Rice farm in Nepal

About the AMA Innovation Lab

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Assets and Market Access at UC Davis (AMA Innovation Lab, formerly BASIS) conducts and supports research on policies and programs designed to help poor and smallholder farmers worldwide to manage risk, adopt productive technologies and take an active part in economic growth.

Building knowledge that helps empower smallholder farmers in the developing world to create a secure, self-reliant and prosperous future for their families and communities.

We are one of 24 Feed the Future Innovation Labs across the United States funded by USAID’s Bureau for Food Security to support the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. As a virtual institute comprised of researchers from around the globe, our research agenda focuses on:

  • Financial innovations and risk management
  • Adoption of more productive agricultural technologies
  • Synergies possible by bundling financial and technological innovations

In addition to funding research and building the capacity of local institutions, we translate our work into accessible policy documents and sponsor outreach events that integrate our findings into a coherent and effective voice about priorities and options for governments, NGOs and others working to reduce poverty and increase prosperity worldwide.

Why Haven’t the Best Agricultural Technologies Ended Poverty in the Developing World?

Today’s agricultural technologies hold tremendous promise for the 800 million worldwide who are chronically undernourished. It remains important to advance agronomic innovations, but average smallholder farm yields consistently fall well below what is technologically possible. This could mean that for many of these farmers, these innovations remain out of reach.

In many ways, poor and smallholder farmers at risk of poverty have been left out of broader agricultural growth. Limited assets and credit and a lack of infrastructure in poor, rural areas are both barriers to adopting more productive technologies and practices. Imperfect and underdeveloped markets can also keep higher yields from leading to higher incomes, limiting these farmers’ contributions to broader economic growth.

Risk itself—from a growing worldwide threat of drought, flood and unpredictable weather—also keeps the most productive innovations out of reach. For many farmers, each disaster carries the potential for losses that could be irreversible. As a consequence, they often protect their future food stores by using familiar but less-productive technologies and methods, choosing not to risk their limited funds on unfamiliar innovations. This struggle especially keeps many farmers from growing their way out of poverty.

Delivering on the Promise of Agricultural Innovations for Smallholder Farmers

Agricultural growth reduces poverty and hunger more than any other form of development. This impact is even greater when that growth includes small farms that are most at risk. To achieve the end of poverty and hunger worldwide requires more than improved technologies and practices alone. We must strengthen everyone’s capacity throughout the food and agriculture system.

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Assets and Market Access leads research in key areas that manage risk, develop markets and encourage the adoption of transformative production technologies. Our work shows that reducing financial constraints and improving insurance models make it easier for farmers and pastoralists to take advantage of technological improvements for higher yields. Strengthening markets and increasing access can help smallscale producers—especially women—increase their profitability from production to end-market retail.

Maintaining gains in the long-term will require that we explore integrated, flexible systems that cultivate resilience and self-reliance. Our body of research on well-established risk-reducing instruments shows that pulling risk out of agricultural systems helps farmers protect their assets and make prudent investments toward a future free of the need for emergency aid.


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