Digital extension, price risk, and farm performance: experimental evidence from Nigeria
Despite decades of investment in agricultural extension, technology adoption among farmers and agricultural productivity growth in Sub-Saharan Africa remain slow. Among other shortcomings, extension systems often make recommendations that do not account for price risk or spatial heterogeneity in farmers’ growing conditions. However, little is known about the effectiveness of extension approaches for nutrient management that consider these issues. We analyze the impact of farmers’ access to site-specific nutrient management recommendations and to information on expected returns, provided through a digital decision support tool, for maize production. We implement a randomized controlled trial among smallholders in the maize belt of northern Nigeria. We use three waves of annual panel data to estimate immediate and longer term effects of two different extension treatments: site-specific recommendations with and without complementary information about variability in output prices and expected returns. We find that site-specific nutrient management recommendations improve fertilizer management practices and maize yields but do not necessarily increase fertilizer use. In addition, we find that recommendations that are accompanied by additional information about variability in expected returns induce larger fertilizer investments that persist beyond the first year. However, the magnitudes of these effects are small: we find only incremental increases in investments and net revenues over two treatment years.