The Reach of Rural Services in Ethiopia: An Asset and Gender-Based Public Expenditure Benefit Incidence Analysis


Agricultural extension and food security transfers have constituted the bulk of public spending in agriculture in Ethiopia. This article assesses who exactly is benefiting from this public spending, by undertaking a benefit incidence analysis of these programmes in agricultural areas. A mixed picture of these programmes emerges: extension provision generally has an incidence benefitting low-wealth households. However, comparison between average and marginal benefit incidence suggests that additional expansion of the programme would be less pro-poor than the programme is as a whole. The benefit incidence of food/cash for works programmes is, interestingly, more progressive than free food/cash transfers, possibly reflecting varying effectiveness of different targeting mechanisms underlying these two. The gender incidence of extension is strongly skewed, reflecting a bias towards men.


La vulgarisation agricole et les transferts de fonds pour la sécurité alimentaire constituent la plus grande partie des dépenses publiques dans l’agriculture en Ethiopie. Cet article cherche à déterminer les bénéficiaires précis de cette dépense publique, en procédant à une analyse de l’incidence des avantages de ces programmes dans les zones agricoles. Un bilan contrasté se dégage : les mesures de vulgarisation bénéficient généralement aux ménages à faible revenu. Néanmoins, une comparaison de l’incidence marginale et moyenne des bénéfices suggère qu’une nouvelle expansion du programme serait moins favorable aux pauvres que le programme ne l’est dans son ensemble. Chose intéressante, l’incidence des avantages des programmes « travail contre nourriture/argent » est plus progressive que les transferts de nourriture et d’argent, indiquant peut-être une efficacité variable des mécanismes de ciblage qui sous-tendent ces deux types de programmes. L’incidence par sexe de la vulgarisation est fortement asymétrique, ce qui reflète un déséquilibre en faveur des hommes au détriment des femmes.

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  1. 1.

    The key findings of these studies are that primary education services are generally regressive in Ethiopia. This trend is mostly driven by the incidence within rural areas. Both wealth and gender incidence become less pro-poor as one considers higher levels of education (for example, secondary and primary education). An analogous trend manifests itself in the health sector as is seen in education: the benefit incidence of health care becomes less pro-poor (or more in favour of the wealthier households) as one considers higher-level facilities, such as hospitals vis-à-vis health posts.

  2. 2.

    See also Demery (2003), Glick et al (2004), and van de Walle (1994) for further discussion of benefit incidence analysis.

  3. 3.

    For the public cost of services, van de Walle (1994) relies on unit-cost estimates from other studies; however, these unit costs are based on public spending data from the same year as the survey data used to obtain information on access to and use of public services.

  4. 4.

    In the case of some district-service combinations, no expenditure data were available, in which case the average of the survey's sample rural districts in the corresponding region was used.

  5. 5.

    On the one hand, for example, Jalan and Ravallion (1999a; 2002), Ainsworth, et al (2005), and Bigman et al (2000) and Mukherjee and Benson (2003) use measures of assets per capita as a proxy for household wealth. On the other hand, however, some studies also consider total household assets, non-normalised for household size, in analysis – for example, Liverpool-Tasie and Winter-Nelson (2010) and Andersson et al (2011).

  6. 6.

    The gender-specific results of the marginal incidence analysis, presented in Table 5, should be interpreted as effects for women across the wealth groups resulting from an additional expansion of agricultural extension services just among women, and the equivalent interpretation for men in the last rows of the table. In this sense, they are the exact marginal analogue of the gender-specific average incidence results reported in the same table.


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The authors are grateful to the Ethiopia country offices of IrishAid and the World Bank for financial support that made this study possible. Josee Randriamamonjy and Carly Petracco provided useful research assistance to an early stage of this article. The work has also benefited from comments by participants of seminars at which it was presented, including a seminar at the Ethiopian Development Research Institute and another at IrishAid. Further, written comments by an anonymous reviewer for IrishAid, by Laketch Mikael (Senior Rural Development Specialist, World Bank), and by two anonymous referees have been very helpful in improving the article. Any errors are that of the author.

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Mogues, T. The Reach of Rural Services in Ethiopia: An Asset and Gender-Based Public Expenditure Benefit Incidence Analysis. Eur J Dev Res 25, 230–251 (2013).

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  • agricultural extension
  • food security
  • safety-nets transfers
  • rural services
  • public spending
  • gender