Collaboration with Kenyan Government on Development Innovations Key to Fight Poverty, Says Nobel Laureate | Kenneth C. Griffin Department of Economics


Posted by Madisson Heinl on Aug 31, 2021

Professor Michael Kremer (second from right) meets with Kenyan officials, including Dr Sara Ruto (right), Kenya’s Chief Administrative Secretary of Education, during a recent visit to discuss common priorities for a research-based education policy at Jogoo House in Nairobi. (Photo credit: Becker Friedman Institute)

Economist Michael Kremer highlights the power of partnerships to identify scalable solutions to development challenges

For Professor Michael Kremer, innovation goes hand in hand with national partnerships that can save lives and improve livelihoods.

A Nobel Prize-winning development economist who joined the University of Chicago in 2020, Kremer has previously worked on interventions that have benefited millions of people through better health, education and improved water quality. .

Recently he traveled to Kenya – where he has worked for decades – to meet with government officials and build some of these partnerships as he works to launch new initiatives through UCicago’s Development Innovation Lab. .

His current work in the country focuses on simple innovations that can bring significant benefits. SMS offering advice to farmers is one example: A recent study published in Science, which Kremer co-authored with Raissa Fabregas at UT Austin and Frank Schilbach at MIT, suggests that this increases the number of farmers by a fifth. adopting advice and increasing agricultural yields by 4% at a very low cost.

“Since I taught in Kenya before my graduate studies, the partnerships we have forged here have led to such rewarding work on a range of issues, including deworming and public health. I look forward to working with my colleagues on new challenges, from immunization to education, ”said Kremer, university professor of economics, at the College and Harris School of Public Policy.

In 2019, Kremer won the Nobel Prize in Economics with MIT’s Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo for work using field experiences to test interventions that reduce poverty around the world. He is now faculty director for the Development Innovation Lab (DIL), which he launched last fall to work with partners and use the tools of economics to identify, test, refine and scale up. development innovations.

Arthur Baker, associate director of research and planning at DIL, said working with governments and other practitioners is one of the keys to creating successful solutions.

“Maintaining close relationships with implementers and governments allows researchers to truly understand the issues at play and how solutions might be implemented in practice,” said Baker. “This partnership allows us to generate better solutions which can then be tested and refined. “

On his last trip to Kenya in July, Kremer met a number of senior Kenyan government officials, including Dr Rashid Aman, Chief Administrative Secretary of the Kenya Ministry of Health, and Dr Sara Ruto, Chief Administrative Secretary in Kenya. head of the Ministry of Education.

At the two high-level meetings, Kremer shared research findings and discussed future areas of partnership, noting that Kenya has been a torchbearer for evidence-based policy solutions. Government officials shared policy and research priorities in the health and education sectors, and agreed to seek opportunities of mutual interest that would build on identification, testing and updating. scale of innovative solutions that would have a positive impact on the lives of Kenyans.

The partnerships we have forged here have made for such rewarding work … I look forward to working with my colleagues on new challenges, from immunization to education. -Teacher. Michael kremer

Kremer’s previous work in Kenya includes successful efforts to improve student health and academic performance by providing drugs that reduce parasitic worm infection (“deworming”) and improving water quality in the environment. rural thanks to chlorination. Decades later, Kremer and his colleagues followed students who received deworming medication and saw positive effects on their earnings as adults.

Now he is examining new interventions that also have the potential to transform livelihoods – work that, as in his previous studies, relies heavily on partnerships with people on the ground who know local issues.

In a recent episode of UCicago’s Big Brains podcast, Kremer said the prevalence of cellphones in developing countries is creating new opportunities for innovative communication strategies.

“It is possible to provide information to farmers based on their location; linked to a particular time of the agricultural season; or timed around new pest outbreaks, ”he said. “So we did some testing on the impact of providing information to farmers and found that it really affects farmers’ behavior. “

Kremer notes that such solutions are not “magic” solutions to problems, but can yield real results: texting is cheap, and if a few farmers use the information they contain to their advantage, for example. example by applying lime to restore the pH balance of the soil – the financial benefit can be ten times greater than the cost of sending the texts in the first place.

This work is just one example of Kremer’s unique approach to innovation, which encompasses any change that can improve a system, including policy adjustments, communication strategies, and technological advancements. Together with Kenyan partners, Kremer looks forward to developing and testing new innovations in agriculture, health and education through DIL.

“The combination of personal engagement in the field and the intellectual rigor of research produces very exciting work, both in terms of understanding the global landscape and helping to provide practical solutions to the problems people face. Kremer said.

This story was originally published in an article in UChicago News. The original article can be found at

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