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Precision Agriculture for Development

Summer Intern (Various Locations)

· Boston, Massachusetts
Employment Type Full-Time

Precision Agriculture for Development, Inc. (PAD) seeks interns for the summer of 2020 to support our rapid organizational and programmatic growth in India, Kenya, Pakistan, Rwanda, Bangladesh, and Ethiopia, and to support our Global staff. Interested applicants should submit a cover letter and CV on our website’s job portal by February 20, 2020. Submitted CVs must also state clearly the applicant’s country program preferences, and the type of role the applicant is interested in (i.e. field research, data analysis, operations, etc.) 

 

Applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis. 

 

Organization background 

PAD is a global non-profit that harnesses technology, data science and behavioral economics to target information to farmers in developing countries and improve their lives. By providing actionable information to the right people, in the right way and at the right time, PAD empowers smallholder farmers to improve their productivity, increase their profitability, and advance environmental sustainability. PAD aims to empower 100 million farmers through a new model for agricultural extension: delivering to farmers personalized agricultural advice through their mobile phones. We implement this model in collaboration with partner organizations to maximize scale, and we continuously experiment, iterate, and gather evidence on impact to improve our services. At the end of the Q3 2019, PAD had reached 2.9 million farmers through a range of services providing tailored information on optimizing multiple crops, pest management, input utilization and environmental stewardship. PAD currently works in seven countries in Africa and Asia and is rapidly expanding as governments and organizations look for innovative ways to utilize new technologies to deliver actionable information to people who need it.

 

The issue: Households engaged in smallholder farming collectively account for more than two billion people - almost a third of humanity and two-thirds of the world’s poor. An immediate and direct cause of smallholder poverty is what is known as the yield gap: the difference between potential and actual on-farm production. Smallholder farmers typically harvest 30 to 50 percent of what their land can produce. Climate change presents an existential challenge and risk, particularly for farmers who rely on rainfed cultivation. Studies suggest that small changes in agricultural practices can substantially improve productivity and profitability, reduce poverty and increase resiliency. Traditional agricultural extension confronts many challenges: in-person information sharing is expensive, contact with farmers is irregular, and advice is difficult to customize and deliver on time. Despite significant resources supporting the work of over one million extension workers, most farmers continue to lack the advice they need to close the yield gap and maximize their incomes.

 

Our approach: We are optimistic. For the first time, most smallholder farmers own mobile phones and are in a position to use digital agricultural advisory services. PAD leverages this opportunity to empower farmers with relevant and customized information, delivered at low cost, to improve on-farm practices, input utilization, pest and disease management, climate and weather resilience, environmental sustainability, and access to markets. We provide a two-way flow of information that delivers customized advice to farmers through mobile phones.

 

  • We deliver simple and effective messages that farmers can understand and act upon. We draw on behavioral economics to more effectively influence farmer behavior, and social learning theory to facilitate diffusion of information across farmer networks.  

 

  • Our systems allow us to customize messaging to ensure that information is useful, timely and actionable. Big data and machine learning techniques allow us to tailor information at scale. Our goal is to develop intelligent platforms that provide farmers with context-relevant and personalized agricultural recommendations to improve productivity, profitability, and advance environmental sustainability.

 

  • Our interventions are evidence-led. We develop systems that are continuously monitored and constantly improving. PAD’s interventions draw on the power of new research methods that allow us to upgrade content and service delivery in near real time, to further improve user experience and deliver more appropriate information. The use of rigorous assessment tools allows us to systematically understand impact. We feed this information back into our model to refine it over time. 

 

  • Working through partners who are already providing services to farmers at scale – including governments, NGOs, and for-profit agribusinesses – allows PAD to rapidly reach scale, with extremely low customer acquisition costs and rapidly falling marginal costs per farmer per year.

Our team: PAD’s senior leadership team has expertise that draw on years of experience working in and studying agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, business, development economics and behavioral economics, technology, data science, and monitoring and evaluation. PADs co-founders and board members are 2019 Nobel Laureate for Economic Sciences Michael Kremer (Harvard University), Shawn Cole (Harvard Business School), Daniel Björkegren (Brown University), and Heiner Baumann (PAD). In addition to the co-founders, Amrita Ahuja was recently appointed to PAD’s board. PAD is led by Chief Executive Officer, Owen Barder, who brings to the organization more than three decades of experience as a development practitioner, scholar and advocate. 

 

Our Impact

 

A Randomized Controlled Trial has demonstrated that the alpha version of our voice-based service in India increased yields by 6-28%, with a social benefit to cost ratio of 10/1 (Cole and Fernando 2018). With initial evidence of impact, our team rolled out a service, called Krishi Tarang (KT) to 200 cotton farmers in May 2016. KT now serves 56,000 farmers in the state of Gujarat. In India as a whole PAD now provides digital agricultural extension services to hundreds of thousands of farmers in Gujarat, Odisha, Karnataka, and West Bengal. In 2020, PAD plans to reach 1 million rice farmers in Odisha and 50,000 coffee farmers in Karnataka with digital extension. PAD is also in the process of expanding its advisory service to include fisheries and livestock content. 

 

In Kenya, PAD successfully launched a large two-way SMS platform (“MoA-INFO”) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, KALRO, the County Governments, CABI, and Safaricom. Millions of Safaricom (largest telecommunication company in Kenya) customers were invited to join the platform in July 2018. To date the platform has more than 360,000 users. The platform disseminates information and advice to farmers about the Fall Armyworm, a devastating pest that originated in the Americas and arrived in Kenya in 2017. The platform also enables farmers to access information about maize farming practices and to customize the timing of the content they receive. PAD is conducting multiple experiments and A/B tests to continuously improve the platform and measure various outcomes. 

 

In Kenya and Rwanda, PAD has partnered with the One Acre Fund (OAF) to design cost efficient SMS campaigns targeting OAF and non-OAF clients on a range of topics, including promoting the use of lime to reduce soil acidity, increasing the appropriate use of chemical fertilizers to improve yields, encouraging farmers to plant trees (distributed free by OAF), and reminding farmers to repay their OAF loans on time. Multiple SMS trials are currently being discussed for implementation in 2020.

 

In Rwanda, PAD plans to conduct an SMS campaign with farmers registered on the Government’s e-subsidy platform. More than 1.2M farmers have registered on the platform and are able to purchase subsidized seeds and fertilizer from approved dealers. PAD is planning to conduct a pilot to encourage 75,000 farmers to register on the platform and adopt productivity-enhancing and subsidized inputs.

 

In Pakistan, PAD has partnered with the Government of Punjab to build a mobile agricultural extension program to support the distribution of soil health cards and provide mobile phone-based messages to explain the results of soil analysis. In 2019, PAD Pakistan reached almost 500,000 cotton farmers in Punjab with voice and SMS messages and rolled-out a mobile advisory service to wheat farmers. PAD Pakistan plans to provide customized recommendations to 1.5 million farmers in 2020.

 

In Bangladesh, PAD has partnered since 2018 with mPower, a social enterprise working to provide digital technology solutions across several development sectors including agriculture. PAD has worked with mPower to improve two of their mobile agricultural advisory services: (i) Agriculture360 that provides SMS and voice messages with agricultural recommendations to rice, chili, watermelon and brinjal farmers, and (ii) GeoPotato that provides fungicide recommendations following a weather model to potato farmers. PAD has conducted several A/B tests to identify and test various new design features to improve the impact of mPower’s services. Going forward, PAD is working on developing new partnerships to expand the reach of its work in Bangladesh.

 

In Ethiopia, PAD has partnered with the Ethiopian government to improve its digital agricultural advisory services. PAD has evaluated and supported the implementation of several system upgrades to the mobile phone-based agricultural advisory system to improve user experience, reduce attrition, and improve the system’s impact on farmer behavior. In order to disseminate agricultural knowledge and information to farmers, we have supported the government in the launch and implementation of push calls to farmers and development agents. Currently, PAD is collaborating with partners to create an open-source digital technology platform dubbed “FarmStack” that will provide comprehensive and customized agricultural advice to farmers. 

 

Summer projects 

 

PAD seeks summer interns to provide support to our country-based teams in India, Kenya, Pakistan, and Ethiopia, as well as our Global team based in Boston. The specific scope of each intern’s work will be determined based on the experience and interests of selected candidates, but will include some subset of the activities listed below. 

 

In India, the intern will support the team through a period of rapid expansion through one or more of the following activities: 

  • Use a human-centered design approach to identify the needs of farmers, and work with on-ground teams to iteratively improve content;

  • Analyze existing data collected through the PAD system related to farmer usage, engagement, and demand; design and implement A/B tests to evaluate further customization and features; support implementation of impact evaluations; 

  • Support the development of new interventions such as demand information to agro-dealers to strengthen the supply side of the market for agricultural inputs; information to farmers on the benefits of crop diversification; crop pricing information to farmers; advisory to effectively engage women in agriculture;

  • Support the expansion of PAD’s services to additional platforms including radio, mobile app, among others;

  • Explore the use of  satellite imagery and crop-cut data to predict yield measurements;

  • Explore and/or pilot revenue or partnership models to enhance financial sustainability; and/or

  • Support programmatic innovation and communications across the India team.

In Kenya and East Africa, the intern will support the team through data analysis, data scoping, and landscaping activities, including:

  • Support the team with programming and developing the Government’s MoA-INFO SMS platform (includes programming content and A/B tests);

  • Support the team with data analysis related to user engagement data from the platform and A/B tests results;

  • Support the team with survey data analysis related to users of the MoA-INFO platform;

  • Explore the use of machine learning models for personalizing and updating recommendations based on existing farmer profiles and data

  • Support the design, implementation, and data analysis of SMS trials with OAF; and/or

  • Support the design, implementation, and data analysis of any new projects PAD is conducting in Kenya, Rwanda, or Uganda.

In Pakistan, the intern will support the team through one or more of the following activities: 

  • Support the expansion of the soil health card intervention in Punjab, refine the information disseminated to make results easier to understand, and measure the impact of this information on farmer adoption of key agricultural inputs; 

  • Assist the team with implementation of a new intervention to provide financial and non-financial incentives to agricultural extension workers to improve their impact on farmer adoption of improved farming practices; 

  • Explore the development of other interventions to improve farmer wellbeing and build partnerships with other key government agencies and/or civil service organizations;

  • Work on deepening stakeholder relationships with the Government of Punjab, the Government of KPK and the Federal Government of Pakistan; and/or

  • Support research and design activities, including data cleaning, analysis and visualization. 

In Bangladesh, the intern will support the team through one of more of the following activities:

  • Facilitate the implementation of the existing projects, design and implement A/B test to identify improvements to the interventions; 

  • Assist the team in scoping and developing new engagements with other potential partners, including governments, non-profits, and private agribusinesses, and developing relationships with these partners; and/or

  • Assist the team in exploring fundraising opportunities to support expansion of PAD’s work in Bangladesh. 

In Ethiopia, the intern will support the team through one or more of the following activities: 

  • Test and implement upgrades to the mobile phone-based agricultural advisory system, to improve user experience, reduce attrition, and increase farmer uptake of modern farming practices; 

  • Support the team to incorporate new types of agricultural information and services, integrate with other mobile phone-based systems, and create linkages with other existing government agricultural extension program; 

  • Assist the team in implementing the open-source digital technology platform,  “FarmStack”, in order to provide comprehensive and customized agricultural advice to farmers; and/or

  • Assist the team in scoping new engagements with other potential government projects, such as an input voucher system that subsidizes farmer purchases of fertilizers and other inputs, a household irrigation program that encourages farmer investment in water lifting technologies, and soil mapping analysis to improve the quality and customization of recommendations to farmers. 

Additionally, our Global hub is recruiting a creative technologist intern to work with our communications and research teams on data visualization.

  • PAD’s research teams produce large quantities of data which are generally processed towards refining our interventions and increasing the magnitude of our impacts. We would like to visually process some of this information for an external audience, to complement research communications, general communications (website, blog, etc) and fundraising efforts.

  • The creative technologist should be proficient in Stata, Excel and a data visualization package like D3 and/or DataWrapper.

  • This individual must be a self-starter with an entrepreneurial streak capable of leading this workflow with guidance from the Directors of Communications and Research.

Qualifications 

 

Interested candidates will be vetted against the skill set required to perform the role they seek to fill. An example of preferred qualifications include: 

  • At least two years of field research or project management experience; 

  • Experience with/strong interest in sustainable agriculture and working with small and medium sized farmers in developing countries; 

  • Experience with consumer-facing technology platforms; 

  • Strong written and oral communication skills; 

  • Experience supervising data collection, teams of field workers, survey design and implementation, and data management; 

  • Proficiency in Stata; 

  • Experience with RCTs and/or applied statistics; 

  • Experience working in a developing country and as part of a multicultural team; 

  • Local language skills or working experience in India, Kenya, Pakistan, or Ethiopia; and

  • Ability to work with little supervision and in a flexible manner 

Logistics

 

The successful candidates will be primarily based with one of our field teams. Interns supporting our global hub will likely work from PAD’s headquarters in Boston. PAD is flexible on start and end dates, but expects a minimum two-month full-time commitment (ideally more). The successful candidates will be provided with a stipend, as well as reimbursement for round-trip airfare between the US and India, Kenya, Pakistan, Rwanda, Bangladesh, or Ethiopia.

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  • Location
    Boston, Massachusetts
  • Employment Type
    Full-Time