Agriculture is close to my heart
The survival of our species is dependent on sustainable food supply chains. Technology will play a crucial role in making agriculture value chains sustainable, efficient, and effective in preserving the nutritional value of food.
As co-founder of the Design & Innovation firm, IDEATE, I was the resident expert in our Agri-Tech portfolio working with customers to envision and launch agriculture products and services. The portfolio below provides some highlights of my work in the Agriculture sector.
I got a rare opportunity to consult for the government’s flagship agriculture program with a target user base of 600,000 farmers involving several governmental and private sector organizations. This was the largest digital agriculture initiative in the country.
Gap Analysis Study on Largest Digital Transformation of Agriculture Sector in Pakistan
Karandaaz and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was an advisory and knowledge partner for the Government of Punjab. They commissioned a gap analysis study to analyze the farmer service onboarding process and their usage of the E-Credit scheme (Digital credit) and CAPP (Digital applications), document best practices and lessons learnt as well as make recommendations for improvement. The project was quite challenging as it involved a lot of stakeholders, a complex technology platform, and a lot of back-office operations to support the service for the farmers. The documentation of the farmers’ journey and all the processes was quite outdated.
Approach & Field Research
The project began with adding to the team’s existing understanding of the agricultural landscape through extensive literature review and consultation of relevant documents. Similar programs in other developing countries like India, Bangladesh, Nigeria, and Kenya were studied to compare their implementation with the e-Kissan Project. Based on the initial research, I drafted discussion guidelines for stakeholder interviews. I led the team of two researchers to conduct 15 interviews with the higher management of all the major stakeholders, including Punjab Agriculture, PITB, PLRA, and all the participating financial institutions.
This was followed by field research consisting of interviews and focus groups conducted with over 40 farmers – both tenants and landowners. Our discussion format was designed to make farmers feel comfortable with sharing their stories, experiences, and problems with us freely. We also accompanied the farmers to their touch-points such as the Arazi Center and their local bank branch for a deeper understanding of the process.
This part of the project led to interesting observations of the farmers’ behavior. One of the notable ones was their usage of internet data and weather applications on smartphones by farmers with low literacy levels. They were aware of the fact that internet usage would consume a major chunk of their credit. To avoid this, they would turn their data on for a few seconds so their weather app is synced to display current weather, and immediately turned it off afterward.
The focus groups and interviews were conducted in two phases. After the first phase, we synthesized the data and looked for areas we need more information on. The second phase was conducted with a different set of farmers after the initial synthesis and the discussion guides were updated according to our leanings. This approach enabled us to collect all the relevant information we needed.
The project also involved a careful review of a lot of documentation about technology integrations, program concept documentation, program steering committee meeting minutes, government IT spec documents, digital identification process review, and a lot of ancillary documents.
This step was followed by the final synthesis where we identified recurring themes in all stakeholder interviews as well as the farmer interviews. The team then moved on to make comprehensive journey maps from the farmer’s perspective, as well as from the banks’ perspective, and used it as the basis for the structure of the final report. We also conducted an in-depth usability analysis of all the mobile applications offered as part of this program and linked this to our learnings from field research about farmer behavior to see how effective the apps were.
My team found many program-level challenges that came about due to the complexity of the program, as it was a collaboration between multiple partner institutions. The farmers felt the effect of this complex system in the form of delayed payments and poor service experience. Moreover, farmers faced issues such as accessibility of the registration centers and integrating mobile wallets with their bank accounts. We detailed all our findings and recommendations in the final report which provided critical insights to the government about the program’s implementation and service issues faced by farmers.
Our process maps were so detailed that they were really appreciated by the telecom service provider, government department, and the sponsor Karandaaz. These journey maps mapped out the farmer touchpoints, back-office interactions, system integrations, and technology sync points.