Institutional and political constraints for agricultural productivity

The project proposes to identify institutional and political impediments to technology adoption among African smallholders. While “yield gaps” are a well-known reality in many African countries, little is known about the specific roles of policies and institutions as determinants of yield gaps.

We address this void in the literature via a two-pronged strategy. First, focusing on the African continent, we conduct a series of cross-country statistical analyses. These models are based on existing “macro data” on institutions and policies on the one hand, and land use, technology adoption and agricultural productivity on the other hand. Second, we complement the macro analysis with a detailed analysis of institutional impediments to adoption and innovation at the local level. For this purpose we will organise a series of experiments in Sierra Leone and Liberia. The project uses a suite of novel methods, including randomized interventions (random assignment of communities to treatment arms or control groups) and artefactual field experiments (behavioural games) for causal inference and gauging institutional quality, respectively. This project is a joint effort with the Plant Production Systems Group who provides agronomic input.


We will use rigorous econometric techniques to identify factors that promote or impede innovation and the adoption of innovations (raising agricultural productivity, closing yield gaps) both at the macro (state) and micro (community) level. The main objective is to identify policies and institutional factors that drive patterns of intensification and commercialisation of smallholder farming in Africa, and prioritise policies and institutions that should be reformed to place smallholder farming on a trajectory of sustainable development—closing yield gaps, raising rural incomes, and improving rural livelihoods.