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

Completed
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Project

Nigeria Aflasafe™ Challenge Project

Completed

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: October 30, 2019

Can a Prize Competition Ensure Lasting Uptake of Rice Technology Practices that Reduce GHG Emissions in Vietnam?

October 30, 2019

By Tulika Narayan and Judy Geyer, Abt Associates

As the External Evaluator for AgResults, Abt Associates uses a mix of quantitative and qualitative methods to determine if the AgResults Pay-for-Results prize competitions achieve their objectives. Tulika Narayan serves as the Research Director.

The problem. Agriculture accounts for 23 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) in Vietnam, of which rice cultivation contributes 54 percent. The warm, waterlogged soil of rice paddies provides ideal conditions for methanogenesis — or release of methane into the atmosphere. Recognizing this, the government of Vietnam has been working towards the goal of reducing GHG emissions from rice cultivation. However, progress has been slow because rice production practices that reduce emissions are often too complex or not profitable enough for farmers to adopt.

The AgResults solution. The AgResults Vietnam Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Challenge Project in Thai Binh Province aims to (1) improve technologies that reduce GHG emissions from rice (while maintaining or improving yield) and (2) promote farmers’ adoption of those technologies. AgResults’ five donors – USAID, DFID, Global Affairs Canada, DFAT, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation – are using this and other Challenge Projects to test whether Pay-for-Results (PfR) incentives can help solve various challenging agricultural problems affecting smallholder farmers around the world. As the External Evaluator, Abt Associates conducts independent evaluations to gauge the short- and long-term results of AgResults’ prize competitions.

The Vietnam project offers prizes to “competitors” (private companies such as seed companies, fertilizer suppliers, and rice traders). To win a prize, a competitor must both develop an improved technology package that reduces GHG while improving yields and succeed in getting farmers to adopt that package to scale. Prior to its Vietnam low emissions rice project, Abt evaluation of completed AgResults projects have demonstrated that PfR can be successful, particularly when farmers directly benefit from a new product or technology, independent of prize incentives.

Results from Phase 1. In the project’s first phase, which ended in 2018, 11 private sector entities competed to develop packages of low emissions rice production technologies. Of those, six competitors won prizes for developing technologies that demonstrably reduced emissions and increased yields. Four competitors who won prizes in Phase 1 decided to compete in Phase 2, which is currently underway. Phase 2 prizes will be awarded to competitors based on the number of smallholder rice farmers who adopt the technology packages, the total reduction in GHG emissions, and the increase in rice yields.

Abt’s evaluation of Phase 1 noted that the technologies used in Phase 1 — short duration variety rice, alternate wetting and drying (AWD), slow release fertilizer, reduced use of fertilizer, increased spacing of plants, and crop residue management — are not completely new. Instead, they combine existing approaches to reduce GHG emissions in new packages. All four technology packages that advanced to Phase 2 share common features with some variations. These technology packages are also largely similar in their GHG reduction and yield increasing potential. This suggests that technologies are themselves not distinct enough to explain differences in farmer adoption rates. Rather, any adoption differences stem from the strategies that competitors use to incentivize farmers, the long-term value they demonstrate to farmers in adopting the package, and the cost of resources they invest in the effort.

Will the results sustain? Abt’s interim findings suggest that competitors are giving substantial subsidies for seeds and fertilizers to motivate farmers to adopt the technology packages. This investment makes sense because the competitors have a chance to win large prizes – $500,000 at the end of each of the four crop cycles for a potential total of $2,000,000 to be shared among four competitors, provided they reach GHG emission reduction targets. In addition, the four companies have a fair chance of winning one of the end-of-project grand prizes of $750,000, $400,000 and $200,000 for the top three competitors. In addition to these subsidies for farmers who implement the technologies, some competitors have also promised to pay back a share of these prizes to the cooperative leaders and farmers. Almost all have hired cooperative leaders and village leaders to ensure that the farmers adopt the technologies.

Although competitors’ use of subsidies, conditional payments, and contract work for farming leaders bodes well for achieving strong results by the end of the project, use of the technology packages cannot be sustained after the incentives end unless the competitors and/or farmers realize clear benefits of adoption. Before Phase 2 began, Abt conjectured that farmers and competitors could benefit from adopting these technologies if they obtained premium prices by tapping into existing high-value or specialty markets, which require production systems consistent with the technologies promoted by AgResults. Interviews with competitors suggest that they are targeting safe rice markets and export markets to access premiums.

However, the one component of the technology package that has the largest influence on reducing GHG emissions – AWD – is not linked to a premium market. Therefore, even if farmers continue to adopt some components of the technology packages, it is unclear if GHG-reducing components of the technology packages will continue to be adopted after the competition ends. This was always a difficult challenge for AgResults to tackle since GHG reducing component of the technology package is a pure public good. Unless it is monetized, there would not be an incentive for farmers to adopt it.

Recognizing this, the AgResults project incentivized yield-reduction potential of the technology packages – competitors earn more prizes if their technologies increase yield. Cooperative leaders and key stakeholders suggest that for farmers to deviate from long-practiced traditions, they would need to experience yield increases of 30 percent. However, so far, the expected yield increase from the AgResults technology packages appears to be less than this threshold. It is not clear whether a modest yield increase would justify the additional input, labor, and water management costs required to implement technology packages after the subsidies end.

Abt’s external evaluation will rigorously establish the extent to which rice farmers targeted by AgResults increased their rice yields and reduced GHG emissions. Since higher yield do not mean higher income, it will also evaluate the extent to which farmers increased net returns from growing rice after accounting for all the input and labor costs. However, this analysis will be based on farmer costs after accounting for the subsidies and incentives they receive from the competitors. To assess whether the technologies are profitable after the incentives end, and whether they continue to adopt the technologies, a sustainability analysis one year after the project ends is needed.

Sustainability analysis is important. With 7,970 farmers applying technology packages on 869 hectares in Thai Binh, Phase 2 of the Vietnam project has thus far achieved stronger results compared to other development programs. But there is a lot of room for further growth: The project has two more growing seasons to expand within Thai Binh, which has a total of 80,000 hectares under rice cultivation Abt’s interim findings suggest that for these practices to continue beyond the life of the project when the incentives end, significant changes to the underlying market for low-GHG rice would have to occur over the next two growing seasons. It is also conceivable that the government of Vietnam promotes these technologies as part of their extension services, although their promotion of AWD thus far has not led to large-scale adoption. Investment in verification protocols needed to access carbon markets for payments to reduce GHG emissions would be a far more effective strategy. It remains to be seen if AgResults is successful in creating a lasting impact in tackling a difficult development challenge – only a sustainability analysis can answer this question.

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Published: October 17, 2019

From the Climate-Smart Agriculture Conference: The Value and Impact of Prize Competitions

October 17, 2019

At last week’s 5th Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture, representatives from AgResults illustrated the value of leveraging private sector financing and innovation to transform food systems. A workshop side-event on prize competition design and a presentation on work in Vietnam to reduce greenhouse gas emissions urged conference attendees to reflect on how both public and private sector actors are crucial to addressing the agricultural challenges that accompany climate change.

On October 9, a team of AgResults experts led a session titled “Using Prize Competitions to Scale Climate-Smart Food System Innovations: A Design Workshop”, which brought together private sector and government representatives to discuss the value and role of prize competitions, particularly to address challenges related to climate change. The workshop was led by Dr. Tristan Armstrong, Agriculture Sector Specialist, Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and AgResults Steering Committee member; Nikita Eriksen-Hamel, Deputy Director, Global Affairs Canada (GAC); Dr. Tran Thu Ha, Team Leader of Vietnam Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Challenge Project, SNV Vietnam; and Justin Kosoris, AgResults.

During the session, attendees learned about the AgResults model and began discussing how, when, and where prizes can leverage private sector innovation in agriculture. Although there was not enough time to complete the planned hands-on design portion of the workshop, the lively conversations reflected growing interest in and momentum around Pay-for-Results approaches in development.

“Pay-for-Results offers an exciting alternative to traditional approaches, leveraging the imagination and resources of an emergent private sector,” said Dr. Tristan Armstrong. “The side event highlighted the potential for Pay-for-Results in the field of climate-smart agriculture, and showcased AgResults’ innovative approach to agricultural development.”

In addition, Dr. Tran Thu Ha of Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) Vietnam presented on approaches and results from the AgResults Vietnam Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Challenge Project on October 8. The presentation shared how private sector-led climate-smart innovations are transforming rice production in Thai Binh Province.

“The Vietnam Emissions Reduction Project has demonstrated innovative finance that mobilized both investment and innovation from private sector for scaling and addressing market failures,” said Ms. Tran Thu Ha. “Our presentation captured keen interest from a diverse range of participants, including local government, research institutions, financial institutions, and donor agencies.”

The Global CSA Conference ran from October 8-10 and brought together entrepreneurs, scientists, and policymakers to discuss how best to catalyze the public-private partnerships needed for food systems transformation. Introducing AgResults and its prize competition model to attendees was a great way to build on the growing momentum around private sector engagement and provide an example of the value and impact of these competitions to achieve lasting change.

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: October 14, 2019

AgResults Donor Visit to Thai Binh Underscores Local Support and Long-term Impact of Prize Competition to Reduce GHG Emissions of Rice Production

October 14, 2019

On October 1, 2019, the AgResults Steering Committee visited four competition sites of the Vietnam Emissions Reduction Challenge Project (AVERP) in Thai Binh province. The AgResults Delegation (the Delegation) comprised representatives from the initiative’s donor organizations, including USAID, DFID, Global Affairs Canada, DFAT, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation as well as the World Bank Trustee. The Project Manager, SNV Vietnam coordinated the trip and facilitated conversations between the delegation and the competing companies (Competitors), district and commune leaders, and rice farmers.

The Delegation met with four private sector Competitors — An Dinh, Thai Binh Seed, Fari-Seed, and Binh Dien Fertilizer — who are participating in the Pay-for-Results prize competition to develop, test, and scale up technologies and tools to reduce GHG emissions in rice production. During the site visits, the Delegation had a chance to speak with communes who have been receiving extension services from the competitors to adopt new practices and technologies. The discussions highlighted the continued dedication among both Competitors and farmers.

“We are honored to participate in AVERP given the Project’s overarching goals are in line with our Corporate Strategies,” said Mr. Tran Manh Bao, CEO of Thai Binh Seed Corporation. “We are definitely scaling our tested technology package in much wider areas in Thai Binh, and hopefully to other parts of Viet Nam for the sustainable development of the rice sector."

The General Secretary of Dong Long Commune in Tien Hai District reflected on the Project’s impacts: “From the commune governance perspective, we see the positive impact of the project. It helps not only our farmers but also from the management board of the commune, we are changing our ideology to bring this technology into rice cultivation.”

Many rice farmers reflected honestly on the challenges they had experienced as early adopters of the farming technologies but also shared how they soon realized the well-defined agronomic practices could reduce costs.

“We had to be strict when following this technology,” one farmer shared. “That’s what we learned. We had some hesitation to apply these new practices. But we also see now that if we follow this technology, our rice plants are more productive, and we can also help reduce emissions that lead to climate changes that are hard on us.”

“We’re very proud of the work that we’re doing here in Thai Binh,” said Tristan Armstrong, the DFAT representative on the AgResults Steering Committee. “The program demonstrates an innovative way of working with the public and private sectors, and an opportunity to scale out new technologies for both the benefit of farmers and the environment.”

After visiting the rice fields, the AgResults delegation was welcomed by the provincial government, led by the Vice Chairman of the Provincial People’s Committee and representatives from Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. Key messages from the Vice Chairman underlined continued support and enthusiasm among local government counterparts for the potential of the prize competition to significantly shape the future of rice farming in the Red River Delta.

“I would like to thank the donors for coming to Thai Binh and choosing this province for the competition,” said Mr. Nguyen Hoang Giang, Vice Chairman of Thai Binh People’s Committee. “With close cooperation with SNV and all the government departments in Thai Binh province, the project has completed Phase 1 successfully. The competing companies have demonstrated their technologies to help change the province’s approach to rice production to increase productivity, provide good solutions for the environment, and increase incomes for farmers.”

Only by maintaining these dialogues will improved rice production practices continue after the competition ends in 2020. But if this week’s visits were any indication, both the international donor community and Thai Binh’s private and public sectors are committed to positioning the province — and country — for long-term success.

The AgResults Vietnam GHG Emissions Reduction Challenge Project (2017 – 2020) is a US$8 million prize competition that aims to develop, test, and scale up innovative technologies, tools, and approaches to increase yields and reduce GHG emissions in rice production. The project uses results-based prize incentives to encourage private competitors to deliver packages and training to smallholder farmers. These new approaches will help lower GHG emissions, protect the environment, and ultimately reduce poverty among smallholder farmers in the Thai Binh province in the Red River Delta. 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: October 11, 2019

Request for Proposals for Sales Verification Services for the AgResults Tanzania Dairy Productivity Project

October 11, 2019

The Secretariat of AgResults invites your organization to submit a proposal to provide project sales verification 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 November 11, 2019. Proposal documents should be submitted in one email to info@agresults.org. Please indicate “Dairy Project Verifier 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:

RFP: Project Sales Verifier Services for the AgResults Tanzania Dairy Productivity Challenge Project

Appendix 6: Pricing Template (Excel)

RFP: Project Sales Verifier Services for the AgResults Tanzania Dairy Productivity Challenge Project: Answers to Questions

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Published: September 29, 2019

AgResults to Highlight How Prize Competitions Can Promote Innovation in Climate-Smart Agriculture at Global Conference

September 29, 2019

How can prize competitions transform food systems in a changing climate? Two AgResults-led events at the 5th Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture in Bali, Indonesia, aim to answer this question.

First, on October 8 at 2 p.m. local time, Dr. Tran Thu Ha of Netherlands Development Organisation (SNV) Vietnam presents on approaches and results from the AgResults Vietnam Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Challenge Project. The presentation, titled “Designing Prize Competitions to Spur Private Sector Action in Climate-Smart Agriculture: The Case from Vietnam” will share how private sector-led climate-smart innovations are transforming rice production in the Thai Binh province.

Then, on October 9, a team of AgResults experts will lead a workshop titled “Using Prize Competitions to Scale Climate-Smart Food System Innovations: A Design Workshop.” The session will guide participants in an overview of how and when to use prize competitions to spur private sector actors to participate in donor-funded initiatives focused on climate-smart agriculture. A brief case study on the AgResults Vietnam Project will precede the group discussion and activity.

The speakers at the workshop include:

- Dr. Tristan Armstrong, Agriculture Sector Specialist, Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and AgResults Steering Committee member

- Nikita Eriksen-Hamel, Deputy Director, Global Affairs Canada (GAC)

- Dr. Tran Thu Ha, Project Manager, SNV Vietnam

- Justin Kosoris, AgResults

The Global CSA Conference runs from October 8-10 and explores the theme of “Transforming Food Systems under a Changing Climate.” Bringing entrepreneurs, scientists, and policymakers together, the conference aims to catalyze the partnerships needed for food systems transformation. The world is increasingly experiencing the effects of climate change, and the public and private sectors must work together to address these challenges. Leveraging finance from a variety of sources, including through prize competitions like that of AgResults, could make a difference in galvanizing new actors to step up and innovate to achieve lasting change.

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: September 19, 2019

Nigerian Maize Sector Recognizes Role of AgResults Competition to Boost Crop Quality and Prices

September 19, 2019

On September 12, the AgResults Nigeria AflasafeTM Challenge Project held its official closeout event to recognize how the six-year prize competition that promoted the delivery and adoption of AflasafeTM has dramatically reshaped the country’s maize sector and market. Since 2013, the project tackled aflatoxin contamination, which can increase the risk of cancer and is associated with childhood stunting, by encouraging smallholder farmers to use AflasafeTM to produce aflatoxin-reduced maize.

Held in Abuja, the closeout event brought together stakeholders from the maize sector to reflect on maize aggregators’ efforts to transform their business models to participate in the competition and the premium market that emerged. A representative of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development provided the keynote address for the event, reflecting on the project’s achievements and the ongoing need to tackle aflatoxin contamination using the biocontrol technology of AflasafeTM and the project’s achievements.

“The Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development would like to congratulate the team for exceeding its core primary objectives,” said Engr. Frank Satumari Kudla, Director of Irrigation Agriculture and Crop Development. “This project demonstrated a successful model for increasing smallholder adoption of an important biocontrol technology in Nigeria … with interventions that boost socio-economic benefits at every stage from when the crop is planted through harvest and to the market.”

In addition to the keynote, the Project Managers from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) presented project results and the underlying science that makes AflasafeTM so effective. External Evaluator Abt Associates also presented findings from their independent evaluation. A particularly compelling moment was when several farmers shared their first-hand experiences incorporating AflasafeTM into their practices.

“I have embraced the use of AflasafeTM to improve our animal feed and our animals’ health,” reflected Ms. Jemimah Stephen, a maize smallholder farmer. “Through the adoption of AflasafeTM, we have seen a health benefit in our poultry.”

The AgResults Nigeria AflasafeTM Challenge Project (2013 – 2019) was a US$10.65 million Pay-for-Results project designed to catalyze the private sector to deliver AflasafeTM to smallholder farmers. AflasafeTM was created by IITA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture; this biocontrol agent can crowd out 80-99% of aflatoxins if applied at the right time during the cropping season. For maize that tested positively for AflasafeTM, maize aggregators received a premium: $18.75 per MT in the first five years and $9.38 in the final year. To qualify for the prize, competitors had to incorporate new practices into their existing operations and develop relationships with smallholder farmers to convince them of the value of AflasafeTM.

“By using the incentive that we received from the project, we’ve been able to diversify our business, creating a more sustainable business structure,” explained Mr. Oyeniyi of Agrisupply, one of the participating companies.

Adoption of AflasafeTM took time, but as more aggregators leveraged existing financing and demonstrated the value to farmers, a premium market emerged. Farmers began incorporating AflasafeTM into their practices, and consumers across Nigeria began to acknowledge and demand higher-quality maize.

Over six years, 35 aggregators participated in the competition, providing AflasafeTM to more than 75,788 smallholder farmers. Farmers planted 102,503 hectares using AflasafeTM, and in all, 213,510 MT of AflasafeTM-treated maize was aggregated. The closeout event on September 12 recognized these achievements and acknowledged the long-term role that AflasafeTM will have for Nigeria.

“Our dream is to have every child in Africa eat aflatoxin-free maize,” reflected Dr. Kenton Dashiell of IITA. “This is real sustainability. We don’t need this project anymore.”

The project is part of AgResults, a $145 million collaborative initiative between the governments of Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the World Bank Group that uses prize competition to incentivize the private sector to overcome market barriers and create lasting change. Under AgResults’ PfR model, these competitions encourage actors to achieve predetermined results thresholds and quality for monetary prizes.

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