INVESTIGATING THE IMPACT OF A MOBILE-BASED AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICE

Principal Investigators: Shawn Cole (Harvard Business School), Nilesh Fernando (Harvard Kennedy School), Jessica Wallack (Centre for Development Finance)
Research Team: Niriksha Shetty and Thomas Van Den Aarssen
LEAD Centre: Centre for Microfinance (CMF)
Focus Area: Livelihoods
Project Geography: Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh
Partner: Development Support Centre, Solidaridad Cotton Solutions Network
Status: Ongoing

Background:

A wealth of agricultural information, from weather forecasts to knowledge about appropriate use of fertilizer and pesticides are produced by agricultural research universities in India. However, a critical challenge remains in making this information accessible to the people who need it the most: millions of farmers in rural and hard-to-reach areas. The expansion of mobile networks in India presents an unparalleled opportunity to give rural farmers access to information that could transform their livelihoods and eventually lift them out of poverty.

CMF’s current research project leverages the opportunity offered by mobile telephones to develop a scalable and sustainable solution to the problem of critical, livelihood-relevant agricultural information gaps in rural areas. The study, the AvaazOtalo (AO) project — literally, ‘voice stoop’ — involves providing farmers agricultural information through a new information and communication technology, and rigorously evaluating the impact of this program through a large-scale field study. AvaajOtalo’s technology is provided by Awaaz.De, a company developing information services that connect and engage rural, marginal, and underserved communities around the world. This study is being conducted in partnership with the Development Support Centre (DSC) and SajjataSangh, local organizations which have many years of experience of conducting agricultural extension training with farmers.

We have also recently begun the AO2 project, which will allow us to test AO in other geographies in India, vary AO features to sample farmers, find the true demand of AO through willingness to pay games, and potentially scale the AO service. Our partner organization, Awaaz.de, will also be developing new features and enhancing previous features. We have started implementing the AO2 intervention in Madhya Pradesh, with roughly 3000 cotton farmers. This will further help us understand the impact of AO, and help test the external validity of our study

Related Resources
POLICY BRIEF: The Efficacy and financial sustainability of mobile phone-based agricultural extension