Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience

So every rural family can take control of their future.

Research in Tanzania

Evidence Insight: Increasing Maize Yields with Soil Testing and Subsidies in Tanzania

Though the use of fertilizers can enhance productivity and increase profits for small-scale farming families, two barriers to their adoption have proved critical. First, many farmers often cannot afford to buy fertilizers; second, use recommendations from government sources may not be appropriate for specific farms.

In Tanzania, this multi-disciplinary team supported by USAID used low-cost soil testing to pair field-specific recommendations with subsidy vouchers to help cover the cost of fertilizer purchase. The results show that farmers benefitted significantly in both yields and profits when (1) fertilizer recommendations were calibrated to the needs of individual farms and (2) a subsidy made the recommended fertilizers affordable.

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The Public and Private Investments Boosting Small Seed Companies and Maize Yields in Kenya

Saleem Esmail founded Western Seed Company in Kenya in the 1990s with the idea that better maize varieties could free small-scale farmers from low productivity. He built the company by adapting his own improved maize varieties and varieties shared at no cost by CIMMYT to local climates and ecologies that had never been the focus of Kenya’s big seed companies.

The wide variation in growing conditions across Kenya is part of why the big seed companies have had a hard time reaching every farmer with productive, improved seeds. For example, in Kenya’s western mid-altitude communities of small-scale farmers around Kisumu and Siaya, seeds bred primarily for the larger-scale farms in the higher-altitude Rift Valley barely outperform traditional varieties.

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Empowering Women in Nepal with Goats, Training and Community

In 2014, economist Sarah Janzen sat in on a rural women’s group discussion in Nepal about their experience with a Heifer International program. She was planning an impact evaluation of an intervention taking the same approach and wanted to know more about how the program worked. The women were more chatty and social than Janzen expected. But an odd thing happened when Janzen asked a simple question. What had been the biggest change in their lives as a result of the program?

“When I got to that question they got quiet,” said Janzen. “One of the women said, ‘Prior to the program we weren’t able to introduce ourselves in public.’”

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