LIRNEasia is a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank active across the Asia Pacific

Inclusive Agriculture

Agriculture in developing Asia is characterized by low productivity. It is often the lowest contributor to a country’s GDP yet employs the largest share of its labor (when compared to Industry and Services sectors).

The reasons for low productivity are numerous: land fragmentation, lack of post-harvest infrastructure, low technology utilization, weak market linkages, absent or inefficient markets, information and knowledge asymmetries (or lack thereof). This is further exacerbated by overall socio-economic structural deficiencies such as lack of access to finance and crop insurance.

In the countries that LIRNEasia works in, the smallholder agriculture sector constitutes the largest segment of producers.  Being resource constrained, smallholders lack the ability to make the necessary investments that can enable them to increase sector productivity (both yield increases as well as quality improvements of their produce) albeit on a micro-level against the broader structural issues.

Increased performance of agricultural smallholders is sine-qua-non for inclusive development not just in agriculture but also at more broad-based level. The 2010 Growth Report by the Commission on Growth and Development mentions utilization of knowledge and integration into global value chains as two of the characteristics of high growth countries.

LIRNEasia from its inception has been cognizant of the importance of reducing information and knowledge gaps in the sector. Secondly, we share Schultz’s (1964) proposition of farmers as calculating economic agents, albeit within their small allocative domains constrained by limited skills, knowledge and lack of incentives brought about by structural deficiencies.

As such LIRNEasia’s research in agriculture explores the following broad thematic areas:

  • Information and knowledge gaps in agricultural value chains.
  • Inclusive strategies for greater integration of smallholders into global value chains.
  • The effects of the constrained allocative domains of smallholders on their incentives for achieving higher productivity.

Research Projects

Agriculture and open data

The  project hopes to identify various types of data that are available in the public sector, both digitized and not, and relevant to the agriculture sector. The project hopes to bring together the sources of the identified data to build consensus on making the data publically available.

Resources, learning and inclusion in open development

This research explores the factors and informal learning practices that influence inclusion in, and exclusion from, an open data initiative to engage farmers in the effective use of crop advisory agricultural information in Sri Lanka.

Innovative uses of low cost ICTs for knowledge mobilization in agricultural communities of practice 

The aim of this project is to develop a collaborative capacity to conduct in-depth social science research that considers all segments of the agricultural value chain. This research is being funded by Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.

Use of ICTs by the rural poor in select Asian economies (2013-2014)
This FAO funded research aims to provide a gender focused perspective on the use of ICTs by the rural poor in select Asian economies.

Knowledge Based Economies (2010-2012)
The project examines how export-oriented agricultural supply chains (in Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Thailand) can be made more efficient and inclusive. This research was funded by IDRC and FAO.

Price Transparency through ICTs: Livelihood impacts for farmers in Sri Lanka (2009-2010)
This Action Research Pilot (ARP) in Sri Lanka sought to explicate the livelihood benefits for a representative sample of small farmers in the country, from using a national ICT based service called Tradenet, which aims to increase price transparencies in the agricultural sector of the country. Book chapter available HERE. This research was funded by ENRAP (a collaboration between IDRC & IFAD)

Mobile 2.0 Agricultural Applications (2008-2010)
This project examined the state of play in the provision of agricultural information (primarily market information) to farmers via mobile phones in India. At the same time (via an extended case study of ICT-enabled warehouse financing system in India), the study attempts to understand the extent to which systems and processes are important in linking farmers to markets, and specifically understand the kind of actors required to make such a project sustainable. This research was funded by IDRC.

Scoping study of ICTs and Rural Livelihoods in South Asia (2008)
This project undertook a systematic review of the global literature on ICTs and rural livelihoods and took stock of existing interventions in the South Asian region. This research was funded by ENRAP (a collaboration between IDRC & IFAD)

ICTs, Transaction Costs & Traceability in Agricultural Markets (2006-2008)
This project examined the contribution that ICTs can make to improve the life conditions of smallholders in Sri Lanka. The project consisted of two components: (a) the establishment of baseline regarding ICT use and transaction costs in relation to farmers, collectors and traders participating in agricultural markets; (b) an assessment of the potential for improving farmer livelihoods through a last-mile traceability system enabled by ICTs. This research was funded by IDRC.

Publications and Reports

  • 2012 | Overcoming the smallholder quality penalty in Agriculture
    Sriganesh Lokanathan | Op-ed |
  • 2012 | Smallholders and Micro-enterprises in Agriculture: Information needs & communication patterns
    Sriganesh Lokanathan and Nilusha Kapugama | Executive summary | Report (1.9Mb) |
  • 2011 | Improving farmer services by understanding their information needs
    Nilusha Kapugama, Sriganesh Lokanathan and Ranjula S. Perera | Conference paper |
  • 2011 | Study of agricultural value chains in India: Mango & Pomegranate
    Payal Malik and Laxminarayana Rao | Report |
  • 2011 | Jute value chain in Bangladesh: Information and knowledge gaps of smallholders
    Khairul Islam and Harsha de Silva | Report |
  • 2011 | Potato value chain in Bangladesh: Information and knowledge gaps of smallholders
    Khairul Islam and Harsha de Silva | Report |
  • 2011 | The Sri Lanka pineapple supply chain: Information and knowledge gaps of smallholders
    Ranjula S. Perera, Nilusha Kapugama, Sriganesh Lokanathan, Iran Fernando | Report |
  • 2011 | The Sri Lanka rubber supply chain: Information and knowledge gaps of smallholders
    Nilusha Kapugama, Ranjula S. Perera, Sriganesh Lokanathan, Iran Fernando | Report |
  • 2011 | Towards a knowledge based economy: Case studies of the use of ICTs in enhancing agricultural value chains in Thailand
    Deunden Nikomborirak and Nathapol Pongsukcharoenkul | Report |
  • 2011 | Price transparency in agricultural produce markets: Sri Lanka
    Sriganesh Lokanathan, Harsha de Silva & Iran Fernando | Book chapter |
  • 2010 | Leveraging Mobile 2.0 in India for Agricultural Market Access
    Sriganesh Lokanathan and Harsha de Silva | Report | Policy brief |
  • 2010 | ICT Policy for Agriculture Based on a Transaction Cost Approach: Some Lessons from Sri Lanka
    Harsha de Silva and Dimuthu Ratnadiwakara | Journal article | Conference paper |


2012 | J M D Berty Lionel, Secretary, Pandeniya Rubber Smallholder Society (Sri Lanka)
Mr Lionel is the Secretary of a smallholder rubber society in Sri Lanka of about 34 members. By organizing themselves as a collective, the members have been able to increase their bargaining power in market transactions and also overcome the Smallholder Quality Penalty (SQV) by internalizing quality conformity.


2012 | Rann Vijay Kumar: an agricultural first handler from Samasthipur (Bihar, India)
Mr Kumar regularly buys vegetables and cereals directly from farmers, which he then stores and sells to wholesalers. He relies heavily on his mobile phone: to stay in touch with both his supplier farmers and buyers, and to know the latest market prices. Prior to using a mobiles, he used public phones, or passed messages around. Today, he travels less and talks more. On average, he makes about INR 5,000 (USD 99)


2011 | Farmers’ perspectives of the livelihood benefits from an agricultural market price information service in Sri Lanka
Since 2009, farmers in Sri Lanka,  have been able to benefit from a new service called Tradenet which provides agricultural market price information through mobile phones. With timely access to accurate and actionable market price information, farmers are able to choose the right time to harvest and take their crops to the market. This has enabled them to get a premium on price they get for their crops by selling their produce in the markets when supply is low. In this video, two such farmers talk of their experiences with this new services and how it has benefited their livelihoods.


2009 | Sayar Singh: Wheat and flower farmer from Pushkhar Nala (Rajasthan, India)
Business and social life have definitely improved for Sayar Singh since he bought his mobile phone in mid 2008. Earlier, he was frustrated with a fixed phone that didn’t work half the time. This wheat and flower farmer in India’s Rajasthan state now tracks market prices and moves his produce quickly for better profits. With workload reduced and income doubled, Sayar has reaped dual benefits from his mobile.


Information on all events related to agriculture where LIRNEasia research has been shared can be found HERE.

Blog postings

Given that our website is organized mainly as a blog, we do post about agriculture related work from time to time. In addition to postings about our dissemination work, the postings also cover commentry on areas of interest to us.

For a customized listing of all our blog posts related to agriculture, please click HERE.



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