Implementing ICT solutions for
what's the problem?
A huge number of people throughout South Asia are involved
in agriculture, however many are not benefiting from it in
the ways that they could.
In India for example,
around 35% of its agricultural produce is wasted due to
supply chain issues.
And, whilst nearly half of
Pakistan’s population is employed in agriculture, it is
still a net importer of food.
The same is true in
Bangladesh where most farmers grind out a subsistence
living, unable to make the transition to a more
commercialised way of farming which would ultimately lift
them out of poverty.
For rural farmers in India,
Pakistan and Bangladesh to succeed in today’s fast-paced
market, they require the latest information at their
Their governments and
development agencies recognize the potential for IT and
online technologies to become a vital tool in improving
agriculture and as a result a number of innovative
communication technology schemes have been set up. 45% of
South Asians now have a home PC and internet access is
available in some villages.
However, despite best
efforts, the technology is still poorly understood and used
So, critical data on weather
patterns and the latest market prices are still not reaching
those who really need it and as a result, smallholder
farmers are losing out.
What is this project
Results show that farmers consider themselves as
‘information poor’, and that news about new agricultural
technologies that improve productivity is not reaching them.
This lack of information was
cited as the single largest barrier to the uptake of
technology. Our research identified what information was
required and the best means of disseminating it.
The information most frequently required was area/crop
specific and solutions tailored to farmer’s budgets were
There was also a clear
requirement for advice on a yearly cropping plan to improve
return on investment.
The advice of field
assistants/agriculture officers was considered more reliable
than that of input suppliers, but we found that extension
workers were under resourced, inadequately trained in
technology and lacked any affordable system of communi-
cation with the farmers.
This has led to low morale
amongst many, although there was noted to be a wide
disparity in the quality of service from the public
extension staff, as was the difference between public and
High transportation costs and
lack of budget mean that sufficient visits by field
extension staff to the farmers in their area aren’t taking
To address this, the
Directorate of Agriculture Information introduced a ‘help
This service is still at a
nascent stage and needs to evolve so as to maintain farmer
profiles, FAQs and area-focused searchable data on crops.
Evidence shows that cell phone usage is prevalent in the
rural areas of Punjab.
Mobile applications are
therefore extremely well suited for communication between
farmers and extension service providers and disseminating
and collecting information to and from the field via voice
and text massages in Urdu.
Many mobile phone operators recognized that services to the
rural community is potentially a huge un-tapped market and
are keen to get involved.
Research shows that
subscription-based models provide the most predictable
revenue-generating model for services to the masses.
To try and remedy the situation, CABI researchers are
conducting an in-depth analysis of the existing IT
infrastructure and services available to smallholder farmers
in the region.
They hope to build up a
picture of the gaps and fault lines in the current system of
IT provision, and where the inefficiencies lie.
They will also explore the
possibility of working with local partners to deliver the
information services required.
CABI has decades of
experience and expertise at implementing similar grassroots
schemes in places like Africa and Sri Lanka, all of which
ensure maximum benefit for people lacking vital information.
The CABI team is visiting farms and markets in India,
Pakistan and Bangladesh to see for themselves the current
services on offer.
In Sargodha, Pakistan they
examined the citrus fruit production process, whilst their
research in India tracked the growing and sale of mangoes.
CABI researchers will also be
investigating the current role of IT in the rice production
industry in Bangladesh.