In many developing countries, smallholder farmers cope with unpredictable weather, poor quality soils and other constraints that prevent them from taking full advantage of their economic opportunities. Chief among these unexploited opportunities are hybrid seeds and supporting inputs that promise improved yields and therefore higher incomes and food security. Despite widespread policy support, there has been little research that rigorously evaluates the constraints to the adoption of hybrids seeds and their effects on farmers’ welfare when adopted.
In Kenya, there has been fairly widespread adoption of hybrid seeds relative to other sub-Saharan African countries despite little seed innovation over the past twenty years by the parastatal company, Kenya Seed. Since its 1999 launch the Western Seed Company (WSC), a private organization, has successfully created and marketed a next generation of high performing hybrid seeds. To encourage adoption, WSC utilizes learning zones – demonstration plots in villages – to educate farmers on proper techniques and the potential benefits of its hybrid maize seeds. It then offers participating farmers 250 gram sample seed packets to be planted in the next season. Recent investments in WSC have created the opportunity for rapid scale up and expansion of its hybrid maize program with the potential to substantially improve yields.
Researchers will take advantage of WSC’s expansion program to evaluate the socio-economic effects of the hybrid maize program in the Western and Central regions of Kenya. The research team has randomly selected 18 pairs of learning zones – with similar rainfall, altitude and ecology – in 16 districts of the Western and Central regions. WSC will promote its seeds and cultivate demonstration plots among households in the treatment zones, while it will not engage in any promotional or educational activities in the comparison zones. Because the Central area has higher household incomes relative to the Western region, the evaluation will measure the impact of the program on each region separately; this will allow researchers to determine any differential effects hybrid seeds may have based on household income and assets. In the Western region, where farmers have higher liquidity constraints, an additional treatment will be introduced; farmers will also be randomly selected to receive a fertilizer voucher so researchers can evaluate the constrained and full effects of WSC’s technologies. High quality soil quality tests will permit these vouchers to be fine-tuned to the needs of individual farmers, and also will allow exploration of the impact of soil differences on hybrid seed uptake. Researchers recently completed a baseline survey to collect data related to household income, agricultural yields, gender dynamics and education. Soil samples and tests were performed on the primary maize field of each household. Voucher coupons will be distributed in 2014 with a follow up survey and the final survey will be conducted in 2014 and 2015 in order to measure changes in household income, agriculture outputs and women’s bargaining power.
Results and Policy Implications
Study ongoing, resuluts forthcoming
2013 - Ongoing
Photo Credit: Aude Guerrucci, J-PAL, Kenya 2007