Overview: Access to and Delivery of Inputs

Overview: Access to and Delivery of Inputs

Access to and Delivery of Inputs

Why don’t farmers use inputs and intensify their production more? The response to this question often is limited to farmers’ lack of knowledge about technology, its affordability, and farmers’ access to working capital. Yet farmers may also lack information on how to get inputs like fertilizer, pesticides, and improved seed. Farmers can be unsure when inputs are available, particularly when the government distributes subsidized inputs. Farmers’ buying habits may also be suboptimal; a little “nudging” at the right time (for example, by sending an SMS message with information on when and where to buy the cheapest product) could help them purchase and then apply inputs at the correct time. To date, research on this subject has been limited; it might be important to prioritize for further research.

The main question is whether ICT, with targeted messages, could be effective for helping farmers to become more rational and better-organized buyers of inputs. In some circumstances, having access to such information through ICT seems to provide clear benefits:

 In India, farmers with access to ICT services reported 10–40 percent yield increases, primarily through gaining better access to hybrid seed and being encouraged to introduce new farming practices (Vodafone India 2009). All farmers claimed that their mobile phones had led to increased yields, with some also citing price and revenue improvement. These increases are a result of better information flows through the use of mobile phones and other ICT services such as the e-Choupal.

 A national survey of Indian farmers found that only 40 percent of farm households accessed information about modern agricultural techniques and inputs. The survey also found that almost all small-scale farmers reported some increase in convenience and cost savings from using their mobile phones to seek information such as input availability.

 In a survey of farmers who received the RML service, 50 percent said they reduced expenditures on agricultural inputs because of SMS information services. The service is also changing farmers’ behavior: 44 percent said that it changed their fertilizer applications and 43 percent said that it changed the timing of spraying.

Also read Topic Note 9.4.