American flag icon



To help us move from theory to application, we will look at several common interventions and policies that target particular determinants of growth. We will look at the evidence around some of these interventions and their effectiveness.

Scroll down or use the menu to the right to learn more about development economics applications.

Increasing Productivity

What are some policies for long-term growth?

In addition to inputs, growth is often about improving technology and productivity

Interventions that increase productivity can take many forms, across a broad swath of sectors. These interventions are particularly important in agriculture and governance.

Agricultural Innovation

Agricultural productivity programs often focus on trying to increase the uptake of new technologies, adoption of innovative methods, and greater use of data to inform practice.

Economic Governance

Households and firms may find it difficult to access technology, get permits or licenses, and/or guarantee contract enforcement if the enabling environment does not promote rule of law.

Agricultural interventions often try to increase uptake of new technologies and techniques

Program Overview

Many countries have extensive agricultural extension programs to help farmers improve farm productivity, but these programs are often outdated and fail to engage their audience. Several methods have shown promise in improving extension program effectiveness.

Actionable Data

Information for farmers is more effective when it responds to specific contexts and is easily understood, so that farmers know how to respond.

Demonstration Programs

Extension programs can provide live demonstrations of techniques and tailor training on specific inputs.

Social Networks

Farmers are more likely to adopt new technologies and techniques when they learn from reputable or influential local sources.

Various methods have shown promising results in promoting agricultural productivity.

Program Impacts

Extensive economic research has identified several methods that could improve extension program effectiveness – thus increasing uptake of new technologies and improving overall farm productivity.

Actionable Data

Interactive data provided during planting season over SMS has shown improvements in crop yields in India. Localized charts in Bangladesh helped improve timing of fertilizer application.

Demonstration Programs

A study in India found that demonstration programs of new seed varieties led to significant increase in uptake. In Sierra Leone, similar demonstrations increased uptake of new rice strains.

Social Networks

Studies in Africa found farmers were more likely to follow advice from people with similar backgrounds and adopted technologies when they saw several acquaintances use said tool.

Policies focused on reducing corruption play an important role in improving productivity

Play Video

Reducing Corruption & Promoting Growth

Prof. Edmund Malesky

Edmund Malesky is a political economist and a noted specialist in economic development, authoritarian institutions, and comparative political economy in Vietnam. Dr. Malesky’s research uses applied quantitative methods and field experiments to explore the intersection of Comparative and International Political Economy. His research includes the political influence of foreign direct investment and multinational corporations. Dr. Malesky is also highly active in applying his research to policymaking.


  • Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL). 2018. “Improving extension services to increase smallholder productivity.” J-PAL Policy Insights. Last modified April 2018.

Learn more about Development Economics