Why promising trials often fail to result in agricultural yield gains: Evidence from Kenya


Published 31.03.21
Photo credit:
CIMMYT/Peter Lowe

Farmer selection and researcher interference during trials can introduce bias, impacting how new technologies perform in real-world conditions

Audio file

Read “Reconciling yield gains in agronomic trials with returns under African smallholder conditions” by Rachid Laajaj, Karen Macours, Cargele Masso, Moses Thuita, and Bernard Vanlauwe here.

To address global poverty and hunger, increasing the adoption of improved agricultural technologies is essential. Yet, while experimental trials might lead to positive outcomes, technologies are not always adopted at scale. 

In this VoxDevTalk, Rachid Laajaj discusses insights from his research with Karen Macours, Cargele Masso, Moses Thuita, and Bernard Vanlauwe on smallholder farmers in rural areas of Western Kenya. The research team assessed the puzzle of why farmers might choose not to adopt or might not see success from promising technologies, even with financial and informational support to do so. 

Their research provides quantitative evidence on how failing to adapt trials to farmers’ specific conditions has direct implications for the take-up of new technologies. It also highlights some of the problems with the ways in which research is conducted, where the presence of a researcher impacts farming behavior. Better accounting for and enabling of real-world conditions early on in the research process would ensure experimental results are more credible, with significant implications for improving agricultural outputs among some of the world’s poorest people.