ASSESSMENT OF UTILIZATION OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICES AMONG FARMERS IN UNGOGO LGA, KANO STATE
CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION
- Background of the Study
The world of today is widely acclaimed to be information-driven. In the last one decade, the need to make information and communication channels reachable and available to most, if not all the people of the world, has been a felt concern of development minded people. Consequently, the need for research and development in this context has been widened and intensified among the social scientists.
Nigeria, from all indications, a country in the comity of nations of the world, is also desirous of development. Her over 50 years of independence has been a challenge. Various development plans and programmes have not produced the expected dramatic, positive and progressive change (Idachaba, 2007).
An examination of statistics on the human development status of Nigeria, compared with some other advanced countries, is very imperative. Nigeria, apart from being ranked the 159th position on the Human Development Index (HDI) revealed the positions of countries (Human Development Report, 2006), the country also falls among the Low Human Development categories. Indeed, statistics on other issues like human poverty level, income, sustainable access to water, adult literacy rate, nutritional status, sanitation, infant mortality rate, life expectancy at birth, and maternal mortality ratio, all paint a grim picture of Nigeria compared with other developed countries. Hence, the
challenge before the world and indeed Nigeria, is to alleviate the suffering of the people under poverty in order to emerge from their predicaments.
The apparent and prevalent scourge of poverty, diseases, illiteracy and underdevelopment of many regions and countries of the world has amplified the need to use the mechanism of information and communication as a veritable tool for development. There has been apparent need for growth and development, and the appropriate use and adoption of relevant technologies, including communication mechanisms, has a great role to play in bringing this to realization, especially in the field of agriculture.
There is a drive generally for development worldwide, and in particular, attention is now being focused on the rural areas. All regions, countries, communities, societies and people are yearning for development in all areas of human endeavours namely: housing, transportation, communication, agricultural production, commerce, banking, business and so forth. Hence, the mobilization for development of all peoples is gaining more focus and the trend toward globalization is fast becoming a vogue. The rural areas are not exempted from this aspiration. Indeed, the rural settings are getting more attention. The target of the various Governments of the world, in 2000, when the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of the United Nations (UN) were initiated, was to realize reduction by half of the 1990 poverty rate before 2015. The MDGs were mainly set to address eight perceived pressing areas of human endeavours, namely:(i) eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; (ii) achieve Universal Primary Education; (iii) promote
gender equality and empower women; (iv) reduce child mortality; (v) improve maternal health; (vi) combat HIV and AIDS, malaria and other diseases; (vii) ensure environmental sustainability; and (viii) develop a global partnership for development (UNDP, 2006). Specific to the second objective indicated, which focuses on achieving improvement in education, the appropriate usage and application of ICT could impact positively by enhancing the performance of the extension agents.
In the Training and Visit (T & V) approach, introduced by the World Bank is used, for example, the case in Nigeria, the problems and prospects of information delivery, especially on technologies and farm practices, are a cause for concern. A number of problems beset development of agricultural extension service in developing countries. Some of the major notable problems identified by Agbamu (2005) are: inadequacy and instability of funding, poor logistic support for field staff, use of poorly trained personnel, ineffective agricultural Research-Extension Linkages and inefficient/inappropriate agro-technologies for farmers. Others include: disproportionate extension agent to farm family ratio, dilution of extension agents’ specific responsibility, lack of clientele participation in programme development, failure of input suppliers to ensure effective and timely distribution to farmers, irregular evaluation of extension programmes and policy, institutional and programme instability of National Agricultural Extension Systems.
It is imperative to stress that the farmers who are largely illiterate need some basic education and exposure in terms of training and extension education. These are usually
obtainable from the extension agents in order to boost their performance and improve their productivity. In the light of this, extension agents, in turn could improve on their communication methods and education through the use of ICT, so that they can become more effective in information delivery to the farmers.
The agricultural sector of Nigeria is a strong springboard for development if it is given adequate attention. In the context of information dissemination and education, skills acquisition of the extension agents and farmers, ICT could be a veritable channel through which development of agriculture in Nigeria could be realized.
Agricultural production of Nigeria has been largely dependent on the combined efforts of the farmers, most (70%) of whom are resident in rural areas. Ogungbile and Olukosi (1991) outlined the characteristics of resource-poor farmers which are still prevalent today. For example, they are beset with stark poverty, illiteracy, malnourishment, financial inadequacies and low rate of returns on investment. They lack financial resources to practise or engage effectively in agriculture and inflationary tendencies that cripple the output of those who even dare the consequences.
The rural farmers who should be given adequate attention and support in terms of input supply (e.g. fertilizers, seeds, chemicals etc), and indeed information on relevant agricultural technologies are not adequately assisted and informed and could not adopt the up-to-date technologies. Even when informed, they are beset with confusing and late information (Arokoyo, 2003; Arokoyo, 2005 and Adekoya, 2006). Hence, the expected
performance level of the rural farmers has not been realized making the nation’s desire to achieve agricultural transformation a mirage. Consequently, the nation’s goal in providing food security and self-sufficiency has not been attained.
The extension delivery system generally is faced with myriads of problems. The T&V System of extension, has its limitations, inhibiting factors including; financial constraints, mismanagement of funds, political instability, inconsistency in policy, diversity of structures and organizational set up, multi-facet institutions, deficiency in input supply and manpower shortage. Others include illiteracy of farmers, lack of mobility and training for extension agents (EAs), complex packaging of extension messages, lack of commitment by authorities and lack of continuity in programmes (Ajayi, 1989; Siyanbola and Alao, 1995; and Adegbehin et al., 2001).
The World Bank-assisted Agricultural Development Projects (ADPs) were introduced into Nigeria in 1975. By 1985, the system was widely adopted in many states (Idachaba, 2007). It provided a close interaction between the extension agents and farmers. Technologies generated from research are passed from researchers to extension agents for onward transmission to the farmers (the end-users), in that order. Traditionally, however, this method of transmitting the messages (by extension agents to farmers) is usually through person-to-person communication. The method has some associated limitations such as late delivery of information, lack of transportation, inaccessibility, inadequacy of information and mis-representation of the messages.
Thus, the quality and effectiveness of the extension messages by VEAs to the farmers need improvement (Atala, 2008).
The attendant inefficiency associated with the conventional person-to-person information flow mechanism, particularly in extension message delivery, has brought to fore the possibility of application of ICT as a complimentary tool. Arokoyo (2003) observed that, so far, the radio and TV have been the main ICT tools used in agricultural extension delivery in Nigeria.
Indeed, both formal and informal channels of communication (e.g. the print and electronic media, libraries, information centres, and interpersonal communications, etc) are means through which agricultural information are generally sourced and provided (Kiplang’at, 2003). These channels of communication are not fully utilized by the stakeholders in agricultural extension delivery. Therefore, the challenge before the extension message delivery method by Village Extension Agents (VEAs) is to make appropriate use of the available ICT components within the existing ADPs’ operations.
This study therefore was tried to delve into investigating factors influencing the usage of ICTs.
Therefore, the pertinent research questions this study addressed were the following;
- What are the socio-economic characteristics and perceptions of VEAs on ICT?
- What are the levels of awareness and accessibility on ICT by VEAs?
- What is the usage level of ICT by VEAs?
- Are there relationships between the characteristics of VEAs and their influence on usage of ICT ?
- What are the effects of ICT usage to VEAs?
- What are the problems encountered by VEAs in using ICT?
The general objective of the study focuses on the usage of ICT by VEAs.
Specific objectives of this study are to:
- describe the socio-economic characteristics and perceptions of VEAs;
- determine the level of awareness of and the accessibility of ICTs by VEAs;
- examine the extent of usage of ICTs by VEAs for their work;
- determine the relationships between VEAs’ characteristics and their influence on usage of ICTs
- determine the effects of VEAs’ usage of ICTs on their work; and
- identify problems encountered by VEAs in using
The null hypothesis set for this study is stated as follows:
H0: There is no significant influence of the VEAs’ characteristics on ICT usage.
This study has found its justification on a number of reasons. These are outlined as follows:
- Information generated from the study would be of immense value to policy planners in the area of planning. It is essentially fundamental that policy issues related to the use and application of ICT will be made available to the people for public
- Various stakeholders in agricultural extension would derive benefits from the findings of this study. For example, the extension agents would know their status on ICT usage, the farmers would be able identify the ICTs they can use for their benefits, the researchers and research institutes would be able to identify research areas to explore, the educational systems would set targets for training and curriculum design, ICT providers would know their ICT users and areas for marketing potentials, and finally, donor agencies (e.g. Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs), Community Based Organizations (CBOs), would be able to get those areas where they could make intervention in terms of ICT
- The need for a study to be premised on the theory of Social Change with particular reference to ICT as a basis for development is illustrated through this study. Consequently, this study derived its model based on the well- proved theory of social change. The study developed a model that shows relationship between ICT usage and those factors responsible for
- There is the general notion that Village Extension Agents (VEAs) are rural workers by virtue of their location, working places and
Generally, they are regarded as people not conversant to issues connected with high technology like the ICT devices. Therefore, the study attempted to unveil the status of VEAs with particular respect to ICT usage in the rural enclaves of agricultural setting.
- Even though a lot of information on ICT is available in the literature, and internet, there is still glaring lack of access to them. The data generated through this study would be given analysis using various statistics tools like descriptive and regression and correlation. In this connection, findings of this study would provide base line reference point for future
ASSESSMENT OF UTILIZATION OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY IN AGRICULTURAL EXTENSION SERVICES AMONG FARMERS IN UNGOGO LGA, KANO STATE