The GiveWell Blog

Gifts of livestock (e.g., Heifer International)

It seems particularly hard to find information about the past impact of “gifts of livestock” programs (such as those promoted by Heifer International). I’ve been thinking about such programs conceptually, though, and I have a lot of trouble understanding the reasoning behind these programs. Two key points: It seems like giving out livestock brings with… Read More

The Gates Foundation’s agriculture program: Experimenting or floundering?

Here’s what we know about the Gates Foundation’s agriculture program: Gates believes it’s suggestive that “apart from a few states and small, oil-rich countries, no country has managed a rapid rise from poverty without increasing agricultural productivity. In the poorest countries, agriculture employs a majority of the people.” This isn’t a new argument or an… Read More

Gates Foundation on agriculture funding: Where are the facts?

The Gates Foundation states that “funders have sharply cut their international aid to agricultural development over the past few decades.” It is implied that this is a major reason for the failure to see a “Green Revolution in Africa.” We have been unable to locate support for this claim. Using data from OECD – the… Read More

Helping farmers is harder than you’ve heard

Imagine that a charity is able to teach a farmer some basic, useful things about farming (like “crop rotation, dip irrigation and the planting of trees that enrich over worked soil” or “disease-resistant cassava replication, distribution and sale; crop diversification; soil conservation; and expanding market opportunities”). Such simple knowledge could last the farmer forever and… Read More

Agriculture charity evaluation: Incomes boosted are not the same as lives changed

What’s wrong with this “evidence of impact” for high-profile charities? The Millennium Villages project‘s main evidence of impact so far appears to be increasing crop yields by a factor of 4-15x in 3 villages. (H/T to the recent coverage of Millennium Villages on Aid Watch) A KickStart evaluation (available on our website (DOC)) reports that… Read More

Can the Green Revolution be repeated in Africa?

In his Annual Letter, Bill Gates describes the “Green Revolution”: Almost every country that has become wealthy started with a huge increase in farming productivity. Chart 4 shows the increase in output per acre for various grains, including wheat, corn, and rice, in the United States, India, China, and Africa since 1961. This dramatic increase… Read More