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Gender Norms and Agricultural Credit in Odisha

Agriculture India

Credit: Shashank Bhushan Das – Dvara E-Registry

In lower-middle-income countries like India, smallholder farmers often lack access to credit from formal financial institutions. Dvara E-Registry is working to expand access to credit for marginalized (often women) farmers through KhetScore–an algorithm that predicts farmers’ expected revenues from satellite imagery and georeferenced smartphone pictures and uses these predictions as the basis for scoring farmers’ creditworthiness. This algorithm could help reduce the costs associated with screening and monitoring agricultural loans, expanding access to credit especially for women farmers who typically lack land records; but it could also disempower women, given their limited mobility and smartphone access relative to men. Using surveys with 1,228 men and women from two rural districts in the state of Odisha, the research team finds that there are strong gender norms around women’s role in agriculture.  A minority of women have a final say in the decision to take out an agricultural loan, even though this loan is put in their name. The research team used a randomized evaluation to study the effects of video-based gender sensitization provided as part of a microfinance institute’s product trainings, and found that the gender messaging did not help shift these norms (for more detail about gender norms in this context and the gender training, see this project blog). At the same time, survey evidence suggests that expanding access to agricultural credit through digital technology can potentially increase women’s demand for such loans: although women prefer borrowing smaller amounts than men to invest in the main agricultural season, preferred loan size increases more among women than among men when informing prospective clients that loans will be scored using the KhetScore technology. The research team concludes that shifting norms directly through training may be difficult, but that digital technology could help increase the number of women with agricultural loans, increase women’s visibility in agriculture, and thereby shift gender norms.

  • Berber Kramer
  • Patrick Ward
  • Subhransu Pattnaik
  • Dvara E-Registry

2019 — ongoing

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