Case Study: Understanding Maize Farming in Tanzania

The International Food Policy Research Institute used mobile surveys to reach maize farmers


Increased usage of new technologies is playing a key role in agriculture development and improving food security in developing countries. For example, in mainland Tanzania, more than 70% of households reported growing maize. Access to and adoption of new technologies, such as hybrid seed varieties and/or improved open pollinated varieties (OPV), is an important factor in helping these smallholder farmers increase and scale their production.

The International Food Policy Research Institute, a leading member of the CGIAR consortium, conducts research to better understand how smallholder farmers adapt new technologies to reduce rural poverty and increase food security. For this project, IFPRI focuses on better understanding maize farmers in Tanzania: how much land do they cultivate, what types of maize seeds are they using, how much are they paying for the seeds, and how are they utilizing hybrid seed varieties and/or OPVs. IFPRI has in the past conducted traditional household surveys but was looking for a more efficient, cost-effective way to reach a large number of smallholder maize farmers from a diverse set of geographic locations.


IFPRI turned to GeoPoll to collect fast, accurate data through a SMS-based mobile survey in Tanzania, reaching 1,000 smallholder maize farmers. Utilizing a database of more than nine million mobile subscribers in Tanzania, GeoPoll was able to use geo-referenced location information to reach respondents from 21 different regions over the course of four days in September 2014. This research is helping IFPRI develop strategies to determine the demand of new seed varieties, help make them available in the market, and determine the best ways to help farmers adapt to hybrid farming. IFPRI also conducted a cross-comparison and analysis of the data with that gathered during face-to-face household surveys.


The overall survey results demonstrated that there is room for scaling and growth in the amount of hybrid and OPV seeds currently being used. The survey questions asked about smallholder farmer’s methods for acquiring maize seeds, amount of maize seed used in the most recent cropping season, amount of money smallholders spent on regular and hybrid seeds, and adoption of new seed technologies such as hybrid maize seeds and OPVs.