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Mobile phone use is associated with higher smallholder agricultural productivity in Tanzania, East Africa

Mobile phone use is increasing in Sub-Saharan Africa, spurring a growing focus on mobile phones as tools to increase agricultural yields and incomes on smallholder farms.

Abstract

Mobile phone use is increasing in Sub-Saharan Africa, spurring a growing focus on mobile phones as tools to increase agricultural yields and incomes on smallholder farms. However, the research to date on this topic is mixed, with studies finding both positive and neutral associations between phones and yields. In this paper we examine perceptions about the impacts of mobile phones on agricultural productivity, and the relationships between mobile phone use and agricultural yield. We do so by fitting multilevel statistical models to data from farmer-phone owners (n = 179) in 4 rural communities in Tanzania, controlling for site and demographic factors. Results show a positive association between mobile phone use for agricultural activities and reported maize yields. Further, many farmers report that mobile phone use increases agricultural profits (67% of respondents) and decreases the costs (50%) and time investments (47%) of farming. Our findings suggest that there are opportunities to target policy interventions at increasing phone use for agricultural activities in ways that facilitate access to timely, actionable information to support farmer decision making.

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Citation

Quandt A, Salerno JD, Neff JC, Baird TD, Herrick JE, McCabe JT, et al. (2020) Mobile phone use is associated with higher smallholder agricultural productivity in Tanzania, East Africa. PLoS ONE 15(8): e0237337.
https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0237337

 

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