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Coordinating Farmers with Cellphones in Pakistan

Development Challenge

In developing countries, livestock production is an important growth sector among the rural poor. The annual growth rate of livestock production through 2030 in South Asia is expected to be 3.3 percent, which is higher than any other region in the world, and sub-Saharan Africa has a similar expected growth rate of 3.2 percent.[1] Despite the economic importance of livestock, farmers do not invest in improving the health and quality of their animals, which could enable them to improve profits. Traditional agricultural extension programs have sought to provide access information about the benefits of such services; however, weak economies of scale, limited geographic coverage, poor infrastructure, and a lack of incentives for extension workers have prevented their success.[2] Mobile technology-based agricultural extension programs are increasingly seen as a more efficient approach to closing the information gap; however, there is no evidence of the effectiveness of such programs in the context of livestock.  

Context

In Punjab, Pakistan, livestock production accounts for nine percent of the total GDP. Few farmers use artificial insemination (AI) and inoculation services, despite their free provision and potential to increase farmer income. This low utilization is partly due to informational inefficiencies that raise the cost of using these services, including: inability to determine if AI failed due to technician error or biological circumstances, high variability rates in vaccine effectiveness, and veterinarian absenteeism at government clinics.  

Evaluation Strategy

Researchers, with support from the Punjab Livestock & Dairy Development Department, will evaluate the effects of a mobile-based system that delivers information on the quality of AI and inoculation services. It builds off an ongoing ATAI pilot study that introduced a cellular-based information clearinghouse for farmers to send and receive information on the quality of AI and inoculation services in a district in Punjab. Using this database on the quality of veterinary officers, researchers will randomly select 1,250 to receive phone calls on individual technicians’ average cost and pregnancy success rates, the risk and costs of disease, and availability of inoculation. Researchers will conduct 900 in-person end line surveys and 4,000 phone surveys among both the treatment and comparison groups to determine changes in farmer and veterinary attitudes towards and uptake of AI and inoculation services, changes in supply and demand for government services and market prices, and pregnancy and disease rates among cattle. 

Results and Policy Implications

Project Ongoing, Results Forthcoming

Timeline

2012-

[1] Bruisma, J. (2003). World agriculture: toward 2015/30, an FAO perspective. FAO, United Nations, Rome.

[2] Feder, G., A. Willett and W. Zijp (2001). “Agricultural extension: Generic challenges and the ingredients for solutions” in Knowledge Generation and Technical Change: Institutional Innovation in Agriculture. S. Wolf and D. Zilberman (Eds). Boston, Kluwer.