Experience of farmers using mobile phone for farming information flow in boro rice production: A case of Eastern Gangetic Plain

 Babor Ahmad, Md Abdur Rouf Sarkar, Fahima Khanom et al.   |  

This research was inspired by exploring another technique farmers have adopted: accessing information through mobile phone apps or communication. Mobile phones enable farmers to access information about marketing, new technologies, and weather and improve their knowledge of proper fertilizer and pesticide usage. This available information may reduce the influence of intermediaries in the market value chain. Not only do mobile phones reduce communication costs and enhance output productivity, but they also ensure more efficient marketing practices. This study delves into the impact of mobile phone usage on boro rice farmers in Bangladesh.

Nowadays, agricultural information is considered one of the most important inputs in agrarian decisions regarding production, marketing, finance, and distribution. An information asymmetry exists between rice farmers and traders, as the latter possess superior information at the grassroots level.

This information gap has been lessened by dint of mobile phone devices in recent years. This device has made it easier for farmers to access information on agricultural production, marketing, weather, etc. However, mobile phone penetration rose from 12% in 1999 to 76% in 2009.

In contrast, this figure was just 45% in 2015 in emerging nations like Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Brazil. Approximately 4.7 billion people worldwide have used mobile phones for communication and other purposes, with 147 million users in Bangladesh in 2018.

The use of mobile phones or their adoption depends on several attributes. Rogers’ innovation adoption theory suggests that demographic characteristics play a crucial role in adopting innovative technology. Rogers indicates that innovation diffusion happens when individuals within a social system disseminate it through particular media.

This theory also posits that media and interpersonal communication can influence the adoption rate.

Farmers in the eastern Ganges plain, particularly in Dinajpur, have limited access to modern technology compared to other regions. Based on the theories, it is clarified that low socioeconomic and demographic characteristics are the basis for this subtropical acceptance rate of mobile phone utilization among farmers.

This research was inspired by exploring another technique farmers have adopted: accessing information through mobile phone apps or communication. The agriculture sector in Bangladesh primarily revolves around rice production. Rice production accounts for nearly 48% of rural employment, and about 77% of small farmers rely on producing and selling rice for their livelihood and food security. Nearly three-quarters of all farmland and eighty percent of all irrigated land are used exclusively for rice production.

Based on 2020 official figures, Bangladesh was the third greatest rice producer in the world, harvesting 37.4 million tons. Bangladesh has three distinct rice-growing seasons: the wet and humid aman (kharif-2) season (June–December), the dry and irrigated boro (rabi) season (November–May), and the brief rainy and summer aus (kharif-1) season (April–August). Boro holds the utmost significance of these three seasons, contributing the largest share to the national food supply yearly.

Due to the use of traditional rice varieties and a lack of up-to-date information on modern agricultural technologies, Bangladesh experiences low yields per hectare. Smallholders and low-income farmers often lack access to new technologies and sufficient capital, which hinders their ability to maintain sustainable production.

Mobile phones enable farmers to access information about marketing, new technologies, and weather and improve their knowledge of proper fertilizer and pesticide usage. This available information may reduce the influence of intermediaries in the market value chain.
Prior research has focused on determining the factors influencing mobile phone adoption and its impact on crop productivity. This study establishes three critical objectives.

Firstly, it seeks to assess boro rice farmers’ perceptions of using mobile phones to enhance productivity.

Secondly, it aims to identify the factors influencing the use of mobile phones for productive and informative purposes.

Finally, it analyses the overall impact of mobile phones on farming information on boro rice production.

These objectives give rise to three fundamental questions:

(i) How do farmers perceive the use of mobile phones in the context of boro rice production?

(ii) What factors are influencing farmers in utilizing mobile phones for disseminating agricultural information? and

(iii) What are the impacts of using mobile phones for disseminating agricultural information to farmers in boro rice production?

While mobile phones have become integral in rural areas, the mode of communication remains rudimentary, with the population’s livelihood intertwined with agricultural cultivation. Hence, comprehending people’s acceptance and response to this technological development, particularly in agrarian societies, is imperative.

This research primarily seeks to understand and grasp this phenomenon. Additionally, various demographic and socioeconomic factors, including age, gender, education, and income, influence the decision to use mobile phones.

However, the specific factors driving mobile phone use among boro rice farmers remain inadequately explored. Therefore, this study endeavors to shed light on these factors, aligning with the second research question. Moreover, these factors notably impact agricultural productivity, as mobile phones facilitate access to crucial information at a lower cost than traditional methods.

Not only do mobile phones reduce communication costs and enhance output productivity, but they also ensure more efficient marketing practices. Therefore, the final research question of this study delves into the impact of mobile phone usage on boro rice farmers in Bangladesh.

This study examined the farmers’ perception towards mobile phone use, its influences, and the impact it has in farmers on boro rice production in the Dinajpur District. The results indicated that farmers perceive mobile phone use in boro rice production as facilitating easier access to up-to-date agricultural information, modern technology, online training, agricultural market information, and rapid identification of diseases through mobile apps.

Educational status, access to credit, household income, and contact with extension services were identified as crucial influential factors for the informative use of mobile phones in agriculture by farmers.

The study revealed a significant increase in boro rice production levels by 1.6–4.5% due to the informative use of mobile phones. Furthermore, selling price, rainfall, credit amount, cultivable land, and farming experience were identified as significant factors impacting boro rice production.

These findings highlight the potential for targeted interventions and policies aimed at enhancing farmers’ access to mobile technology, promoting financial inclusion, and fostering agricultural knowledge dissemination, ultimately contributing to the sustainable development of boro rice production in the region.

The government, non-government organizations, and relevant authorities should actively promote increased informative mobile phone use among farmers. Encouraging measures may include providing short-term, low-interest loans to facilitate farmers in acquiring mobile phones. Farmers should be incentivized to embrace modern technologies through initiatives like online training, seminars, and the use of sophisticated applications. These endeavors can empower farmers to identify and address challenges related to production and marketing.

However, this study is subject to certain limitations. Our focus is solely on boro rice farmers, potentially overlooking the dynamics of other rice growing seasons. The study does not differentiate between types of farmers, such as small, medium, and large-operated land, nor does it consider variations in training and awareness levels regarding the use of mobile phones in agricultural practices.

Additionally, our analysis does not separate the impact of formal and informal credit facilities on both mobile phone use and rice production.

The study also does not explore the effects of mobile phone usage on the efficiency of rice production. Behavioral factors, such as social influence, perceived reliability, personal innovativeness, perceived benefits, individual information-seeking behavior, familiarity with agricultural apps, and perceived risks associated with mobile phone utilization in farming activities, are not explored in this study.
Therefore, future research endeavors could provide a more comprehensive understanding by addressing these aforementioned aspects.

Read the study:
Ahmad B,  Sarkar AR, Khanom F, et al.  (2024) Experience of farmers using mobile phone for farming information flow in Boro rice production: A case of Eastern Gangetic Plain. Social Sciences & Humanities Open. Volume 9.

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