Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

ICT – Powering Behavior Change in Agricultural Extension

Date Published: 
March 22, 2016

Of the more than one billion global poor, 75 percent live in rural areas and most of these people depend on agriculture to survive. Enhancing farmers’ and agricultural workers’ livelihoods is thus key to addressing global poverty. While there are many problems, poor farmers regularly identify the most important as: 1) access to credit, 2) access to better market prices and 3) access to credible, relevant information.  The aspect of information access has received increasing attention, especially in terms of the potential role of Information Communication Technology (ICT) to connect farmers with the information they need. ICT has already been shown to have the capacity to dramatically expand communication and improve access to information (and facilitate monetary transfers). However, the question more recently has been, how can the promise of ICT be realistically harnessed to help the world’s rural poor?  Since the birth of the internet in 1994 and the dramatic spread of cell phones from the mid-1980s on, many “ICT for Agriculture” (commonly referred to as ICT4Ag) activities have been initiated and many are tracked on webportals such as www.e-agriculture.org or http://ictupdate.cta.int. Many ICT4AG initiatives have seemingly oversold themselves in terms of success or they ceased as soon as project funding dried up. Despite these many apparent false starts, there is a growing body of experience providing lessons on factors required for successful ICT applications in agricultural extension and on how ICT can lead to beneficial behavior change amongst poor farmers. While issues of sustainability of many ICT4Ag initiatives remain, people are learning how to apply these tools to better meet the needs of their audiences and thus promote behavior change in agricultural extension.  This review complements the full paper by the same name, as well as earlier Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS) reviews on ICT in ag extension (Bell, 2011; Vignare 2013 a and b). The review focused on how ICT in agricultural extension can better promote behavior change in farmers and drew on:  1. behavior change principles as evidenced across various sectors such as health, business, advertising and agriculture, 2. lessons learned from various ICT for Development (ICT4D) players and reports, and3. approaches used by a subset of leading ICT in ag extension innovators