We will be using 2 instruments in the field. First, there are the actual interventions that consist of information treatments in the form of short (about 5 minutes) videos and will be shown to individual farmers in the field. The videos will be embedded in a short questionnaire that asks some questions, mainly for validation or to test hypotheses about the impact pathways. The second instrument will be a standard survey to collect end-line information on a range of outcome variables.
The first instrument will be developed from scratch. We will produce one video for the technical information treatment (TIT) and one video for the returns to investment treatment (RIT). For this latter treatment, we may also decide to go through some of the calculations together with the farmer, either by hand or using a simple calculator on the tablet. To make the videos, we will have extensive interviews with farmers and experts on rice growing in the region. From these interviews we will distill the most important steps and converted them into a script. These criteria for the steps were that they should have a large effect on productivity. The choice of what interventions will feature in the videos will also be informed by the relationships found in the baseline data. There we find that both pesticides and fertilizer, especially Urea, are correlated with higher yields. For recommended practices, we find water management to be important (proper bunds construction, correct water levels at different stages of growing). In addition, recommended transplanting practices, related to spacing and plant density, is strongly related to yields. Finally, nursery bed construction and seeding is also correlated with outcomes.
For the TIT, the video will go over each of the inputs and technologies mentioned above. It will show how fertilizer should be applied, at what quantities and at which points in time. It will then also explain how pesticides should be used. There will also be sections on water management, again paying close attention to timings. In this movie, we will avoid alluding to the results of these efforts. In particular, we will avoid contrasting yields from farmers who use fertilizer to farmers who do not. We will also avoid showing how pesticides increases plant health. In short, we want the video to respond to the “how” question, while avoiding the “why” questions.
For the RIT, the video will start of by contrasting the outcomes of a farmer that uses improved technology to one that does not, for instance by visualizing the number of bags of rice that the farmers get from a 1 acre field. We then go over the same inputs and techniques that were explained in the TIT video, but instead of explaining how to use these techniques or inputs, we will highlight the return to using them. For instance, for fertilizer we will explain the cost of applying fertilizer to one acre and subtract this from the value of the expected harvest. We will also highlight how part of this return can be reinvested. This video is therefore trying to achieve the reverse of the TIT and provide answers to the “why” questions while avoiding the “how” question. The videos will be shot by a professional videographer, Mr Nathan Ochole, with extensive experience in producing infomercial for eg. the World Bank and other CGIAR centres (https://vimeo.com/nathanochole). For the RIT video, we may also decide to add some extra time where the farmer is trained in the basics of cost benefit analysis if try out of the videos in the field prove this is necessary.
The use of information treatments as the interventions has some obvious advantages. First, the use of a pre-recorded video results in a standardized treatment, and all subjects receive exactly the same treatment. While one may argue that providing the information through trainers may be more effective, as the trainer may adapt the message to eg. the education level of the recipient, this may also lead to subtle differences in the message given. The videos will also be administered at the individual level. Again, one may argue that providing the information at a more aggregate level, such as to cooperatives, may be more effective. However, it will be very difficult to control group dynamics, and thus providing information to groups may again lead to heterogeneous treatments. We also use video to reduce spill-over effects. For instance, an alternative to a video would be to provide posters or brochures that explain how to engage in seed selection and proper seed storage and handling. This may actually be more effective, as farmers can keep these materials and get back to them at different points in time. The video will be shown only once and farmers may forget some the recommendations over time. However, providing printed material can more easily be passed on to neighbors and relatives, potentially contaminating other treatment or control groups. Illiterate farmers also are likely to benefit more from videos than from written material. Finally, the provision of a relatively hands-off information treatment (instead of for instance providing inputs ) was also chosen because we want to evaluate an intervention that is cheap and easy to scale up in a setting that is more realistic than the typical experimental field trials used in the agronomy studies.