Contract Farming Can Bridge Knowledge and Productivity Gender Gaps: Evidence from an Experimental Study in Benin

Contract farming can improve productivity and the adoption of technology by providing better access to inputs, information, markets, and financial services. Limited evidence exists, however, regarding the role of contract farming in bridging gender disparities in agricultural productivity. We evaluate the impact of a pilot contract-farming intervention that offers inputs on credit, technical advice, and a sales guarantee to soy producers in Benin. We designed a randomized experiment involving 760 households across thirty-eight villages. We expect knowledge of recommended agricultural practices and use of soy specific inputs (certified seeds and inoculum) to increase soybean yields. We also assess the impact of a women-focused targeting approach (requiring farming women to be direct beneficiaries) against a household targeting mechanism (in which the household chooses the direct beneficiary). Contract farming results in statistically significant increases in knowledge scores (1.1-1.3 standard deviations) and yields (42% to 73%) for men and women farmers. With women-focused targeting, the impact on yield and, to a lesser extent on knowledge, is higher for women than for men as compared with household-targeting. Overall, women-focused contract farming benefits both producers in the household and reduces within-household gender disparities in knowledge and productivity.