Dristy Shrestha

Dristy Shrestha

Country: Tanzania
Organization: BRAC Tanzania

DRISTY: "BRAC is the world’s largest non-governmental development organization measured by the number of employees and the number of people it has helped. It is dedicated to empowering people and communities living in poverty, illiteracy, disease and social injustice through its various programs in areas ranging from microfinance, agriculture and food security, education and more. It currently operates in 11 countries across the globe

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Nashwa Khali

Organization: Vodafone Farmers Club / Groupe Spécial Mobile (GSMA)
Country: Ghana

NASHWA: GSMA1, working with a wide range of mobile network operators and civil society organisations, is launching a series of nutrition-focused m-health and m-agriculture initiatives in South Asia and sub- Saharan Africa, called mNutrition. The objective of mNutrition in mAgri is to create and scale commercially sustainable mobile services enabling smallholder farmers to improve their nutrition, yields and incomes. The product to be delivered and evaluated is the Vodafone Farmers’ Club. The service is a bundled solution offering agricultural information in addition to voice and SMS services. In order to measure the causal impact of the Farmers’ Club product, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) will conduct an external impact evaluation of the mAgri programme in Ghana in November 2016. A randomized encouragement design will be implemented. Specifically, some communities will be randomly assigned to receive additional marketing and promotion of the Farmers’ Club product and some communities will not be assigned to the additional marketing and promotion. The additional marketing and promotion will consist of price discounts, advertisement scripts, and gender targeting.

Rationale for Intervention

The rapid expansion of mobile phone access to populations at the base of the income pyramid presents an unprecedented opportunity to expand coverage of nutrition and agriculture services to this previously overlooked segment of the mobile market. Mobile phones and computer centers are the most targeted channels to provide not only technical and scientific information on crop production and nutrition, but also to support the marketing of products that can help level the playing field between small producers and traders. Agricultural extension services delivered via mobile phones can in theory promote ‘nutrition-sensitive’ interventions by creating competent and efficient farmers who are able to increase productivity by making effective use of knowledge and information which is delivered to them.

Broadly speaking, nutrition-sensitive agriculture is aimed at improving the nutritional status of a population by maximizing the impact of food and of agricultural systems, while minimizing the potential for negative externalities regarding the sector’s economic and production-driven goals. In the last few years there has been a visible trend in agricultural policies and programs to become ‘nutrition-sensitive’ by leveraging agriculture to maximize nutrition impact. Yet there is an identified need to better understand the linkages between agriculture and nutrition, and to decipher the ways in which agriculture can contribute to improved nutrition. Despite the potential of mobile services coupled with agricultural change to improve nutrition and diet quality, very few studies exist that critically assess the application of mobile phone technology for nutrition in resource-poor settings.

Farmers’ Club

Farmers’ Club is a bundled solution offering farmers agricultural and nutrition information in addition to voice and SMS services. The target market Vodafone expects to attract is about 450,000 Farmer Club users by 2016/17 across 8 regions in Ghana: Eastern Region, Western Region, Ashanti Region, Central Region, Northern Region, Volta, Brong-Ahafo, and Greater Accra. Researchers from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) are conducting a rigorous mixed-methods evaluation to estimate the impact of mNutrition and to understand how the context and the components of the mNutrition intervention shape its impact. To estimate the casual impacts of the product on farmer’s behavior, knowledge, nutrition, yields and income, a randomized encouragement design is being implemented where some communities are randomly assigned to receive additional marketing and promotion of the Farmers’ Club product and some are not assigned to the additional marketing and promotion. The additional marketing and promotion will consist of price discounts, advertisement scripts, and gender targeting.

The goal of the impact evaluation is to measure the causal impact of Farmers’ club on behaviors and outcomes linked to nutrition and agriculture. But before a full scale impact evaluation is rolled out; which is resource and time intensive IFPRI decided to do a pilot, which is the leg of the project that I was brought on to do. Essentially the purpose of the pilot was to test the assumptions of the evaluation and related encouragements before they are rolled out for the study and to test willingness to pay for the Farmer club product. As soon as I landed in Ghana I had three priority areas to work on:

  1. Build relationships with potential implementing partners and all the involved stakeholders; including Vodafone, The University of Ghana, and ESOKO2

  2. Collaborate with Vodafone to do user feedback surveys for existing Farmers’ Club customers. This would help the research team at IFPRI understand the rates of take-up of the service as well as the perceived benefits of subscribing.

  3. Set up the IRB3 protocol, as well as pilot evaluation that would allow us to answer the following research questions:

    •   How effective is the Farmer Club at increasing the knowledge and changing the behavior of farmers?

    •   What are the impacts and cost-effectiveness of the Farmer Club product on household’s dietary diversity, agricultural income, and production?

    •   Does targeting women increase impacts over and beyond the impacts of a non-targeted Farmer Club product?

  What is farmer’s willingness to pay for Farmer’s club?

The preliminary data gathered while I was in Ghana evidenced that Farmers’ Club positively enhanced the livelihoods and quality of life of smallholder farmers by improving access to information, financial services and supply chain solutions, delivered via mobile phone. Furthermore the mNutrition component of the intervention promoted behaviour change around key farming decisions and practices via mobile nutrition content.

Mari Kenton Wright

Mari Kenton Wright

Country: Malawi
Organization: Population Services International (PSI)

Mari Kenton Wright worked as an M&E and Program Officer with responsibility in the Reproductive Health Department for the launch of a family planning social franchise network, SafePlan, and working with a Malaria/Child Health team. She conducted baseline assessments at 30 clinics, participated in high level policy meetings and presented her findings to members of Malawi’s parliament

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Elena Fiekowsky

Country: Vietnam

Elana Fiekowsky worked as an impact evaluation specialist at VinaCapital Foundation the summer of 2011. VinaCapital Foundation (VCF) is the corporate foundation for VinaCapital, the largest Vietnamese investment firm. VCF focuses on providing heart surgery to children who would not be able to afford them otherwise, HeartBeat Vietnam, and improving the cardiac healthcare system in Vietnam. VCF also provides a seven year scholarship to ethnic minority girls to ensure that these girls can go finish high school and college, and go on to become role models within their communities’, Brighter Path program.

As an impact evaluation specialist, Elana designed, implemented and analyzed evaluations for their HeartBeat Vietnam and Brighter Path project. To do this work, Elana worked with the program teams to learn what indicators to measure and helped train the team to run and then understand the findings after the evaluations were done. Additionally, Elana helped design program changes in order to increase the rigor and information gathering for these projects.

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Country: Uganda

Michelle worked with two Kiva microfinance partners, BRAC Uganda and Pearl Microfinance Limited. Her goal as a Fellow was to ensure that each institution accurately represented Kiva and was utilizing Kiva funds efficiently. She saw how Kiva’s mission came together in the field and had significant involvement with top management at both MFIs.

The Fellowship reiterated my previously held belief that microfinance alone cannot solve problems in development, and that access to health systems, education, and good governance among other things, is needed for change to be sustainable.

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Country: India

Evelyn conducted field research with World Health Partners in rural India, in support of the social franchise’s efforts to improve access to healthcare using local market forces and cutting-edge technology. Her work in Bihar focused on understanding the organic network of Bihari health providers before the WHP network was to be started. She conducted a baseline survey of existing providers to find out how they were connected to one another, including doctors, pathological labs, pharmaceutical distributors and supply chain components. The goal was to see what gaps, bottlenecks or roadblocks existed. Data included referral practices, impact on patient in terms of cost and patient travel time, cost to patient for four priority diseases so that WHP’s franchise could be as efficient and effective as possible.

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