David Murphy is a PhD Candidate at Cornell’s Dyson School and is on the job market this year
An excellent July 30th article in the New York Times highlights the impact of climate change and population pressures on soil degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and the effect it will likely have on increasing poverty and food insecurity. One obstacle to helping repair soil nutrient levels is the lack of information among farmers as to the nutrient status of their soils (Marenya et al., 2008; Berazneva et al., 2016). This can lead to inefficient application of fertilizers, reducing profitability and hindering improvements in soil fertility (Wopereis et al., 2006; Vanluawe et al., 2011).
In my job market paper, I investigate whether individualized soil tests and fertilizer recommendations can be cost-effective methods to reverse soil degradation. In collaboration with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), we collected and tested soils from 550 smallholder fields in western Kenya and IITA developed individualized fertilizer recommendations for each farm. We then visited the smallholders and separately provided the household head and his/her spouse with the information from the tests and recommendations. To determine the effect of this information transfer, we conducted incentive-compatible experimental auctions for organic and inorganic fertilizers with the individuals, both before and after they received the soil test information and recommendations. More details about our experimental design are included in an earlier blog post. Continue reading