Coordinating Farmers with Cellphones: Technology Innovation in Livestock Extension Services in Pakistan

 

Despite the economic importance of livestock and the potential of technologies, such as artificial insemination and inoculation services, to improve the health and quality of animals and increase profit for farmers, take up of these services remains low. In this evaluation, researchers evaluate the impacts of a mobile-based system that delivers information on artificial insemination and inoculation services to farmers on various outcomes, such as changes in service demand and cattle health.

Policy Issue 

In developing countries, livestock production is an important, fast growing sector among the rural poor. The annual growth rate of livestock production through 2030 in South Asia is expected to be 3.3 percent, higher than any other region in the world. Sub-Saharan Africa has a similar expected growth rate of 3.2 percent. Despite the economic importance of livestock, farmers often underinvest in the health and quality of their animals. Traditional agricultural extension programs rely on extension workers to provide access to information about the benefits of agricultural technologies and services. However, weak economies of scale, limited geographic coverage, poor infrastructure, and a lack of incentives for extension workers have limited the success of these programs. Mobile technology-based agricultural extension programs could potentially be 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 of the Evaluation

In Punjab, Pakistan, livestock production accounts for 9 percent of the total GDP. Few farmers use artificial insemination (AI) and inoculation services, despite free service provision and the potential of these technologies to increase farmer income. The low utilization rate is partly due to insufficient information. For example, farmers may not be able to determine if AI failed due to technician error or biological circumstances. High variation in vaccine effectiveness and veterinarian absenteeism at government clinics also contribute to the uncertainty about returns from investing in these services.

Artificial Insemination preparation

Details of the Intervention 

Researchers, with support from the Punjab Livestock & Dairy Development Department, evaluate the effects of a mobile-based system that delivers information on the quality of AI and inoculation services. Researchers introduced a cellular-based information clearinghouse for farmers to send and receive information, crowd-sourcing the quality of AI and inoculation services in a district in Punjab.

How the crowd-sourcing app collects and disseminates information

Using this database on the quality of veterinary officers, researchers will randomly select 1,250 farmers to receive phone calls on individual technicians’ average cost and pregnancy success rates, the risk and costs of disease, and availability of inoculation.

Researchers conduct both in-person and phone surveys to determine shifts 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 Lessons 

Researchers find that farmers treated with information on local government veterinarians’ AI success rates have a 26 percent higher AI success rate than farmers in the comparison group. Results suggest that this AI success rate improvement was due to increased veterinarian effort when they knew that farmers knew their ratings.

Conservative estimates suggest that the magnitude of this higher AI success rate translates into nearly an additional half of one month’s median income per AI provided, a 300 percent return on the cost of the intervention. Considering the implemented crowd-sourcing technology is cost­-effective and self­-sustaining, researchers are already exploring opportunities for scaling across Punjab, and testing the tool in other regulatory and market environments.

The working paper and a blog post with a discussion of these results is provided at right.

Researchers discuss their work and follow-up activities further at OpenIDEO.

 

Watch a less-than 15 minute video providing a recap of the research results, below: