Indian farmers who received timely agricultural advice via mobile phone used more effective pesticides and were more knowledgeable about lucrative crop varieties.
India is the second largest producer of cotton after China, but cotton farmers in India have yields only one-third as large as those in China. Many factors may contribute to differences in productivity, including lack of access to credit to invest in more productive technologies, insurance to manage weather risk, and small farm size. Another possibility is that farmers lack information about how to increase their crop productivity.
Researchers examined the impact of offering cotton farmers toll-free access to agricultural information via mobile phone on their agricultural knowledge and practices. In Surendranagar district, Gujarat, India, a sample of 1,200 cotton farming households were selected and researchers randomly assigned 400 to receive access to agricultural advice via mobile phone, 400 to receive both traditional extension and access to mobile phone advice, and 400 to serve as the comparison group.
Results showed that the take-up of mobile information services: Demand for agricultural advice via mobile phone was high, by March 2012, 58 percent of farming households that were given AO access had called in, making an average of 7.5 calls. Farmers were 22 percentage points more likely to use mobile phone-based information as their main source of information for cotton fertilizer decisions, and 30 percentage points more likely for cotton pesticide decisions relative to comparison households. These effects were larger among more educated farmers.
Also to mobile phone-based agricultural advice increased the use of more effective pesticides. Most questions submitted through the AO system related to pest management and pesticide use.
Interestingly, access to mobile phone-based agricultural advice also increased the number of farmers who planted cumin. Cumin is a high-value cash crop that requires specialized knowledge to grow and farmers’ knowledge of cumin planting seemed to increase as a result of AO and traditional extension access.
Via DfID Evaluation Department