It has now been more than two years since the COVID-19 pandemic struck us, prompting closures of educational institutions, and causing disruption of the education of millions of students globally. The United Nations (UN) estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic has already wiped out 20 years of educational gains. Across the world, according to a UNICEF 2020 report, one in three children missed out on remote learning when COVID-19 forced schools to close.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR) based health information for antenatal and postnatal care services in rural Bangladesh
The project uses a mobile phone-based Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system to deliver health information for mothers during their antenatal and postnatal period. The study is expected to raise knowledge and awareness about maternal healthcare services among remote rural pregnant women, who are often ‘disconnected’ from the digital world. The research is funded by the Laerdal Foundation.
The CDES is pleased to be the Project Implementing Agency at Monash University for the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project Policy and Institutional Reforms to Improve Horticultural Markets in Pakistan (ADP/2014/043).
Pakistan’s horticulture industry, one of the largest in the world, has huge growth potential in both domestic and export markets (noting that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will provide preferential access to the world’s fastest growing horticulture market). It is dominated by smallholders with strong participation of women and has a key role in the government’s development strategy.
But its present performance is well below potential, characterised by low productivity, poor quality, high wastage, and low exports. The marketing system is widely considered to be one of the main factors constraining the industry’s modernisation and development.
This project, developed in response to Pakistan government and industry requests, will investigate existing marketing arrangements, assess domestic and foreign market potential, identify main problems and, drawing on both Pakistani and international reform experiences, formulate an appropriate marketing policy reforms programme.
This project is a collaboration between:
- Monash University
- University of Queensland
- Alfaisal University Saudi Arabia
- Macquarie University
- Pakistan Agricultural Research Council
- Pakistan Agriculture Coalition (PAC)
- Karachi School of Business and Leadership (KSBL)
- Sindh Agriculture University
- Quaid-e-Azam University
- University of Agriculture Faisalabad
- Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi
- Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy at the Chinese Academy of Sciences
Pakistan’s horticulture industry, one of the largest in the world, has huge growth potential in both domestic and export markets (noting that the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will provide preferential access to the world’s fastest growing horticulture market). It is dominated by smallholders with strong participation of women and has a key role in the government’s development strategy. But its present performance is well below potential, characterised by low productivity, poor quality, high wastage, and low exports. The marketing system is widely considered to be one of the main factors constraining the industry’s modernisation and development. This project, developed in response to Pakistan government and industry requests, will investigate existing marketing arrangements, assess domestic and foreign market potential, identify main problems and, drawing on both Pakistani and international reform experiences, formulate an appropriate marketing policy reforms programme.
- What are the existing agricultural marketing arrangements and regulations that contribute to prevailing marketing chain inefficiencies and hinder investment and upgrading of production, processing and marketing technologies?
- What are the medium-term domestic and global market opportunities, and what are the costs of not removing marketing system related constraints to utilizing that potential?
- What feasible marketing reforms (and complementary policies) would enhance marketing performance?
- What will be the impact on various groups such as producers, consumers, women and the poor, and what measures can ensure that reforms enhance the welfare of affected groups, particularly women and the poor?
Aims and objectives
The overall aim of the project is to design practicable marketing policy reforms to improve producers’ and consumers’ welfare with particular attention to gender and poverty dimensions.
There are four research objectives:
- Investigate main features of existing marketing systems including role of policy, regulatory and institutional factors.
- Assess domestic and global (including China) market potential.
- Identify and assess extent of, and main factors contributing to, market inefficiency and low exports, and evaluate costs of inefficiency.
Identify reform options, analyse their efficiency and distributional impacts, and formulate and disseminate a set of concrete, practical recommendations for policy action.
The research approach will incorporate both qualitative and quantitative market research methods and be cross-disciplinary, involving methods and techniques from economics, business, private sector and other social sciences. It will integrate literature reviews, structured surveys and interviews of producers, traders, processors and exporters, market structure case studies, qualitative and econometric modelling, and impact evaluations on various groups.
- Report on existing marketing arrangements and the extent and sources of inefficiency.
- An assessment of local and global marketing opportunities, including opportunities in China.
- Reform recommendations for improving markets to foster industry growth, welfare, gender equity and poverty reduction.
- Enhanced policy analysis capacity in Pakistan
- A detailed final report, a series of policy briefs, one book and 5 scientific/academic papers
Key project impacts will be:
- Improved market efficiency leading to smaller marketing margins, higher producer prices, lower consumer prices, better quality, lower wastage and higher exports.
- Stronger incentives for private and public investments to upgrade productivity, processing and storage, and improve quality.
- A more resilient horticultural marketing system that can underpin and complement other strategies to improve overall horticultural sector performance to provide higher producer incomes, reduced supply and price volatility, and better nutrition outcomes.
The adoption pathway will be through two main channels, the government (policy and regulatory reforms) and private industry (new industry‐driven market systems).
To maximise probability of government and industry adoption of recommendations, they must be realistic and responsive to market realities and opportunities, politically acceptable and administratively feasible.
This is achieved by:
- (a) guidance of research process by a high level Project Advisory Committee with industry, government and NGO representation;
- (b) regular presentations, dialogue and interaction with main stakeholders including at annual National Agricultural Marketing Forums;
- (c) where feasible, field testing and demonstration of alternative marketing arrangements done in association with project partner Pakistan Agriculture Coalition (PAC);
- (d) wide public dissemination of findings and recommendations through policy briefs, scientific publications and seminars/workshops.
Monash University is the Commissioning organisation. Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (Pakistan’s apex agricultural research body) is the lead agency in Pakistan. Other key collaborators are Pakistan Agricultural Coalition (PAC) – an active NGO with strong market links and expertise in innovating horticulture marketing systems, University of Queensland, La Trobe University, leading Pakistani universities and the Centre for Chinese Agricultural Policy (China). Several younger Pakistani researchers, including two female academics and a (female) PhD student at Macquarie University, will participate intensively and gain research, technical and policy analysis skills from the international collaboration.
- Working Paper 01/18 - Commissions and Omissions: Agricultural Produce Markets in Pakistan (Muhammad Ahsan Rana, Lahore University of Management Sciences)
- Working Paper 02/18 - Effect of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor on Bilateral Trade with Focus on Horticulture Commodities. (Tariq Ali, Jikun Huang and Wei Xie, China Centre for Agricultural Policy, School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences, Peking University)
- Working Paper 03/18 - Food consumption Pattern Change and Horticulture Consumption in China. (Jikun Huang and Qi Cui, China Centre for Agricultural Policy, School of Advanced Agricultural Sciences, Peking University)
- Working Paper 04/18 - Consumption Patterns and Demand Elasticities of Selected Horticulture Products in Pakistan. (Abdul Jalil, Pakistan Institute of Development Economics Islamabad and Hayat Khan, College of Business Alfaisal University Riyadh)
- Working Paper 05/18 - Gender Issues and Horticulture Markets in Pakistan. (Aneela Afzal, Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi Pakistan, Sisira Jayasuriya, Monash University and Sarah Meehan, Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability Monash University)
- Working Paper 06/18 - Improving Market Performance of Pakistan Horticulture Industries: Some Initial Insights. (Thilak Mallawaarachchi and Shabbir Ahmad, University of Queensland).
- Working Paper 07/18 - Vertical Integration and Cross-Country Price Transmission in Pakistan’s Agriculture Market.. (Hayat Khan, College of Business, Alfaisal University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Sisira Jayasuriya, Centre of Development Economics and Sustainability, Monash University).
- Working Paper 08/18 - Understanding Export Challenges and Potential for Mangoes and Chillies. (Zarmeen Hassan, Pakistan Agriculture Coalition).
- Draft Report 01/18 - Preliminary Report on the Growers' and Marketing Channel Surveys (Chilli) in Sindh. (Tehmina Mangan, Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam and Ummul Ruthbah, Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability Monash University)
- Draft Report 02/18 - Draft Report on Mango Farm Survey in Sindh, Pakistan (Tehmina Mangan, Sindh Agriculture University Tandojam and Ummul Ruthbah, Centre for Development Economics and Sustainability Monash University)
- Draft Report 03/18 - Preliminary Report of Marketing Channel Survey (Mangoes) in Rahim Yar Khan and Multan. Information Collected from Growers and Contractors. (Nauman Ejaz, International Islamic University Islamabad).
- Draft Report 04/18 - Preliminary Report on the Survey of Tomato Growers in Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan. (Muhammad Qasim, Waqas Farooq and Waqar Akhtar, Agricultural Economics Research Institute, National Agricultural Research Centre).
- Draft Report 05/18 - Draft Report of Mango Farm Survey in Punjab, Pakistan: Findings and Policy Guidelines. (Abdul Ghafoor, Adnan Adeel and Asif Maqbool, Institute of Business Management Sciences, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan).
Project: Policy and Institutional Reforms to Improve Horticultural Markets in Pakistan
Project number: DP/2014/043
Prepared by: Sisira Jayasuriya, Hayat Khan, Jeff LaFrance and Thilak Mallawaarachchi Co-authors/contributors/collaborators: Jikun Huang, Muhammad Qasim, Ahsan Rana, Nauman Ejaz, Arif Nadeem, Abdul Ghafoor, Tariq Ali, Anwar Shah, Zarmeen Hasan Aneela Afzal, Waqas Farooq, Ummul Ruthbah, Tehmina Mangan, and Shabbir Ahmad
Published by: ACIAR, GPO Box 1571, Canberra ACT 2601, Australia
Background and Project Objectives
The project originated in response to a request to ACIAR from the Pakistan Agricultural Coalition (PAC) with Pakistan government support. The project objectives were to investigate existing marketing systems, identify weaknesses and sources of inefficiency, to then use the findings to design and disseminate concrete, practical policy reform recommendations for improving market efficiency, farm incomes, consumer welfare and gender equity.
Main research findings
From the start of the research process, the team engaged closely and worked interactively with policy makers, senior government officials and industry stakeholders to understand in depth the existing system, problems, and constraints on policy makers. We adopted a ‘mixed methods’ approach, combining quantitative and qualitative methods of data collection and analysis, producing a comprehensive body of analytical research on marketing systems and channels from farm gate to final markets, market performance and prospects (including export prospects to China following CPEC).
1- Market demand for all three crops we studied - mango, tomato, and chilli – is expected to increase over time. In the case of tomatoes, the current goal is to meet domestic demand as Pakistan is forced to rely on imports to maintain a socially acceptable consumer price. Mango and chilli also have good export potential.
2- To meet market needs, it is necessary to shift from the current ‘low quality-high-cost’ equilibrium, reduce wastage, improve storage and processing. Exporting also requires higher quality, credible certification and better marketing. The central policy challenge is to provide the conditions for integrating rural producers into modern value chains, while ensuring that vulnerable small farmers will share the benefits from industry modernization.
3- The current marketing system is inefficient. It needs comprehensive reforms involving a combination of legislative/regulatory changes and complementary institutional reforms with supportive policies.
The central bottleneck to value chain modernization that can be addressed by policy reforms is the concentration of market power in the hands of licensed Commission Agents (Arhtis). While they provide a range of essential marketing services, their control of market access allows them to exercise market power and hinder entry of new firms.
4- Our main policy recommendation is: Implement legislative reforms to remove barriers to entry of new firms and weaken the monopoly power of Arhtis so that new dynamic firms can enter horticultural industries, modernize them through technological and institutional innovations and integrate small producers into modern value chains.
5- These legislative reforms must be followed by government policies, investments and initiatives, including establishing appropriate private-public partnerships, to complement the legislative reforms to assist and foster improved production, distribution and marketing, including exports.
Achievements and Impact
In line with the above research findings, the project team formulated, refined and disseminated a set of concrete, practical, realistic proposals for market reforms and interventions, that recognised the financial, administrative, political and socio-cultural constraints facing Pakistan’s policy makers.
Our findings and proposals were disseminated through draft reports and papers, numerous formal and informal presentations, meetings and discussions, building on the strong relationships of trust and policy credibility established with key stakeholders in industry and government (at both province and national level). As a result, even before the formal end of the project, the project achieved the following major policy impacts, with promise of much more:
1- Our main recommendation was accepted and implemented through major legislative changes in Punjab and incorporated into the national export development strategy.
2- The recognition of the value of ACIAR policy research at the highest level of government generated requests and created opportunities for ongoing policy contributions, enhancing prospects for greater impact from future policy projects.
3- Lessons drawn from the Chinese experiences were incorporated into the rural transformation strategy in Pakistan’s 12th Five Year Plan (2018-2023).
4- Project recommendations have started to influence new government initiatives, such as the Punjab government’s ‘Model Farm Project” led by Kashif Jamshed, a member of the project Advisory Committee, and private sector initiatives such as those undertaken by PAC and PMEX.
What needs to be done
1- Revision, refinement, and editing of the project outputs (at present mostly in draft form) into research papers, reports and briefs that are publishable or otherwise ready for public circulation and preparation of a monograph based on the research findings
2- Continuation for another 18 months to two years of dissemination and advocacy roles, building on links and relationships built up with key stakeholders with more policy briefs, presentations, and meetings to achieve full potential for policy impact
An ACIAR-funded project to assist the modernisation of Pakistan’s horticultural sector has resulted in legislative change in the country’s breadbasket state of Punjab and drawn support from the office of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, raising hopes that this could be replicated throughout the rest of the country.
An international project led by Monash Business School investigating Pakistan’s horticulture markets has already brought about policy changes at the highest level.
From 19 to 24 March 2018, Monash University hosted the project's mid-term workshop in Victoria, Australia.
The workshop comprised of several days of intensive meetings culminating in a very productive two-day conference in the coastal town of Lorne on the Great Ocean Road.
During this time, the project team was pleased to share its research and make plans for the successful completion of the project in 2019.
On 18 and 19 September 2016, the project inception workshop was held in Islamabad, Pakistan.
It provided a valuable opportunity for participants to meet and map out plans for the project, with all looking forward to a very productive collaboration.
Regional economic impacts and opportunities for adaptation
This project will assess impacts of extreme temperatures on wheat yields in North Western Victoria over the next thirty years. By combining historical regional climate and wheat yield data with information on farm practices, we will develop a better understanding of future risks and management options. There will be a consultative process with relevant stakeholders to ensure that the models are scientifically rigorous and incorporate the main features of the regional farming environments and practices. The research process is conceived as co-production of knowledge with agricultural and climate scientists as well as with farmers, so that there will be joint ownership of research outputs, economic impact assessments and adaptation recommendations. The final outputs are intended to have relevance to public policy and resilient farm management.
The early childhood intervention and parental involvement in Bangladesh
Asad Islam and John List (University of Chicago)
Early childhood is widely recognised as a critical phase of human development, and interventions targeted at this stage have a farther-reaching impact than those targeted later in life. Preschool education has been found to confer significant benefits on children in developed countries. Yet, the impact of pre-schooling in developing countries is largely unknown. The aim of this project is to bridge the gap by systematically evaluating whether introducing pre-schooling in remote rural communities improve cognitive and non-cognitive skills of children and ready for primary school in a developing country like Bangladesh.
This project, being carried out in 222 villages, uses randomized controlled trials (RCTs) approach to evaluate the efficacy of three interventions designed to improve child outcomes in Bangladesh. The three interventions are: a preschool program, home visit only, and pre-school program combined with home visit. The first intervention established a pre-school program that aims to prepare pre-primary students for formal school and provide them with the skills needed to perform well in primary schools and beyond. The second intervention included weekly home visit by teachers/caregivers to demonstrate parent-child interactions and learning environment at home. The third intervention combined pre-school program with home visit.
The research is supported by UK research council (ESRC).
A case study of the light engineering sector in Bangladesh
Asad Islam, Gary S. Fields (Cornell University), Ummul Ruthbah, Margaret Triyana
Small and micro enterprises (SMEs) account for a large portion of production and employment in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), so the development of this sector has important aggregate development consequences. SMEs often face constraints that prevent them from growing: the entrepreneurs may lack technical knowledge, financial capital, and strong business practices. Such firms also lack proper safety measures, resulting in work related injuries and fatalities and other long run consequences for workers. This research project has two main objectives. First, we focus on how the decent work environment training can improve the work environment – especially in addressing safety issues within the firms and among workers. Second, we examine the potential impact of the combination of business training and access to finance with OHS on firms. This project takes advantage of BRAC’s program, Pro-poor Growth of Rural Enterprises through Sustainable Skills-development (PROGRESS) supported by European Commission.
In this project, we focus on the impact of intensive training and information on decent work environment among workers and firms. We partner with BRAC, which also collaborates with different trade associations, to understand and evaluate the workplace safety and awareness in the light engineering (LE) sector in Bangladesh. In order to understand the causal effects of information and training on the health and safety at the firm level, we randomly assign firms in LE sectors into two treatment arms: T1: Managers/owners of firms receive intensive training on occupational health and safety (OHS). T2: OHS + business training and financial linkages, C: the firms in the control group receive no training. We examine a range of outcomes related to workers’ safety and health issues, working environment and safety standards of firm, cost, business growth, investment and profitability.
The research is supported by DFID and European Commission.
Asad Islam, Chris Barrett (Cornell University) and Marcel Fafchamps (Stanford University)
Crop yields in developing countries remain low due to limited adoption of new innovations by farmers. The System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has demonstrated dramatic potential for increasing rice yields without requiring additional purchased inputs (seed, fertilizer, etc.), nor increased irrigation. But these gains, although widely documented in observational data from a variety of countries, are yet to be verified with adequate scientific rigour. Moreover, although SRI has been introduced at a small, pilot scale in some locations in Bangladesh, casual empirical observations suggest that adoption and diffusion rates appear to be very low, as appears true in other countries. Given its purported productivity and earnings potential, low uptake of SRI technology seems rather puzzling. Though not requiring greater material inputs or irrigation water, SRI is a knowledge-intensive cultivation technique that requires significant local adaptation and managerial skills. There is evidence that farmers are constrained by information and skills necessary for local adaptation. Finally, because SRI fields differ visibly from traditional rice fields, social norms and conformity pressures may likewise discourage adaptation and the ultimate adoption decision. The project investigates how social networks or peer groups can be utilised among poor rural farmers in developing countries to facilitate the adoption and diffusion of a novel and promising new approach to increasing productivity in rice cultivation, the SRI.
It is a joint project with BRAC, funded by International growth centre. We have completed the intervention. A follow-up survey is being planned in 2020 to understand the longer-term impact and diffusion/adoption/disadoption of the new agricultural practices.
A cluster-randomized controlled trials in rural Bangladesh
Asad Islam and Ummul Ruthbah
Globally malnutrition and diseases relating poor hygiene cause a large share of death of children under 5 years and are also considered as major development impediments. The burden is larger in low- and middle-income countries where they often coexist. Poor socioeconomic status contributes to developmental delay and underachievement, and lower parental investment in child development. Yet, little is known about parental knowledge on child development and its association with children’s developmental outcomes in low income settings. We are conducting a randomized controlled trial where we are running an information campaign with mothers on caring of children aged 1-3 years in order to examine association between maternal knowledge on child development and developmental outcomes of children in short and medium run in a resource poor setting in rural Bangladesh.
This intervention seeks to empower mothers in the targeted community with more knowledge on rearing and caring of children aged 1-3 years. Mothers learn more about child nutrition and feeding, hygiene in child caring, and home environment favourable to child development, and easy and affordable way to translate those into daily practices, which we expect will lead to positive health and development outcomes in their children. To support their learning and encourage them to translate them in action, fortnightly half-day, refresher sessions following after completion of main sessions. In one of the treatment arms, learning is further supported by fortnightly home visits by trained fieldworkers. The intervention promotes optimal and efficient utilization of existing and available resources and services. Thus, it will provide mothers a list and contact of local and district level healthcare providers for children in order to make them aware of local resources and services, and they will be encouraged to seek help and avail services when required. While the control arm will not receive any such information, it will receive, the same list like treatment arms.
The research is supported by ESRC.
Does providing women living in rural areas with innovative financial interventions change household expenditure and saving behaviour?
Asad Islam and Russell Smyth
It has been argued that standardized financial training is too complex and rigid to help less educated individuals improve their financial decisions. Existing literature suggests a weak, if not zero, impact of standard financial education on improving financial outcomes.
We use a Randomized Controlled Trial to assess whether either a simplified less intensive financial treatment or a tailored ‘just-in-time’ financial treatment can perform better than traditional financial education in overcoming financial inclusion barriers for young women in rural areas. The simplified treatment will entail participant’s self-recording daily cash transfer using a financial diary. The tailored ‘just-in-time’ treatment will involve provision of advice from a financial counsellor on financial matters, tailored to the participant’s specific financial needs. This project has potential to contribute significantly to the academic literature on ‘what works’ in improving financial literacy and offer practical implications for assisting to enhance the financial well-being of women in developing countries.
The research is supported by the International Growth Centre and Monash University’s Faculty of Business and Economics research grant.