International Studies & Programs

Use SMS to Document Maize Trader Participation in Government Reporting Protocols in Zambia

For this GCFSI student innovation grant, the project team will use SMS technology to help grain traders and policy-makers in Zambia report and track market prices, and also improve local regulations. 

Project Lead: Stephen Morgan

This project will address Zambia’s information gap between private grain traders and agricultural officials, also known as the Food Reserve Agency (FRA). In the past, Zambia has relied on regulations that forced maize traders to report their stock levels post-harvest. A decrease in institutional trust and capacity caused many private traders to stop reporting their stock information. This lack of information led government officials to make inefficient decisions, which included export bans and over-investment in storage that led to 32 percent of purchased maize to go to waste in 2012.

The project team will use field-lab experiments to capture the effect of compliance outcomes for a random sample of local, private grain traders. Then the random sample will be divided into two groups. The first group will be invited to make comments on the proposed rule, while the second group (the control group), will consist of traders who are not invited to comment on the enforced rule. Then, both groups will be presented with randomly generated stock information to see how they would be willing to report the data. The experiment will be repeated multiple times with different traders, rules, and levels of enforcement. This set of data will allow the team to develop models of participation allowing them to better predict compliance outcomes in development policy.

The goal of this project is to gain a deeper understanding of the systems of governing information transfer from the FRA to the traders in Zambia, while also testing a new mobile technology solution to fill the gap. The technology will offer an SMS reporting mechanism so that traders and other actors can report stock in exchange for up-to-date information on total grain stocks, market prices, and the number of reports. The goal of this new system is to make the FRA more efficient, and to allow individuals to respond to institutional incentives.