ISET Presentation at the UNDP Conference on Agricultural Extension
Thursday, 10 December, 2015

The UNDP conference on agricultural extension, which took place on December 7-9th, featured a 45-minutes presentation of the Social Policy Research Center (SPRC) of ISET-PI. Professor Florian Biermann, head of the center, discussed some preliminary findings of the project “Farmer Knowledge Needs in Georgia”.

The project team, consisting of Zurab Abramishvili, Florian Biermann, and Saba Devdariani, primarily aims to identify those knowledge gaps among Georgian farmers which are most relevant for productivity and profitability. This will be important information for policymakers who have to set priorities for Georgian agricultural extension efforts.

The analysis is based on a representative survey of 3000 rural households that was conducted by UNDP earlier in the year. The SPRC will produce five reports which focus on different aspects related to skills and knowledge in Georgian agriculture, like understanding who are the farmers that would benefit most from extension, who are the farmers that are likely to give up agriculture in the next years, and to what extent credit constraints impede farm growth.

One of the findings Professor Biermann presented was that reported knowledge gaps are sometimes associated with lower output per hectare and sometimes with higher output. The latter case, which seems to be puzzling, at first sight, is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect, a phenomenon frequently observed in self-assessment questionnaires. To judge one’s own knowledge correctly, certain knowledge is required, and ignorant farmers may not be aware of their own knowledge gaps. This explains why more productive (and more knowledgeable) farmers report more knowledge gaps than those ignorant farmers who are not doing well.

Another result that was presented refers to farm management skills. Here it turned out that management knowledge not only affects the output per hectare, but also the prices that can be achieved. Professor Biermann suspected that improved management skills allow for better timing of the harvests, which leads to the realization of higher prices, and improved bargaining skills of the producers. As one would expect, the selling price depends on knowledge only with goods that are sold on local markets and not exported. With staple goods like wheat, Georgian farmers are just price takers.

As Professor Biermann explained, knowledge affects the profit of farms insubstantial ways. The average wheat-producing farm would increase its profits by more than 5,000 lari if it would close the knowledge gap “soil preparation” by one step (on a scale from 1 to 5). For farmers who are not yet convinced of the usefulness of agricultural extension, this finding should come as a powerful reason to change their minds.