Feed the Future
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Hey Siri: Audio Phone Reminders Drive Kenyan Farmers to Adopt DT Maize

We are pleased to share the attached paper presented to the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) annual meeting, held in Chicago on July 30-August 1, 2017. The paper reports on research conducted by the Information and Communiation Technologies (ICT) and Development team of the Global Center for Food Systems Innovation (GCFSI) at Michigan State University aimed at increasing farmers' knowledge and adoption of drought-tolerant (DT) maize varieties, using a multichannel communications strategy that incorporated participatory videos and mobile phone-based audio reminders. A field experiment took place in the Machakos area of Kenya between 2015 and 2016. GCFSI is funded by USAID through the Higher Education Solutions Network program. The abstract appears below and the paper is archived online by AAEA here.

This study designs and tests two strategies of using ICTs aiming to increase farmers’ knowledge and uptake of DT maize. One is a locally-made video (or “participatory” video). Another is a multichannel method that incorporates the same video with timely mobile phone-based audio messages. We conducted a randomized field experiment in Machakos and Makueni counties in south-central Kenya. The experiment randomly allocated the two strategies to farmers in the study areas. We found that, after implementing the interventions in the two sets of communities, farmers in the multichannel group demonstrated higher knowledge about DT maize and its accompanying management practices. They were more likely to report intending to plant DT maize in the next primary season. The effects of both treatments are mainly driven by farmers living in NGO-supported villages who have better access to DT maize seed and related information. This study contributes to a greater understanding of farmers' learning and uptake of DT maize. The results suggest that ICT strategies that integrate contextualized knowledge and timely reminders could help farmers' to gain knowledge about DT maize and encourage them to try these new seed varieties.