ICT supported Extension Services in Conservation Agriculture Information Access for Small Holder Farmers in Laikipia County, Kenya

This paper examines how Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are used in the Conservation Agriculture (CA) knowledge pathways. It discusses the parallel knowledge pathways smallholder farmers’ use to access conservation agriculture information. The objective of this study is to develop an effective dissemination model that exploits the use of ICTs in existing pathways in order to improve Conservation Agriculture knowledge flows. Design, Methodology and Approach: A total of one hundred and twenty-five respondents were interviewed, with a purposively selected sample of 110 CA farmers interviewed using semi- structured questionnaires. Using the snowball method, 15 key informant interviews were conducted with Policy makers and ICT service providers. 69% of the respondents were female and 51% male. The focus of the study was on the different ICTs used in the CA knowledge pathways, the dissemination pathways, institutional and socio- economic factors. Data was analyzed manually and using SSPS ver. 21. Preliminary findings indicate that a variety of knowledge pathways exist through which farmers can access CA knowledge. Four different kinds of ICT led models were identified, Government ICT led models, Government-NGO led models, Government-NGO-Private Sector ICT led model and NGO ICT led models. However the study notes a lack of harmonization and weak linkages between institutions in the utilization of the existing ICT models, utilization of the ICTs access and ownership at the household level and harmonization of the CA messages. Furthermore, even though there was 100% mobile phones ownership, 94% radio, 64% television, 10% Laptop and 9% Computer (desktop) access and ownership among the respondents, farmers and a large number of the extension staff lacked the skills to fully exploit the use of these tools to access CA knowledge. Implication: New emerging and existing communication technologies have a very high potential to improve agricultural knowledge flows if taken advantage of by the “change agents” in the diffusion process of new innovations. New online technologies known as Web 2.0 and ‘social media’ are slowly emerging as platforms for collaboration, sharing of product and market information. Open chain models of village information centres also provide numerous economic opportunities, and do also network communities while providing public/private services. The opportunity of using real time communication tools has been greatly embraced especially by the youthful farmers and the advantage of these new emerging tools is their unique attributes, similar to the traditional oral cultures of communication seen in the African social systems where one can see, hold a discussion, get immediate feedback and use the written media to convey messages. The high percentage of ownership and accessibility of ICTs among the survey population also offers the potential to fully exploit ICTs in the improvement of the CA knowledge pathways and agricultural information provision.
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East Africa
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