The Nigeria Aflasafe™ Challenge Project was a five-year, US $12.68 million Pay-for-Results prize competition that incentivized private sector actors to work with smallholder farmers to adopt Aflasafe™. AgResults offered a per unit payment premium to aggregators and grain traders for each metric ton of high-Aflasafe™ maize (i.e., maize grains containing high proportion of beneficial fungi). By motivating the use of Aflasafe™ and providing technical assistance, aggregators helped smallholder farmers to produce aflatoxin-reduced maize. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) served as the Project Manager.
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.
Technologies to combat aflatoxin contamination have been sought for decades. In Nigeria, an environmentally safe technology called AflasafeTM has been developed to reduce aflatoxin contamination of crops. AflasafeTM uses beneficial fungi that displace toxigenic fungi However, various barriers, including low consumer awareness and a lack of contamination limits, have prevented its widespread adoption.
Private sector aggregators and grain traders who provide AflasafeTM to smallholder farmers to improve maize quality and obtain better market prices.
Competitors received US $18.75 per MT of AflasafeTM-treated maize sold. When tested, the maize needed to have at least a 70% AflasafeTM level.
Laboratory testing verified the prevalence of AflasafeTM in maize to provide payments.
The project was expected to engage private maize aggregators and encourage them to supply aflatoxin-reduced maize while raising awareness of aflatoxins as a problem and Aflasafe™ as an effective control. Increased awareness would drive up demand for aflatoxin-free maize among smallholder farmers and value chain actors, improving health as people consume safer maize. Smallholder farmers were also expected to benefit from increased yields and increased market demand and/or any direct financial incentives that maize aggregators provided them.
AgResults expected to achieve the following by the end of the project:
# of Competitors
Prizes Awarded (USD)
Amount of Aflasafe-treated Grain Produced
In Nigeria, the Evaluator originally designed a randomized control trial, but because of lack of adherence to the randomization, a quasi-experimental impact evaluation design was used instead. This approach involved comparing smallholder farmers in project-targeted villages (treatment group) with smallholder farmers in villages not reached by the project (non-treatment group). These groups were primarily located the zone of influence of six implementers in the states of Kano, Kaduna, and Katsina. To assess impact of the project on market for aflatoxin-free maize, the Evaluator is applying a structure-conduct-performance analytical framework.
The Evaluator carried out the baseline evaluation before the 2015 planting season and, based on the planned project end date in 2018, completed the endline survey before the 2017 planting season. The final evaluation is complete and available here. A final qualitative inquiry will take place after the project ends in 2020 after its one-year extension is complete. Evaluation findings are forthcoming.
This section shares our learning from the Nigeria Aflasafe™ Challenge Project design and implementation. Further details can be found in the Learning Library.
August 26, 2020
More than 4.5 billion people in developing countries are exposed to aflatoxins, one of the world’s most carcinogenic substances, through their diets. Yet a biocontrol solution exists: AflasafeTM. The AgResults Nigeria AflasafeTM Challenge Project (2013-2019) used a Pay-for-Results (PfR) prize competition to motivate the private sector to overcome critical barriers preventing widespread adoption of AflasafeTM among Nigerian smallholder farmers working in the maize sector. Over six years, the competition engaged 41 competitors to reach 75,788 farmers, producing more than 315,000MT of AflasafeTM-treated maize.
November 18, 2020
The Nigeria Aflasafe Challenge Project evaluation (published in February 2019, end-of-project update added November 2020) found that the project succeeded in creating a niche market for Aflasafe-treated maize. Aflasafe adoption increased by 56 percentage points, and average net income from maize increased by 16 percent. The sustainability of the market is uncertain.
November 1, 2020
This brief, updated in November 2020, summarizes evaluation findings for the Nigeria project. External Evaluator Abt Associates found that AgResults helped create a niche market for Aflasafe-treated maize and an increase in farmers’ uptake of Aflasafe and net maize income. Market sustainability is uncertain due to unstable market conditions and delays in implementation of aflatoxin-related policies.
October 4, 2022
This brief by External Evaluator Abt Associates discusses quantitative methods for conducting impact assessments of smallholder farmer benefits from donor-devised interventions that stimulate private sector engagement in markets for technologies benefiting the farmers. The brief presents three AgResults Pay-for-Results competitions as examples and offers seven lessons for evaluators.
May 24, 2021
The first in a series of five, this brief provides an overview of concept sourcing, the first phase of AgResults’ Pay-for-Results prize competition design process. It shows how program designers begin the process by brainstorming and assessing potential development challenges to see if a prize competition is best suited to address the identified problem.
June 16, 2021
This brief, the second in a series of five, provides an overview of the second phase of AgResults’ approach to Pay-for-Results prize competition design. It explains how program designers conduct deeper research on relevant market systems to articulate a Theory of Change for the competition and to reasonably estimate the project’s impacts.
June 25, 2021
This brief, the third in a series of five, provides an overview of the third phase of AgResults’ approach to Pay-for-Results prize competition design. It explains how program designers can create the set of parameters and rules that determines who competes, how to win the prize(s), and the implementation timeline.
July 9, 2021
This brief, the fourth in a series of five, provides an overview of the fourth phase of AgResults’ approach to Pay-for-Results prize competition design. It explains how program designers can determine the size of the prize purse to effectively drive participation and innovation without overpaying for results.
July 21, 2021
This brief, the fifth and final in the series, provides an overview of the fifth phase of AgResults’ approach to Pay-for-Results prize competition design. It explains how program designers can develop a thorough verification plan to evaluate competitors’ results and determine prize payments. It also summarizes the activities involved in project management of a prize competition.
May 11, 2021
This report by External Evaluator Abt Associates summarizes independent evaluation findings from competitions in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia and offers guidance for future prize sponsors. It provides evidence that Pay-for-Results (PfR) competitions can spur development of markets for technologies benefitting smallholder farmers. It also offers guidance on how to determine whether PfR is an appropriate design option and how to maximize farmer benefits.
February 19, 2021
This toolkit is a practical guide for agricultural development practitioners who are interested in using Pay-for-Results prize competitions to stimulate new markets for agricultural technologies and engage the private sector for scale-up. It draws upon the experience of AgResults, which has designed and implemented prize competitions around the world since 2013.
June 24, 2019
This blog post was originally published on Marketlinks. You can’t see or smell them, but aflatoxins are one of…
January 18, 2019
This blog post was originally published on the BEAM Exchange blog. Can we use market systems theory to predict…
September 19, 2019
On September 12, the AgResults Nigeria AflasafeTM Challenge Project held its official closeout event to recognize how the six-year…
December 13, 2018
With a recent move, a maize aggregator in Nigeria has demonstrated how a pay-for-results prize competition can change…
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) – Country Lead
Debo Akande is the Country Lead for AgResults Project in Nigeria. He holds Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Development Studies from the United Kingdom and Diplomas in Agribusiness management and International Environmental Law, from Nigeria and Switzerland respectively. He is a United Kingdom-qualified Chartered Fellow Manager as well as a Doctoral Researcher of Agribusiness Management at the University of Hertfordshire, United Kingdom. Mr. Akande is also a Senior Scientist with the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), with over 15 years of international development management experience.
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) – Principal Scientist
Ranajit Bandyopadhyay is a Principal Scientist (Plant Pathology) with 38 years of agricultural research and development experience in Asia, Africa, and the Americas. He holds a PhD in Plant Pathology from Haryana Agricultural University in India. After working the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in India, Dr. Bandyopadhyay joined the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria where he founded the Africa-wide Aflasafe initiative and has been guiding research, tech transfer, commercialization and scaling-up of the aflatoxin biocontrol technology Aflasafe in 17 African nations. He has received several international recognitions for his work.