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.
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.