ESRC funded research project

‌Project funded by ESRC-DFID under the DFID/ESRC Growth Programme May 2011

ESRC Grant Reference: ES/J009334/1
Grant amount: £433,147 (FEC)

Title: Information, market creation and agricultural growth

Start date: November 2012

End date: October 2016


Recent years have witnessed renewed appreciation that agriculture could play a significant role in the pursuit of Millennium Development Goals. In this context, the role of information dissemination through information and communication technology (ICT) in improving rural welfare is highlighted. However, some fear that with ICT technological disparity will arise, and existing socio-economic inequality and poverty will be further exacerbated. This study will use randomized experiment and surveys before and after the experiment to investigate the impact of ICT on rural welfare in the Indian state of Karnataka. The randomized experiment or the action research proposed here involves facilitating information access on key agriculture related services to households in some villages and not in others. Combining data from both surveys and the experiment, we investigate the impact of information dissemination on agricultural practices, household incomes, social network, risk coping mechanism and caste disparity.

Core Team:

Arjunan Subramanian (Principal Investigator) University of Glasgow, UK

Gopal Naik (Co-Investigator) Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, India

Purnima Purohit (Post-doctoral Research Associate) University of Glasgow, UK

Partners and Stakeholders:

Karnataka Krishi Mission, Government of Karnataka

Directorate of Electronics Delivery of Citizens Services, Government of Karnataka

Project information

Around the world there is renewed appreciation that agriculture could play a significant role in the pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, gender and income inequality, and supplying environmental services. Achieving these various goals simultaneously will require increasing agricultural productivity as much as accounting for the potential synergies and tradeoffs between goals. The potential impact of having access to better information on agricultural productivity, output prices, economic growth and poverty alleviation have been talked about in different contexts. However, the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in economic development has become a much contestable topic over the last decade. Although anecdotes exist about the impact of information provided through ICT, but tell us very little about the effect of providing real-time information to farmers on productivity, farm incomes, changes in agricultural practices, and reduction in transaction costs. Representative survey data on ICT users and non-users cannot identify the causal effect of ICT access, because users are self-selected and therefore, not comparable to non-users. ICT facilities also purposively choose some villages and not others, also some households purposively choose to access information while others do not. Hence, credibly establishing causality appears difficult here and till date, there has not been any rigorous impact evaluation to examine the impact of ICT. The aim of this project is to implement a large-scale randomized trial to examine what happens when specified new information becomes available to farmers in the Indian State of Karnataka on the outskirts of Bangalore.

Research Activity

Work package 1 - Direct and economy-wide impact - Under this work package, we will examine if access to information on weather, timing and amount of fertilizer and pesticide use, output and input price have on agricultural productivity. Apart from this, we will seek to gauge the impact of information dissemination on agricultural practices and household incomes. The inconsistency in income streams received by farmers also makes their decision making process an interesting enquiry. How much impact does the availability of new information have on farmer’s decisions? Especially interesting are the decisions about use of inputs, sale of output, consumption and intra household allocation of resources. This study will seek to understand the individual characteristics that predict farmers’ willingness to adopt new information, and also to gauge their responses to changes in information.

Work package 2 - Social network - Under this work package, we will seek to quantify transaction costs saved due to access to better information. What impact does improved access to information have on some traditional institutions that serve variety of purpose in a traditional society? Do kinship networks breakdown as new source of information becomes available through ICT? Some of these issues, still unexplored in the literature, will be examined under this work package.

Work package 3- Risk coping strategies - Rural households are frequently hit by several idiosyncratic and covariate shocks. Our aim under this work package is to scrutinize if farmers take advantage of the new information source to smooth their consumption. Does access to better information reduce the vulnerability of rural households to idiosyncratic shocks?

Work package 4 – Role of caste - This work package will seek to examine the impact of access to new information on caste inequality and the dynamics within castes.

Research Method

In addition to collecting longitudinal survey data, we will use randomized experiments to examine the above research questions. Survey data will be collected twice during the period of the project, first survey at the beginning of the project to collect baseline information and second, after the experiment to record comparable information capturing changes that can be attributed to the experiment – endline survey. Clustered random sampling procedure is used in the Indian state of Karnataka with random selection of gram panchayat (GP) and then the villages and households for information dissemination of agriculture related services.