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Testing Innovative Models of Extension in Cambodia
Last registered on June 25, 2018

Pre-Trial

Trial Information
General Information
Title
Testing Innovative Models of Extension in Cambodia
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0003082
Initial registration date
June 22, 2018
Last updated
June 25, 2018 10:39 AM EDT
Location(s)
Region
Primary Investigator
Affiliation
International Food Policy Research Institute
Other Primary Investigator(s)
PI Affiliation
International Food Policy Research Institute
PI Affiliation
Michigan State University
Additional Trial Information
Status
On going
Start date
2015-07-01
End date
2018-10-31
Secondary IDs
Abstract
This project encompasses two experiments being conducted as part of projects funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in Cambodia, attempting to find ways to use information and communication technologies to improve the delivery of agricultural extension. The project is being conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) in Cambodia. A major challenge for many countries today is to find a way to appropriately and cost effectively support smallholder farmers given constraints on available resources with which to do so. Farmers often need technical advice, but it is not necessarily either cost effective for governments to provide it, nor is it necessarily feasible for governments to provide all farmers with extension. Farmers by definition are spatially disperse, making it difficult to design effective extension systems from a public sector perspective. Consequently, many governments are trying to get the private sector involved in disseminating messages, but years of priming have led farmers to place little private value on these services; in other words, farmers are used to getting whatever extension they get for free, and it is difficult to convince them they should pay for extension as a result.

New technologies provide potentially useful ways to disseminate extension messages to farmers. This project incorporates two such technologies, one within the PADEE (Project for Agricultural Development and Economic Empowerment) project and one within the ASPIRE project (Agricultural Services Program for Innovations, Resilience and Extension). Within PADEE, we test the introduction of ePADEE, a specialized software for extension workers to provide them with information about seed choices, fertilizer application, and plant disease control. ePADEE includes a module to perform individual plot soil tests to provide personalized recommendations based on each farmers’ needs. The software’s content was developed by MAFF’s specialists based on Cambodia’s local agricultural conditions. Within ASPIRE, we test a system of direct phone calls to farmers. We describe both below.

As part of the PADEE project, Grameen Intel collaborated with PADEE to develop what was termed ePADEE. To implement it, a small group of mobile support technicians (MSTs) were provided with tablets loaded with ePADEE and the software was tested in a small pilot by two NGOs (the SNV Netherlands Development Organization and International Development Enterprises - IDE) throughout 2015. Testing of ePADEE allowed MAFF and Grameen Intel to ensure that extension workers were able to use the software and that the information provided was locally relevant. During the testing phase, ePADEE was restricted to provide advice related to rice (the largest staple crop in Cambodia).

Our project will test the impact of financial incentives and ICT (available through the ePADEE and tablets) on extension workers’ performance within the PADEE projects in Cambodia.

Within the second project, ASPIRE, the government planned to distribute tablets to community extension workers (CEWs) in all areas, negating the possibility of randomizing ePADEE, which is just one of the tools made available on the tablets. Instead, IFPRI in collaboration with MAFF and CDRI developed a number of short messages about rice, chicken raising, and vegetables to send a set of short extension messages through direct mass calls. Text messages were also considered, but many farmers do not have phones that support Khmer script. To sign up farmers, CDRI conducted a baseline survey among farmers both within and outside farmer groups within a set of 72 communities that are part of the ASPIRE target area. The team randomized the 72 communities into 4 groups of 18: a “basic calls group”; an “enhanced calls group”, which is receiving calls more regularly; an “enhanced calls plus” group, which is receiving calls both inside and well outside the farmer group, and a control group, which is just receiving ASPIRE as usual.

More than 90 percent of Cambodian households now have access to at least one cell phone. But it is not at all clear that farmers would be receptive to any sort of message coming to their phones; further, individuals often change numbers in rural areas to take advantage of discounts or cheaper plans. As a result, it might be difficult to target farmers over a long period of time. In the pilot described below, farmers were linked to the crops being promoted by their farmer groups and received a screening call to ask whether they were interested in participating; we included all farmer group farmers in call lists regardless of interest in the calls, but we can disaggregate findings by interest level.
External Link(s)
Registration Citation
Citation
Almanzar, Miguel, Alan de Brauw and Eduardo Nakasone. 2018. "Testing Innovative Models of Extension in Cambodia." AEA RCT Registry. June 25. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.3082-2.0
Former Citation
Almanzar, Miguel, Alan de Brauw and Eduardo Nakasone. 2018. "Testing Innovative Models of Extension in Cambodia." AEA RCT Registry. June 25. https://www.socialscienceregistry.org/trials/3082/history/31159
Experimental Details
Interventions
Intervention(s)
PADEE

We will randomly assign each of the 60 PADEE villages that will participate in our study to one of three groups:
a. A first group of 20 villages will be assigned to an ICT treatment arm. In this arm, the MSTs assigned to work in these villages will receive a tablet loaded with the ePADEE software. Grameen Intel staff and MAFF will hold workshops to teach the MSTs in this group how to use the software. Each MST will receive a monthly payment through WING (a popular mobile banking provider in Cambodia to finance their visits to the farmers group (base pay).

b. A second group of 20 villages will be assigned to and ICT plus incentives treatment arm. The MSTs assigned to work in these villages will receive a tablet loaded with the ePADEE software and will be trained on how to use the software. MSTs in this group will also receive bonus payments (in addition to their base salary) based on their performance.
The performance of MSTs in this group will be evaluated through phone calls to the farmers they have been assigned to advise. Our impact evaluation sample (i.e., the one for which baseline and endline outcomes will be collected) is comprised of 20 farmers in each learning group. A concern is that MSTs might focus on farmers that evaluation has contacted before and not in the complete learning group (i.e., MSTs might be redistributing their effort and not necessarily increasing it).
For this reason, we will include all 20 members of the learning groups will be part of our performance-monitoring scheme. Each month, we will select a random sample of 6 farmers in each group and test them with a ten-question quiz over their mobile phones. Three of them will be “soft” questions that will assess whether the farmer had seen the MST in the village during the last month, had talked to him, and had received any useful advice. The other seven questions will be based on knowledge of particular issues that the MSTs should be advising farmer on. At the end of the season, each MST will get a bonus payment based on the average of their performance across the season. Each MST group will be monitored 3-4 times during the season and this monitoring calls/visits will be timed to specific timelines proposed in the software. For example, one visit after the second fertilizer application or one visit at the time of pesticides application, etc. Each MST will receive payments through WING; a monthly allowance to finance their visits to the farmers group (lower than the regular pay in the ICT only group) and a lump sum payment at the end of the agricultural season with the details of their performance.
c. A third group of villages will be assigned to a control group. Villages in this group will receive, similar to the first two groups, regular PADEE extension. They will have MSTs assigned to work with the learning groups. However, MSTs will not receive tablets with the ePADEE software and will not be eligible to receive performance-based bonus payments.

ASPIRE

In ASPIRE, we test various methods of using phone messages to deliver extension messages. IFPRI in collaboration with MAFF and CDRI developed a number of short messages about rice, chicken raising, and vegetables (specifically, long beans and cucumbers) to send a set of short extension messages through direct mass calls. Text messages were also considered, but many farmers do not have phones that support Khmer script. The messages were designed to be short and fairly broad, but include current advice about seeding, fertilizing, and weeding for crops, and some general messages about rearing chickens for chickens. A set of three messages for rice, long beans, and cucumbers were developed, while four messages were designed for chickens. Messages were developed collaboratively between the MAFF Extension unit and an IFPRI consultant, ensuring that messages follow current MAFF guidelines for either raising chickens or growing rice, cucumbers, and log beans were well reflected in the phone messages.

To sign up farmers for the pilot, CDRI conducted a baseline survey among farmers both within and outside farmer groups within a set of 72 communities that are part of the ASPIRE target area. The list of communities was developed from within a list of villages that 18 community extension workers (CEWs) were assigned. All of the CEWs are in Pursat and Battambang provinces. Before choosing a sample, all villages that were included in previous evaluation surveys were eliminated, as were villages that had not targeted two of the three following products: rice, vegetables, and/or chicken. Finally, villages with two or more farmer groups were eliminated from the list since the intervention includes non-farmer group members.
The team randomized the 72 communities into 4 groups of 18: a “basic calls group”; an “enhanced calls group”, which is receiving calls more regularly; an “enhanced calls plus” group, in which additional farmers are receiving calls; and a control group, which is receiving services from ASPIRE as usual. Each CEW included, then, has a village receiving basic calls, a village receiving enhanced calls, a village receiving advanced calls plus, and a control village, from the context of the pilot project.
As part of the overall data collection effort, the team collected phone numbers for all households within the farmer group and then a set of 14 farmers outside the farmer group, with the idea of understanding how both farmer group and non-farmer group members would respond to extension. For the enhanced calls plus group, an additional list of 50 phone numbers of non-farmer group members was collected. The idea of the enhanced calls plus is to observe whether additional information available in the village will spread to those not receiving calls. To determine who within villages to call with messages, a random selection of 10 farmers from the farmer group was made, and added to the 14 non-farmer group members who were included in the baseline survey. In the enhanced calls plus group, the additional 50 farmers also receive calls.
Intervention Start Date
2016-01-06
Intervention End Date
2018-04-30
Primary Outcomes
Primary Outcomes (end points)
We are interested in three main types of variables in the experiment. First, we are interested in whether farmers' knowledge improves along any of the dimensions taught through ePADEE or direct phone messages. Second, we are interested in whether farmers change their behavior related to the messages, whether that means simply using an improved technique or input, or trying to grow a new crop (vegetables, in the latter case). Third, we are interested in yields or aggregate production.
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Secondary Outcomes
Secondary Outcomes (end points)
See above.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)
Experimental Design
Experimental Design
Both projects are implemented as cluster randomized trials. In PADEE, there are sixty villages across 5 provinces, randomized into the three groups described above. In ASPIRE, there are 72 villages in two provinces, clustered by community extension worker (CEW); within each CEW group of 4 villages, one village is randomly assigned to the basic calls, enhanced calls, enhanced calls plus saturation, or the "business as usual" ASPIRE group.
Experimental Design Details
Randomization Method
Randomization was in public in PADEE and by computer in ASPIRE.
Randomization Unit
Cluster, which is a village in ASPIRE and farmer group only in PADEE.
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes
Experiment Characteristics
Sample size: planned number of clusters
60 in PADEE; 72 in ASPIRE
Sample size: planned number of observations
1200 in PADEE; 1720 in ASPIRE
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
20 clusters in each arm in PADEE; 18 clusters in each arm in ASPIRE.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
IRB
INSTITUTIONAL REVIEW BOARDS (IRBs)
IRB Name
IFPRI
IRB Approval Date
2015-01-06
IRB Approval Number
2016-3-MTID-M
Post-Trial
Post Trial Information
Study Withdrawal
Intervention
Is the intervention completed?
No
Is data collection complete?
Data Publication
Data Publication
Is public data available?
No
Program Files
Program Files
Reports and Papers
Preliminary Reports
Relevant Papers