On May 12, 2020, at the University of California (UC) Davis, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience (MRR Innovation Lab) announced the award of a five-year research grant to the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED) to lead the implementation of MRR Innovation Lab’s Advancing Local Leadership, Innovation and Networks (ALL IN) in Africa.
ALL IN is a new research program that aims to advance host country leadership in defining and implementing research projects and to deepen host country connections. The research will develop and test financial and market innovations that take the most promising agricultural tools for families in developing economies from the lab to the field.
ALL IN is designed to address capacity gaps among many research institutions in managing large and complex awards (particularly the unique complexities of managing the United States Agency for International Development awards). The program builds on the successes and draws on the strength of US-African research collaborations, but inverts the traditional model. ALL IN will call for researchers at African institutions to take the lead in defining priorities and will work with US university research partners to supplement their own skills, talents, and ideas.
Over the years, Feed the Future Innovation Labs has been built on partnerships between researchers at U.S. universities and researchers at host-country universities and institutions. Historically, these partnerships have been led, in both program administration and the ideas that drive the research, from the U.S. ALL IN will seek to shift this leadership role to researchers in Africa.
ICED was established in 2016 to nurture leadership and innovation in impact evaluation for development by mobilizing the emergent capacity of African universities and research institutions. ICED is positioned to bridge the gap that can exist between the capacity of an innovative researcher to conduct high-quality research and the capacity of that researcher’s institution to manage a large and complex research project, allowing us to award significant funding to innovative host-country based researchers to lead a research project.
ICED currently have a memorandum of understandings (MOU) with research institutions in Africa such as the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research in the University of Ghana; the School of Graduate Studies, Research & Extension of the United States International University (USIU-Africa) in Nairobi, Kenya; The University of Nairobi Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation, Kenya, Nairobi; The School of Agricultural Economics and Business Studies, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania; Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda; and The Ethiopian Economic Policy Research Institute, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ICED has plans to widen the network to most of the research institutions in Africa.
ICED has also developed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with selected Africa country government ministries to promote research and evaluation for policy-making and action. ICED currently has MOU with the Ghana Government Ministry of Monitoring and Evaluation, The commissioner of M&E, office of the Prime Minister, Uganda, The State Ministry of Planning, Department of M&E, Kenya National Treasury and Planning, The Planning Commission, Malawi, and The Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, Puntland, State of Somalia.
ICED has been championing the evidence to action movement in Africa through its annual Evidence to Action conference (E2A) which has created an excellent platform for researchers, academics, private sector practitioners, development agencies, civil society and policy makers to learn, share information, build networks and partnerships with the overall objective of identifying effective strategies and interventions for ensuring data generated from research and evaluation projects is well utilized.
Therefore, as an African-based and African-led research institution, ICED is a natural choice to lead ALL IN based on its experience in nurturing leadership and innovation in impact evaluation for development and its ability to mobilize the emergent capacity of African universities and research institutions
ICED hopes that this research initiative and the innovations and interventions that emerge, will in turn boost the capacity of various African governments to design sound evidence-based policies that will cause positive development outcomes in the continent.
ALL-IN research projects further the mission of the MRR Innovation Lab to generate and transfer into action innovations that will bolster resilience, keeping rural individuals, households, communities and markets in positions of economic viability from which they can sustain and accelerate a path of inclusive agricultural growth.
This ALL-IN project addresses these challenges with information and communications technology (ICT) interventions that create a virtual marketplace to connect horticultural sellers to buyers and a platform that provides agricultural extension services to farmers remotely.Read More
This ALL-IN project is measuring the impacts of large-scale land transactions in Ethiopia and identifying the communities and households who benefit and those who does not.Read More
This Feed the Future ALL-IN research team is developing and testing a Sharia-compliant takaful mutual insurance contract that triggers payments in the event that there is a weather anomaly.Read More
In Nigeria, a Feed the Future ALL-IN research team is providing digital literacy training so farmers can use their mobile phones to access e-commerce to sell their harvest.Read More
This Feed the Future ALL-IN project is testing interlinked credit, index insurance and cultivation of stress-tolerant maize varieties to strengthen women’s productivity, income and resilience.Read More
This ALL-IN project is testing a package of training and financing that will vertically integrate local shea markets in northern Ghana, increasing the sector’s overall profitability while empowering women producers to receive the full benefits of their work.Read More
An ALL-IN research team in Ghana is testing an innovative bundle of supplemental irrigation and a complementary index insurance product to expands farmers’ overall drought protection.Read More
This new ALL-IN study measures the socio-economic impact of Ghana’s government policy initiative dubbed “One Village, One Dam” (1V1D) implemented in Northern Ghana since 2017.Read More
In Uganda, new ALL-IN research is testing a comprehensive approach to supporting women to improve their on-farm productivity, increase their resilience to shocks and enhance their overall empowerment.Read More
This ALL-IN project in Kenya is testing practical ways to encourage farmers to test their soils and to apply appropriate soil amendments, including an estimate of farmers’ willingness to pay for soil testing.Read More
An ALL-IN research team has launched a comprehensive study to provide the first evidence from a national program on the impact of weather and market advisories on farmers’ decision making, including for women and poor families.Read More
ALL-IN is a USAID-funded collaborative research grant program between The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk & Resilience (MRR) and the International Centre for Evaluation and Development (ICED). Over its five-year funding cycle, ALL-IN is supporting 12 projects with a maximum award amount of $450,000.
In 2013, Ghana was the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to attain the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty. However, poverty continues to be pervasive in Ghana’s rural areas. Further, Ghana has significant regional differences in poverty, with the northern, upper east and upper west regions reporting poverty rates exceeding half of the population.
This persistent rural poverty has had dire consequences for families’ nutrition. In 2019, about one in five children under five years of age in Ghana were stunted, and one in ten were underweight. In Ghana’s northern region, the prevalence of stunting in 2017 was 33 percent, almost twice the national average. This high burden of malnutrition affects children’s education outcomes, cognitive development as well as physical growth.
The USAID Resiliency in Northern Ghana (RING) project is an integrated project under the Feed the Future initiative that seeks to improve the livelihoods and nutritional status of vulnerable rural families. RING-I, implemented from 2012 to 2019, was designed to increase the consumption of diverse quality foods, improve nutrition and hygiene among women and young children and strengthen local networks for vulnerable households. RING-II, currently underway, promotes families’ wellbeing and resilience through improved farming practices.
Direct mobile phone communication through an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) platform may help to expand the impacts of the RING project by seeking to improve poor and vulnerable families’ nutrition. While communication on its own will not improve nutrition and reduce poverty, understanding its contributions to these broader efforts can improve its impact in ongoing and future programming.
This ALL-IN research project, led by the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana, Legon, evaluates the impacts of the RING project on household nutrition and resilience to shocks in Northern Ghana. The evaluation includes a careful examination of whether communication (i.e. IVR messaging) can encourage and reinforce this kind of nutrition-based intervention. The research team is also exploring whether messages sent to men and women separately or together has a larger impact on household decisions related to nutrition.
The research team is employing a multi-stage sampling procedure where participants are selected from 15 districts, and within each district a random selection of 180 communities. Participants are households with children under two years old. The majority of these households are smallholder farmers who cultivate maize, soybean, groundnut, cowpea and leafy vegetables. The total number of participants is estimated to be about 1,800 households.
The team is working with Ghana-based IT firm Image-AD to send out nutrition-based messages by mobile phone to randomly selected households in the treatment groups. The nutrition-based messages to be used are key messages derived from the nutrition-based programs undertaken as part of USAID programming in the project area. Testing differences in outcomes between participating households and their non-participating counterparts will indicate whether these messages improve nutrition-related decisions and behaviors, and resilience to shocks like drought.
The study is measuring the intervention’s impacts on household income, household expenditures on water, sanitation and hygiene, spending on food, and dietary diversity as well as children’s nutrition-related outcomes such as weight and height and incidence of illness.
The USAID Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS) has an overall goal of supporting Ghana to increase self-reliance with all citizens living a healthy and productive life. Current inequalities biased against Northern Ghana require a systematic approach that takes these inequalities into account. This is particularly important as the adverse effects of the COVID-19 shock is likely to linger on and exacerbate spatial inequality.
If the RING program improves households’ welfare, it could lay the foundation for planning the country’s development agenda with poverty and inequality at the heart of such a plan. This ALL-IN project includes an evaluation of the cost effectiveness of using a mobile phone platform to speed up behavior change. Fortunately for Ghana, mobile phone penetration is very high. This makes the use of mobile phones for communicating to smallholder farmers as a means to improve families’ nutrition and reduce poverty a real possibility.
This report is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) cooperative agreement 7200AA19LE00004. The contents are the responsibility of the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Markets, Risk and Resilience and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.