Working Papers 

Rain does not fall on one roof alone: the share of local knowledge in idir mediates risk perceptions on rainfall frequency and intensity in marginal farming systems   with G. Ragaglini, C. Fadda, M.E. Pè, A. Nuvolari and A. Mantino

Available here 

The perception on precipitation variability is key to food security of smallholder farmers in the current changing climate. In rainfed areas, households able to interpret correctly short-term precipitation deviations and extremes do retain a significant advantage in terms of resilience. Membership into informal associations (such as idir) foster the exchange of traditional and local knowledge. However, despite the communitarian nature of these rural societies, we know little about how the share of local knowledge influences risk perceptions on rainfall. In our study, we combine data from agronomic and socioeconomic surveys together with daily rainfall estimates to explore links between the households’ risk perceptions and the social dimension of local knowledge. We build a panel dataset, interviewing 280 smallholder households in the Ethiopian highlands in the spring of 2013 and 2019, while characterizing the frequency and intensity of rainfalls during the crop growing seasons. By analyzing varietal and soil management choices, we identify a novel indirect measure of farmer’s risk perception on rainfall abundance and scarcity. This measure shows high heterogeneity among neighboring households. Regressing the perception indices on rainfall parameters, we find that changes in volatility and maximum are rarely perceived by farmers. We further interact changes in the rainfall parameters with idir membership, to see whether the share of local knowledge mediates risk perceptions on rainfall frequency and intensity. Findings reveal that idir membership mediates the risk perception on rainfall parameters and that members comprehend better changes in rainfall patterns among crop growing seasons. Our findings suggest that the share of local knowledge in informal institutions like idir should be considered for risk reduction and programs of climate change mitigation. 

Group-based and crowdsourced citizen science variety testing approaches for bean growers in Central America with J. Sellare, K. De Sousa, M. Dell'Acqua, K. Paredes, J. Robalino, J. C. Rosas and J. van Etten

Available upon request - Under review at Agricultural Economics

Participatory approaches for crop variety testing incorporate traditional knowledge and consider site-specific sociocultural complexities. They have demonstrably increased on-farm agrobiodiversity and enhanced productivity, livelihoods and food-security for small-scale farmers and their households. However, traditional participatory approaches have drawbacks and are seldom streamlined or scaled. Crowdsourced citizen science addresses some of these challenges. In this study, we compare a crowdsourced citizen science approach — triadic comparisons of technologies (tricot-CCS) — with the benchmark state-of-the-art group-based participatory variety testing approach (GB-PVS). We focus on on-farm testing of bean common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) in the Trifinio area in Central America. We compare the impact of these two approaches on bean growers, especially in terms of i) adoption, ii) yield, iii) on-farm diversification and iv) food security. We use data from 1,978 smallholder farmers from 140 communities, who were randomly assigned to either tricot-CCS, GB-PVS or control (no treatment) to perform variety testing and selection. Regression analyses revealed that farmers involved in GB-PVS and tricot-CCS had comparable levels of variety adoption and a comparably higher degree of on-farm varietal diversification with respect to control farmers. While tricot-CCS reduces the likelihood of participants dropping out of the program, GB-PVS is more effective in decreasing households’ food insecurity, which can be attributed to the improved agronomic management of the crops. These findings suggest that tricot-CCS provides more cost-effective, equitable and externally-valid intervention benefits, which can be combined with the group-based activities and knowledge exchange among technical staff and farmers that characterize GB-PVS to benefit the farmers.

Women's empowerment in agriculture and trait preferences in Bangladesh with Tufan H.

Available upon request - Submitted at Journal of Rural Studies

Decades of research underpins the evidence base around the relationship between women’s increased decision-making and access to resources in agriculture, with positive effects on individual and household well-being. However, the relationship between women’s empowerment and crop decision-making is seldom investigated. We explore this relationship, looking at linkages between crop trait preferences and women’s empowerment among agricultural primary decision makers in Bangladesh. We use data from the Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey, covering three waves in 2011, 2015 and 2018. Focusing on cereal and legume producers, we calculate the metrics women’s empowerment in agriculture index (WEAI) in each survey round and we regress the Gender Parity Index (GPI) on primary decision makers’ first and second top – ranked crop trait preferences. We find linkages between trait preferences and women’s empowerment, the gender of the primary decision maker and the hours worked by women on cereal and legume plots. A higher level of women’s empowerment at the district level is associated with a shift in top-ranked trait preferences from agronomic traits to quality traits, with market demand increasing with increased GPI. These findings are driven by the interaction between changes in women’s empowerment at the district level and gender, while the increase of hours worked by women on cereal and legume plots plays a marginal role. This study is the first to relate indices of women’s empowerment to crop trait preferences. Our findings provide a first empirical exploration to substantiate claims around the relationship between crop trait preference changes and women’s empowerment, highlighting the importance of research relating gender equality and women’s empowerment to crop improvement.

Trait prioritization in crop breeding programs: a scoping review on tools and methods with Mukerjee R., Miller C., Porciello J., Puerto S., Garner E., Fuentes M., Gomez M. and Tufan H. 

Available upon request

Public sector crop breeding programs have researched trait preferences of producers, processors, and consumers since the 1970s. Plant breeders rely on trait prioritization studies to decide what to breed for, and donors rely on them to guide their investments. With such high stakes on the results of trait prioritization studies, robust research design and employing appropriate tools and methods is imperative, yet the tools and methods which underpin these studies have not been critically analyzed. Here we present a scoping review using PRISMA-ScR (Tricco et al. 2018), investigating tools and methods for trait ranking over the past forty years. Extracting data from 331 sources, we identify how tools and methods have been used for trait prioritization across time, study location, crop, institutions, and research networks, analyzing the use of participatory methods and gender analysis across studies. The descriptive analysis performed on 331 papers shows that most studies focus on sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia, while there is a dearth on central-south American and the Global North. Many of the studies elicit preferences through direct questions in surveys. Studies utilize predominantly only one tool for eliciting trait preferences, but the use of multiple tools is more frequent in recent studies. Methods employed for data analysis are largely quantitative. In summarizing data on methods, we met a degree of heterogeneity which is largely absent for tools. Very few studies combine actors along the value chain, with farmers occupying the largest share of respondents. Among studies collecting sex-disaggregated trait choices, 30% do not publish the finding by gender. Finally, networks of authors, affiliations and donors show patterns of concentration and presence of silos. Revealing regional, crop and gender data gaps, methodological and author network trends, and non-uniform data taxonomy, this study contributes critical information to guide the next generation of methodological innovation in trait preference studies for more inclusive and effective demand led varietal design.


PEEP (Participatory Ex-ante framework for Plant breeding) : crowdsourcing Priority Setting for Research Options, Market Segments and Product Profiles through a Participatory Ex-Ante Framework for Plant Breeding with Rubin D. and Tufan H.

Land-use transitions in an evolutionary agent-based model: alternative soil management regimes under environmental boundaries with M. Coronese, F. Lamperti and A. Roventini

Drivers of soil erosion in Mediterranean marginal areas: a mixed-method approach combining fuzzy cognitive mapping, agronomic modeling and interviews with De Leo S., Mancini Teixeira H. and A. Mantino

Under utilized crops and food security: the case of breadfruit in Madagascar with Cerroni S. and M. Bozzola