The Quality of Research Discovery Award is presented annually to a publication that demonstrates excellence and creativity in research methodology. The award is for the paper “Contract farming and rural transformation: Evidence from a field experiment in Benin” published in the Journal of Development Economics in 2021. Dr. Michler is a co-author of the paper, along with Aminou Arouna and Jourdain C. Lokossou.
The Quality of Research Discovery Award is granted to encourage excellent publications in fields consistent with the AAEA Vision Statement. A maximum of two awards are given each year. Entries must demonstrate excellence and creativity in research methodology and/or expand the frontiers of applied economics.
Excerpt from Dr. Michler's nomination:
The paper presents results from the first field experiment on contract farming. The hurdle for experimental studies of contract farming has been to convince a firm to randomize either the terms of the contract or who is offered a contract. This is exactly the hurdle Arouna, Michler, and Lokossou overcome. They worked closely with an existing rice milling firm in Benin to develop new contracts and randomize which farmers received which contracts. With the firm, the researchers designed three contracts that would allow them to determine what the primary constraints were for farmers. These included price risk, access to credit, or technical inefficiency. The work of Arouna, Michler, and Lokossou is a shining example of how researchers and industry can work together for the mutual benefit of both parties. Not only is the work innovative, but the findings of the study advance the frontiers of knowledge in applied economics. The careful design and randomization of contract terms allowed the researchers to dig into their results to determine which terms matter most in increasing yields and income. They find that a simple fixed-price contract, that just guarantees a price for production, resulted in outcomes statistically indistinguishable from contracts that included input loans and/or extension training. As Arouna, Michler, and Lokossou write, “This result is striking in its simplicity and enormously encouraging in its implications for contract farming… It implies that the primary issue facing these farmers is output price risk.”