Identifying solutions for Women smallholder farmers to increase uptake and usage of advisory and insurance services: A case study of Uttar Pradesh

Dec 2023

While agriculture is a dominant sector in India’s economy, small and marginal farmers operate more than 80% of the farm holdings. Nearly 57% of the agricultural labour and 28% ofcultivators are women. Male outmigration to cities has increased women’s responsibilities and decision-making power in the agricultural value chain. Previous studies have shown that female farmers used the same resources as men on their farmland and would achieve the same yield levels since the yield gaps between men and women average 20-30 per cent. Deliberate efforts to empower women in agriculture would increase productivity, income and resilience. Despite women’s significant role in the agricultural sector in India, their access to finance and advisory services is limited. Farmers face barriers to accessing low-cost and timely credit and market linkages.



Additionally, women need help understanding and accessing insurance offerings because of a complex concept and claims process. Furthermore, women own less land (13%) than men (87%). This impedes their ability to source credit and collateral-based services. There are fewer agri-literate services for women, and most initiatives target men. This led to limited say for women in decision-making.

In pursuit of an evidence-based solution, A4W commissioned a study to understand the go-to-market strategy for advisory and insurance products for women farmers. Using scientific participatory methodologies, the activity delivered a comprehensive go-to-market approach and learning output.

The study sought to answer three research questions;

  1. Who are the customers?
  2. What products and services do they need?
  3. How can they be reached?

Highlights of the Key Findings

Uttar Pradesh has three types of WSHF profiles: early adopters aged 25-30, followers aged 30-40, and laggards aged 45 and up. Early adopters have greater autonomy and seek profitable farming services, while followers are willing to explore new services with support. For early adopters and followers, the focus should be on advisory and insurance services, with early adopters serving as role models. Followers should start with advisory awareness and gradually introduce free insurance, using community use cases to build trust.

While the use of external farm advisory services was low at 29% among WSHFs, Low awareness of external advisory sources, reliance on husbands for advice and final say, lack of enabling environment and misconceptions on insurance, including fear of fraud, had led to low uptake of Digi-farm services by women farmers. Despite WSHF expressing strong interest in exploring farming advisory services, immediate practical advice and the importance of involving their husbands in the initial awareness creation efforts to build trust and approval of involvement came out as important content and values for the women.

Similarly, WSHF wanted insurance but needed to know who to trust. Organizations could use the free insurance option to increase access and concentrate on a smooth onboarding process. Bundling insurance with advisory services would ensure regular contracts and trust building, as WSHFs use these channels during claims. Similarly, focusing on the benefits of insurance about WSHF aspirations and family goals such as protecting children’s education, development needs, emergency health costs, and family savings is something WSHFs would want.

The messaging of the insurance focuses on the benefits, including benefits to children’s needs and development, illustrating family but not just women, the use of fear-based messaging elevating protection and income losses, simplicity of the language of the content, bundle advisory, importance of insurance and customer support is pivotal. Similarly, the distribution channels of these messages through posters placed in strategic places and positions frequented by WSHF and through extension meetings are vital to enhancing dissemination and uptake. Further digital versions could be circulated via WhatsApp. Women preferred more holistic information on family-centric topics, household management, and good farming practices advice. Hands-on/practical content, personalized content to their needs with additional educational and informed issues such as healthcare, childcare, goal-based saving, and digital and financial

While IVRS and personalized phone calls with a female executive are preferred, Face-to-face meetings before any follow-up advisory call build trust. WhatsApp as a digital channel is preferred by women with basic digital literacy. Women Champions: Young, educated women from the community can conduct frequent and rhythmic in-person group meetings focusing on advisory, knowledge sharing, digital literacy, financial literacy and the importance of acquiring insurance with a focus on family.

Gender-inclusive graphic posters: while marketing collaterals such as text-heavy posters might be difficult for some to read unassisted, WSHFs feel that putting them up in common locations frequented by women will help build legitimacy around planned physical meetings. Women generally favour pictorial and heavy-illustrative posters, especially with images of women.

The learning output from this activity outlines a clear go-to-market strategy for advisory and insurance services for WSHF in Uttar Pradesh. To learn more, please access the report here.