Strengthening producer groups as impact ICT hubs for improved incomes: Cluster-randomized controlled trial in rural Malawi

Last registered on November 05, 2021

Pre-Trial

Trial Information

General Information

Title
Strengthening producer groups as impact ICT hubs for improved incomes: Cluster-randomized controlled trial in rural Malawi
RCT ID
AEARCTR-0008467
Initial registration date
November 02, 2021
Last updated
November 05, 2021, 7:46 PM EDT

Locations

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Primary Investigator

Affiliation
IFPRI

Other Primary Investigator(s)

Additional Trial Information

Status
On going
Start date
2021-06-01
End date
2023-12-31
Secondary IDs
Prior work
This trial does not extend or rely on any prior RCTs.
Abstract
This study aims to evaluate an intervention to help address the lack of information among small-scale farmers on the latest improved agricultural technologies and lack of information and linkages to markets. Through the Scaling up Radio and ICTs for Enhanced Extension Delivery (SRIEED) II project, Farm Radio Trust-Malawi and its partners aims to address this issue by implementing various ICT-based interventions in six districts in Malawi from 2020 to 2025. One of the major components is strengthening existing community-based producer groups as impact ICT hubs. These groups will be supported with a package of services including radios, facilitation in market platforms, assistance in collective marketing and aggregation, and linkages to input suppliers, service providers, and financial institutions. These hubs are targeted as centers for providing demand-driven extension and models for early adopters of agricultural and marketing innovations in the rural communities. A total of 118 groups were identified to be supported in the course of the project in two phases, with the first batch to be supported first followed by the second batch to be supported in the second around second or third year of the project.

This study aims to evaluate the impact of these hubs on the income of the groups' members. As a secondary outcome, this study aims to measure the spillover of information and influence of these impact ICT hubs on access to information and changes in practices among the other farmers of the community.

The study is set-up as a cluster-randomized controlled trial, with the producer groups as unit of randomization and households as the unit of analysis. Of the 118 producer groups identified, half are assigned as treatment group, and the other half as control group. We take advantage of the phased or staggered approach of the project to set-up a cRCT with the randomly assigned treatment group to serve as first batch and those in the control group to serve as the second batch for the interventions.
External Link(s)

Registration Citation

Citation
Ragasa, Catherine. 2021. "Strengthening producer groups as impact ICT hubs for improved incomes: Cluster-randomized controlled trial in rural Malawi." AEA RCT Registry. November 05. https://doi.org/10.1257/rct.8467-1.0
Sponsors & Partners

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Experimental Details

Interventions

Intervention(s)
This study aims to evaluate an intervention to help address the lack of information among small-scale farmers on the latest improved agricultural technologies and lack of information and linkages to markets. Through the Scaling up Radio and ICTs for Enhanced Extension Delivery (SRIEED) II project, Farm Radio Trust-Malawi and its partners aims to address this issue by implementing various ICT-based interventions in six districts in Malawi from 2020 to 2025. One of the major components is strengthening existing community-based producer groups as impact ICT hubs. These groups will be supported with a package of services including radios, facilitation in market platforms, assistance in collective marketing and aggregation, and linkages to input suppliers, service providers, and financial institutions. These hubs are targeted as centers for providing demand-driven extension and models for early adopters of agricultural and marketing innovations in the rural communities. A total of 118 groups were identified to be supported in the course of the project in two phases, with the first batch to be supported first followed by the second batch to be supported in the second or third year of the project.
Intervention Start Date
2021-12-01
Intervention End Date
2023-09-30

Primary Outcomes

Primary Outcomes (end points)
Agricultural income
Primary Outcomes (explanation)
Sales of agricultural produce (crop, livestock, fish) (Malawi kwacha MWK) pertaining to the last 12 months prior to the survey (target month: August)

Secondary Outcomes

Secondary Outcomes (end points)
We would like to test exploratory hypotheses on whether members of impact ICT hubs have better outcomes than comparable producer groups that were not strengthened yet as ICT hubs. Indicators are: (1) Whether households used digital platforms for agricultural and market information; (2) count of disseminated improved technologies that the households are aware of; (3) count of disseminated improved technologies that the household adopted; (4) total value of crop harvested (MWK); (5) crop productivity (kg per hectare); (6) income from other non-crop agri-enterprises (annual sales of livestock or byproducts); income from trading, agroprocessing and other agricultural enterprises, less operating costs) (MWK); (7) dietary diversity (whether household complies with the 6 minimum food groups promoted in Malawi). All these indicators pertain to the last 12 months prior to the survey (target month: August) among the producer group members. Another exploratory hypothesis is to test whether other households who are not members of ICT hubs in the community have better outcomes than those other households in the communities with control producer groups. This will help measure and inform on the spillover effect and influence of the ICT hubs on other farmers in the community. We measure indicators 1-3 on a random selection of other farmers in the same communities covered by the treatment and the control ICT hubs.
Secondary Outcomes (explanation)

Experimental Design

Experimental Design
The study is set-up as a cluster-randomized controlled trial, with the producer groups as unit of randomization and households as the unit of analysis. Of the 118 producer groups identified, half are assigned as treatment group, and the other half as control group. We take advantage of the phased or staggered approach of project implementation to set-up a cRCT with the randomly assigned treatment group to serve as first batch and those in the control group to serve as the second batch for the interventions.
Experimental Design Details
Not available
Randomization Method
Randomization done in office by a computer
Randomization Unit
Producer group
Was the treatment clustered?
Yes

Experiment Characteristics

Sample size: planned number of clusters
118 clusters
Sample size: planned number of observations
1,012 households (511 households in the treatment group and 501 households in the control group). In addition, we also target 900 other households in the same communities as the treatment and control ICT clubs to test the exploratory hypothesis on whether ICT hubs provide benefits to other non-member households in the community (through improved knowledge and access to ICT tools, and improved awareness and adoption of improved agricultural technologies and marketing practices)
Sample size (or number of clusters) by treatment arms
59 clusters in the treatment; and 59 clusters in the control group.
Minimum detectable effect size for main outcomes (accounting for sample design and clustering)
The average sales revenue was MWK 52,500, and the standard deviation was MWK 75,000. A third of the sample farming households did not engage in crop sales. For those who did engage in crop sales, the average sales amount was MWK 83,450, and the standard deviation is MWK 80,750. With the list of 118 producer groups identified by the project that they will support (both batches: treatment and control groups), and 9 members to be randomly selected per group, and the computed intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) is 0.17, the target sample size can detect a minimum effect of 38%. The project targets a 30% increase in average sales revenue among selling households during baseline and, for those not selling during baseline, to sell at an average of MWK52,500 similar to the baseline sellers. These represent a 40% increase over the average sales revenue among the baseline sellers (both represent an additional average sales revenue of MWK 44,100). The target sample size is just about what the project is targeting is a small allowance for potential attrition.
IRB

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs)

IRB Name
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) IRB
IRB Approval Date
2021-05-12
IRB Approval Number
DSGD-21-0514
IRB Name
National Committee on Research Ethics in the Social Sciences and Humanities, National Commission for Science and Technology
IRB Approval Date
2021-05-26
IRB Approval Number
NCST/RTT/2/6