Research Fellow, IFPRI
Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI
Assistant Professor in the Economics and Public Policy at the Indian School of Business (ISB)
Associate Professor of Economics, University of California, Santa Cruz
Cropping Systems Agronomist - Postdoctoral Fellow
Photo Credit: Adobe Stock
While the impact of traditional agricultural extension on boosting farmers’ productivity and uptake of beneficial technologies is low, mass media has the potential to overcome barriers to access to information by reaching many farmers at low cost. At the same time, information alone may not be sufficient to address other barriers such as market access. Researchers are conducting a randomized evaluation to test the impact of a television edutainment program and road shows promoting agricultural inputs and services on farmers’ knowledge and adoption of agricultural technologies. This study is ongoing; results are forthcoming.
Small-scale farmers in low- and middle-income countries have low adoption rates of productivity-improving agricultural technologies due to barriers that include limited access to information and inputs like seeds, equipment, or pesticide. Agricultural extension programs seek to improve these adoption rates by providing farmers with information, but traditional in-person extension is costly and has limited impacts, particularly for women farmers. Offering extension through mass media has the potential to reach more households at a much lower cost and may also be more accessible for women farmers. Providing informational material in an entertaining format through television or radio, known as “edutainment”, may further boost farmers’ engagement. However, if farmers cannot easily make the investments they learn about, then edutainment may not be as effective. One option to overcome poor infrastructure that often impedes farmers’ ability to purchase new technologies is agricultural road shows, in which service providers offer their products at locations easily accessible to nearby villages. Can bundling edutainment with agricultural road shows increase the impacts of digital extension, and will providing the two together boost farmers’ adoption of productive technologies?
Context of the Evaluation
In Zambia, where this evaluation takes place, there are limited existing government extension services available to provide information to the country’s more than 1.5 million small-scale farmers, with only 323 field extension agents serving the whole country as of 2014. Surveys show that 15 percent of farmers in regions within the scope of this study reported getting information from an extension agent, while more than half of them reported getting information from television or radio. Building on a successful program that has been offered in Kenya for over twelve years, the East African-based Mediae Company began offering an agricultural edutainment program to Zambian audiences in 2022, with support from the Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa (AICCRA) program.
Called “Munda Make Over”, the TV show provides extension-style information in an entertaining manner, similar to US home makeover shows, in which farmers are visited by experts who tour their farms, offering and implementing advice. Munda Make Over also dedicates 25 percent of its programming to gender-specific content that aims to challenge commonly-held gender norms that limit women’s participation in agricultural decision-making. Because the show is new, as of early 2023 it had limited viewership; 10– 15 percent of households that were reached by phone reported viewing one or more episodes of Munda Make Over.
In addition to knowledge barriers, physically accessing agricultural technologies can be another challenge to their adoption by farmers. Although fertilizer use in the country is high because of Zambia’s input subsidy program, adoption of other agricultural inputs remains low. For example, use of improved seed varieties by the study population was 23 percent, and 18 percent of the population used drought-tolerant varieties. As of 2015, about 17 percent of Zambia’s rural population lived within two kilometers of a paved road. In addition, travel routinely becomes more difficult in the rainy season when roads are washed out and infrastructure is damaged by storms.
Details of the Intervention
In partnership with Mediae Company, researchers evaluated the impacts of encouraging households to watch Munda Make Over on farmers’ knowledge of agricultural technologies and women farmers’ empowerment, and whether additionally offering road shows increases farmers’ purchase and adoption of agricultural inputs, services, and improved practices promoted via Munda Make Over.
Researchers randomly varied encouragements to watch Munda Make Over and invitations to attend agricultural road shows to 2,560 farmers in 160 villages. Villages were randomly selected to receive:
Researchers collected information from households that own TVs, as well as from households who did not watch TV. Researchers surveyed study participants about their knowledge of agricultural topics discussed on Munda Make Over, including improved and drought-tolerant seed varieties, “climate smart” agricultural practices, and financial services like crop insurance. They then measured adoption and use of these inputs, practices, and services. In addition, researchers measured indicators of female empowerment in household decision-making.
Results and Policy Lessons:
Research is ongoing; results are forthcoming.