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 , under review at Food Security

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. 

Ex-ante priority setting in crop breeding: crowdsource inclusive innovation for impact with Compaore E., Brown D., Barry F., Poda L.S., Traore F., Waongo A., Rubin D. and Tufan H.A.

Available upon request, under review at Agricultural Systems

Crop breeding teams must work a-priori to rank research priorities and varietal product concepts to make decisions considering social, environmental, production and market conditions that a variety will be entering upon release. Frequently, research prioritization is guided by a cost-benefit optimization process, which leaves the potential derived by alternative approaches, such as inclusive innovation, unexplored. In this study, we apply PEEP (Participatory Ex-ante framework for Plant breeding), a new methodological framework for ex-ante participatory priority setting for plant breeding programs. This framework explores how, given a set of varietal product concepts, it is possible to assess ex-ante which will have the highest potential to deliver research impacts. PEEP is designed to support breeders in justifying the impact potential of a new varietal product concept. PEEP ranks hypothetical varieties (i.e., varietal product concepts) across five impact domains: breeding, processing, marketing, climate, and cross-cutting themes. This paper reports on how an interdisciplinary breeding team from the Institute of Environment and Agricultural Research (INERA) in Burkina Faso working on cowpea (Vigna unguiculata [L.] Walp) applied PEEP and discusses the results from this application. We chose cowpea to focus on, as prior research has shown that gender and other social differences shape roles, responsibilities, and benefits from in its cultivation in Burkina Faso.  We engaged 650 stakeholders using tools and methods tailored to collect information according to their spheres of knowledge. We present a reflection on the application process, results, and feedback from the breeding team on these. We show that breeders and farmers ranked the potential impact of the varietal product concepts differently. We also show that differences in evaluation of impact from varietal product concepts vary based on market orientation, agroecological zones, animal feeding practices and gender. We demonstrate that PEEP contributes to inclusive agricultural innovation by demonstrating that it is feasible and necessary to consider the knowledge and preferences of both stakeholders of practice and research. We show that it is informative to include diverse groups when conceptualizing new varieties before investing in varietal development. Making such research prioritization decisions early on enables breeding programs to avoid “missing the mark” on assumed impacts on smallholder women and men farmers and increases their visibility and voice in these upstream decisions.

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

Available upon request 

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.


History of Adoption and Intra-Household Impacts of Bt Eggplant Technology Exposure in Bangladesh with K. Reddy, Tufan H.A. and J. Hoddinott

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