Category: All-IN News

All-IN News

Emerging Evidence on Why Soil Testing is Key to Improve Yields on Smallholder Farms in Kenya

Soil acidity problem is a significant cause of low and stagnated crop yields in Kenya, particularly for maize, which is the country’s main staple crop. But research demonstrate that few farmers test their soils or make soil management decisions based on knowledge about the condition of their soils.

To help generate evidence to bridge this gap, ICED and Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience (MRR) through the USAID’s ALL-IN research grant is funding Tegemeo Institute in Kenya to conduct a research dubbed Soil Testing for Soil Acidity Management on Smallholder Farms in Kenya. The research, whose Principal Investigator is Dr. John Olwande, aims to provide policy-relevant and evidence-based insights on practical ways to encourage farmers to understand and update their knowledge about the condition of their soils and subsequently apply appropriate soil amendments.

The researchers collected soil samples from 657 smallholder farms in 120 villages in 24 wards spread across Bungoma, Kakamega, Trans Nzoia and Uasin Gishu counties. Crop Nutrition Laboratory Services Ltd (Cropnuts), Tegemeo’s partner, conducted the soil analysis and developed the recommendations for soil acidity management and fertilizer application.

Before disseminating the soil analysis results and recommendations to the farmers, Cropnuts trained 53 agricultural officers in each of the study counties. “The purpose of the training was to expose the officers to the technical aspects of the soil analysis and interpretation of soil test results the basis on which the recommendations were made,” says Dr.  Olwande. “The training covered areas like Understanding soil analysis report; Interpretation of soil analysis data; Role of various nutrients in maize production; Negative effects of soil acidity on nutrients availability to maize plants among others,”

The soil test results and recommendations for acidity management and fertilizer application were distributed to the individual farmers whose soils were sampled and the farmers whose soils were not sampled but are part of the research. The researchers and Aagricultural Officers held in-person meetings with farmers across the 120 target villages and delivered and explained to them the results of the soil tests and recommendations. “This feedback session with the farmers was critical. While a few  farmers had had their soil samples taken by some organizations for testing before, none of them had ever received soil test results,” says Dr. Olwande

Emerging evidence from this study points to the importance of soil testing and its critical role in improving farm productivity among smallholder farmers. Importantly, based on these findings, the researchers provided a set of farm-specific and ward-level recommendations for maize production. First, they recommended application of calcitic and dolomitic lime to correct soil acidity. Majority of the farmers have heard about agricultural lime and acknowledge that lime is available in local agrodealer shops, but few of them have applied lime to their farms despite the fact that liming is required on majority of the farms.  

Secondly, the researchers also recommended the types of fertilizers to apply and the application rate, as well as application of organic matter (manure and/or compost). The fertilizers recommended to the farmers were locally available in the agrodealer shops, while some were being sold by county governments under their respective subsidy programmes.

“Through this project, ICED is strengthening locally-led research solutions to local development challenges experienced by critical sectors like agriculture.  We hope that insights from this project will be instrumental in shaping adoption of soil-testing and application of appropriate soil management practices by smallholders for improved yields,” says Dr. David Ameyaw, ICED’s CEO.


Improving Productivity of Women Smallholders Through Capacity Building

In Uganda, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk & Resilience (MRR) in collaboration with International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED) through ALL-IN grant are funding the Strengthening Women Smallholders’ Resilience to Agricultural Shocks for Enhanced Income Diversification and Empowerment in Uganda project. Led by researchers from Makerere University, the project is testing a comprehensive approach to supporting women, including interventions that improve on-farm productivity, increase their resilience to shocks and increase their overall empowerment.

Recently, a total of 640 participants (320 women and 320 spouses) In Isingiro and Alebtong districts benefited from a training on business skill, Gender Transformative Approaches (GTA) and Gender Responsive Climate Smart Agriculture (GRCSA) collaboratively delivered by Makerere University, District Agricultural Officers and Community Development Officers. The project has three treatment arms and one control group in each district. There is a group receiving both the revolving fund and training, another receiving training only, third group is receiving revolving fund only and the last category is a control group which does not receive anything. The revolving fund was received by a total of 320 women (160 in each of the districts that is Alebtong and Isingiro respectively).

With support from ALL-IN, the project is providing revolving funds to selected women savings groups to boost their small-scale enterprises. These series of trainings are designed to create awareness about the gender roles, equip beneficiaries with business skills to improve their existing business or motivate them in opening up business. The training is also meant to strengthen capacity of the group structures to manage the revolving fund as intended by the project so that all the group members eventually receive the funds.

In order to increase the success rate of the revolving fund it is important to have the support of husbands at household level. Therefore, the men were invited so that they can be sensitized on the revolving fund and their role in supporting their spouses to increase or diversity household income sources,” says the Principal Investigator, Dr. Florence Muhanguzi, Makerere University.

“This project is providing insights and evidence that will help eliminate barriers to women economic empowerment,” says Dr. David Ameyaw, ICED President and CEO.

ALL-IN is funding twelve research projects in five African countries (Kenya, Uganda, Malawi, Ethiopia, Ghana and Nigeria) led by twelve Principal Investigators across nine Universities.



  • Graduate Research Assistant completes M.Phil thesis using a subset of data collected from ALL-IN project baseline survey 

As part of the requirement to provide capacity building/strenthening for individuals on the ALL-IN Project, Samuel Kwabena Chaa Kyire, a graduate research assistant, has completed his M.Phil thesis using a subset of the data collected during the baseline survey of the ALL-IN Project dubbed, Bundling Small Scale Irrigation and Drought Index Insurance to Manage Small-Scale Farmers’ Income Risk and Expanding Their Access to Agricultural Credit”.  

This research project is being undertaken by the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) Ghana, under the auspices of the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED) and funded by Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risks and Resilience (MRR), University of California, Davies. 

The candidate, whose thesis is entitled “Perceived risk, risk management and credit access among irrigated rice farmers in the Upper East region, Ghana” has successfully defended his thesis, did the corrections based on comments from the Internal and External Examiners and submitted the final version of the thesis to the School of Graduate Studies, UENR and is awaiting graduation on the 31st March, 2023 to be awarded an M.Phil. in Agribusiness Management.  

Samuel Kwabena Chaa Kyire’s final thesis defense presentation at UENR

In an interview, Professor John K. M. Kuwornu, the Principal Investigator on the ALL-IN Research Project at UENR disclosed, “Samuel Kwabena Chaa Kyire has been associated with the project; he is  hardworking and has the potential to attain higher laurels in academia. I pledge to mentor him to pursue his PhD.” 

“Apart from the academics”, Samuel intimated, “I have gained much knowledge and experience which will help in my career. I want to express my profound gratitude to Feed the Future Innovation Lab and ICED for making the funds available for the project. Also, my appreciation goes to Prof. John K. M. Kuwornu, the Lead of the ALL-IN Project at UENR and the entire team for their continuous support. I am looking forward to future opportunities  in graduate research so that I will be able to undertake a PhD Program and improve my career and capacity in the field of Agribusiness Management.” 

The abstract of the thesis is presented as follows: 


This study explored risk perception, management, and credit access among irrigated rice farmers. A multistage sampling approach was employed to sample 477 farmers from the Tono and Vea irrigation schemes in the Upper East region of Ghana. The perception index, multivariate probit regression and structural equation modelling were used to analyse farmers’ perception of agricultural risks, determinants of adopting risk management instruments and the moderating role of extension frequency between risk management and access to credit, respectively. The estimated perception index was 0.43, indicating that rice farmers positively perceive agricultural risks. Further, education, gender, farmer group membership, access to extension agents and research centres, total landholding, rice farm size, risk perceptions and perceived environmental changes such as drought, rainfall and declining soil fertility are the significant determinants of adopting risk management strategies. Moreover, the number of extension contact significantly moderates the relationship between risk management instruments (off-farm work and bonding) and the amount of credit borrowed by farmers. It is recommended that extension agents (Ministry of Food and Agriculture) and researchers (Savannah Agricultural Research Institute) need to enhance their services with frequent demonstrations and training to facilitate farmers’ adoption of risk management instruments. Financial service providers should also consider offering in-kind credit to farmers to stop using cash loans meant for farming for off-farm activities. Further, this study re-affirms Protection Motivation Theory as a critical driver of adopting risk management instruments. 


ALL-IN Project Technical Writing Workshop held in Malawi

A three-day ALL-IN technical workshop, under the tutelage of Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR), designed as a refresher or a jumpstart for students and early researchers involved in technical writing has been held at the Crossroads Hotel in Lilongwe, Malawi.

The LUANAR ALL-IN project writing workshop was aimed at improving writing skills such as clarity, conciseness and organization, increasing the ability to write for different audiences and purposes as well as providing a better understanding of the value of technical writing across a range of sectors and professions.

The workshop was facilitated by Limbikani Matumba, a Professor of Food Technology and Nutrition and Director of Research and Outreach at LUANAR-NRC College. He covered a range of topics from manuscript and article development, different types of articles and reviews, peer reviews and software and tools that aid in scientific and technical writing.


26 participants (13 males and 13 females) consisting 18 graduate students and 8 researchers from LUANAR attended the workshop.

On the first day, Professor Matumba discussed the importance of proper formatting for scientific documents and the different stages and components of a manuscript or article. He followed up on the second day focusing on systematic and meta-analysis reviews, with participants writing an introduction for an article of their choice and discussing the difference between rapid systematic reviews and meta-analyses.

On the final day, participants engaged in peer reviews of their introductions, followed by a plenary session led by Dr. Elizabeth Bandason, Senior Lecturer (Insect Neuroscientist) at LUANAR-Bunda College. 


The LUANAR ALL-IN writing workshop was a valuable experience for participants;

  • it provided them with the skills and knowledge to improve their technical writing,
  • they were able to take away valuable information that will help them in their future writing endeavors and it is expected that they will use the knowledge gained from the workshop to improve their writing skills and make their research more impactful,
  • the workshop also provided participants with an opportunity to create a network of peers and possible partners that may critique and help with future technical writing projects.
All-IN News

Q&A: Increasing Productivity with Credit, Insurance and Stress-Tolerant Seeds

Resilience in rural communities is being increasingly tested worldwide by the ravages of climate change. The impacts on small- and medium-scale farmers in many countries is acute because they lack the resources to respond to major events such as drought, floods, hurricanes and cyclones.

Feed the Future ALL-IN principal investigator Opeyemi E. Ayinde is testing a bundle of credit, insurance and stress-tolerant maize seeds for small-scale farmers in Nigeria with a focus on increasing women’s productivity and resilience. In this Q&A, Ayinde discusses her recent research, as well as policies that can increase rural resilience. 

Ayinde is a professor of agricultural economics at University of Ilorin, Nigeria, where she received her Ph.D. in agricultural economics and farm management. Ayinde is a funding member of the ALL-IN Research Network.

What are some of your research interests?

My research interest has always been in the economics of innovation in agricultural productivity, exploring themes such as the agricultural producers’ responses to risk, especially climate risk, and as well to innovation. I am also interested in the adoption of new technology, agricultural management strategies, the effects of climate change on agricultural production and gender issues.

I have spent more than 20 years on research in agricultural risk management to bring food security and better livelihoods to small-scale producers. I have focused passionately on women empowerment in food production systems and environmental risk management. I have also contributed largely in the deployment of innovative maize seed resistant to climate risk and stress through the Drought Tolerant maize for Africa (DTMA) and Stress Tolerant Maize for Africa (STMA) initiatives.

My current research in Nigeria is funded through the Feed the Future Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation and Networks (ALL-IN) initiative, and it focuses on innovation systems and how it can help increase technology up-take and resilience of farmers, especially women farmers.

What are the most interesting research findings from your work so far?

One of my recent research findings is that agricultural productivity has persistently varied due to climate risk. This is due to variations in rainfall patterns and temperature. My fellow researchers and I recommended that if agricultural productivity was to be increased and sustained, then environment- and agriculture-sensitive technologies and innovations that can mitigate climate fluctuation should be encouraged.

We also discovered that while women farmers’ varietal preferences differed across locations, they all ranked the drought-tolerant maize varieties as the best at all locations with the most profitable returns, despite local differences. Key in this finding is the fact that the successes on-farm encouraged the farmers.

Recognizing that women-owned plots are on average lower in production, increasing the availability of stress-tolerant maize and knowledge of its benefits could increase productivity substantially. Increasing women’s involvement in varietal preferences and use will greatly advance the adoption of new technologies and thus ensure food security and enhanced agricultural productivity.

In addition, credit has played a critical role in the success of farming at all levels. Governments and other stakeholders should encourage credit institutions to grant farmers access to credit to enable them to invest in improved technologies that can raise their productivity. Access to efficient financial markets, in particular credit insurance, needs to be expanded significantly for small and medium sized farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

I have highlighted a lack of research regarding the effect of agricultural insurance on small scale farmer’s credit utilization and efficiency in developing countries such as Nigeria, where agricultural production accounts for 40 percent of GDP. This is because formal lending institutions in many poorer regions of the world, are reluctant to offer loans to smaller farmers. Some governments have intervened with a range of agricultural risk management programs, including index insurance schemes.

To understand farmers’ attitudes toward these kinds of insurance we conducted a study related to programs offered by the Nigerian Agricultural Insurance Corporation (NAIC). We found that most farmers are not aware of insurance programs, and they fear that claims may not be paid. Many factors, including insurance agent attitudes and farming experience, affected their willingness to adopt index insurance. We also determined that the availability of coping strategies and farmer’s expectations of loss are key drivers of insurance coverage decisions.

Based on these and other findings, we recommended that credit and insurance agencies explore ways to expand their offerings and make all products more convenient and affordable to a wider range of farmers. We also recommended that extension agents and other agricultural development agencies be more actively involved in educating farmers and lenders about potential benefits of agricultural insurance.

What are some challenges you face in your industry?

The major challenges of my research work and the academic industry are that even at the peak of my career as a professor there is a lack of an enabling environment. This basically means that the strong belief of programs and interventions as “political cake” by farmers and the cultural and social obstacles that reduce the agricultural productivity of women.

What is the most promising or exciting part of your research work?

The most promising part of my research is having a positive impact on the livelihood and productivity of small-scale farmers, especially women, as well as impacting young researchers and academia in general. For every quotation, for every reference, for every mentee’s progress, for every positive report from farmers, I get excited.

All-IN News

Building on Good Investments in Africa’s Development Research Community

Development research in Africa has never been more critical, considering the number of challenges and crises rural families face across the continent. It has also never had such potential with so many African researchers and institutions ready to take the lead.

The Feed the Future Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation and Networks (ALL-IN) initiative funds African researchers and institutions to lead development program impact evaluations and field-tests of their own innovations. Strengthening research capacity at multiple levels is built into each project, ensuring that broader benefits continue to grow long after a project ends.

“Our projects are led by researchers who understand the context and culture on this continent and who are closely related to policy makers and understand the intricacies of policy,” said David Ameyaw, Feed the Future ALL-IN co-director and founder and CEO of the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED).  

“With the growing capacity in African research institutions, it’s time for more of our local partners to take the lead,” said Michael Carter, Feed the Future ALL-IN co-director and director of the MRR Innovation Lab. “We anticipate that doing so will enhance the relevance and long-term impacts of the research.”

Communicating the Value of Rigorous Research

African development researchers are often the best connected to their local and national policy makers, which can smooth the pathway from research results to more effective public programs and policies.

“Part of the reason for an initiative like Feed the Future ALL-IN is that local researchers can do a better job of communicating the value of rigorous evidence than researchers from outside,” said Tara Chiu, MRR Innovation Lab associate director. “This reinforces the value of local-led research.”

A Feed the Future ALL-IN research team in Kenya recently hosted a five-day training workshop for researchers from their institute and government partners to demonstrate how rigorous research methods produce credible evidence on impacts. The team is measuring the impact of the Kenya Climate Smart Agriculture Project, a national climate information service (CIS) program that integrates weather and agronomic advice for small-scale farmers.

The team’s workshop mainly focused on research designs that provide the best estimates of a program’s impacts. For example, a randomized controlled trial (RCT) separates households into groups that are statistically similar, then compares the outcomes between groups that received program benefits and groups that did not. When RCTs are not feasible, quasi-experimental approaches find alternative ways to achieve valid impact estimates.

While these research approaches provide much more accurate impact estimates than simply measuring changes before and after a program or comparing enrolled versus un-enrolled households, they are also much more expensive. They also require greater expertise to design and implement.

“We have been sensitizing public officers involved in program implementation about the value of rigorous impact evaluation,” said Mercy Kamau, a senior research fellow at Tegemeo Institute of Agricultural Policy and Development and the evaluation’s lead principal investigator. “A rigorous impact evaluation is much more useful for learning about causal effects or for informing decisions about up-scaling interventions or projects.”

Accelerating the Careers of Future Researchers

Building the careers of future researchers is also central to Feed the Future ALL-IN. Tegemeo Institute research assistant John Mburu has been working exclusively on Kamau’s project, and said the experience has significantly increased his skills, expertise and confidence.

“I’m able to increase my knowledge and even share it with my fellow researchers in the institute,” said Mburu. “The quality of my output has improved over time because I’m able now to connect everything from the beginning to the end.”

In Uganda, Florence Kyoheirwe Muhanguzi is leading a study that uses mixed methods research to test a comprehensive approach to increasing women’s agricultural productivity, resilience and overall empowerment. Research assistants make this work possible by meeting with the study’s participants and taking detailed surveys that make up the data for analysis.

Kyoheirwe Muhanguzi and her research team have leveraged the Feed the Future ALL-IN funding to extensively train 28 current and potential Makerere University graduate students on qualitative and quantitative research methods. The training and mentorship have expanded their roles from only taking field surveys to conducting preliminary analysis.

“It is important to train young researchers beyond data collection to move to the state where they can be able to edit the data but also code it and be able to write out the reports,” said Kyoheirwe Muhanguzi, a professor of women and gender studies at Makerere University.

While the financial support for research assistants does not pay for tuition at Makerere University, the position provides experience and access to detailed data, both of which can help young researchers advance their careers. So far, at least one research assistant is using the project’s datasets to write a Ph.D. dissertation.

“I’ve seen a few of our research assistants work beyond what we give them,” said Kyoheirwe Muhanguzi. “It will be interesting to know how the training and data we provided has enabled them to do their research.”

Growing Capacity at African Research Institutions

Bradford Mills, a professor of agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech University, began conducting research in Africa over 30 years ago. Today he serves as a research mentor on the project in Kenya led by Mercy Kamau, who he has known since he worked at the Kenya Agricultural Research Institute as a post-doctoral researcher.

At that time, he said, outside researchers set the agenda when collaborating with local institutions. Today, he said, that is changing. When collaborating with international researchers, local researchers are asking for technical advice to implement their own ideas, which is how every Feed the Future ALL-IN collaboration is structured.

“There are many people and institutions that have the capacities to do high-level work in terms of agricultural economics,” said Mills. “When you step back and see institutional change in over 30 years it’s quite impressive.”

This existing capacity is part of why Feed the Future ALL-IN can contribute to the future of development research led from African institutions. The initiative is funding 12 large-scale projects with up to $450,000 each with the idea that this level of investment could open the door to future large-scale research funding from international donors.

Khadijat Amolegbe, a Feed the Future ALL-IN principal investigator at Ilorin University, Nigeria, is leading a project that trains small-scale farmers to use their cell phones to leverage digital marketplaces where they can sell their harvest. She said that the project’s level of funding elevates her profile as a researcher while also encouraging her colleagues to seek out funding for their own research ideas.

“Having someone close by managing a grant of this amount makes them want to look for other opportunities,” said Amolegbe. “The grant has created the atmosphere whereby people are now interested in doing more.”