Access to information and farmer's market choice: The case of potato in highland Bolivia
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Potato incomes are critical determinants of Andean farmers' household well-being. Efforts to improve incomes of producers should recognize the role of access to market information. In highland Bolivia, market information has entered the digital age. Cell phones are ubiquitous, and networks lubricated by cellular technologies are affecting traditional means of gathering information. Andean markets are characterized by the heavy involvement of women. Lower information costs could change market choices and roles of men and women. This study explores the effects of information access on market choice near Cochabamba. It diagnoses the roles of men and women and investigates decision-making and changes in it. The research confirms the importance of gender and cell phones to market access. Market decisions are made jointly by men and women, but women take a leading role in marketing. Women dominate marketing by negotiating favorable prices with buyers who are also women. Marketing networks have not changed substantially since the introduction of new information technologies. While cellular technology has broadened access to information and quickened its flow, it has not fundamentally changed network structures. The study provides recommendations about improving competitiveness of small-scale potato producers: (1) increasing access to information by expanding the information content of existing networks; (2) expanding cell phones access; (3) consideration of the important roles intermediaries play; and (4) more technical support for market and information access.
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