end of the distribution.
The authors thank Kibrom Abay, Brad Barham, Chris Barrett, Leah Bevis, Lorenzo Casaburi, Nick Magnan, Jeremy Magruder, William Masters, Laura Schechter, Andrew Simons, Jeffrey Smith, Tavneet Suri, Chris Udry, as well as seminar participants at CSAE, the IDEAS Summer School in Development, the NBER/African Development Bank Transforming Rural Africa Conference, NEUDC, and the UW-Madison Agricultural and Applied Economics department for helpful comments and suggestions. All remaining errors are our own. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.