Integrated Soil Fertility Management in Malawi

A Randomised Control Trial of the Anchor Farm Model

With funding of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), ISFM-Malawi aims to support CDI in their scale-up. ISFM provides potential solutions to increasing smallholder productivity, but to date, little information exists on how to implement these solutions. Knowledge of the cost-effectiveness of the numerous AFM components will enable stakeholders, including farmers, government agencies, non-governmental organizations and the private sector to make evidence-based decisions. This research strives to directly address the unmet demand for empirical evidence on interventions related to smallholder farmer productivity, soil fertility, and market participation in Malawi. This will be achieved through the random assignment of 250 villages into:

1. Control villages;

2. Villages invited to establish demonstration plots and participate in other dissemination activities;

3. Villages who receive marketing assistance.

In addition to evaluating the impacts of (2) and (3) on farmers' adoption, yield and welfare, we will explore solutions to increase the effectiveness of demonstration plots through improved functioning of farmer clubs. Using detailed panel data (covering 5 years), ISFM-MALAWI will identify the channels though which impacts take place and explore the heterogeneity across household composition, wealth, time and risk preference, and soil properties. The latter allows the evaluation to draw lessons for sub-Saharan Africa with the goal of increasing ISFM adoption across the continent.

We conduct this evaluation through a Randomized Controlled Design study running from 2014-2019, in which some villages, randomly selected, receive the program, while others do not (during the duration of our study). Using base, mid and end-line surveys, we establish the short and medium terms impacts of program.