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We asked him what he did when he had already downloadd fertilizer but not yet used it and someone got sick. Wasn't he tempted to resell it at a loss? His answer was that he never found the need to resell the fertilizer. Instead, he tended to reevaluate the true urgency of any need when there was no money lying around. And if something really needed to be paid for, he would kill a chicken or work a bit harder as a bicycle taxi driver a job he did on the side when he was not too busy with farming.
Although they had never downloadd fertilizer in advance, the Modimbas had the same view.
If a problem came up but they had no money say, because they had downloadd fertilizer , they would figure something out — perhaps borrow from friends or, as they put it, "suspend the issue"; but they would not resell the fertilizer.
It was their opinion that it would be a good thing for them to be forced to find an alternative solution, instead of using the cash at home. Right after the harvest — when farmers have money in hand — they are given the opportunity to download a voucher entitling them to fertilizer at sowing time.
Fertilizer was sold at market price, but an ICS field officer visited the farmers at home to sell the vouchers, and the fertilizer was delivered to their homes when they wanted it. The program increased the fraction of farmers who used fertilizer by at least 50 percent.
To put this in perspective, the effect of this program was greater than the effect of a 50 percent reduction in the price of fertilizer. Just as Michael and Anna Modimba and Wycliffe Otieno had predicted, as long as it was brought to their door at the right time, farmers were very happy to download fertilizer.
But that didn't explain why the farmers did not download the fertilizer in advance on their own.
A huge majority of the farmers who bought the vouchers went for immediate delivery, then stored the fertilizer and used it later on. In other words, just as Wycliffe Otieno had told us, once they had fertilizer, they didn't resell it.
But if they really want fertilizer, why don't they go ahead and download it themselves? We asked the Modimbas.
Their answer was that the fertilizer shops did not always have fertilizer available immediately after harvest — they only got it later, just before planting. As Michael Modimba said: "When we have money, they don't have fertilizer. When they have fertilizer, we don't have money.
But for farmers like the Modimbas, who lived about an hour's walk from the market town and had few reasons to go there, checking the stores was more difficult. It was this small inconvenience of keeping an eye out for fertilizer delivery asking a friend to check, calling the store that was holding back their savings and productivity. All our intervention really did was to remove this minor bottleneck. Banerjee and Esther Duflo. Copyright