Improving Smallholder Farmers’ Livelihoods through Mobile Phone-Based Agricultural Advice


Friday, April 5, 2019, 12:00pm to 1:00pm


Perkins Room (R429), Rubenstein Building 4th floor, HKS

2019-jonathanlehe-precisionagriculturedevelopmentSpeaker: Jonathan Lehe MPA/ID '17, Director of New Programs, Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD)

About the talk: The majority of the world’s 450 million smallholder farmers and the 2 billion people who depend on them live in rural villages in developing countries, growing crops at close to subsistence levels to feed their families. Smallholders typically harvest only 30% to 50% of potential yields due to suboptimal farming practices in quickly changing contexts. Small changes in agricultural practices can substantially improve productivity and profitability, but farmers continue to lack the advice they need to close the yield gap and maximize their incomes, despite significant budgets spent on traditional in-person agricultural extension programs. However, mobile phone ownership is 50 to 70% in developing countries, and access to mobile phones is even higher—typically 70 to 90%—presenting a huge opportunity to provide digital agricultural advisory services. In addition to technological advances, recent advances in research methods can also be leveraged to improve the delivery of agricultural extension, including behavioral economics, big data and machine learning techniques, A/B testing, and rigorous evaluation techniques. Jonathan Lehe, Director of New Programs at Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD), will discuss how the organization is working to improve the lives of farmers in developing countries.

About the Speaker: Jonathan Lehe is PAD's Global Research Manager. Mr. Lehe holds a Masters in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID) from the Harvard Kennedy School. He has more than 10 years of experience in the global health and education sectors, managing research projects and implementation of programs to scale up access to critical public services in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. He has previously worked at the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and consulted for the World Bank, Bridge International Academies, and MIT's Jameel Poverty Action Lab.