THE ROLE OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY (ICT) IN AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION IN WUDIL LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA OF KANO STATE
Background to the study
The application of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) across different sectors of the global economy has become a game changer in boosting work efficiency and productivity. The agriculture sector in the global economy is one of the industries experiencing tremendous ICT application in all spheres of its oper-ations. Daum (2020) observed that in recent years, ICTs had become one of the main driving tools used by farmers to manage the essential factors of production (land, labour, capital, and soil) in agriculture. ICT applications have the potential to identify and find solutions to some of the numerous problems faced in the field of agriculture, which includes prolonged droughts, pest and dis-
ease outbreaks, seasonality and spatial dispersion of farming; high transaction costs and information asymmetry (Anh et al., 2019). ICT application along the agricultural value chain (from farm to fork) could offer the opportunities for actors within the chain to obtain accurate, timely, and relevant information; which will not only contribute to profitability but also enhance food security, sus-tainable and remunerative agriculture (Purnomo & Lee, 2010). ICT also has the potential to resolve the challenges faced by govern-ments, farmers, and other land users in valuation, registration, and taxation of land. For instance, in India, the digitalization of land administrative activities saved farmers close to 1.32 million working days of man-hours and about 806 million Rupees in bribe due to the improved system, which reduced corruption levels (Daum, 2020). The application of ICT in agricultural activities across the globe is not only gaining popularity but also transform-ing the sector’s businesses.
The agriculture sector has experienced a new technological rev-olution for the past ten years. Compared to a decade earlier, this new technological revolution, has the potentials to respond to farmers’ needs accurately and swiftly. Wolfert et al. (2017) observed that technological advancement in the area of digital platforms, such as e-commerce, agro-advisory apps, big data, com-putational power, and satellite systems like remote sensing, among
others, quicken communication and information sharing among farmers in recent years. Mobile phones that have internet connec-tivity (smartphones) are the most widely used ICT devices across the globe (O’Dea, 2020). Research published by Statista (2020), showed that the number of smartphone users around the world were 3.2 billion in 2019, and forecasted that this figure could reach 3.8 billion by 2021. The research further indicated that developing countries have the highest share of smartphone users worldwide (see O’Dea, 2020). The pace at which ICT application is growing in every sector of the world has triggered the development of dif-ferent ICT applications in the agriculture sector to aid the rapid access to information by farmers, extension services, and other players within the sector.
Extension services globally involve dissemination of knowledge, agricultural information, and new technologies to farmers and rural dwellers. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), agricultural extension (also known as agricultural advisory services) plays a crucial role in promoting productivity, increasing food security, improving rural livelihoods, and promot-ing agriculture as a pro-poor economic growth engine (IFPRI, 2020). The extension services introduce new ideas and technolo-gies to rural inhabitants by using different approaches and meth-ods. The main reason for using these approaches is to help farmers understand the information presented to them by the agri-cultural extension officers; in so doing, they may adopt the new technologies to improve their livelihoods and make them resilient to challenges facing their farming activities. Davis and Franzel (2018) emphasised that, agricultural extension and advisory ser-vices can be a powerful tool to help smallholders break the cycle of low productivity, vulnerability, and poverty. The extension ser-vices stand a better position of providing farmers with knowledge and tools about modern agricultural practices, greater access to finance, and market solutions. Extension and advisory services are essential to rural and subsistence farmers who are the central pillar of agriculture and food supply chains in low-income coun-tries (Francis, 2014). The extension services use a multidisciplinary tool that combines educational methodologies, communication, and group techniques to promote new technologies, communicate information, and to share knowledge among farmers and rural dwellers (Sousa et al., 2016). The agricultural extension services whose core mandate is information dissemination among farmers is an area where ICTs can contribute significantly.
ICTs have the ability to intensifying the linkage between exten-sion, research, and farmers. ICT can be a medium through which information on new research findings can be communicated to extension workers by the research institutions for onwards com-munication to farmers. Also, farmers can use the same ICT platform to communicate feedbacks on the new technologies from their field experiences to the extension workers for a relay to the research institutions for appropriate action. Furthermore, ICT has the means of creating a platform (WhatsApp or Facebook group) that will have farmers, extension workers, and researchers on-board to share valuable information for a rapid response, which will help break the weak linkage between these three parties. Annor-Frempong et al. (2006) argued that ICTs are among the modern tools that facilitate rapid information delivery and knowl-edge sharing among farmers, extension agents, and other stake-holders such as research institutions (in Purnomo & Lee, 2010). Globally, there are several ICT programmes and applications that have been designed to enhance communication among extension workers and other parties within the agriculture value chain. In Afghanistan, an ICT application platform called ’eAfghan’ (Bell, 2013) has been created to link farmers to extension workers, research institutions, and other parties that help farmers in Afgha-nistan to share credible information. Also, Digital Green in Ethiopia has created an ICT agricultural advisory services platform known
as FarmStack that integrates farm-level data, local weather, input availability, market information, as well as linking extension sys-tem actors and information (DigitalGreen, 2019). Furthermore, the Lifelong Learning for Farmers program in Jamaica has devel-oped an SMS interactive service to offer rural farmers in Jamaica with information on good agricultural practices (K’adamawe, 2012). Lastly, a phone based farmers club called iShamba has been developed in Kenya. The new technology has a call centre, where agricultural extension experts and researchers offer technical assistance to subscribers through SMS or voice call, on issues related to good agricultural practices, weather, inputs, and market information (Tsan et al., 2019). The link between extension and ICTs is becoming progressively widespread as many countries have tested it and gained success. This linkage and success could expand in the future, depending on the knowledge and technical efficiency of the extension officers.
Agricultural extension officers in many developing countries like Nigeria are the principal technical officers assisting farmers with information on new technologies in their field of production. Agricultural extension officers in Nigeria live among farmers in rural communities, and they are mandated by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture (MOFA) to disseminate proven and accepted agrar-ian innovation and technology adoption to farmers in a participa-tory manner (MOFA, 2016). Therefore, the agricultural extension officers are the first point of contact on matters of agriculture amongst rural communities in Nigeria . They empower farmers with the requisite knowledge, attitude, and practices for enhancing pro-ductivity and welfare (Azumah et al., 2018). Their knowledge and competencies on subject matters are paramount to ensuring good agricultural practices among farmers. Inaccurate information or inappropriate procedures in the use of a particular technology given by agricultural extension officers to their clients will affect not only the farmers’ output but also the agricultural extension officers’ reputation and the confidence farmers may have in them. Agricultural extension officers therefore serve as the main link between farmers and other players within the agriculture sector. They are well-positioned to have good knowledge of ICTs, and use that acquired knowledge and expertise to disseminate and help farmers improve upon their productivity (Purnomo & Lee, 2010). A good ICT extension delivery programme might help to reach many farmers simultaneously and also overcome the geo-graphical challenges of extension delivery in Nigeria .
Currently, there are staffing challenges in the extension services in Nigeria , the extension officer to farmer ratio is very low at 1:1500 (McNamara et al., 2014, in Azumah et al., 2018), compared to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s recommended number 1:400 (Manfre and Nordehn, 2013). Also, farming communities are geo-graphically located far apart in difficult-to-reach zones, ranging from 15 to about 60 square kilometres and this has to be covered by one agricultural extension officer. Moreover, extension officers lack the needed resources to commute to remote areas to offer ser-vices to farmers. Additionally, there are high levels of illiteracy among farmers, which limits their use of ICT and information access (Agula et al., 2018). To overcome these challenges and more, MOFA has introduced the E-agriculture programme, which has E-Farm Information and E-Field Extension components. The exten-sion officers are expected to use an ICT tool to collect field data from different farms and also report any emerging challenge on farmers’ fields for prompt action. As this technology is new and requires some level of ICT knowledge to operate competently, it is, therefore, necessary to assess the knowledge and levels of ICT usage among the extension officers who are the frontline operators of this ICT application. Although there is increasing research on ICTs application in the agricultural sector, however, past studies focused more on farmers’ technology adoption levels and factors that influence their adoption. For instance, research by Bekoe and
Asiedu-Darko (2014) on ‘‘ICTs as Enabler in the Dissemination of Agricultural Technologies in Nigeria ” found out that farmers’ access to information through ICT was deficient as compared to getting information from their peer farmers.
STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
The agricultural sector plays a vital role in global food security and rural development. Effective dissemination of agricultural knowledge, information, and best practices is crucial to improving productivity, enhancing sustainability, and empowering farmers. Information and communication technology (ICT) has the potential to revolutionize agricultural extension services by facilitating the efficient exchange of information, bridging knowledge gaps, and connecting farmers to valuable resources. However, several challenges and limitations exist in harnessing the full potential of ICT in agricultural extension. Understanding and addressing these issues are essential for maximizing the impact of ICT in improving agricultural practices and rural livelihoods.
The limited access to IT in agricultural service reduces the information access to extension program service for farm people and it affects the countries agricultural develop ment. In Nigeria, even if progress is being made in using ICT to provide a wide range of knowledge and informat ion, it is comparatively low from other sub-Saharan countries (UNDP, 2012). Most rural areas in the countries lack internet access because of bad road network, poor enabling environment, interconnectivity and high costs of equipment‟s of ICTs with insufficient/ inadequate knowledge of ICTs (user friendliness of the technologies) is also the problem which makes the extension service become inefficient. Also, information delivery is not integrated with target beneficiary to address the numerous related problems that face smallholder in production systems. Despite the agricultural technologies that have been generated through in Nigeria is yet to be felt in inefficiency in communicating and sharing agricultural information and knowledge among smallholder farmers. Based on the above problems, the researcher intended to investigate the role of ICT on agricultural extension in Wuli local government area
Objectives of the study
The major Objectives of this study is to investigate the role of information and communication technology (ICT) in agricultural extension in Wudil
the specific objective is to;
- investigate the role of ICT for agricultural extension service in Wudil local government
- Investigating how ICT tools and platforms can improve farmers’ access to relevant and timely agricultural information.
- Examining the socioeconomic implications of ICT adoption in agricultural extension
- Investigating the use of ICT tools for monitoring and evaluating the impact of agricultural extension services
The following research questions were generated to guide the study
- What are the role of ICT for agricultural extension service in Wudil local government?
- How does ICT tools and platforms help to improve farmers’ access to relevant and timely agricultural information?
- What are the socioeconomic implications of ICT adoption in agricultural extension?
- What are the use of ICT tools for monitoring and evaluating the impact of agricultural extension services?
Significant of the Study
The study on the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in agricultural extension holds several significant implications:
- Improved Access to Agricultural Information: The study can shed light on how ICT tools can enhance farmers’ access to relevant and timely agricultural information. By providing farmers with access to up-to-date knowledge, best practices, and market information, ICT can empower them to make informed decisions and improve their farming practices.
- Enhanced Communication and Interaction: Understanding the role of ICT in facilitating effective communication and interaction between farmers, extension workers, researchers, and policymakers can lead to improved collaboration and knowledge-sharing. This can help address challenges, disseminate research findings, and promote innovation in the agricultural sector.
- Increased Agricultural Productivity and Efficiency: By leveraging ICT tools and platforms, farmers can gain access to real-time information on weather patterns, pest outbreaks, crop management techniques, and market prices. This knowledge can contribute to increased agricultural productivity, optimized resource utilization, and reduced production risks.
- Empowerment of Smallholder Farmers: ICT-based agricultural extension services can particularly benefit smallholder farmers who often face limited access to information and resources. By providing them with valuable insights, ICT can empower smallholder farmers to adopt modern farming techniques, improve their yields, and potentially lift themselves out of poverty.
- Policy and Investment Guidance: Findings from the study can inform policymakers, agricultural organizations, and investors about the potential impact and benefits of ICT in agricultural extension. This knowledge can guide the development of policies, strategies, and investments to support the integration of ICT tools and services into agricultural extension programs.
SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The scope of the study on the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in agricultural extension in Wudil Local Government The study would focus specifically on the agricultural sector within the five selected villages in Wudil Local Government
DEFINTION OF TERMS
To ensure clarity and understanding within the study on the role of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in agricultural extension, it is essential to define key terms used in the research. Here are definitions for some relevant terms:
Information and Communication Technology (ICT): Refers to the broad range of technologies and tools that enable the collection, storage, processing, and exchange of information through electronic means. This includes hardware (computers, mobile devices), software applications, telecommunications networks, internet services, and digital platforms.
Agricultural Extension: The practice of providing agricultural knowledge, information, and advisory services to farmers and rural communities. Agricultural extension aims to enhance agricultural productivity, improve farming practices, disseminate research findings, facilitate technology transfer, and promote sustainable agricultural development.
Digital Technologies: Refers to technologies that rely on digital information and processes. This includes digital platforms, software applications, internet connectivity, mobile devices, and other technologies that enable the digitization, storage, and dissemination of data and information.
Decision Support Systems: Computer-based tools and software applications that assist farmers and agricultural stakeholders in making informed decisions. Decision support systems utilize data, algorithms, and models to analyze complex information and provide recommendations for specific agricultural activities, such as crop selection, pest management, irrigation scheduling, and resource allocation.
Agricultural Knowledge: Refers to information, expertise, and understanding related to various aspects of agriculture, including crop production, livestock management, soil health, pest control, farm management, and agricultural economics. Agricultural knowledge encompasses both traditional wisdom and scientific knowledge generated through research and experimentation.
Mobile Applications: Software applications designed for use on mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets. Mobile applications in the context of agricultural extension may include farming-related tools, weather apps, market price trackers, pest identification guides, and interactive learning resources.
E-learning: The use of electronic technologies and digital platforms to deliver educational and training materials. In the context of agricultural extension, e-learning may involve online courses, webinars, multimedia resources, and interactive modules designed to provide farmers with access to agricultural knowledge and skills development opportunities.
Socioeconomic Implications: Refers to the social and economic consequences or impacts resulting from the adoption and utilization of ICT in agricultural extension. Socioeconomic implications may include changes in farmers’ incomes, livelihoods, productivity levels, access to markets, rural development, and the overall well-being of farming communities
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