Juan Bonilla

Managing Economist

Juan Bonilla is a managing economist and project execution lead for the International Development Division at AIR. He conducts research in the fields of agricultural development, nutrition, social protection, and education policy in developing countries. Dr. Bonilla has more than 15 years of experience designing and leading research projects of multipronged development programs that include rigorous mixed-methods impact evaluations and cost analysis. He is currently leading two experimental evaluations in Ethiopia for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation of a program that provides agricultural extension through digital advisory services in the wheat and dairy sectors. He is also leading a multiarmed experimental evaluation of a program that promotes the uptake of Orange-Fleshed Sweet Potato in the Shinyanga region in Tanzania to improve young child and maternal nutrition. Dr. Bonilla also served as project director of USAID’s LAC Reads Capacity Program, a research and capacity building initiative in eight countries in Central America and the Caribbean that provides leadership and technical support on early grade literacy. In his role as project execution lead for the International Division, he leads and supports efforts to ensure that project work meet high standards.

Previously, Dr, Bonilla has led or co-led multiple projects in agricultural development. He conducted mixed-methods evaluations of the Plantwise program in Kenya and Pakistan, an initiative that aims to reduce crop losses through information provision by establishing networks of local plant clinics run by trained plant doctors. He has also led research projects that look at the impacts of agribusiness models in sub-Saharan Africa, including a quasi-experimental impact evaluation of 2SCALE, an agribusiness cluster program in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, and Uganda for the International Fertilizer Development Center; a quasi-experimental impact evaluation of IFAD’s Smallholder Dairy Commercialization Program in Kenya; and IFC’s PIDMA project in Cameroon, which aim to integrate sorghum, cassava, and maize producers to markets.

Regarding social protection projects, Dr. Bonilla co-led a 24-month longitudinal and process evaluation of the UNICEF child grant “cash and care” program in four pilot districts in the province of Nampula, in Mozambique. He also co-led a study on the impacts of UNICEF’s Alternative Responses for Communities in Crisis program in the DRC. Dr. Bonilla has also participated in impact and process evaluations of cash transfer programs in Kenya and Zambia.

In education policy, Dr. Bonilla was a co-principal investigator of UNICEF’s Accelerated School Readiness Program in Zambezia, Mozambique, a program that implemented a low-cost early childhood intervention to prepare children for Grade 1. The evaluation was selected as one of the Best of UNICEF Research and Evaluation in 2020. He also co-led a quasi-experimental evaluation of an early childhood intervention implemented by the Ministry of Education of Peru in in the departments of Ayacucho, Huancavelica, and Huánuco. He also supported the evaluation of a pedagogical support program for the Ministry of Education in Peru and conducted an evaluation of a remedial reading program for a USAID intervention in Egypt. Dr. Bonilla conducted an evaluation of the Colegion en Concesión, a charter school program implemented in Bogota, Colombia. 

Before joining AIR, he taught at the Economics Department at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil. He is also a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness.

Juan Bonilla

Ph.D., Economics, University of Maryland; M.A., Economics, New York University