Assessing the Relative Effectiveness of Different Programs to Offset the Learning Costs Associated with Adoption of New Agricultural Technology in Sierra Leone

Significant resources have been devoted to developing new crops for Africa that have the potential to dramatically improve the lives of the poor. One of these, New Rice for Africa (known as NERICA), offers the prospect of higher yields, less vulnerability to disease and drought, early maturation during the hungry season, and multiple croppings per year. Yet adoption rates are low, especially in the poorest countries. Many projects provide new technologies for free to help stimulate adoption, but there is increasing concern that this undermines beneficiaries’ future willingness to pay by setting expectations about market prices for new products. Other projects provide intensive training in an attempt to reduce the costs to early adopters, but this approach can be expensive. The IRC compared the effectiveness of these two approaches, tested NERICA’s effectiveness in improving the productivity and livelihoods of poor farmers, and tracked how rapidly the new rice spreads to neighboring farmers and communities in 245 communities. For this project, the IRC worked with the Sierra Leone Agriculture Research Institute.

The Airbel Impact Lab at IRC is a team of researchers, strategists and innovators committed to the accelerated design, rigorous evaluation and cost-effective scaling of the most impactful solutions supporting people affected by crisis.