Quality agricultural inputs (e.g., seeds, fertilizer, pesticides, etc.) help boost agricultural productivity, but access to high-quality inputs remains low and variable in rural African markets. Improving farmers’ ability to detect low quality products or counterfeit products–those that masquerade as being high-quality, recognizable brands but have been tampered with to reduce the potency or quality of the product–has the potential to increase adoption of higher quality inputs. In 2018, the Kenya Plant Health Inspectorate Service (KEPHIS) worked with seed companies to roll out a verification system which requires every packet of certified seeds in Kenya to have a sticker that can be scanned to confirm that the seeds are verified, meet quality standards, and are not old seeds from a previous season. KEPHIS, in collaboration with the Kenyan government, recently rolled out a companion SMS-based e-verification system for farmers’ to verify seed quality before purchase.
In partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Agriculture and KEPHIS, researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to determine the effect of receiving information about this e-verification system and reporting mechanisms. Researchers will randomly assign 320 rural market areas with at least one maize seller to receive a) information on the KEPHIS e-verification system, including how to detect uncertified or old seeds, and how to verify the authenticity of seeds for purchase b) the same information as well as information on how and to whom consumers can report substandard products c) no new information on identifying quality. Researchers will collect data on farmers’ decision to use the system, use of inputs, agricultural outcomes including yields and germination rates as well as seller behavior, including prices and overall seed quality.
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