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Examining Barriers to Fertilizer Use in Kenya

Agriculture Kenya

Agricultural outputs in Africa have stagnated over the past decades: although total output has risen, food production has not kept up with the increase in Africa’s population. Though top dressing fertilizer has been shown to increase yields by around 48 percent, less than half of sampled farmers in the Busia district of Western Kenya report having used it due to difficulty saving, limits on access to information, and lack of knowledge sharing between farmers. In this experiment, researchers assessed three interventions designed to increase fertilizer use: discounts offered to farmers purchasing these inputs within three weeks after harvest; the development of farmer cooperatives to share information about fertilizer use; and the distribution of measuring “spoons” to guide farmers on the appropriate fertilizer allocation. Results found that coupon treatment had positive effects on fertilizer use: those with coupons were 10-14% more likely to report fertilizer use. However, cooperative-based information sharing had no effect on usage. Farmers receiving measuring spoons were substantially more likely to be familiar with its purpose, knowledgeable about appropriate amounts of fertilizer, and report using it (as opposed to applying fertilizer by hand). Researchers engaged the Government of Malawi to inform their fertilizer subsidy program in 2012.

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