Impact evaluation of the smallholder market-led programme in Swaziland

Publication Details


3ie Funded Evaluation, TW4.1029. A link to the completed study will appear here when available.

Fiala, N and di Maio, M
Institutional affiliations
None specified
Grant-holding institution
None specified
Sub-Saharan Africa (includes East and West Africa)
Agriculture and Rural Development
Agricultural Reform, Agricultural Extension, Agro-Industry & Marketing, Irrigation & Drainage, Livestock, Rural Livelihoods
Gender analysis
Agricultural Reform, Agricultural Extension, Agro-Industry & Marketing, Irrigation & Drainage, Livestock, Rural Livelihoods
Gender analysis
Equity Focus
Gender, Poverty
Evaluation design
Propensity Score Matching (PSM)
Ongoing 3ie Funded Studies
3ie Funding Window
Agricultural Innovation Thematic Window


This study evaluates the Swaziland government’s Smallholder Market-Led Programme (SMLP) initiative and assesses its impacts on poverty, food security, agricultural production and environmental sustainability. 

The SMLP has three components: (1) support to chiefdoms for development planning, (2) infrastructure development for soil and water conservation, and (3) market-led support services. The evaluation will focus on the second and third components. 


Similar to most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Swaziland is highly dependent on the agricultural sector and has a high prevalence of rural poverty, hunger and malnutrition as a direct consequence of household food insecurity.

The Government of Swaziland in collaboration with Swaziland Water and Agricultural Enterprises (SWADE) created the SMLP to bolster the agriculture sector in the country through investments in crop and livestock production, market-led commercialisation of local smallholder agriculture, and the conservation of soil and water resources. SMLP is based on a participatory planning approach that is a feature of many projects that International Fund for Agricultural Development funds.

Research questions

The primary question of interest for the study is:

  1. Do market-led support services lead to increased agricultural production and income for households?

Among the secondary research questions, the study will look at:

       2.How does the participatory process affect the choice of what programmes to implement at the community level?
       3.How do farmer characteristics affect their decision to use market-led support services?
       4.Does the programme influence farmers’ decision to use soil and water conservation methods and select new income generating activities?


Intervention design

SMLP was set up on Government of Swaziland’s request to IFAD to assist in developing the agricultural sector in the country. The programme aims at reducing poverty and food insecurity among the rural poor through an investment supporting increased agricultural production and productivity, and market-led commercialisation of smallholder agriculture.

The programme is scheduled to run for a six-year period from 2016 to 2022. The programme includes the following components:

Component 1 – Chiefdom Development Planning
Component 2 – Infrastructure for Soil and Water Conservation.
Component 3 – Market-led Agriculture.

One of the objective of the SMLP is to develop value chains for specific commodities, linking smallholder producers to existing agricultural demands.

Theory of change

SMLP adopts a value chain approach to agricultural development to enhance food security and nutrition, and incomes among smallholder farmers through agricultural diversification and market linkages.

This causal linkage is modeled around three synergic components: chiefdom development planning, infrastructure for soil and water conservation, and market-led production.

As the SMLP is composed of three components, the outcomes of interest are divided across the components. The outcomes of interest include the following:

  1. Increased capacity of the chiefdoms, which will lead to improved decision making process and identification of those in need of interventions
  2. Increased knowledge of water and soil conservation methods
  3. Increased cooperation between farmers and improved knowledge of how to work with the local supply chain leading to  higher agricultural production and a stronger link with local markets.

Evaluation design

This study uses a mixed methods evaluation approach consisting of quantitative and qualitative data collection. Quantitatively, the evaluation uses a quasi-experimental propensity score matching design to determine the impact of SMLP.

A total of 1000 farmers from 1650 beneficiary households in drought prone area of Southeastern Swaziland will be part of the study. The control group will be taken from a sample size of 3000 farmers and consist of a combination of farmers within and outside the project development area. Matching between treatment and control group will be conducted on characteristics relating to: household demographics, farm level factors, access to finance, community dynamics, exposure to information and technologies, market information, and agro-climactic factors.

Qualitatively, the study comprises of three components; i) ethnographic studies to help understand farmer decision making, market knowledge, government perceptions and perceived community leadership roles; ii) focus group discussions (FGD) to establish gender dynamics, attitudes towards the programme, and perceived impact; and iii) behavioural games focusing on perceptions of time, risk, market supply and demand, incentives, and government interventions. As most of Swaziland’s agricultural workforce consists of women, the study additionally focuses on evaluating SMLP’s impact on gender inequalities.

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