Over three years ago, researchers at Harvard Business School and Centre for Microfinance launched a large-scale, long-term study on the impact of Awaaz.De on farmers in Gujarat. 1,200 farmers in two districts are participants in the study, with a treatment group having access to Avaaj Otalo and a control group not given access. They published a working paper in 2013. Recently, lead researchers Shawn Cole and Nilesh Fernando published an another working paper on the findings till date. The highlights of both papers are:
- Demand for agricultural advice is high, two years after commencement of the service, 80% of the treatment group had called in to the AO line, making an average of 20 calls.
- AO had a large impact on reported sources of information used in agricultural decisions, reducing the reliance of treatment respondents on input dealers and past experience for advice.
- Advice provided through AO resulted in farmers changing a wide variety of input decisions that ultimately lead to increases in crop yields.
- Treated farmers also sow a significantly larger quantity of cumin, a lucrative but risky crop.
- Farmers appear willing to follow advice without understanding why the advice is correct: the average respondent does not demonstrate improved agricultural knowledge, though there is some evidence educated farmers learn from the service.
- $1 investment in AO generates a return of more than $10
- Willingness to pay for a $7.5 subscription is only $1.7, but implied subsidy is more than justified by the returns generated by AO. A two-year subscription generates a profit of more than $200 on average.
- AO costs USD $0.83 per farmer (including all airtime costs, staff time, and technology fees) if the project were implemented at scale, the costs may drop dramatically,
You can download the complete working paper here