The study follows a randomized controlled trial to estimate causal impacts of extension programmes and alternative mechanisms to improve their efficiency in five provinces of Cambodia.
A large majority of farmers are unaware of new improved practices of cultivation, even when these are easily available, or are unable to employ them optimally. This has led governments and other agencies to invest considerable resources in agricultural extension programmes.
Hence, the study focuses on delivering innovative models of offering extension services to the farmers. It aims to foster the development of a Cambodian model of agricultural extension, and a policy adopted around fostering that model. The model of agricultural extension can also be replicated in other countries under similar context.
• Do “traditional” extension mechanisms have a positive impact on farmers’ primary outcomes (knowledge of new technologies and agricultural practices) and secondary outcomes (input use and labour allocation across plots) of interest?
• Do financial incentives play a role in the effectiveness of extension programmes?
• How can incentive schemes be better designed in extension programmes to improve their effectiveness and diffusion of knowledge among non- participants?
• Do ICT-based models (that allow for feedback and bottom-up questions) perform better than traditional extension methods?
• Are there complementarities between financial incentives and ICTs? Which of these methods is most cost-effective?
The study focuses on delivering innovative models of offering extension services to the farmers. It is experimenting with two innovative approaches to provide extension services - one, where extension staff is provided incentives based on effective dissemination of information among farmers and two, where use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) enables farmers to communicate regularly with extension officers. The study will test relative effectiveness of the approaches combining traditional approaches with innovative incentive schemes and remote communication through ICTs.
Theory of change
It is expected that the innovative approaches to extension will lead to increased awareness and knowledge among farmers of better agricultural techniques (specifically about the use of improved technologies, like seeds or inputs). Enhanced knowledge will encourage more farmers to adopt these technologies and improve their practices, resulting in an increase in agricultural productivity and household welfare.
The study implements a randomised controlled trial along with a mixed methods approach. The study will follow a multistage stratified sampling design where the villages will be stratified by their agricultural potential, using the micro-region typology. In each strata, the authors will draw a random sample of villages, from which there will be a random selection of households. Out of the sample of villages, each village will be randomly assigned to one of the five categories: Control, Traditional training, Training + Incentive, Training +ICTs, and Training + ICTs + Incentives. By comparing different groups, effects of each aspect of the intervention will be isolated. A sample size of 3,000 households in 150 villages (30 village/clusters per condition) is proposed by the study.
The programme will also conduct focus group discussions with groups of participating farmers. The information on the beneficiaries’ experience with the programme will help illuminate the way it has affected agricultural knowledge and farmer behaviour. Since the programme is stratifying based on the regional typology (describing which areas might react better to different interventions), it will analyse results by region in addition to looking at affects based on gender and credit access.