Value of agricultural information: Soil fertility testing in Malawi
Open to the Public
The Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs, International and Global Colloquium Lecture presents “Value of agricultural information: Soil fertility testing in Malawi” by Julia Berazneva, assistant professor of economics, Middlebury College.
Low fertilizer use and low crop yields are a persistent problem in Sub-Saharan Africa. Customized and localized soil fertility information could dramatically improve the effectiveness of organic and inorganic amendments, resulting in higher use and increased yields. However, farmers’ low willingness to pay for soil fertility tests, combined with high delivery costs, has impeded the development of a market for this agricultural information. We conduct a modified public goods game experiment in 30 villages in central Malawi, asking individuals to contribute towards a soil fertility test and the accompanying management recommendations from a series of randomly selected plots. We find that individual contributions increase with closer geographic proximity and perceived similarity between the plot chosen for analysis and the farmer’s own plot. Farmers also contribute more to tests of plots of their family and friends. In all but one village, collective contributions exceed the cost of a soil test; yet, in villages with more similar soils, average contributions are lower, suggesting the presence of free riding. While farmers view the random choice of plots for soil testing as fair, they contribute more towards tests when they are allowed to collectively decide which plot to sample (as opposed to the researchers’ random draw). These findings not only suggest an alternative cost-effective mechanism for delivery of agricultural information, but also provide insights into the determinants of free riding.
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- Rohatyn Center for Global Affairs