Research completed by team members before the formation of PAD demonstrated that sending SMS messages with agricultural advice to smallholder sugar cane farmers increased yields by 11.5%. It also demonstrated that creating a platform through which farmers could report fertilizer delivery delays by the contract farming company reduced the incidence by 21.6%.

11.5% Yield increase for sugar cane
24% Increase in use of new input

PAD established Kenya as a “sandbox” for further developing ideas on how best to offer mobile phone-based agricultural extension services. In 2016, we piloted an SMS-based advisory service among 1,900 smallholder maize farmers that provided input recommendations conditional on local soil tests. In early 2017, we rolled out a more intensive system that offered information not only via SMS but also through phone calls and an e-extension system among 5,900 farmers.

This research revealed that farmers who received recommendations and were advised to use agricultural lime to combat local soil acidity were 10-24% more likely to experiment with the input. Farmers who received the service and were advised that they did not need lime were 25% less likely to purchase it. 

With this proof-of concept, we continue to work with farmers across Western Kenya to experiment with new methods of communicating customized agricultural information effectively.

Echo Mobile
Innovations for Poverty Action
Busara Center for Behavioral Economics
Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International

Learn more about how we are scaling these ideas through partnerships in Kenya.