Improving Technology Adoption Among Farmers During COVID-19
This post is written by Sheryl Cowan and Dr. Faheem Abbasi.
The four-year, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Pakistan Agricultural Technology Transfer Activity (PATTA), implemented by Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA), is addressing technology adoption barriers faced by Pakistani smallholder farmers and disseminating accurate, tailored, and timely information on agricultural technologies.
As the coronavirus crisis spread through Pakistan in March 2020, challenges in food production and access to vital agricultural information among Pakistani smallholder farmers quickly emerged. To address this, PATTA collaborated with 37 agribusiness partners to develop alternatives to in-person technology promotion that could reach smallholder farmers despite the ongoing pandemic.
In line with the increase in smartphone and internet access across rural Pakistan, PATTA began encouraging digital outreach to farmers who frequently utilize Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp to access agricultural information through its Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) program.
PATTA’s SBCC program aims to narrow the educational gap in technology uptake by improved outreach and communications of its agribusiness partners with dealers and farmers, to better address behavioral biases and improve understanding of the positive impacts of agricultural technology adoption. Through these SBCC efforts, PATTA designed a crosscutting campaign to improve linkages between the project’s agribusiness partners (suppliers), dealers and farmers. It also sought to build the capacity of agribusiness partners reliant on non-digital communication methods, such as in-person demonstrations, to use social media platforms to tap into new networks of Pakistani farmers.
This campaign helped PATTA’s agribusiness partners develop engaging social media messages, calls-to-action and visuals – all of which were disseminated to dealer networks and farmers via popular social media platforms. Through this effort, agribusiness partners have effectively utilized social media (some for the first time) to reach far-off communities with information and products such as nutrition information for enhanced milk and meat productivity, improved animal genetics, and hybrid chili products to name a few.
PATTA’s SBCC campaign also provided specialized support to agribusiness partners involved in U.S.-based agricultural technology dealerships. For example, the activity helped Lahore-based agribusiness Ali Akbar Group to deliver targeted SBCC tools and initiatives focused on promoting the uptake of the U.S.-based crop protection technology Static Spinosad Me, an insecticidal product for controlling and managing invasive species of fruit flies. Similarly, PATTA helped the agribusiness Cattlekit develop social media and community-level campaigns to support wide-scale promotion of the US.-based milking parlor and Total Mixed Ration (TMR) wagon technologies. The campaign also utilized visual multimedia content for farmers, dealers and commercial buyers who require pictorial visuals to sufficiently understand technical content related to agricultural technologies. “We created effective social media messages to raise awareness of products such as Static Spinosad and hybrid chili seeds,” noted Zubair Ahmad, Senior Marketing Manager Ali Akbar Group, one of PATTA’s partners. “The response was phenomenal, especially as we received many inquiries from farmers on WhatsApp.”
PATTA’s facilitation also provided a lucrative opportunity for agribusinesses to continue mobilizing farmers remotely, advancing the use of technologies in new geographical areas despite the challenges posed by COVID-19. As one partner, Muhammad Salman Naeem, Agriculture Division Head of Matra Asia, highlighted, “PATTA has supported [us] in developing awareness-raising material for products including fodder seeds, artificial insemination, dairy feed, and live bacteria. We co-created technology-specific promotional messages in Urdu which were spread through social media campaigns.”
In just a few months, COVID-19 altered the landscape of agricultural information and media consumption habits across Pakistan’s many agricultural value chains. However, while the pandemic persists, PATTA will continue to work with its partners and beneficiaries to encourage agricultural technology adoption and overcome the challenges of digital agricultural marketing through training and development, peer-to-peer learning, and educational initiatives that promote technologies to farmers in a safe and socially distant manner.