Van Campenhout, B., Bizimungu, E., Smart, J. & Kabunga, N. (2018), “Impact pathways of a participatory local governance initiative in Uganda: a qualitative exploration”, Development in Practice.

The baraza project, initiated in 2009, is a government-led initiative in Uganda that aims to increase the quality of public service delivery through the provision of information and involvement of beneficiaries in project monitoring by means of providing citizens with an advocacy forum. This article provides a qualitative assessment of the self-identified pathways through which barazas are thought to influence public service delivery, as expressed by participant stakeholders. It also explores motivating factors behind behavioural changes of stakeholders, hindrances to achieving positive outcomes, and opportunities for the implementation of future barazas.

Van Campenhout, B., Pauw, K. and Minot, N.(2018), “The impact of food price shocks in Uganda: first-order effects versus general-equilibrium consequences” European Review of Agricultural Economics

For developing countries, whose governments are faced with volatile world food prices, the appropriate policy response hinges on who are the likely winners and losers. Therefore, it is necessary to predict the impact of higher commodity prices on different subgroups of society. We compare the results of a method that is popular with policy makers because of its parsimony and ease of interpretation with the results of a more complex and data-intensive general-equilibrium model. Using historical prices between 2008 and 2011 for Uganda, we find that both methods predict high prices benefit poor rural farmers, but more so if a more elaborate model is used.

Van Campenhout, B. and Bizimungu, E. (2017), “Risk and Returns of Sustainable Crop Intensification: The Case of Smallholder Rice and Potato Farmers in Uganda”, Development Policy Review, forthcoming.

The use of modern inputs such as synthetic fertilizers is suggested as the best way to increase crop yields in an ecologically sustainable way. However, such inputs may be perceived as risky, and adoption may depend on how much extra risk a farm household can afford. This article describes the potential for fertilizer and pesticide use among Ugandan small-holder rice and potato farmers. In addition, it documents patterns observed in socio-economic data that suggest risk is an important barrier to sustainable crop intensification practices. We find that households that engage in risk management strategies, such as investing in risk reducing technology or engaging in precautionary savings, are more likely to practice intensified cropping. We also elaborate on the policy consequences.

Van Campenhout, B., Vandevelde, S., Walukano, W. and Van Asten, P., (2017), “Agricultural Extension Messages Using Video on Portable Devices Increased Knowledge about Seed Selection, Storage and Handling among Smallholder Potato Farmers in Southwestern Uganda”, PLoS One, 12(1), p.e0169557.

To feed a growing population, agricultural productivity needs to increase dramatically. Agricultural extension information, with its public, non-rival nature, is generally undersupplied, and public provision remains challenging. In this study, simple agricultural extension video messages, delivered through Android tablets, were tested in the field to determine if they increased farmers’ knowledge of recommended practices on (i) potato seed selection and (ii) seed storage and handling among a sample of potato farmers in southwestern Uganda. Using a field experiment with ex ante matching in a factorial design, it was established that showing agricultural extension videos significantly increased farmers’ knowledge. However, results suggested impact pathways that went beyond simply replicating what was shown in the video. Video messages may have triggered a process of abstraction, whereby farmers applied insights gained in one context to a different context.

Van Campenhout, B. (2017), “There’s an App for that? The Impact of Community Knowledge Workers in Uganda”, Information, Communication & Society 20(4): 530 – 550.

Rapidly expanding mobile network coverage in developing countries offers new ways to reach poor farmers in isolated places. This article explores the potential for Information and Communication Technology to provide agricultural information and extension services to smallholder farmers, and links this to empirical insights of an intervention in Uganda, where community knowledge workers rely on mobile devices to deliver context- and time-sensitive data to farmers. Consistent with theoretical insights related to information inefficiencies, we find that the intervention leads farmers to move away from low-risk low-return crops toward more commercially oriented commodities. Our analysis also suggests that, for the case of maize, the intervention causes farmers to sell less on the market, but at significantly higher prices.

Van Campenhout, B. (2016), “Fertility, Agricultural Labor Supply and Production: Instrumental Variable Evidence from Uganda”, Agricultural and Resource Economics Review 45(3): 581-607.

Human fertility can affect agricultural production through its effect on supply of agricultural labor. Using the fact that in traditional, patriarchal societies, sons are generally preferred to daughters, we isolate exogenous variation in the number of children born to a mother and relate it to the agricultural labor supply and production in Uganda, which has a dominant agricultural sector and high fertility. We find that fertility has a sizable negative effect on household labor allocation to subsistence agriculture. Households with lower fertility devote significantly more time to land preparation and weeding; larger households grow less matooke and sweet potatoes. We find no significant effect on agricultural productivity in terms of yield per land area.

Cassimon, D., Van Campenhout, B., Ferry, M and Raffinot, M. (2015), “Africa: Out of debt, into fiscal space? Dynamic Fiscal Impact of the Debt Relief Initiatives on African Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPCs)”, International Economics, 144: 29–52

After two debt relief initiatives launched in 1996 (the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, HIPC) and in 1999 (The enhanced HIPC initiative), the G7 decided to go further by canceling (most of) the remaining multilateral debt for these HIPC countries through the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI, 2005). Building on earlier literature that tries to assess the fiscal response effects of HIPC debt relief, we extend this assessment by explicitly including the fiscal response effects of MDRI debt relief, and by using an extended dataset and alternative econometric techniques, in order to have sufficient hindsight and better tackle methodological issues such as country-specific effects. We confirm earlier findings that debt relief, and especially the enhanced HIPC initiative, has had a positive impact on recipient country total domestic revenue and public investment (as percentage of GDP). Additionally, thanks to our large observation span, we also observe that the MDRI led to a significant increase in current primary expenditures and domestic revenue ratios, although these effects are on average smaller than the HIPC Initiative ones.

This research was also featured in The Economist.

Lecoutere, E., D’Exelle, B., and Van Campenhout, B. (2015),”Sharing Common Resources in Patriarchal and Status-based Societies: Evidence from Tanzania“, Feminist Economics, 21(3): 142-167.

In rural African societies, socioeconomic differentiation linked to gender and social status exerts an important influence on the distribution of common-pool resources. Through a behavioral experiment conducted in 2008 in rural Tanzania, this contribution examines the influence of gender and social status on distribution behavior of users of self-governed common watersheds. It finds that men and women with low social status distribute water equally when water is abundant but keep larger shares when water is scarce, although low-status women try to be as fair as possible at the expense of their returns from irrigated agriculture. Men of high social status keep more than half of the available water for themselves, both in abundance and scarcity, and deprive others from sizeable returns from irrigated agriculture. Women of high social status share altruistically when water is abundant and equally when water is scarce, giving up on returns from irrigated agriculture.

This research was also featured in The Economist.

Van Campenhout, B., Lecoutere, E., and D’Exelle, B. (2015), “Inter-temporal and Spatial Price Dispersion Patterns and the Well-being of Maize Producers in Southern Tanzania”, Journal of African Economies, 24(2): 230:253.

We revisit a methodology to gauge the short-term effect of price changes on smallholder farmer’s welfare that is popular amongst policy makers and academia. Realising that farmers face substantial seasonal price volatility over the course of an agricultural year, we pay particular attention to the timing of sales and purchases. In addition we depart from the implicit assumption that all farmers scattered across rural areas face the same prices when interacting with markets. Using maize marketing during the 2007–2008 agricultural season in a sample of smallholders in Tanzania as an illustration, we find that especially poor farmers face greater losses than what a standard analysis would suggest. We also relate our methodology to factors that are likely to affect potential benefits or costs from inter-temporal and spatial price dispersion, such as means of transport, access to price information and credit.


Van Campenhout, B., D’Exelle, B., and Lecoutere, E. (2015), “Equity-Efficiency Optimizing Resource Allocation: The Role of Time Preferences in a Repeated Irrigation Game”, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 77(2): 234-253.

We study repeated water allocation decisions among small scale irrigation users in Tanzania. In a treatment replicating water scarcity conditions, convexities in production make that substantial efficiency gains can be obtained by deviating from equal sharing, leading to an equity–efficiency trade-off. In a repeated game setting, it becomes possible to reconcile efficiency with equity by rotating the person who receives the largest share, but such a strategy requires a longer run perspective. Correlating experimental data from an irrigation game with individual time preference data, we find that less patient irrigators are less likely to use a rotation strategy.

D’Exelle, B., Lecoutere, E. and Van Campenhout, B. (2012), “Equity-efficiency Trade-offs in Irrigation Water Sharing: Evidence from a Field Lab in Rural Tanzania”, World Development 40(12): 2537–2551.

This article studies how users of scarce common water resources deal with equity-efficiency trade-offs. For this purpose, we conduct a field lab experiment in Tanzania that simulates the distribution of irrigation water between upstream and downstream users. We find a strong preference for equal sharing even if this comes with large foregone efficiency gains. However, we also find indications that efficiency considerations are taken into account. (Selfish) deviations from equal sharing are more likely implemented when they are efficiency-enhancing. Finally, we detect a tendency to alternate between altruistic and selfish sharing, which reconciles equity and efficiency considerations.

D’Exelle, B, Van Campenhout, B. and Lecoutere, E. (2012), “What Determines Impatience in Tanzania: Is it Poverty or Modernization?”, Journal of Development Studies, 48(4): 579-598.

Assumptions about individual time preferences are important for explanations of poverty and development. Data from a large-scale elicitation exercise in Tanzania show significantly higher levels of impatience in urban areas than in rural areas. This result remains robust to adding controls for socio-economic differences between rural and urban areas, which possibly correlate with time preferences. We attribute this to differences in ‘modernisation’ between urban and rural areas, with modernisation leading to increased impatience. This is corroborated by the observed positive correlation between impatience and education; the latter being an important vehicle of modernisation for traditional societies in Tanzania.

Van Campenhout, B., Cassimon, D. (2012), “Multiple equilibria in the dynamics of financial globalization: The role of institutions”, Journal of International Financial Markets, Institutions & Money, 22(2): 329–342.

Recent research underscores the dual role played by institutions for deciphering the financial globalization – growth nexus. On the one hand, for capital account liberalization to be growth enhancing, a critical level of local institutional quality is needed. On the other hand, increased integration in the global financial system strengthens these countries’ institutions. We argue that this complex relationship may give rise to multiple equilibria in the dynamics of financial global integration: haphazard capital account liberalization may lead to situations where well integrated nations become increasingly better integrated, while poorly integrated nations are left at the margin. To test this hypothesis, we check whether controlling for the quality of institutions eliminates conditional convergence of global financial integration. Our results confirm that growth in financial integration is non-linear, and that this non-linearity disappears once we control for the quality of institutions.

Claessens, S., Cassimon, D. and Van Campenhout, B. (2009) “Evidence on Changes in Aid Allocation Criteria”, World Bank Economic Review, 23(2): 185-208.

Have donors changed their aid-allocation criteria over the past three decades toward greater selectivity, a frequently stated goal of the international development community? Using data on how 22 donors allocated their bilateral aid among 147 countries over 1970–2004, the article finds that after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and especially in the late 1990s, bilateral aid responded more to poverty and the quality of the policy and institutional environment in the recipient countries. Furthermore, the sensitivity of aid allocation to the country’s size and its debt burden has declined over time. These results are robust to different samples and model specifications, various econometric techniques, and alternative measures of institutional quality. While the specific factors causing these changes cannot be identified—these presumably include geopolitical and economic concerns and the many changes in the international aid architecture—donors still differ greatly in their selectivity. This suggests that further, multifaceted reforms are needed to ensure even greater selectivity of aid.

Cassimon, D and Van Campenhout, B. (2008) “Comparative Fiscal Effects of Debt Relief: an Application to African HIPCs”, South African Journal of Economics, 76(3): 427-442

As part of the efforts of the international donor community to scale up aid to Africa, substantial debt relief has been granted in recent years through the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and its successor, the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative. This paper tries to assess, for a sample of 24 African countries that have at least reached decision point status in the HIPC Initiative, to what extent this debt relief has created fiscal space in recipient country budgets, and what, on average, the actual fiscal response effects have been, relative to other types of aid. Inspired by the fiscal response literature, we model public finance behaviour as a system of structural equations and estimate the reduced form parameters in a Vector Autoregressive framework. In general, we are unable to find evidence that debt relief might provoke no or even perverse fiscal responses. On average, debt relief affects public finance behaviour in a desired way, with effects being most similar to those of its most direct substitute, programme grants.

Mulenga, S. and Van Campenhout, B. (2008) “Decomposing Poverty Changes in Zambia: Growth, Inequality and Population Dynamics”, African Development Review, 20(2): 284 – 304.

During the 1990s, the Zambian economy underwent major structural adjustments. This paper presents an application of a recently proposed poverty decomposition that attributes changes in poverty to income growth, changes in inequality and population dynamics. Our results confirm earlier findings that the existence of a severe urban bias in the economy effectively shielded large parts of the rural population from the economic slump caused by the structural adjustments. In addition, we find that the exodus from urban centres that followed the adjustments contributed significantly to the increase in national poverty. The latter finding highlights the importance of considering population movements when studying poverty, especially in situations where policy changes affect migrant labour, as was the case for the Zambian copper industry.

Van Campenhout, B. (2007), “Modelling trends in food market integration: Method and an application to Tanzanian maize markets”, Food Policy, 32(1): 112-127.

Pushed by increasing availability of price data and extensive market liberalisation efforts in many developing countries, research on food market integration has evolved rapidly over the last two decades. Empirical methods to measure market integration diverged in two directions: on the one hand, there is the parity bounds model (PBM) using a switching regressions technique, while on the other hand the use of threshold autoregressive (TAR) models has been proposed. This article provides a discussion on the two methods and argues that TAR models are better able to capture the dynamics of the arbitrage process underlying interconnected markets. Furthermore, we extend the standard TAR model to include a time trend in both the threshold and the adjustment parameter. Using weekly maize price data on seven selected markets in Tanzania, we illustrate how both transaction cost and the speed of adjustment have changed during the nineties.

Van Campenhout, B. (2007), “Locally Adapted Poverty Indicators Derived from Participatory Wealth Rankings: A Case of Four Villages in Rural Tanzania”, Journal of African Economies, 16(3): 406-438

Poverty indicators are generally identified on the basis of household consumption expenditure data drawn from nationally representative household budget surveys. In this study, we explore the potential role for more qualitative methods in generating poverty indicators and profiles that incorporate local perspectives on poverty. More specifically, on the basis of participatory wealth rankings, we identify covariates that could serve as poverty indicators. Furthermore, we check the performance of these indicators when using a more conventional indicator or well-being. To do so, we conducted participatory wealth rankings in four villages in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania. Then, we administered a small questionnaire-based survey to the ranked households to probe for possible poverty indicators that can broadly be classified under four categories, namely household characteristics, human capital, housing and durables, productive assets. We find that most of the routinely used poverty indicators remain valid, but for some, we also find interesting differences.

Cassimon, D , Van Campenhout B. (2007), “Aid Effectiveness, Debt Relief and Public Finance Response: Evidence from a Panel of HIPCs”, Review of World Economics, 143(4): 742-763.

Substantial amounts of debt relief have been granted to a set of low-income countries, as an alternative aid modality. Although the theoretical case for debt relief is firmly established, only empirical analysis can show whether debt relief is indeed a (more) effective mode of aid delivery. We investigate the linkages between debt relief and other fiscal variables such as current expenditure, government investment, taxation and domestic borrowing, in comparison to the effects of grants and concessional loans. We find that the fiscal impact of HIPC debt relief follows fairly complex dynamics. For example, debt relief initially reduces government investment, but the effect becomes positive after two years, well outperforming other modes of aid delivery.