Our Unique Approach

AgResults is a $145 million multilateral initiative that uses Pay-for-Results prize competitions to incentivize, or “pull”, the private sector to overcome agricultural market barriers by investing in innovative research and delivery solutions that improve the lives of smallholder farmers. At our core we are an experiential learning initiative, continuously building evidence on what works, and what does not, in using prize competitions to spur sustainable market change.

Read more about our approach

Our Portfolio of Innovative Projects

Nigeria

In Progress
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Project

Nigeria Aflasafe™ Challenge Project

In Progress

Uganda

Completed
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Project

Uganda Legume Seeds Challenge Project

Completed

Zambia

Completed
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Project

Zambia Biofortified Maize Challenge Project

Completed

Vietnam

In Progress
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Project

Vietnam Emissions Reduction Challenge Project

In Progress

Kenya

Completed
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Project

Kenya On-Farm Storage Challenge Project

Completed

Brucellosis (Global)

In Progress
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Project

Brucellosis Vaccine Challenge Project

In Progress

AgResults by the Numbers

100

Competitors

354145

Smallholder Farmers Reached

$5.06m

Private Investment Leveraged (approx)

$9.92m

Prize Funds Awarded (approx)

News and Blog

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Published: June 24, 2019

Fueling the Nigerian Maize Sector with a Pay-for-Results “Nudge”

June 24, 2019

This blog post was originally published on Marketlinks.

You can’t see or smell them, but aflatoxins are one of the world’s most carcinogenic substances. They are produced by a group of molds known as the Aspergillus fungi that often contaminate grains, such as maize. Aflatoxin-contaminated food can increase the risk of cancer and is associated with childhood stunting. In Nigeria, where smallholder farmers produce over 70% of the nation’s maize crop, aflatoxins compromise livelihoods and endanger lives.

During the 2013 season, there was a high incidence of aflatoxins in maize selling on the Nigerian market. Despite the health risks, consumption of aflatoxin-contaminated maize continued, particularly among smallholder farmers. Underlying these economic and health impacts was a deeper awareness issue: Not enough actors in the maize value chain knew about the contamination or how to tackle it. As far as the industry knew, there was no accessible proven solution to help smallholder farmers produce aflatoxin-reduced maize.

Yet the market opportunity was there. In fact, the scientific product already existed: AflasafeTM. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) had tested this biocontrol agent and found that it crowds out 80-99% of aflatoxins if applied at the right time during the cropping season. If private sector actors moved into this space and commercialized the proven solution, an entirely new market could develop. But something needed to incite the change.

Due to the existing uncertainty around food safety in the maize sector, the best way to achieve rapid adoption and scale was to provide a “nudge” that would motivate private sector actors to take that first step.

The nudge manifested as the Nigeria AflasafeTM Challenge Project, launched by AgResults in 2013. The objective of this Pay-for-Results (PfR) project was to reduce aflatoxin contamination in maize by catalyzing the private sector to deliver AflasafeTM to smallholder farmers.

First, AgResults identified and motivated private sector actors who were integral to the maize value chain to participate: grain traders, input suppliers, farmer co-ops, and processors.

Second, AgResults designed a prize competition where maize aggregators would receive an $18.75 premium for each metric ton of AflasafeTM-treated maize they aggregated. This financial prize increased their margin, thereby lowering their risk to pursue this new line of business.

Uptake by farmers was slow in the first two years. Raising awareness of the problem and solution presented a challenge for AgResults. Smallholder farmers and maize aggregators had to be convinced that AflasafeTM worked and was worth the extra effort and cost. There were also financial constraints: The aggregators purchased AflasafeTM upfront on behalf of their farmers and usually had to wait until several weeks after the harvest to get paid, making access to finance a critical step. Often, the aggregators also needed to provide financing for maize purchases — an enormous financial commitment in a business with traditionally very low margins.

Motivated by the prize and convinced of the product’s benefits, aggregators eventually entered the market and seized the opportunity. They provided AflasafeTM and other inputs to smallholder farmers and developed relationships with them with the intention of scaling up sales. To tackle the issues of awareness and correct application, they incorporated training into their suite of services. Each year, they reinvested their prizes into training, storage, and equipment to grow their businesses; in some cases, they achieved significant scale.

As the food industry became aware of the benefits of aflatoxin-reduced maize, a new premium market emerged, touting the benefits for human consumption as well as for the poultry, swine, and aquaculture sectors. Maize aggregators have differentiated the product with tailored packaging, branding, and marketing, and on average buyers have been willing to pay 8.5% above market price for this higher-quality and safer product.

This premium may not seem high, but for a commodity such as maize, it represents an enormous price difference. It also indicates the value that buyers have begun to place on a clean product. Importantly, competitors will earn more revenue from the premium price than from the prize — a big step forward in creating a sustainable market.

In five years, 41 aggregators participated in the competition, providing AflasafeTM to more than 25,000 smallholder farmers. As of April 2019, over 213,562MT of AflasafeTM-treated maize has been aggregated.

AgResults was well-positioned to jumpstart the market for AflasafeTM using a private sector-focused “nudge” for several reasons:

  • The Pay-for-Results approach – AgResults’ use of a monetary prize in the competition encouraged the private sector with a concrete economic incentive. By giving aggregators the freedom to determine how to work with farmers and buyers, competitors were free to innovate as they saw fit.

  • A product that really works – Without the painstakingly tested AflasafeTM biocontrol, it would have been nearly impossible to galvanize a new maize value chain to combat aflatoxins. However, AflasafeTM was already scientifically proven, so the project could focus on raising awareness and changing behaviors.

  • IITA’s global reputation – AgResults may have been an unknown entity in the Nigerian maize sector, but IITA was not. With its strong presence and an established reputation, IITA provided the credibility that aggregators needed to buy into the prize competition.

  • The absence of government distortions – Government agriculture and trade policies can often distort the market, but this was not the case in the Nigerian maize market. The political enabling environment was not restrictive and enabled the project to function within its parameters.

A variety of development approaches could have been effective in scaling up adoption of AflasafeTM. Yet with its “nudge,” AgResults created an effective incentive to help to solve a pressing public health issue and fostered a lucrative market opportunity for the actors who can drive a long-term and sustainable transformation.

Funded by USAID (US), DFID (UK), DFAT (Australia), Global Affairs Canada, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, AgResults has designed and implemented prize competitions since 2013 focused on spurring fundamental change in market relationships between the private sector and smallholder farmers.

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Published: April 30, 2019

Request for Proposals for Project Management Services for the AgResults Tanzania Dairy Productivity Project

April 30, 2019

The Secretariat of AgResults invites your organization to submit a proposal to provide project management services in accordance with this Request for Proposals (RFP) for the AgResults Tanzania Dairy Productivity Project.

The Project is a new prize competition project under the AgResults Initiative, which is financed by the governments of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. For more information about AgResults, please visit www.AgResults.org.

The Project consists of a Pay-for-Results prize competition designed to spur improvements in smallholder dairy productivity in Tanzania. The prize incentive offered by AgResults will target the private sector to drive improved dairy input availability and use, resulting in increased smallholder dairy productivity and incomes.

Please note the deadline for receipt of proposal, with all required signatures, including a completed and signed Anticorruption Compliance Certification, is due no later than 1700 Hrs. US Eastern Daylight Time (US EDT) on June 7, 2019. Proposal documents should be submitted in one email to info@agresults.org. Please indicate “Dairy Project Manager RFP” in the subject line of the email. The full timeline for this RFP is included in Appendix 1.

The RFP and Appendices are linked below:

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Published: April 22, 2019

Expert Analysis: Three Insights Implementing Prize Competitions in Zambia and Kenya

April 22, 2019

By Hannah Guedenet and Andrew Gathecha

This post was originally published on the Tanager International website.

From 2015 to 2018, Tanager implemented two AgResults projects – the Kenya On-Farm Storage Challenge Project and the Zambia Biofortified Maize Challenge Project. In Kenya, we partnered with storage device manufactures to market and sell large volumes of storage devices to smallholder farmers in the Rift Valley and Eastern regions of Kenya. In Zambia, the project incentivized seed companies to sell provitamin A-rich (PVA) “orange” maize seed to farmers and commercial millers to sell PVA maize meal to consumers.

Through these experiences, we gained three valuable insights into what works and what doesn’t in a pay-for-results (PfR) model.

First – Government engagement can either help or hinder pay-for-results initiatives and is important to consider during program design and start-up. In Kenya, we needed time to build government buy-in about the value proposition of a market mechanism to deliver development objectives. After many conversations and seeing the results on the ground, government representatives shifted their mindset from traditional ‘patronage’, push-type developmental model, and began to appreciate and support the pull strategy where the private sector could approach farmers as rational economic actors willing to invest in technologies to protect their food security.

On the other hand, government regulation can complicate PfR efforts. In Zambia, working directly with a staple food commodity such as maize proved to be challenging. Although we successfully advocated for the government to include PVA maize into its maize stock program, a government-issued export ban on the sale of milled maize and price-fixing affected market prices for maize. This steady government interference made it difficult for millers to buy PVA maize and sell it as meal to the consumer market.

Second – When you design a pay-for-results prize competition, you must identify the right point in the value chain and the right actors for the greatest impact.

In particular, donors or practitioners should select a product that responds to consumers’ perceived or immediate unmet needs. In Kenya, smallholder farmers were long hamstrung by largely inefficient, scarcely available storage solutions, therefore the impact of post-harvest loss was acutely felt. After only a few months using the improved hermetic devices promoted by the project, the farmers saw the positive effects and enthusiastically embraced the technology.

In Zambia, however, end consumers were less convinced of the need to eat more vitamin A. While orange nshima or porridge tastes good, the positive health effects were not so readily apparent.

Designers should also ensure that target actors involved in selling or promoting the product in the PfR model are connected to the intended buyers of the product. In the original Zambia prize competition, the maize millers identified as key implementers did not have direct contact with consumers. Instead, the millers’ primary relationship was with retail outlets that then sold to consumers, so they had limited experience marketing their brand or product to consumers.

The competition was eventually adapted to include seed companies that were selling directly to farmers who grew orange maize. This direct approach proved to be a more successful entry point for increasing the supply of PVA maize. An alternative approach would have been engaging retail outlets who interact directly with consumers and have experience building demand for products.

Third – Behavior change analysis should inform whether a pay-for-results prize competition is sufficient to change end user behavior, or if the behavior change will require more traditional “push” interventions. A big challenge that we faced with orange maize was that the project required a significant amount of behavior change on the part of the end consumer: Zambian consumers have always eaten white maize. Their association with yellow maize comes from a history of receiving it as food aid in the 1990s. This resulted in consumers believing PVA maize was subpar and associated to cattle feed.

In the end in Zambia, prize money totaling more than $600,000 was awarded to two seed companies that surpassed the sales thresholds for PVA maize seed. No milling implementers reached the sales performance targets.

In the case of Kenya, a total of $6.25 million in performance-based grants were awarded to private sector companies. This investment changed behaviors – dramatically increasing smallholder farmers’ use of hermetic devices and their awareness of the technology. More than 300,000 smallholder farmers in Kenya’s Eastern and Rift Valley regions adopted the technology, creating 413,000 MT of improved storage. This equates to roughly 4.6 million 90-kg bags of maize that was saved from pests and other loss. We estimate that the value of post-harvest loss averted as a result of the project is between 1.4-2.3 billion Kenyan shillings, or 14-23 million USD. This project demonstrates how farmers will invest in innovative, effective, and affordable technologies when these technologies are readily available.

These two examples illustrate important levers to consider when designing a pay-for-results program to introduce new products to markets. Based on our experience, we urge stakeholders to consider the following when designing pay-for-results programs: Is the policy environment conducive to the product you are trying to promote through market incentives? Are your targeted actors going to have the greatest influence in changing the behaviors of end users? Will the product address a consumer’s perceived need? What behaviors are you asking people to change and is it a bridge too far?

About the Authors

Hannah Guedenet has more than 10 years of experience in health, nutrition, and strategic communications. As Tanager’s lead on our nutrition-sensitive agriculture portfolio, she provides technical leadership and project management to translate agricultural gains into better nutrition for households and communities.

Andrew Gathecha has more than 15 years of experience in agriculture, health, education, and media sectors. As Tanager’s team leader for the AgResults Kenya On-Farm Storage Challenge Project, he managed an innovative effort using a pay-for-results prize competition to reduce post-harvest loss of grain

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Published: April 18, 2019

AgResults Leads Prize Competition Clinic at the Market Systems Symposium

April 18, 2019

At the Market Systems Symposium in Cape Town, South Africa that ran from April 8 to 11, AgResults captured the growing interest of the development community in Pay-for-Results approaches to transform market systems. Although PfR prize competitions have spurred innovation for hundreds of years, this approach has not historically been used in international development. However, USAID and other donors have recently pivoted to using the prize competition model to drive market systems and create long-term change.

On April 10, AgResults led a clinic where participants engaged on the elements of pay-for-results prize competition design. As part of the hands-on workshop, the group considered when to choose a prize competition as the mode of intervention. They also learned how to assess the concept for validity, structure the prize, and create a business plan that formally captures this information.

This was just one of the many interactive sessions at the Symposium, which brought together practitioners and donors from around the world, including ACDI/VOCA, the BEAM Exchange, Cardno, DAI, Feed the Future, Fintrac, RTI, and USAID. During the symposium, attendees engaged one another in conversations to explore themes such as adaptive management, market systems resilience, systems thinking, and emerging trends and innovations. The symposium emphasized capacity building sessions where participants learned how to design, test, and hone their own market systems development approaches and tools.

Learn more about the Market Systems Symposium at the conference website.

Funded by USAID (US), DFID (UK), DFAT (Australia), Global Affairs Canada, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, AgResults has designed and implemented prize competitions since 2013 focused on spurring fundamental change in market relationships between the private sector and smallholder farmers.

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Published: April 11, 2019

Development Experts Convene to Discuss Pay-for-Results Experiences in Dynamic “Power Talks” Event

April 11, 2019

On April 5, development donors and leading practitioners gathered in Washington, D.C. to share experiences about private sector-led Pay-for-Results (PfR) projects. The “Power Talks: Experiences with Pay-for-Results in Agriculture and Food Security” event brought together experts from across the agricultural development space — from donors to implementers to monitoring and evaluation specialists.

Attendees shared lessons learned and best practices around funding, implementing, or evaluating PfR programs through five-minute “power talks” that provided a variety of perspectives of the breadth and depth of PfR work in the agricultural sector.

The group comprised representatives from Abt Associates, Chemonics, DAI, Dexis Consulting, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Fintrac, Global Affairs Canada, Palladium, Tanager International, Third Sector Capital Partners, USAID, and the World Bank. Aviva Kutnick, Private Sector Engagement Division Chief in USAID’s Bureau for Food Security and AgResults Steering Committee Chair, facilitated the event, providing welcoming remarks and leading the Q&A portion that followed each power talk.

“Pay-for-Results funding models have shown their potential to solve pressing agricultural market and food security issues in developing countries,” Ms. Kutnick said as she kicked off the event. “We can learn a lot from each other in the room about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to PfR as an approach.”

A group discussion followed the power talks, further unpacking related topics such as the frequency and structure of prizes, ways to engage different types of private sector actors, and the ongoing complexity of rigorous yet feasible evaluation methods to demonstrate impact. As the conversation wrapped up, it was clear that there was widespread interest in convening similar events in the future.

Below is the full list of topics:

  1. Amanda Grevey and Lawrence Camp discussed Palladium’s USAID Financing Ghanaian Agriculture Project (USAID FinGAP) and its use of PfR methodologies with technical assistance to mobilize over $168 million in financing for agribusinesses in staple food value chains.

  2. Brian Beachkofski from Third Sector Capital Partners, Inc. focused on the domestic side of PfR in his power talk, reflecting on collaboration with SNAP programs to track participant outcomes and inform long-term policy decisions.

  3. Hannah Guedenet presented on Tanager International’s experience implementing two AgResults programs in Kenya and Zambia, highlighting three lessons around government engagement, intervention points, and user behavior change.

  4. Tristan Armstrong from DFAT provided a donor perspective on AgResults as he looked at the origin of the initiative to drive private sector-led innovation around agricultural challenges as well as the continued value of multilateralism today.

  5. Tulika Narayan from Abt Associates shared their experiences as the External Evaluator for AgResults, discussing the rigorous independent evaluation they conducted in Nigeria to gauge the creation of a market for Aflasafe-treated maize.

  6. Laura Harwig unpacked how the use of competitively awarded PfR agreements and partnerships have sustainably addressed market systems gaps and enabled Fintrac to make technologies and services accessible to smallholder farmers.

  7. Representing host Chemonics International, Garron Hansen provided a bird’s eye view as he reflected on the growing value of private sector engagement in the agricultural space and urged those in the room to continue these critical discussions.

Funded by USAID (US), DFID (UK), DFAT (Australia), GAC (Canada) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, AgResults has designed and implemented prize competitions since 2013 focused on spurring fundamental change in market relationships between the private sector and smallholder farmers.

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Published: March 20, 2019

Assessing the Impact of Prize Competitions to Increase Adoption of Aflasafe

March 20, 2019

By Abt Associates

Has an AgResults prize competition in Nigeria created a market for AflasafeTM-treated maize? Have smallholder farmers in the country learned about the biocontrol agent’s application and economic benefits?

Since 2014, the AgResults Nigeria AflasafeTM Challenge Project has been testing whether smartly-structured cash prizes can incentivize the private sector to encourage smallholder maize farmers to adopt AflasafeTM, a biocontrol agent that limits cancer-causing aflatoxins that contaminate maize. The competition has aimed to create a market for AflasafeTM-treated maize by incentivizing maize aggregators to connect with smallholder farmers, illustrating the benefits of applying AflasafeTM and creating a supply base of AflasafeTM-treated maize. Specifically, the project provided a premium of $18.75 per metric ton of AflasafeTM-treated maize aggregated by private sector “competitors.” The goal is that such efforts would set the stage for future efforts to regulate the maize sector while raising broader consumer awareness in Nigeria.

Because the application of AflasafeTM imposes a cost on smallholders, the project hoped that competitors could either connect smallholders to markets that provided premiums for aflatoxin-free maize or provide improved inputs to increase smallholder yields. Development impacts were expected to result from smallholders’ consumption of the AflasafeTM-treated or aflatoxin-free maize that they grew. Further, the aim was that competitors would continue to engage in the market for AflasafeTM-treated maize and source the higher-quality maize from smallholders, thus creating a new niche market.

After three years of project operation, External Evaluator Abt Associates conducted an impact evaluation to assess the Nigeria AflasafeTM Challenge Project’s impact. The final evaluation report presents the framework followed by Abt to apply qualitative and quantitative methods to answer seven key questions. The evaluation examines findings related to market impact, smallholder impact, cost-effectiveness, and sustainability — taking a deep analytical look at how well the project created a smallholder-inclusive market for high-quality maize free of aflatoxins.

Check out the full report here and a brief summary here.

Learn more about Abt Associates’ approach and role as the independent External Evaluator for the AgResults Initiative here.

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