Provincial Government of Punjab, Pakistan – Agriculture Department (AD) Advisory Service

The service provides digital information via SMS and Push Calls to deliver low-cost, customized advice to over one million farmers in Punjab, Pakistan to improve on-farm best agricultural practices, input utilization, pest and disease management, access to markets, and resilience.

Pakistani wheat farmer listening to advisory

In July 2020, PxD entered into new a partnership with the United Nations International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to expand our existing services in Kenya and Pakistan, to launch a new program in Nigeria – an expansion country for PxD – and to develop new digital products to assist farmers to address new information gaps and market disruptions arising as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the auspices of this larger grant, IFAD funding was extended to our existing project with the Agriculture Department of the Government of Punjab, Pakistan (AD GoP) in November 2020.

Leveraging SMS and Push Calls to reach One Million Farmers

The AD Advisory service leverages an existing voice and SMS-based platform that PxD designed on behalf of the AD GoP and a new partnership with Telenor, one of the largest telecom providers in Pakistan, to disseminate digital agricultural advisory content to 1,166,783 cotton, wheat, and oilseed farmers in Pakistan. Approximately 886,000 wheat farmers and 490,000 cotton farmers (approximately 246,000 farmers planted both crops) received automated push calls and SMS messages with timely and subject-specific advisory to minimize COVID-related disruptions associated with a lack of in-person interaction with agricultural extension workers.

The team rapidly initiated a needs assessment to more effectively understand the challenges confronting farmers during the COVID-19 outbreak. The needs assessment included high-frequency surveys of 2,500 farmers to identify COVID-related market disruptions and challenges in real-time with a focus on cotton and wheat, two of the most important crops planted by smallholder farmers in Pakistan. The results of this needs assessment informed improvements to PxD’s agricultural content and will lead to the development of new products designed to address unmet and under-serviced farmer needs.

Scaling Through Partnerships

To integrate and align our capabilities with those of IFAD in Pakistan we signed MOUs with IFAD partners the Rural Community Development Program (RCDP), the Rural Community Development Society (RCDS), and the IFAD-funded Southern Punjab Poverty Alleviation Project (SPPAP). These partnerships expanded the reach of PxD’s digital agricultural advisory service in Pakistan and led to the initiation of our Livestock Management Advisory for Women Farmers in Rural Punjab initiative.

Our partnership with Telenor, one of the leading telecom service providers in Pakistan, allows us to deliver advisory content to farmers outside of the Punjab government platform and to explore various approaches to Covid monitoring and farmer data collection.

Example of a call placed to farmers about preparations for monsoon rain conditions:

Translation of call: "Dear Farmer.  To avoid damage to your cotton crop from Monsoon rains, drain standing water from your fields to a lower elevated field. If that is not possible, please dig a large hole at one side of your field to collect excessive rainwater. This will protect your fields from diseases and harmful pests during the Monsoon season.  Thank you."

Approximately 886,000 wheat farmers and 490,000 cotton farmers received automated push calls and SMS messages with timely and subject-specific advisory to minimize COVID-related disruptions