Mobile Phones Deliver Advice to Farmers in Pakistan
More than 30 percent of farmers in Pakistan’s target districts can be advised on plant health issues via their mobiles phones, a new CABI report reveals this week. Initial results from the second phase of the DFID-sponsored programme, CABI working with the Government of Punjab, show outreach numbers increased 20 percent in areas targeted by the mobile advice network, and at lower cost than traditional agricultural extension methods. By providing real time answers to pest and disease queries, CABI’s aim is to reduce crop loss, improve food security and help farmers bring more produce to market. The long term goal is to improve livelihoods sustainably in-country, and new technology is proving key.
“Getting critical advice to large numbers of farmers in remote locations, when natural disasters strike, can be extremely difficult, but with mobile services stepping in to bridge gaps, we can expand outreach to farmers with the latest and most relevant advice,” says Elizabeth Dodsworth, CABI’s Global Director of Knowledge Management.
The CABI report outlines the second phase of the project focused on data collection, mobile implementation and capacity building in the Vehari district of Punjab. A comprehensive survey of farmers fed into a list of frequently asked questions and answers surrounding four staple crops- rice, cotton, wheat and citrus. In total, over 500 queries were phoned in per district. A fully-operational help desk, staffed by local CABI-trained plant specialists, is now up and running to provide answers to farmers’ urgent questions as they phone in.
The early success of this model was presented and well received at the annual ‘What can telecoms do for Agriculture’ conference arranged by Pakistan Telecommunications Authority, a good sign that CABI’s mobile programme will be adopted, scaled up, and play a sustainable role in the future of agricultural extension in the country.