Putting social networks to practical use : Improving last-mile dissemination systems for climate and market information services in developing countries

Simon, Wolfram J.; Krupnik, Timothy J.; Aguilar-Gallegos, Norman; Halbherr, Lucia; Groot, Jeroen C.J.


Understanding how to improve the accessibility and timely dissemination of weather and market information can help farmers adapt their management to climate change impacts. Our objective is to use Social Network Analysis (SNA) as a tool to identify potential opportunities for improving weather and market advisory dissemination to rural communities and to explore the relationship between farmers’ access to information and yield and selling price. As a case study, we applied SNA to 313 farmers in Bangladesh to analyze weather and market information networks and farmers' friendship networks as a potential proxy for information exchange. Farmer access to information, dominant sources of information and potential speed of information transfer were key criteria for our analysis. Our results indicate that weather and market information networks in coastal Bangladesh depended on certain key sources of information, while the friendship network was decentralized and interconnected, with few isolated farmers. We showed that farmers networks are significantly correlated with several socio-agro-economic variables; however, there was little indication of a relationship between information access and yield and selling price. We conclude that a mixed approach of targeting central actors and broadcasting information to farmers may be a suitable strategy to reach a maximum number of farmers as well as the most isolated farmers. Our study highlights that SNA can be a promising tool to reveal hidden structures of information flows in farmer communities and provide valuable insights for developing information dissemination strategies that reach even the most remote and underserved farmers.