Agriculture is essential to sub-Saharan African economies. Almost half the population engages in agricultural activity and it accounts for fourteen percent of the continent’s GDP. Despite their importance to the economy, farmers face numerous challenges to productive agricultural livelihoods. These are often particularly salient for female farmers, who disproportionally face unequal access to information, education, inputs (e.g., fertilizer and improved seeds) and markets, lack of capital for investments, fewer assets, restricted decision-making authority over land and earned income, and limited access to agricultural extension services. These challenges, in combination with other concurrent risks, such as HIV infection, perpetuate a multigenerational cycle of low education, poverty, and poor health.
In rural Tanzania, where agriculture accounts for 75 percent of household income, over half of all farming activities are carried out by women. Tanzania’s Accelerated Food Security Project (AFSP) seeks to address farmers' lack of access to agricultural inputs. The project recently scaled up the National Agricultural Input Voucher Scheme (NAIVS), which distributes vouchers for a fifty percent subsidy on a package of fertilizers and improved seeds directly to maize and rice farmers. The goals of NAIVS are to boost food production, reduce pressure on the prices of food staples, increase incomes, and bolster food security. A village voucher committee (VVC) from each village identifies eligible farmers to participate in the voucher scheme. Recognizing the additional challenges faced by female farmers, NAIVS is preferentially targeting female-headed farming households. Between 2009 and 2012, NAIVS was implemented in phases across the country and currently reaches a total of two million farmers.
Researchers seek to evaluate the overall effect of input vouchers (NAIVS) on household income, agricultural production and food security. Further, they will evaluate heterogeneity in program impacts according to the gender of the household head, determine the success of a targeting mechanism implemented by the project, and measure the program’s cost-effectiveness. The study exploits a delay in the rollout of the program to all eligible beneficiaries in the targeted regions to identify an appropriate comparison group. In 2012, 2.5 million households were eligible for the input voucher; however, the government distributed vouchers to only 740,000 households in 2008/09, 1.5 million in 2009/10, and 2 million in 2010/11. Thus, each year there have been fewer vouchers distributed than the number of eligible farmers, and this shortage can be used to create an appropriate comparison group. Researchers have conducted baseline surveys of 2000 households, one-half of whom were new NAIVS beneficiaries in 2010/11. Additional surveys have been conducted in order to answer secondary evaluation questions, and a qualitative study has been completed to contextualize the quantitative results. Together, these data will allow for a comprehensive analysis of NAIVS’ impact with gender-disaggregated impacts across all indicators, including plot-level crop effects, household economic impacts, health outcomes, food security, and spillovers to the agricultural input and output markets.
Results and Policy Implications
Project ongoing, results forthcoming
 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. "The Setting." FAO Statistical Yearbook 2013. [S.l.]: Food & Agriculture Organization, 2013. 22-30.