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Promoting Sustainable Farming Practices in Malawi
Last registered on March 02, 2017

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Promoting Sustainable Farming Practices in Malawi
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0001471
Initial registration date
August 17, 2016
Last updated
March 02, 2017 7:36 AM EST
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
Yale University
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
College of William and Mary
PI Affiliation
College of William and Mary
Additional Trial Information
Status
Completed
Start date
2009-09-01
End date
2011-12-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
Low adoption of agricultural technologies holds large productivity consequences for developing countries.
Agricultural extension services counter information failures by deploying external agents to communicate
with farmers. However, social networks are recognized as the most credible source of information
about new technologies. We incorporate social learning in extension policy using a large-scale field
experiment in which we communicate to farmers using different members of social networks. We
show that communicator effort is susceptible to small performance incentives, and the social identity
of the communicator influences learning and adoption. Farmers find communicators who face agricultural
conditions and constraints most comparable to themselves to be the most persuasive. Incorporating
communication dynamics can take the influential social learning literature in a more policy-relevant
direction.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
BenYishay, Ariel, Ariel BenYishay and Ahmed Mobarak. 2017. "Promoting Sustainable Farming Practices in Malawi." AEA RCT Registry. March 02. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.1471-3.0.
Former Citation
BenYishay, Ariel, Ariel BenYishay and Ahmed Mobarak. 2017. "Promoting Sustainable Farming Practices in Malawi." AEA RCT Registry. March 02. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/1471/history/14635.
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
Intervention Start Date
2010-02-01
Intervention End Date
2011-12-31
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
Knowledge Retention by Communicators (Acquiring and Sending A Signal in the Model)

- Dependent Variable: Communicators' Knowledge scores


Communicator Effort

- Dependent variable: Designated communicator held at least one activity


Knowledge After One Season Among Recipient Farmers

- Dependent Variable: Knowledge scores in household survey


Adoption After Two Seasons

- Dependent Variable 1: Used on at least one household plot in 2010/11

- Dependent Variable 2: Directly observed usage on at least one plot in 2010/11

- Dependent Variable 3: Plan to use next year

- Dependent Variable 4: Household produced at least compost heap


Communicators per HH

- Dependent Variable: Household adopted target technology in 2010/11 season


Types of Target Farmers Persuaded by PFs with and without Incentives

- Dependent Variable: Household adopted target technology in 2010/11 season


Communicator Adoption

- Dependent Variable 1: Comm used tech

- Dependent Variable 2: Non-comm HH used tech

- Dependent Variable 3: Comm used tech (share of PFs)

- Dependent Variable 4: Non-comm HH used tech









Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
This project uses a randomized controlled trial to explore strategies of promoting new technologies using the power of social influence. The randomized controlled trial varied the dissemination method for two new agricultural technologies across villages in Malawi. The role of main communicator about the new technology was assigned to government-employed extension workers, 'lead farmers' (LF) who are educated and able to sustain experimentation costs, or 'peer farmers,' (PF) who are more representative of the general population and whose experiences may be more applicable to the average recipient farmer's own conditions. Random subsets of these communicators were offered performance-based incentives in the experimental design.

The LF and PF cells (95 villages total) were cross-randomized such that approximately half the villages (48) were encouraged to select a female lead farmer or majority female peer farmers. In the other 47 villages, no such encouragement was provided. The gender reservation encouragement was cross-randomized orthogonally, so that the the LF/PF x Incentive treatments were balanced with respect to the gender reservation assignment. Please see BenYishay and Mobarak, "Social Learning and Incentives for Experimentation and Communication," http://faculty.som.yale.edu/MushfiqMobarak/papers/MalawiAg.pdf for further details. A. BenYishay, M. Jones, F. Kondylis, A. M. Mobarak, "Are Gender Differences in Performance Innate or Socially Mediated?"http://faculty.som.yale.edu/MushfiqMobarak/papers/GenderMalawi.pdf also provides greater details on the details of this cross-cutting treatment.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization was done on a computer using Excel and Stata.
Randomization Unit
Randomization of treatment groups occurred at the village level
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
168 villages
Sample size: planned number of observations
Number of observations varies depending on the outcome variable
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
Extension worker

- Incentive: 13 villages

- No Incentive: 12 villages


Lead Farmer

- Incentive: 25 villages (13 with female leads encouraged, 12 without)


- No Incentive: 25 villages (12 with female leads encouraged, 13 without)


Peer Farmer

- Incentive: 23 villages (12 with majority female peers encouraged, 11 without)

- No Incentive: 22 villages (11 with majority female peers encouraged, 11 without)



Control

- 48 villages
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IRB Approval Date
IRB Approval Number
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
Yes
Intervention Completion Date
December 31, 2011, 12:00 AM +00:00
Is data collection complete?
Yes
Data Collection Completion Date
December 31, 2011, 12:00 AM +00:00
Final Sample Size: Number of Clusters (Unit of Randomization)
(same as initial)
Was attrition correlated with treatment status?
No
Final Sample Size: Total Number of Observations
(same as initial)
Final Sample Size (or Number of Clusters) by Treatment Arms
(same as initial)
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No

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Program Files
Program Files
No
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers
Abstract
Low adoption of agricultural technologies holds large productivity consequences for developing countries.
Agricultural extension services counter information failures by deploying external agents to communicate
with farmers. However, social networks are recognized as the most credible source of information
about new technologies. We incorporate social learning in extension policy using a large-scale field
experiment in which we communicate to farmers using different members of social networks. We
show that communicator effort is susceptible to small performance incentives, and the social identity
of the communicator influences learning and adoption. Farmers find communicators who face agricultural
conditions and constraints most comparable to themselves to be the most persuasive. Incorporating
communication dynamics can take the influential social learning literature in a more policy-relevant
direction.
Citation
BenYishay, Ariel, and A. Mushfiq Mobarak. "Social Learning and Communication." Working Paper, June 2015.