Disseminating Innovative Resources and Technologies to Smallholders (DIRTS) in Northern Region, Ghana

Lead Research Organisation: Innovations for Poverty Action
Department Name: Principal Investigator


The DIRTS project will use a randomized controlled trial to measure the impact of improved flows of extension information, access to agricultural input packages, and rainfall index insurance on agricultural intensification, specifically the use of fertilizers and improved seeds.

To further examine the importance of weather-related risk to farm investment, all farmers in our study will be able to purchase a commercial rainfall index insurance product, developed by the Ghana Insurers Association (GIA). In 2014 we will offer free insurance to a randomly-selected subset of our sample, and actuarially-fair insurance to everyone else. Based on past experience, we expect take-up to be at or near 100% for the free insurance, and low for actuarially-fair insurance. We anticipate a strong investment response to the free insurance. In year 2, given that communities now have experience with the insurance, we expect that there will be strong demand at actuarially fair and higher prices. We will also experiment with marketing by local notables, to see if this increases demand.

Second, to test the importance of unsure, untimely and costly access to agricultural inputs, DIRTS will make commercial fertilizer and improved seeds available to selected communities at different points during the year instead of just prior to land preparation. These inputs will be sold at market price by existing agro-input dealers, who are based in the districts. The project will facilitate linkages between these suppliers and the communities and subsidize transport.

Third, to test the importance of imperfect farmer knowledge of farming best practices, randomly selected communities will be provided with more intensive extension through a Community Extension Agent (CEA). CEAs will be based in their own communities and will use Android phones to deliver standardized weekly extension messages, and will use mobile technology (pre-loaded database) to offer appropriate and time-sensitive advice to the farmers.

For this study, 3240 households in 162 communities will be randomized into one of four treatment groups: insurance and extension; insurance and agricultural inputs; insurance, extension, and agricultural inputs, and insurance only. Two main evaluation tools will be used to study DIRTS households: comprehensive annual surveys to collect household and plot level data, and weekly tracking of household labor surveys during the agricultural season.

Field work for DIRTS will run from January 2014 to March 2016 in 9 districts in northern Ghana. During the study period, project staff will use social media outlets and meetings with key stakeholders in the insurance and agricultural sectors to disseminate technical knowledge, focus group discussion results, and preliminary findings. At the end of the study period, local and international dissemination conferences will be held to publicize results.

Planned Impact

The long-term goal of the DIRTS project is to increase the number of smallholder farmers who can access useful agricultural products and services, with consequent reduction of food insecurity for the region and higher levels of farmers' income. Ghana is classified by ESRC as a lower middle income country, but rural poverty remains a serious problem, especially in the northern regions. In 2006, 52 percent of Ghanaians lived under the poverty line of US$2 per day, and residents of rural northern Ghana were two to three times more likely to live in poverty than the average Ghanaian. The typical northern smallholder owns less than ten acres of land, cultivates maize and groundnuts, may miss meals during lean seasons, maintains very limited liquid savings and faces the risk of weather shocks. Recent work by SARI and UDS estimates that farmers in northern Ghana are achieving just 30 percent of potential crop yields. Increasing agricultural yields and profitability through improved extension, input provision, and insurance access is an important first step towards reducing rural poverty levels in northern Ghana and elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa.

DIRTS' activities are expected to be of interest to national and regional policymakers, development practitioners, insurance companies, agricultural input suppliers, and funders in the following ways:

1. Testing the overall effectiveness of extension services, input provision, and rainfall index insurance in the Northern Ghanaian context. Identifying the agricultural policies which do or don't work will allow policymakers to better target their scarce resources towards effective policies. Stakeholders who may be interested in this work include policymakers from regional ministries of agriculture, development practitioners, and funding organizations.

2. Testing new models of extension delivery. DIRTS will seek to overcome the constraints of infrequent government AEA visits by supplementing government-provided AEA services with CEAs using mobile technologies. Through DIRTS, MoFA will be in a good position to set up and bring the community extension agent program to scale, while other regional ministries of agriculture could pursue similar community-based extension programs in partnership with technology providers such as the Grameen Foundation AppLab. The CEA model is expected to be attractive to MoFA and other ministries of agriculture because the use of CEAs is less expensive than paying for AEA salary and transport to remote communities, and the mobile content can be updated remotely at any time.

3. Potential for commercialization and scalability of existing products & services. Information collected on the demand for insurance, extension services and intensified agricultural inputs as well as the profitability of each will inform the potential and scope of privatization for each component.

During the two-year study period, project staff will use social media outlets and meetings with key stakeholders in the insurance and agricultural sectors to disseminate technical knowledge, focus group discussion results, and preliminary findings. At the end of the study period, local and international dissemination conferences will be held to publicize results to the above-mentioned stakeholders.


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Title Agricultural extension videos 
Description The agricultural extension videos are a practical representation of how improved agricultural practices should be carried out. The videos are a product of scripts developed by the Extension team in consultation with Agricultural Extension Agents of the Ghana Ministry of Food and Agriculture and Senior Research Scientist of Savannah Agricultural Research Institute. The scripts served as the voice-over on which motion pictures were added to create videos. The agricultural extension videos are in 3 languages: Dagbani, Likpakpa and English. A total of 66 videos have been developed on maize and legume agricultural practices. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact By observing how improved agricultural practices should be carried out, there has been a positive impact on knowledge of treatment farmers as well as their adoption of improved agricultural practices. Data collected shows that recipients of the extension treatment arm have increased their knowledge and adoption improved agricultural practices. 
Title Insurance radio drama 
Description This is an audio recording of a radio drama organized to educate the general public on the concept and relevance of purchasing weather-based drought index insurance policy. The drama was followed by a phone-in session which enabled listeners to ask questions and have their concerns addressed by resource persons. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2015 
Impact The drama was hosted on radio Savannah, one of radio stations in Tamale with a wide coverage and large listening population. Due to the wide coverage and size of listening population, the intended message of the drama reached a large number of people. The phone-in session positively influenced the public's perception of the insurance policy especially those in the DIRTS communities. A change in the perception of the policy led to a boost in community members' trust level which played a role in an increase in uptake. 
Description 1) Insurance: The light insurance treatment had no significant effect on either input decisions or on harvest. The "Heavy Insurance" treatment had impacts similar to those found for a similar (but more generous) program in the same region reported by Karlan et al (2014). The insurance spurred farmer investment in land preparation and chemical use, but had no noticeable impact on harvests.
2) Extension:
• After three years, Community Extension Agents successfully increased local farmers' knowledge and improved their practices.
• Delivering the right messages at the time when they're most relevant may be an important component of a successful program.
• However, farmers' improved knowledge and implementation of best practices did not ultimately translate into increased yields or earnings for the farmers.
• Farmers who received the program invested more in the use of chemicals but not in other inputs.

3) Inputs: Households in communities with the input marketing intervention use a statistically significant $440 less of labor input on their farms; a drop of about 10% from baseline levels. There are no other significant changes in inputs, and the effect of the intervention is estimated quite precisely to have no effect on output.
4) There is no evidence that any of the three core interventions had any impact on farm productivity or profits.
5) Weather forecasting:
• On days when rain was forecast, farmers in communities without access to forecasts were less likely to plant or apply chemicals. However, in communities with forecasts, both those who got the forecasts and those around them were more likely to plant or apply chemicals.
• Consistent with farmers' behavior, profitability was higher when planting was done on a day of light to moderate rain. In contrast, profits were lower when chemicals were applied on those days. Overall, the effects of the forecasts were too small to detect for the sample as a whole.
Exploitation Route - Journal publication will make results available to the academic audience;
- A set of results and policy briefs is in the process of being produced and published to reach a broader audience
- Dissemination events have been planned for 2018 to share these findings with stakeholders
- A set of ad-hoc meeting with Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture directors have been scheduled to inform and discuss about these findings
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink

Description The CEA-model of extension service contributed to raise awareness and sensitize about the shortage of AEA in Ghana. The CEA model has been adopted by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MoFA) offices in two districts, Saboba and Mion in Northern region, Ghana. The adoption of this CEA-model was in a bid to reduce the extension agent-farmers ratio and in effect improve farmer accessibility to extension services. Ghana Agricultural Insurers Pool (GAIP) upon studying DIRTS' approach to using Community Based Marketers in marketing and selling insurance policies has opted to adopt a similar model in insurance marketing. GAIP will continue to market and sell insurance policies using the DIRTS Insurance CBMs.
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

Title CEA Diagnostic Tool 
Description This is a short survey programmed on the SurveyCTO platform which is accessed using SurveyCTO collect application. The tool collects data on past and current agricultural practices of respondents to recommend an extension message on an upcoming agricultural activity. The extension message recommended is time-sensitive information relevant to the agricultural activities of farmers. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2014 
Impact A novel approach to extension service delivery that eliminates bias in message delivery and is based solely on data collected on farmer practices and scientific logic. Key stakeholders and partners have expressed interest in adopting this tool. 
Description DIRTS presented at IFPRI GSSP Policy Dialogue: Building a Competitive Agriculture Sector in Ghana 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Preliminary results about the project were presented with the aim of sharing evidence and feed the debate about how to make agricultural sector in Ghana more competitive.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Input retailers exit workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Industry/Business
Results and Impact A workshop was organized with collaborating and non-collaborating agricultural retailers of the project in Northern Region to share project findings. The purpose of this activity was to encourage adoption or scale up of the community-based model of inputs marketing. Project resources such as input catalogues, marketing and sales briefs as well as analysis of sale trends in project districts were shared with participants. With access to these information, participants showed interest and made plans to maintain the DIRTS Input supply chain established to make inputs readily available to farmers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
Description Project presented at the Evidence to Action conference 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event aimed at presenting studies on Agricultural Development in West Africa and how they can inform or be translated into actionable policies and programs. Preliminary findings from the project have been presented and interest and awareness among the audience have risen.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
Description Savannah radio insurance program 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This program was hosted in collaboration with Ghana Agricultural Insurers Pool (GAIP) on Radio Savanna to enlighten the general public about agricultural insurance and its relevance. It involved a drama session which touched on conflicting crop insurance decisions using fictional characters. This program served as a useful platform to educate the general public on the Faarigu policy given the radio station's wide coverage and high patronage of the popular program by listeners. The drama session was followed by a phone-in session. Several questions were asked by listeners during the phone-in session and the answers provided positively influenced the decision of community members to purchase the insurance product. The contact details of a Ghana Agricultural Insurers Pool (GAIP) representative was shared which enabled listeners to obtain further information after the program.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015