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Source: Bello et al., “Productivity impact of improved rice varieties’ adoption: case of smallholder rice farmers in Nigeria,” Economics of Innovation and New Technology, June 2020.
Commentary: Advancements in information and communication technology (ICT) can spur downstream innovations for even the least digitally intensive industries. Because of this, developing economies that still dependent on large agricultural sectors can grow by increasing ICT adoption. A 2020 study by three agricultural economists provides empirical content to the value of ICT on agricultural output, examining the case of rice farming in Nigeria. Their research collects data from 250 rice-farming households to examine factors positively impacting rice farming productivity. While agricultural sciences have produced more resilient and higher-yielding rice that could greatly expand rice production in Nigeria, these improved rice varieties (IRVs) face a slow adoption especially among small farming households.
The economists identified farmers’ access to information regarding IRVs as one of the greatest barriers to adoption. Econometric research found that farmers with access to extension services, where agents visit farmers directly to share new information and technology, were over 18 percent more likely to adopt IRVs than farmers lacking extension services. Further, farmers maintaining membership in a farmer-based organization (FBO) enjoyed about 7.6 percent higher rice productivity than farmers not associated with any FBO.
FBOs and extension services have significant positive impacts on IRV adoption and rice productivity due to their efficiency in sharing information on advancements in farming. These information-sharing practices could be greatly improved and more widely offered for rice farmers through increased adoption of ICT such as mobile phones and community radio systems, which many farming households already maintain. The current production of Nigerian rice farming only supplies about a third of the nation’s 6.3 million rice tons demanded. Greater adoption and usage of ICT would therefore allow Nigeria’s farmers to work more productively and innovate agricultural practices sooner to supply the nation’s agricultural demands and grow the economy.