Information technology in agriculture of bangladesh and other developing countries


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Information technology in agriculture of bangladesh and other developing countries

  1. 1. ASSIGNMENT ONUsing Information and CommunicationTechnologies for Agricultural Extension inBangladesh and Other Developing countries.
  2. 2. Table of contents Page1. Introduction 0302. Agriculture in Bangladesh 0403. Technology Adoption and Agricultural 06 Extension04. High Yielding Varieties 1005.How ICTs Could Affect Agricultural Adoption 12 and Extension in Developing Countries06. Using Icts in Agricultural Extension 1507. Measuring the Impact of ICT-Based 17 Agricultural Extension Programs08. Agricultural Development in Bangladesh 2009.Improving Farm Productivity And Resources 2110. Conclusion 23 2
  3. 3. ABSTRACTAgriculture can serve as an important engine for economic growth indeveloping countries. Yet yields in developing countries have lagged farbehind those in developed countries for decades. One potential mechanismfor increasing yields and hence agricultural production is the use of improvedtechnologies, such as fertilizers, improved seeds and cropping techniques.Traditional public-sector programs have attempted to overcome barriers totechnological adoption by using agricultural extension services at the villageor farm level. Yet despite decades of experience with a variety of extensionprograms and new technologies, adoption rates still remain relatively low inlow-income countries. The rapid spread of mobile phone coverage indeveloping countries provides a unique opportunity to facilitate technologicaladoption via ICT-based agricultural extension programs. This paper providesa review of the current programs using ICT for agriculture, with a particularfocus on agricultural extension and market information systems. It addressessome of the potential constraints to such programs in terms of design andimplementation, and provides a summary of the initial findings. We thenconclude with some recommendations for implementing field-based researchon the causal impact of ICT-based agricultural and directions for futureresearch extension programs on farmers’ knowledge, technological adoptionand welfare in developing countries.1.INTRODUCTIONIn the face of rapidly changing national, regional and global economicenvironment, Bangladesh agriculture is facing the challenge to reinvent itselfto withstand competition and at the same time continue to provide food andemployment opportunities for the vast majority of the population. To this end,the Government is in the process of articulating a new vision for the sector,realizing that the past and current visions with relatively heavy emphasis onproduction of food are no longer adequate. In this process, the Government isseeking ways and means to make agriculture more competitive throughincentive compatible policies and measures with the view to transforming thesector for sustainable agricultural development, food security and povertyalleviation within the overall framework of the country’s Poverty ReductionStrategy Paper (PRSP).In view of the above, FAO, at the request of the Government and withfinancial support from UNDP and some contribution from the World Bank andDANIDA, has conducted an agricultural sector review. The main objective ofthe review was to analyze the longer-term prospects of agriculturaldevelopment and structural transformation within the context of 3
  4. 4. macroeconomic setting, and taking into account the emerging trends towardsmarket and trade liberalization, regional collaboration and globalization.2. Agriculture in Bangladesh.Bangladesh is located in Southern Asia, bordering the Bay of Bengal,between Burma and India. The largest sector in the Bangladesh economy isagriculture. Nearly two-thirds of Bangladeshis are employed in the agriculturesector, with rice as the single-most-important product. The introduction of highyielding rice varieties has revolutionized rice production in terms of yield peracre (CIA 2007). These varieties are designed to increase yields and in manycases to reduce disease and insect problems. The growth of rice was fueledby the introduction of high-yielding, modern rice varieties, appropriate use ofrecommended fertilizers and adoption of integrated pest management (IPM)system (Saharan May 4, 2007).Rice accounts for 75% of agricultural land use. High yielding varieties haveincreased rice production while keeping pace with the population (Weitzmanand Worden 2005). Bangladesh has a population of more than 130 millionpeople. In terms of total value of agricultural production in 2005-06, 72% isattributed to crops, 17% to livestock and 10% to forestry. All of these activitiesaccounted for 17% of Gross Domestic Product (BBS 2006). This sectorgreatly impacts the major macroeconomic objectives of the nation which arethe following: poverty alleviation, improvement of health situation, foodsecurity and employment generation (IMF, 2004).Of the 13.7 million hectares of arable land, rice is grown on 10.27 million haproducing 94 percent of total food grain requirement. (Sitar 2000). There arethree rice-growing seasons in Bangladesh: aus, aman, and boro. Half of therice acreage is in aman (summer crop) hence it is the most important ricecrop. Boro rice is the most essential irrigated dry season (winter) crop (Ahmedand Sampath, 1992). The Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) hasbeen continuing its research activities to develop hybrid varieties with thehope that its scientists would be able to release varieties suitable to localagro-ecological and climatic situations. Putting efforts towards that direction,the institute is carrying out research to reach the target of producing 250million tons (The New Nation, 2006). 4
  5. 5. The growth of rice production can be attributed in part to intensive researchthathas introduced IPM and has increased coverage of high-yielding varieties ofrice. The BRRI, the Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation (BADC)and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) continuously support rice IPM inthe course of research and extension work. IPM has the purpose of reducingthe following: (1) agricultural losses due to pests; (2) damage to nationalecosystems and (3) pollution and contamination of food and water supplies.Losses due to insects, diseases, weeds, nematodes, animal parasites, andother agricultural pests constrain agricultural productivity. IPM was developedin order to ease farmers’ reliance on pesticides while retaining agriculturalproduction and preserving profitability (Mullen, Norton and Reaves, 1997).Insect and disease resistance in HYVs is often an integral component of IPM.One of the constraints to agricultural growth is the accessibility of cultivableland. Rural Bangladesh is a class society, hierarchically organized primarilyon the basis of ownership and control of arable land. In addition to being aclass and patriarchal society, Bangladesh has a Muslim class system which issubdivided into ashram, the upper class old-money descendants of earlyMuslim officials, and attar who are the indigenous majority (Harris and Lloyd2006). Moreover two distinct processes of economic differentiation occur inthe society. One is the process of class formation, which governs theeconomic mobility of the households. The other is the system of patriarchy,which governs the economic mobility of women independent of class. Womentend to specialize in work that keeps them close to the homestead (foodprocessing and preparation, household Maintenance, cultivation of vines andother crops located in or near the homestead, and animal husbandry), whilemen specialize in work outside the homestead (rice and jute cultivation,trading, and other forms of market work) (Cain, Khan am, Near, 1979).Bangladeshi women have a smaller role in decision-making in the householdin general, but are involved in pest management, including decisions to applypesticides (Miller, S.A. et al. 2005). A study by Oakley has concluded that women in Bangladesh have strongpreferences for using traditional local varieties instead of modern high yieldingcommercial varieties in their home gardens. They consider local varieties tobe uniquely adapted to local agro ecological conditions, they feel that theyrepresent A significant cultural legacy; they cook quickly and are an importantsource of vitamins (Oakley 2004). Therefore, there is a need to incorporatethese characteristics into Hives as well.Statistics show that Bangladeshi women contribute substantially to theirHouseholds and to the country’s economy. The absolute majority of 5
  6. 6. Bangladeshi women work in agriculture. Women represent 45.6% of thefarming population (ESCAP 1995). However, 83% of the employed women inrural areas are unpaid family helpers (ADB 2001). The income level in female-headed households is significantly lower than that of male-headedhouseholds. Over 95% of female-headed households fall below the povertyline (UNDP 1997).3. Technology Adoption and Agricultural extensionThe potential role of agriculture as an engine for economic development haslong been recognized (Berlet, de Jeanery and Sedulity 2009). Since theseminal contributions of Schultz (1964), Hemi and Rattan (1971), and Mellor(1998), there has been a large body or theoretical and empirical literature onthe potential multiplier effects of agricultural growth on non-agricultural sectors(Berlet, de Jeanery and Sedulity 2009). Cross-country and country-specificeconometric evidence has indicated that GDP growth generated in Agriculturecan be particularly effective in increasing expenditures and incomes of thepoor(Legion and Sedulity 2007, Bravo-Ortega and Alderman 2005, Ravalli onand Chen 2007).6 Despite the importance of agriculture for economicdevelopment, agriculture has yet to Perform as an engine of growth in manydeveloping countries – especially sub-Saharan Africa (Berlet, de Jeanery andSedulity 2009). Agricultural yields have only shown slight increases in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America since the 1960s, despite the developmentof important agricultural innovations during that time (Figure 1).Yet data on adoption of improved agricultural technologies paint a picture oflow levels of adoption in developing countries, particularly sub-Saharan Africa.Broadly speaking, technology is the “relationship between inputs and outputs”(Foster And Rosinweed 2010), or the set of hardware (physical) and software(techniques) tools That allow for a different mapping of inputs to outputs. Inthe context of agriculture, Hardware refers to improved cultivars (seeds),fertilizers and pesticides, whereas software Refers to practices such as inter-cropping, mulching, and integrated pest management.7 in This context,technology adoption is therefore defined as the “use of new tools ortechniques That relates inputs to outputs and the allocation of inputs” (Fosterand Rosinweed 2010). 6Ligon and Sedulity (2007) find that 1% GDP growthoriginating in agriculture increased the expenditures of the five poorest decileson average by 3.7% in 42 developing countries. Bravo- Ortega and Alderman(2005) find That an increase in GDP originating from agricultural laborproductivity is more effective in raising the incomes Of the poorest quintile indeveloping countries than an equivalent increase in GDP coming from non-agricultural Labor productivity. Anderson and Feeder (2007) refer tohardware as the “technology gap” and software as the “management gap”. 6
  7. 7. The low rates of adoption of agricultural technologies in developing countrieshave been Well-documented, and there is widespread theoretical andempirical literature attempting To identify the determinants of agriculturaltechnology adoption in different contexts (Feeder, Just and Silverman 1985,Foster and Rosinweed 1995, Sure 2009, Conley and Audrey 2010, Duffle,Kremer and Robinson 2010).8 While the findings differ according to theTechnology and context, there has been some general consensus on thedeterminants of – or Constraints to – technology adoption, particularly in theagricultural context. This includes levels of education, wealth, riskpreferences, expected returns, tastes and access to information and learning.Information, Agricultural Extension and Technology AdoptionThe complexities of the agricultural production function imply that farmersneed information on a variety of topics, at a variety of stages, before adoptinga new technology. Figure 5 provides a stylized representation of the stages ofagricultural production process, including “deciding”, seeding, preparing andplanting, growing, harvesting, packing and storing, and selling (de Silva andRatnadiwakara 2008, Gandhi, Mattel and Tripartite 2009).10 Farmers havedifferent types of information needs during each stage, ranging from weatherforecasts, pest attacks, inputs (seeds and fertilizer), improved cultivationpractices, pest and disease management and prices. Farmers can obtaininformation from a number of sources, including, among others, their own trialand error and from members of their social network. Yet while traditionaleconomic theory assumes that searching for such information is costless, indeveloping countries, in reality, information is neither symmetric nor costless.This is partly due to the cost of obtaining that information via personal travel,radio, newspaper, which can be relatively expensive in the context of limitedinfrastructure and vast distances. As a result, information asymmetries areoften an important constraint to adoption in developing countries.Since the 1960s, agricultural extension has been put forth as a means ofreducing the Information asymmetries related to agricultural technologyadoption in both developed and Developing countries. Broadly speaking,agricultural extension is the “delivery of information inputs to farmers”(Anderson and Feder 2007), and refers to a form of education that introducesnew knowledge and technology to farmers. The general approach usesspecialists to provide a range of services to farmers, from technologytransfers, to advisory work and human resource development. In some casesit has also sought to connect researchers directly to the field in order todevelop new technologies targeted to the specific conditions of agriculturalcommunities. 7
  8. 8. Agricultural extension models can take several forms, and are typicallysupported by governmental and non-governmental organizations.12 The mostcommon approaches are Training and Visit (T&V), Farmer Field Schools(FFS) and fee for service. In the T&V approach, specialists and field staffprovide technical information and village visits to selected communities. Inmany cases the field agents train and work directly with “contact farmers”, orfarmers who have successfully adopted new technologies and who are able totrain others in their communities. T&V was promoted by the World Bank andapplied in more than 70 countries between 1975 and 1995.Farmer field schools (FFS), on the other hand, were specifically designed todiffuse integrated pest management (IPM) methods in Asia. FFS also utilizecontact farmers who train others and disseminate information, relying onparticipatory training methods that build farmer capacities. Fee-for-serviceextension comprises both public or private initiatives with some public funding.In these programs, farmer groups contract extension agents with specificinformation and service requests, either from the public or private sector.While agricultural extension services are primarily financed and implementedby the public sector, it is not always clear that the type of information providedis always a public good.14 Table 1 shows the different types of informationprovided via agricultural extension systems, and their classification as private,public, club or common pool goods (Anderson and Feeder 2007). Whileinformation disseminated via the mass media can be thought of as a publicgood (non-rival and non-excludable), input-specific information (similar tothose under the fee for service system) has the characteristics of a privategood. Characterizing agricultural information in this way suggests thatdifferent mechanisms might be needed to disseminate information. Agricultural Extension WorKDespite decades of investment in agricultural extension services, hundreds ofthousands of Technicians trained and hundreds of millions of farmersreceiving these services, there are surprisingly few rigorous impactevaluations of the subject. Even son (2001) and Anderson and Feeder (2007)provided a review of the impacts of agricultural extension services, with mixedresults according to the program, context and the outcome variable. Table 2provides an overview of many of these studies, based upon the type ofagricultural extension (T&V,FFS, fee for service and social networks) and the outcome variable of interest(knowledge, adoption, yields, rates of return and general livelihoods). Theimpact record of these Services on farmers’ outcomes are mixed and highlydependent upon the type of program and context.While many of these studies do not provide causal mechanisms behind theweak treatment effects of agricultural extension, the weak functioning of suchsystems could be a potential answer. A worldwide review of public extensionsystems by Rivera, Tamara and Crowder (2001) found that many agricultural 8
  9. 9. extension systems were in a state of disarray Or barely functioning at all.Anderson and Feder (2007) identified several different reasons for this stateof affairs, including:…. scale Limited and sustainability: In countries where the farm sectoriscomprised of small-scale farmers, extension clients often live ingeographicallydispersed areas who require face-to-face interaction. This results in highcosts,limited geographic scale and poor sustainability. Policy environments in many developing countries not only dictate thetype of information provided, but also the relative importance of agriculturewithin the economy. If the terms of trade are tilted against agriculture,infrastructure is poor and there are inadequate input supplies, this reduces thevalue of the information provided via extension. Weak linkages between research centers, universities and agriculturalextension systems. While extension services in the US and Europe are oftenlinked with the university system, this is often not the case in developingcountries. Consequently, the incentives of these institutes are often notaligned with agricultural priorities in the country, research-extension linkagesare generally weak (Purcell and Anderson 1997) and technologies are notalways adapted or appropriate. Low motivation and accountability of field staff. As is the case with allpublic servants (doctors, nurses and teachers), it is difficult to track thepresence and motivation of extension staff. This is particularly difficult inagriculture, where field agents work in different geographic regions andperformance indicators are based upon inputs that are difficult to verify (ie,number of trainings, number of attendees). Lack of monitoring can result inabsent or poorquality field staff, further reducing the utility of agriculturalextension services.  Little rigorous evidence of the impacts of such extension on farmers’welfare. The lack of reliable evidence on the impact of agricultural extensionexacerbates problems related to funding, extension agents’ motivation andhaving appropriate technologies that improve yields, productivity and welfare.In this environment, it is not only unclear whether agricultural extensionsystems are functioning, but whether these systems are truly overcominginformation asymmetries for small-holder farmers related to agriculturaltechnology. 9
  10. 10. 4.High Yielding VarietiesTechnology spurs agricultural productivity; this is evidenced by the success ofthe Green Revolution which advanced agricultural development. The supportfor agricultural innovation is grounded in the following reasons: first, there is aneed to cater to the needs of a growing market for agricultural products asshould keep abreast of continuously evolving agricultural technologies. Hencethe benefits of agricultural innovations are twofold: increase in yield andreduction in costs. In many cases, improved agricultural technologies can alsocontribute to environmental improvement. They also may provide income andconsumption of agricultural products is increasing and changing in differentways; second, economies worldwide need to maintain a level ofcompetitiveness and free up labor that is employed off the farm. The use ofhigh yielding varieties (HYVs) has resulted in many of these economicbenefits for the countries involved. HYVs pertain to a group of geneticallyenhanced cultivars of crops (i.e. rice, maize, wheat) possessingcharacteristics of increased growth rate, increased percentage of usable plantparts or an increased resistance to crop insects and diseases as compared totraditional cultivars. For example, in some cases, high yielding varietiespossess a disease resistance built in that helps the crops resist rust, blight orother fungus diseases. Such resistance can be a key component of anintegrated pest management program.HYVs of wheat and rice have spread more widely and quickly than any otherTechnological innovation in the history of agriculture in the developingcountries.First introduced in the mid-1960s, they occupied about half of the total wheatand rice area in the developing countries by 1982-83. Their area hasincreased since that time and will undoubtedly continue to grow in the future(Dalrymple 1985). It was during the mid to late seventies when HYV becamea pervasive technological occurrence in Asia. Consequently, they have had ahuge effect on improving the levels of rice production in Asia, resulting in asmaller dependency On food grain imports for some countries.The widespread use of modern or high yielding varieties has helpedBangladesh to move away from serious import dependence on rice, despite asevere increase in population and a decrease in arable land since itsindependence in 1971. The cultivation of modern varieties reached 65% of therice area in 2001- 2002. 10
  11. 11. One of the benefits of HYV adoption is that they may have a high degree oftolerance to pests, insects, and diseases which can have damaging effectsandreduce yields. Increased crop yield and increased farm incomes are theresultsof their adoption. When included in an IPM program, they provide anenvironmentally friendly approach to managing crops, avoiding or reducingthe use of toxic pesticides. Such an IPM strategy can lessen crop losses dueto pests, thus promoting sustainable agriculture. IPM gives the opportunity to manage pests without causing danger to theenvironment and without causing health hazards to the users (UNESCAP2000). IPM strategies promote the prudent use of pesticides. Although it couldlead to more labor hours, IPM practices produce increased yields and higherreturns as compared to the methods they seek to replace. 11
  12. 12. Figure: Average yield by Region5.How ICTs Could Affect Agricultural Adoption and Extension in Developing CountriesMobile phone coverage and adoption in the developing worldAgricultural extension systems were conceived of and developed in responsetoinformation asymmetries for poor farmers, particularly those without access toother sources of communication (landlines, newspapers and radios). Whileinfrastructure investments still remain problematic in developing countries,one of the dramatic changes over the course of the past decade has been anincrease in mobile phone coverage and adoption in developing countries.Nowhere has the effect been as dramatic as in sub- Saharan Africa. In 1999,less than 10 percent of the population had mobile phone coverage, increasingto over 60 percent of the population (477 million people) in 2008. By the timeofthe British Olympics in 2012, it is estimated that most villages will havecoverage (Akers and Mite 2010).18 Coinciding with this growth in coveragehas been an increase mobile phone adoption and usage. Despite the relativeand absolute poverty in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia, mobile phones havebeen adopted at a surprising rate by many of the poor. While there were 16million subscribers in sub-Saharan Africa 2000, the number grew to 376million in 2008, representing 1/3 of the population. Similar rates of mobilephone adoption have been observed in Latin America and Asia (Jensenforthcoming).19 The number of mobile phones per 100 people in developingcountries often exceeds access to other information technologies, such aslandlines (Jensen forthcoming), newspapers and radios (Akers and Mite2010).The Impact of ICTs on Information, Agricultural Adoption andAgricultural ExtensionThe rapid growth of mobile phones in developing countries over the pastdecade has introduced a new search technology that offers several 12
  13. 13. advantages over other alternatives in terms of cost, geographic coverage andease of use (Akers and Mite 2010). While radios can be used across allsegments of the population (over 55 percent of sub-Saharan Africanhouseholds listen to the radio weekly), they generally provide a limited rangeof information. Newspapers are primarily concentrated in urban areas, areexpensive cost of private newspapers in Mozambique average US$1), andare inaccessible to illiterate populations. Less than 19 percent of individuals in sub-Saharan Africa read a newspaperat least once per week, with a much smaller share in rural areas. Landlinecoverage has been limited, with less than one landline subscriber per 1,000people in 2008 (ITU 2009). Access to other search mechanisms, such as faxmachines, e-mail, and Internet, is similarly low, primarily due to theirdependence upon landline infrastructure. And finally, personal travel todifferent villages and markets to obtain information not only requires transportcosts, but also the opportunity costs of an individual’s time. This can besubstantial in thecontext of unpaved roads and vast distances.Akers and Mite (2010) provide an overview of the mechanisms through whichmobile phone telephony can affect economic development in sub-SaharanAfrica, including access to information, coordination among agents, jobcreation, social networks and improved services. In that vein, I identify sixpotential mechanisms through which mobile phones could potentially improvefarmers’ access to information about agricultural technologies and adoptionmore generally, and access to and use of agricultural extension services inparticular. Some of these are directly related to agricultural extension,whereas other are outside of the agricultural extension system but stillrelatively for agricultural technology adoption.How Mobile Phones can Improve Access to (Private) InformationMobile phones can improve access to and use of private information aboutagricultural technologies, thereby potentially improving farmers’ learning. Aspreviously discussed, farmers have information needs at various stages andon various topics for the agricultural production process. Traditionally, farmersin developing countries have obtained such information from personal visits,radio and to a lesser extent, landlines and newspapers. Mobile phones, bycontrast, can reduce costs of obtaining this information as compared withother information mechanisms. Figure 6 shows the per-search costs of usinga mobile phone as compared with landlines, radio, personal visits andnewspapers in Niger. Mobile phones are significantly less expensive than theequivalent per-search opportunity and transport costs or obtaining the sameinformation from a newspaper. While they are more expensive than landlinesor radio, these two search mechanisms are not readily available in most 13
  14. 14. regions of the country, or only provide specific information. This reduction insearch costssuggests that mobile phones could increase farmers’ access to (private)information, especially via their social networks. This could speed up orincrease farmers’ contact with other adopters in a social network, therebyallowing farmers to virtually “observe” more neighbors’ trials of a newtechnology or to observe these trials more frequently. The overall impact onfarmers’ technology adoption, however, might be ambiguous, due to learningexternalities (Foster and Rosenzweig 1995, Foster and Rosenzweig 2010).How Mobile Phones can Improve Farmers’ Management ofInput and Output Supply ChainsSeveral studies have pointed to risk and supply-side constraints (related topoorinfrastructure) as barriers to agricultural technology adoption (e.g., Suri 2009).By reducing communication costs, mobile phones could assist farmers inidentifying potential buyers for their products over larger geographic areasand at crucial moments, thereby reducing risk and potentially increasing netbenefits to technology. Improved communication between farmers and traderscould also facilitate the provision of inputs to rural areas, thereby avoidingcostly stock-outs.  Improve Farmers’ Management ofInput and Output SupplyMobile Phones can facilitate the Delivery of Other Services Over the past fewyears, mobile phone operators have developed a variety of mobile servicesand applications in developing countries, such as mobile money transfers(e.g., GCash in the Philippines or M-Pesa in Kenya) or insurance. Theseapplications can therefore facilitate the delivery of other services to farmers 14
  15. 15. (such as credit or savings via m-banking services, or insurance in Kenya),which can overcome some of the “missing markets” that constrain technologyadoption (Foster and Rosenzweig 2010).How Mobile Phones can Increase Accountability of Extension Services Simplemobile phones can be used as a means of collecting both farmer and agentlevel Data, thereby improving the accountability of extension services. Voicecalls and SMS. ( While radio is about the same cost as mobile phonetechnology, in many cases, the costs of constructing the radio tower anddisseminating the messages are borne by the international organization. If these infrastructure costs are included, then radio is relatively moreexpensive as compared with mobile phone technology, whose infrastructurecosts are usually borne by the private sector. Between farmers and extensionagents can be used to collect data on the use of new technologies, costs andyields on a more frequent basis, rather than waiting for annual agriculturalsurveys, when recall data on costs and production are often subject tomeasurement error. In addition, mobile phones can be used to verify agents’visits, as has been done with cameras in schools in India (Duflo, Hanna andRyan 2007). Both of these applications could improve the monitoring ofextension systems, an oft-noted constraint.How Mobile Phones can Increase Communication Linkages with ResearchSystems By improving the communication flows, mobile phones couldpotentially strengthen the link between farmers, extension agents andresearch centers, and vice versa – thereby overcoming criticism of the“disconnect” between the two in many developing countries.6. Using ICTs in Agricultural ExtensionWith these mechanisms in mind, how can ICTs be used for agriculturalextension? For decades “traditional” forms of ICTs have been used inadvisory service provision. Radio and TV programs regularly feature weatherand agricultural information in developing countries, and rural telecastershave provided information on education and agricultural issues (see Goal2010 in India). In some cases, especially in India and East Africa, nationalministries of agriculture have attempted to integrate ICTs into informationdelivery, specifically by establishing district information centers. With thegrowth of mobile phone coverage, many of these initiatives have moved awayfrom “traditional” Its to the use of mobile phones, including voice, SMS andinternet-based services. Table 3 provides an overview of many of theseprojects, focusing on voice-based services, radio broadcasts, SMS-basedextension and data collection and e-learning. 15
  16. 16.  Voice-based information delivery services include a telephone basedinformation delivery service that provides advice on farming methods andmarket access (e.g., a hotline). Some use call in centers for agriculturalextension support (ie, Cameroon). More complex voice technology uses asimple telephone – community fixed phone or mobile – as the medium ofinformation exchange while sophisticated communication technology andcomputing applications have been configured at the back end platform for theprovision of the requisite information service.Radio dial-up and broadcasts include regular radio broadcasts thatprovide market prices or other agricultural information and dialup radio thatfeature a series of short segment audio programs that provide small scalefarmers telephone access to relevant information through an automated voicesystem. This radio system is an information hub featuring a regularly updated,diverse menu of pre recorded agricultural content. In some cases, thesystems allow farmers to ask questions via SMS and the responses aredisseminated via the radio.. SMS-based extension services essentially use message-based platformsto collect and disseminate information. This includes data collection via asimple SMS-based questionnaire; sending an SMS-based code to requestpotential information (on market prices or for simple agricultural questions)and receiving the response via SMS; and receiving mass SMS on agriculturaltopics. E-learning typically involves the development of tele-centers that allowfarmers to access computers and internet resources. The types of informationprovided via these different mechanisms are diverse, including market prices,weather and natural shocks, technical advice on agricultural practices andinputs, and supply and buyers in local markets. Most of these projects focusprimarily on market prices, weather and transport, most likely because theyare “low hanging fruit” -- easy to collect and disseminate, fairly objective, lessprone to measurement error and useful (albeit quickly outdated and constantlychanging). Information on agricultural practices, and inputs, is less frequentand often used in agricultural “hotlines”, possibly because such information ismore nuanced and difficult to convey. While all of these mechanisms offerpotential alternatives to or variations of traditional agricultural extension, theyare not without their challenges. First, the use of ICT-based agriculturalextension is highly dependent upon the type of information demanded andprovided. For example, while market information and weather might be easilydisseminated via mobile phones (and replace traditional extension 16
  17. 17. mechanisms), more nuanced information (on practices, inputs) might becomplements to existing extension.Second, SMS-based platforms – which are the easiest to set up – can onlyhold limited information and often require some literacy (and technologicalliteracy) on behalf of users. While they can be useful in providing some “lowlevel” types of information (ie, weather or market prices) or standardizedinformation, they are not as adaptable for more complex informationexchanges. Third, while voice-based Q&A services are probably the mostattractive, as they overcome the limitations of text‐based platforms, they canbe complicated to develop or require machines to produce natural speech.ICTs In Developing countries7. Measuring the Impact of ICT-Based AgriculturalExtension ProgramsThreats to Identifying the Impact of ICT-Based AgriculturalExtension 17
  18. 18. With any new approach, there is a tendency to consider that technology asthe silver bullet for development. Mobile phones are one technique amongmany for disseminating information to the rural poor, and, as otherapproaches, must be evaluated by using rigorous empirical techniques. Ingeneral these impact evaluations should address the following issues:The causal impact of ICT-based agricultural programs on farmers’knowledge, agricultural adoption and welfare (the “black box”) The causal mechanisms behind the treatment effect, in particular, whataspects of ICT-based agricultural extension are more effective in terms ofproviding information to farmers. Heterogeneous treatment effects, not only by farmer-levelcharacteristics but also by the types of information provided.The cost-effectiveness of this approach as compared with traditionalmechanisms, and the potential for sustainability. Whether ICT-based approaches are substitutes or complements totraditional extension programs. Mobile phone effects versus ICT-based agriculturalextension effects.Getting access to a mobile phone via an ICT-based program might create awealth effect, thereby decreasing the relative costs of a new agriculturaltechnology or increase the benefits associated with that technology. This cantherefore make it difficult to disentangle the other benefits of mobile phones –and their impact upon the agricultural adoption decision – from the ICT-basedagricultural extension program. Mobile phone adoption versus agricultural adoption. Depending upon thetype of program, it can be difficult to disentangle the adoption decision for themobile phone from the agricultural technology adoption decision. In mosttraditional agricultural extension programs, accessing information onlyrequires the opportunity costs of the person’s time but no additional costs. Inthe case of ICT based agricultural extension, obtaining information not only 18
  19. 19. requires the opportunity cost of a person’s time, but also learning how to usethe new mobilephone technology. Spillover effects. Spillover effects within villages are common for traditionalagricultural extension programs. If the treatment effect is at the village level,this is usually not a concern. However, such programs usually have minimalspillover effects between villages (unless the program has farmer-to-farmervisits, or an agricultural extension agents shares learning between villages).With ICT, the likelihood of spillover is much greater. Such learning and non-learning externalities must be taken into consideration with data collection andanalysis.Potential Field Experiments in ICT-Based AgriculturalExtensionWhile using field experiments in ICT-based agricultural extension programsmight seem easy in theory, in practice, this will require models that go beyondour “standard” field experiments with two groups (treatment and control). Twoexamples and potential field experiment setups are provided below. A SMS-Based Market Information System Experiment Let us first take the example ofan agricultural MIS system that allows farmers to obtain market informationvia SMS. A field experiment with three groups (SMS-based MIS, regular MISand no market information), would allow us to compare the treatment with thecontrol (the black box). However, it does not address the potential wealtheffect of mobile phones, the effective demand for these information services,or how price information is shared within the village.In order to address these issues, the experimental design of the programneeds to go beyond a three-group comparison. Figure 8 shows a potentialexperimental setup. First, the program would need to randomly assign villagesto three treatments and one control: Treatment 1: Regular market information system offered Treatment 2: Regular market information system offered and placebophonesdistributed Treatment 3: SMS-based market information system offered and mobilephonesdistributed  Comparison: No treatment. A potential experimental setup could be the following: 19
  20. 20.  Treatment 1: Caller hotline + phones Treatment 2: Caller hotline + FFS + phones Treatment 3: FFS + phones Treatment 4: FFS  Comparison group8. Agricultural Development in BangladeshAlthough it now runs a food surplus, Bangladesh is historically a food-deficitcountry with an extremely unfavorable land–man ratio, which opted to pursuea policy of continued agricultural growth through widespread diffusion ofGreen Revolution technology with corresponding support of the provision ofmodern inputs, such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, irrigation, credit,product procurement, storage, and marketing facilities over the past fourdecades. As aresult, land use intensity increased sharply to 174.7% in 1998/99 from itsinitial level of 143.9% in 1968/69 (Alauddin and Tisdell, 1991; BBS, 2001) withcorresponding increases in input use rates. There has been an observedincrease in total rice output due to a shift from traditional to modern ricevarieties, as modern varieties are capable of producing nearly twice the yieldof the traditional varieties (Rahman and Thapa 1999).Credit programs can facilitate early adoption of new technology (i.e. HYVs) byfarmers operating under risky conditions in imperfect capital, insurance, andinformation markets. In Bangladesh, institutional credit played a restricted roleuntil 1971. Between 1973-74 and 1979-80, institutional credit supplied tofarmers increased by around 50%. Rural loans increased greatly by 1985. Asa result, the rate of adoption of HYVs improved rapidly as suitable varieties,and by 1995 modern varieties comprised about 90% of all harvested irrigatedrice (Herath and Jayasuriya 1996). Agriculture grew at 3.2 per cent annually inthe 1960s, at 2.5 per cent from 1973 to 1987, and at 2.1 per cent from1982/83 to 1993/94. Growth was temporarily more rapid in the late 1980s,spurred by the elimination of non-tariff barriers on pumps and power tillersand by lower tariffs on inputs which induced increases in irrigated area andfertilizer use, and by converting from local rice varieties to modern ones (i.e.HYV s). The sources of this growth were productivity gains, including a shift tohigher value enterprises, and more inputs, such as fertilizer, irrigation andlabor (McIntire 2000).Economic development for the past decade shows economic growth ratesaveraging 5% with noteworthy progress in agriculture, health, and education. 20
  21. 21. Based on the production trends, agriculture growth in 2007 is likely tomoderate to reflect more normal agriculture growth following the post-floodhigh growth (4.5%) of 2006. The Department of Agriculture Extension andother government agencies are encouraging the planting of high-yieldingvarieties by ensuring adequate supply of seed and necessary inputs, includingfertilizer and pesticide; although many parts of the country report a fertilizerdeficit. An adequate supply of inputs, including fertilizer, and diesel andelectricity for irrigation, must be ensured if the bumper production of 13.98million tons of 2006 is to be exceeded(ADB 2006).9.Improving Farm Productivity and Livelihoods ofResource-poor Farmers through Mechanization and“Conservation Agriculture” Figure: process of Mechanization Agriculture 21
  22. 22. It is widely recognized that low productivity is the primary underlyingconstraint not only to agricultural development and allied activities, but also tothe rural non-farm sector in Bangladesh. As the number of landless and sub-marginal farm households has proliferated, the area available for cultivationhas shrunk. The challenge is to facilitate the shift to more productive farm andnon-farm activities that will require less land, and will focus on the output forwhich domestic, and possibly export, demand is known to be expanding.During the past decade, agricultural mechanization, particularly the use ofsingle axle tractors and power tillers, has been advancing at an impressivepace in Bangladesh. This development under conventional farming systemshad the risk of soil degradation that could be further aggravated in view of theclimate change in the country. This danger, however, could be offset byintroducing specialized equipment and mechanization solutions along with theintroduction of Conservation Agriculture approaches.Conservation agriculture is a vital option to face a double challenge ofincreasing productivity preserving the natural resource base, simultaneously.While conventional agriculture, that often involves intensive tillage, has beenclaimed to cause soil degradation, particularly when practiced in areas ofmarginal productivity, conservation agriculture includes a set of integrated soilmanagement practices that aim to minimize the negative effects of intensivefarming. Practices such as direct sowing, zero-tillage or minimum tillage, andthe establishment of cover crops help to protect organic matter, soil moistureand soil fertility. The concepts of conservation agriculture have beenintroduced in Bangladesh by the “Rice Wheat Consortium” through CIMMYTand by FAO through the project TCP/BGD/2902, particularly for rice-wheatgrowing systems. With the country supplying farmers, as far as feasible, withthe required equipment and technology for conservation agriculture, thisfarming system approach proved to work and to achieve its envisaged resultson these farms.To expand the application of conservation agriculture in the country, aprogrammed aims to enhance the capacity of the rural population to ensurefood security and reduce poverty through the introduction of this technology isproposed. It is expected that the programmed will Achieve the followingobjectives: (1) Most potential areas, blocks and collaborating farmers Groupwilling to adopt conservation agricultural practices identified; (2) Capacity offarmer’s Groups built and enhanced to face the challenges of open market 22
  23. 23. economy in the context of Conservation agriculture; (3) appropriate locationspecific conservation Technologies/innovations for agricultural and naturalresources management generated, Improved and promoted; (4) Appropriatestakeholder information, communication and Learning systems developed andenhanced; and (5) Appropriate policy and institutional Options forconservation agriculture developed and adopted..10. ConclusionThe growth of ICT in developing countries offers a new technology and newOpportunities for accessing information in poor countries. One of themechanisms is sharing information via agricultural extension, which has longbeen plagued with problems related to scale, sustainability, relevance andresponsiveness. There are various pilot programs in Bangladesh trying thesenew approaches. But like traditional agricultural extension, ICT-basedagricultural extension risks becoming unsustainable, a “fad” and with limitedimpact on knowledge, adoption and welfare of poor households. For thisreason, pilot programs need to be assessed using rigorous impactevaluations, which not only assess the causal impact, but also itsmechanisms; determine whether such approaches are complements orsubstitutes for traditional extension; identify the types of information which arebested suited for these programs; calculate the demand for such services andhence their potential sustainability; and calculate their cost effectiveness. 23