Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Thursday, January 9, 2020

Tjernström shares research on African agriculture

Emilia Tjernström Emilia Tjernström

La Follette School Assistant Professor Emilia Tjernström presented her research about agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa during a session on Innovations to Improve Agricultural Extension on Friday, Dec. 20.

Tjernström’s presentation, Can Smallholder Extension Transform African Agriculture, was part of Yale University’s Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale (Y-RISE) meeting. Other presenters included Professor Michael Kremer of Harvard University, who with Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee received the 2019 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.

Tjernstrom and colleagues analyzed a randomized control trial of a rare scaled-up success story within African agriculture: One Acre Fund’s small farmer program. The program aims to relax multiple constraints to productivity simultaneously, and the research showed that participation causes statistically and economically significant increases in output, yields, and profits.

In the researchers’ preferred specification, maize production increased by 24 percent and profits by 16 percent. They found little evidence of heterogeneous treatment effects on yields, but they observed some attenuation of impacts on total output and profits at the top end of the distribution.