On 24 August and 28 August SPIA organized two sessions at the 31st International Conference of Agricultural Economists (ICAE), taking place in a fully online format. The recordings of the sessions are now available, scroll down to watch them.

Measurement and other Challenges in Designing Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) on Agricultural Research for Development

August 24, 2-3:30PM CET

Organizer: Kyle Emerick, Tuft University (SPIA Member)

Moderator: Karen Macours, Paris School of Economics (SPIA Chair)


  • Jenny Aker, Tufts University - Harvesting the rain: The adoption of environmental technologies in the Sahel
  • Naureen Karachiwalla, IFPRI, CGIAR - Product Assurance and Product Quality: Evidence from Agricultural Technologies
  • Florence Kondylis, World Bank - Learning from self and learning from others: Evidence from a field experiment in Bangladesh


  • Lorenzo Casaburi, University of Zurich
  • Lauren Bergquist, University of Michigan
  • Kyle Emerick, Tuft University (SPIA member)

Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are widely used in development and agricultural economics. But the RCT literature in agricultural development is rapidly evolving. The types of questions being asked, and the tools to measure outcomes have become broader. For instance, RCTs can be designed to study market-level outcomes, such as prices and quality. RCTs that are closely connected to economic theory can be used to estimate structural models for decomposing mechanisms and analyzing counterfactual policies. Moreover, measuring certain outcomes has become cheaper with careful analysis of remotely sensed data. This session includes recent papers demonstrating some of these innovations in the agricultural-RCT literature.

Watch the recordings of the session:

Methods for Documenting Reach and Impacts at Scale of Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D)

August 28, 2-3:30PM CET


  • J.V. Meenakshi, Delhi School of Economics
  • Karen Macours, Paris School of Economics (SPIA Chair)
  • Moderator: Karen Macours, Paris School of Economics (SPIA Chair)


  • Michael Kremer, University of Chicago - Is Development Economics a Good Investment? Evidence on scaling rate and social returns from USAID's innovation fund
  • Solomon Alemu, CGIAR Standing Panel on Impact Assessment
  • Paola Mallia, Paris School of Economics

A country-level approach for tracking the diffusion of agricultural innovations in developing countries: The Ethiopia Experience

Nathaniel Jensen, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) - Long term diffusion and impacts of Index Based Livestock Insurance

The CGIAR portfolio spans a wide spectrum of research, development, and policy engagement activities, involving a multitude of disciplines and approaches, and a large set of causal pathways, and possible outcomes. The commonality across this wide portfolio is that CGIAR aims to provide public goods, which potentially benefit many populations in different parts of the world. It is the global public good nature of CGIAR activities that provides the theoretical rationale for support of the system. Yet evidence for the large-scale impact of more recent investments in CGIAR is scarcer and maintaining confidence in the system requires an updated approach to impact evidence.

This session will present an integrated approach to document reach and impacts of agricultural research for development that is being implemented by the CGIAR Standing Panel of Impact Assessment (SPIA). The session starts with an overview of the different components of the SPIA methodological approach that focuses on the two areas of accountability and scale, as well as learning studies and decisions to scale. J.V. Meenakshi will present this overview. Then the session brings three presentations from different research projects.

Michael Kremer, 2019 Nobel Laureate, will present a portfolio-level approach to assess the return on development innovation funds, which support social science R&D. This approach is feasible even when conceptual difficulties or data limitations make it impossible to assess social returns on some investments in the portfolio.

Paola Mallia and Solomon Alemu will then present a country level approach being implemented in Ethiopia to track the diffusion of agricultural innovations in places where international agricultural research has concentrated efforts.

Finally, Nathaniel Jensen will discuss how to measure long-term, large-scale impacts of agricultural innovations focusing on the experience of the Index Based Livestock Insurance in Kenya.

Watch the recordings of the session: