Delivering appropriate knowledge for better and sustainable farming and livelihoods
Impact - Having the right information and knowledge can lift poor smallholder farmers out of poverty and food insecurity, be more resilient to drought and other shocks. Access to market price information means better bargaining power and incomes and this can in turn influence the choice of crop cultivation accordingly. Applying knowledge about new farming practices such as no-tilling conservation agriculture could improve soil fertility and double yields.
Right information at the right time - in the drylands, public-funded agricultural extension to put research into practice is often poorly equipped to respond to smallholder farmers' real-time agricultural advice needs. Eg "A pest is destroying my chickpea crop what should I do." Science produces large amounts of knowledge, but how can farmers dig out the key piece of information to answer a specific question at the time they need it? Agropedia, an online collaborative knowledge repository on Indian agriculture, aims at cataloguing scientific information for easier access, providing localized content to extension workers and farmers according to key agricultural entry points such as by crop.
Inequity in information and knowledge access - A study in Haryana district, India showed that women's knowledge was more limited than men in land use, water management and marketing. Women's access to ICT grows with their farm size.
Right format through the right channel- Many players deliver information to farmers, from extension workers to media, private companies and farmers themselves. Social networks play a strong role in circulating information among the farming community and the way knowledge is assimilated by each individual. The first source of information for smallholder farmer is often a family member or a neighbour. Farmers may imitate adoption behavior of progressive/successful farmers (see Bt cotton social learning case study). Bhoochetana uses progressive farmers (farm facilitators) within the targeted community to change soil fertility and other farming practices.
Providing farmer-friendly information, eg in a tailored, local language, jargon free format is key for effective learning and adoption. Demonstration plots beside agrodealer shops, striga management training videos, aflatoxin awareness theatre plays screened on television in Mali, seed fairs and other visual information is effective back-up to agricultural extension.
Radio is a major information means for farmers in developing countries. ICRISAT works with partners like Farm Radio International to improve the quality of information in agriculture broadcasting programmes.
Some impactful ICT innovations
ICRISAT has developed and supported many information systems linking research, extension and markets, like the Virtual Academy of Semi-Arid Tropics (VASAT). Internet equipped village knowledge centres are fed with up-to-date knowledge on best farming practices, eg climate adaptation methods, crop rotation, diversification and pest management for smallholder crops such as millet or sorghum.
Mobile phone technology addresses many of the last mile connectivity issues of earlier web-based ICT platforms like infrastructure, connectivity, training needs and literacy issues.&nb