It has been recently argued by economists that the quality of institutions, rather than geography or culture, explains why some countries are rich and some others poor. One such institution is the judiciary that secures property rights (e.g. of farmers), enforces contracts, and therefore promotes investment, business creation and economic growth. While theoretically intuitive, it has been very difficult to prove this point empirically, since the influence of the judiciary cannot easily be disentangled from other factors.
Elimu is currently engaged in the first ever randomized experiment measuring the causal impact of access to the judiciary on economic growth. The goal of the project is to provide legal aid to the poor small-scale farmers of the Kianyaga community. Elimu is collaborating with Kituo Cha Sheria, a Kenyan legal aid NGO, which provided a paralegal training to our Field Officers, and started providing legal aid to community members. The hypothesis is that small scale farmers with a better access to the judiciary and more secure property rights will increase their agricultural productivity and exit poverty.
In this project, Elimu is:
- Identifying potential participants by visiting people door to door and asking if they are involved in legal conflicts, asking them to refer to friends with legal conflicts, and asking elders in the community to refer us to cases.
- Collecting a baseline survey with questions on the security of property rights, contracting behaviour, investment, entrepreneurship, access to credit, informality, and poverty.
- Providing legal aid to a randomized treatment group together with Kituo Cha Sheria.
- Collecting the endline survey after this is completed.
- Offering mediation as an alternative dispute resolution by organizing sessions with a mutually agreed upon mediator to resolve the land conflict.
- Examining the impact of possessing proof of land ownership by purchasing Search Certificates, a formal declaration of the current landowner.
- Providing instruction to farmers on on buying and selling new land.
- Providing instruction to farmers on how to write a will to legally define a line of succession.
The Kianyaga community is composed of many lower income small-scale farmers in the informal sector, who do not have health insurance, despite the existence of affordable products. For example, the National Hospital Insurance Fund (NHIF) offers an insurance product that covers all hospitalization costs for a small sum. This health insurance product could avoid poor farmers to pay very large catastrophic expenses in case of hospitalization, that could significantly run down their savings and trap them into poverty.
In collaboration with the Kianyaga community and NHIF, Elimu undertook a research project to discover the reasons of this low take-up rate. Several interventions were put in place in randomized sub-groups to evaluate the most cost-effective way for NHIF to reach the poor. Examples of such intervention included disseminating information about insurance, offering assistance to register, distributing monetary or in-kind subsidies, sensitizing about insurance through a local NGO, and organizing information meetings for existing informal insurance groups. In the conclusion of this project, Elimu is now collecting an endline survey on 2,300 households to evaluate the impact of health insurance on those who decided to take-up.
Green Power (GP) establishes micro-hydro mini-grid systems that are constructed, financed, owned, and operated by farmer cooperatives without access to electricity at the present time. With affordable electricity, farmers may use water pumps for irrigating high value crops, microentrepreneurs may create businesses that require light or powered machines, children may spend less time collecting firewood and more studying at night under proper lighting, women may devote less time to household chores and more to other valuable things such as education.
GP partnered in 2006 with Prof. Chemin to rigorously evaluate its project. GP aims to measure the potential benefits of access to electricity and compare them to the costs of running such an operation, in order to inform decision makers and other African communities about the desirability of such a project. Elimu collected a baseline survey of 3,200 households in the community, and organized the randomized distribution of electricity. GP is currently collecting funds to repair the first turbine in this on-going project.
These projects have been generously supported by the following organizations: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Fonds de Recherche du Québec - Société et Culture (FQRSC), Center for International Governance Innovation, Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC)-Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), McGill Social Sciences and Humanities Development Grants.
Community Library: Muchagara Primary School
To thank our respondents for their continued participation in our research, in 2012 Elimu opened a community library at Mucharaga Primary School. The library has been equipped with shelves and books and an Elimu librarian organizes activities for students and teaches them basic computer skills. Additional electricity and better security must be provided before more computers and access to the internet can be established.