Agriculture is the most assured engine of development and a reliable key to industrialisation” (Ajibola, 2007). It is the basis of development, especially in Africa and other developing countries. Increased in agricultural production is the best way of assessing that development. However, adoption of agricultural technologies is the tool of measuring the levels of achievement and production potentials. Thus, reliable means of improving the living conditions of the farmers. Priorities are therefore attached to the ways of exposing the farmers to current agricultural practices (Mando, 2002).
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High population increase and excessive competition on limited agricultural and related technologies, mandated various stakeholders to devise the ways of utilising agricultural resources effectively. The appropriate means of achieving that and increase productivity are through involving farmers to various decision making processes, and make them realise the ways of manipulating and combining various techniques that involved both scientific and indigenous knowledge. The use of desirable information technology that enhance horizontal and vertical exchange of ideas among farmers and other related components becomes instrumental towards increased agricultural production and improve the living conditions of the rural people.
(Michiels, 2001) have defined ICT ”as a range of electronic technologies which when converged in new configurations are flexible, adaptable, enabling and capable of transforming organisations and redefining social relations”. In related development, (Greenidge, 2003) defined ICT ”as those technologies that can be used to interlink information technology devices, such as personal computers with communication technologies, such as telephones and their communications ”.
The definitions above, stresses on the need for integrating modern communication technologies with conventional ones, aimed at devising more diversified means of exchanging and sharing of ideas among individuals. However, failed to consider the printed materials, group meetings and workshops, and question and answer service as ICT’s that are used frequently, conveniently filled the gaps of impersonal communication and enhances the feedback mechanisms.
According to Joseph Schumpter, innovation is simply the doing of new things or the doing of things that are already being done in a new way. A definition that is more appropriate ”is the application of technological, institutional and human resources and discoveries to productive processes, resulting in new practices, products, markets, institutions and organisation that are improved and efficiency enhancing.” (Nigel, 2006).The two generic sources of innovation in agriculture are informal system of experimentation and selection, and formal systems of research and development. These two systems are connected to national and international sector organisations. The bottom line is how to consider the two (2) approaches to innovations, i.e. central and multiple source models. The central source model emphasise on the theoretical and rhetoric concepts of formal agricultural research and extension institutions, where major technical, institutional and social innovations evolved from the systematic work of international research centres. While the multiple sources of innovation model embrace natural and farmer selections, and considered agricultural research and diffusion processes within various political, economical, institutional and historical context through which technological changes occur. Thus, innovations evolved from various sources of farmers, international centres, extension staff, national research system and non-governmental organisations (Biggs, ).
Information and communication technology is an example of private sector innovation of high priority. Agricultural extension/education considered ICT issues as the most important topics for quite a long time. (Poole, 2000) examined the conventional ICT’s like radio and television as the most important means of establishing a strong link between the farmers and their respective market demands, which are their major area of interest. And the information gap among the farmers and other beneficiaries are bridged up through providing additional sources by the modern ICT’s like satellite, computer, internet service providers and telephone systems. Both ICT’s are used for addressing developmental issues and reducing poverty, and are adopted by target audience.
Agricultural knowledge sharing created by information flow helps in developing different agricultural sectors. However, there is a significant difference in sharing of information between rural areas and agricultural knowledge centres. Accessibility of information by the targeted audiences are the responsibilities of some stakeholders and intermediary organisations(Stienen, 2007). In earlier and closely related observations by (Kenny, 2000)the accessibility of ICT’s by rural people assist in devising a multi-dimensional approaches to technological uptake, poverty eradication and other related developmental issues. While (Skuse, 2001)argued that the use of ICT in addressing such issues, especially poverty eradication, depends to a greater extent on the desirable information content and infrastructural facilities. It is important to appreciate the earlier perceptions of (Chambers, 1997), that, individuals use of information and the reasons for using that information supercedes the information context. He further emphasised that, in rural areas, priorities are attached to policy and decision makers than the end users. Rural areas are therefore deprived by appropriate information, which is important for initiating developmental activities. There is the need to bridge the gap in knowledge and solve some problems through information acquisition.
In considering the roles of ICT’s in adoption of innovation, it is absolutely necessary to examine the differences in the needs of the rural and urban people, and the benefits derived. ICT uses could be more inclined to rural areas, mainly because of the contributions they provide towards agricultural developments. The roles therefore, provided by ICT in rural areas towards improving their livelihoods are unparallel to other areas.
The roles of ICT in adoption of innovation in Nigeria is related to provision of agricultural support services, improving market efficiency and weather forecast, through the use of internet and Global Service Mobile (GSM) phones, which improve farmers production potentials successfully, and reduces social isolation(Pickernell, 2004). Modern ICT’s like internet, computer and mobile phones that improves rural banking systems and accessibility to credit facilities were encouraged and approved in Nigeria by the World Summit Information Society (WSIS), 2003 – 2005 as tools for developing rural communities (Stienen et al., 2007).
The applications of ICT in Nigeria are considered vital for revolutionary role in diversification of scientific and indigenous technology. ICT abridged the gap created by geographical and cultural barriers, which are detrimental to agricultural production. Thus, information are shared effectively in post harvest technology, databases, market prices and other related information for immediate and future use, which is achieved by internet, email and world wide web to facilitate communication (Obayelu, 2010).
The roles of ICT in adoption of innovation are suppose to first be considered from the integrated point of view, before addressing the roles of individual ICT’s. This is particularly important due to the differences in the socio-economic status of the rural people, and the need for encouraging the participatory action community approach, which is user-driven in nature. It is important however, to appreciate the uses of combination of conventional and modern ICT’s in adoption processes. To this effect, therefore, the benefits derived from the Telecentres in Nigeria and other developing countries towards exposing the rural people to more diversified ICT’s need to be discussed.
Kiplang’ at 2001, defined Telecentre ”as community-based centre that accommodate ICT’s, including fax, telephone, computer based system with internet connection and photocopying. A few telecentres provide additional services such as postal facilities, selling of telephone cards, newspaper and refreshment”. The main objectives of establishing telecentres in the rural areas is to eradicate poverty and capacity building among the rural people.
Telecentres are used for sharing knowledge among the rural people. It expose the farmers to various agricultural technologies and makes them to adopt the most desirable innovation. Telecentres are widely used in Africa and other developing countries. According to Synman, 2002, South Africa established fifty-six (56) telecentres in the year, 2002 out of the projected one hundred (100) through Universal Service Agency. The average visiting clients were 140 per day, and the clients are from different areas of community-based services, like agricultural extension workers, farmers, teachers and students and health workers.
Telecentres are widespread in Uganda, Senegal and Kenya, owned by Governmental and Non-governmental organisations. While some are managed by agricultural research institute, like Ugunja Communication Research Centres in Kenya (Oguya, 2001).
Oke-Ogun community development network (OCDN), located in Oyo-State -Nigeria and Fantsuan Foundation ICT in North-Central are two telecentres established in the years, 2003 and 2000 respectively, by the people of those communities, provided only four (40) computers to Ago-Are town, mainly used for training rural people, without telephone services. With the intervention of Pam Mclean from the United Kingdom, internet service provider was installed through internet connection in 2004. Information about agricultural innovations becomes readily available to the farmers in the area. Pam Mclean and Carole utilised the centres, with extensive web site on solar cooking information, which is rich information source, and introduced solar cooking video project which was widely adopted in the area. Participatory action research approach was the research method used. The technology is particularly relevant in minimising deforestation and other environmental problems caused by mining, and excessive farming activities on forested lands in Nigeria (Carole, 2005).
As earlier emphasised, agricultural information in Nigeria and other developing countries are targeted to rural areas where the farmers lives, so that, their social and economic conditions are favourably improved. To achieve this, Emerald Publishing Group of the United Kingdom established a broad band service knowledge centre in Nigeria in Ihala village of Anambra State, which had a projected population of 20,000 people. The project took up in 2007 mainly for exchange of agricultural ideas among the farmers, aided by volunteer students. Computers with internet services and customised website were installed and monitored. Social interactions, mutual exchange of ideas and information retrieval were enhanced in the village. The project was successful, with up to 61% of the participants utilising the knowledge centre website for socialisation and discussions with farmers. Participatory community approach was effectively used(Ha, 2008).
The serious problem facing all the telecentres in Nigeria is poor electricity supply and lack of stability in internet services. This problem is particularly not only in the rural areas, but in the urban counterparts. The unreliable internet connection reduces the efficiency of such telecentres, especially when users are eagerly anticipating urgent response to the ways of combating a disease/pest infestation and immediate call for directions of use for newly introduced package.
Farmers in Nigeria have different backgrounds, speak various languages. Standardised ICT usage cannot be applicable to all of them. The variation in the language of communication, coupled with low understanding of English, inhibits effective utilisation of ICT’s. It is therefore, recommended that, software translators should be developed for proper ICT use.
Linkages of such centre with universities and research institutions are not highly intensified. Only one of the available telecentre in Nigeria (OCDN) is linked through ICT with International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the university of Ibadan for certain project implementations.
Combining socialisation and research activities in the same spot, makes the people to inclined more to social related activities than research.
Radio is still the frequently used ICT’s for adoption of innovation in Nigeria. This can be attributed to its availability than any other conventional or modern ICT’s. Various adoption of innovation were successful in Nigeria through the use of radio. Combination of radio, posters, video and global system mobile (GSM) were used, with core extension programs for extending Purdue Improved Cowpea Storage (PICS) technology in Nigeria and other West African countries. The project realised that, accessibility of the rural people in Nigeria to television was very low, mainly due to inadequate supply of electricity. Radio messages were used during various events of sensitisation, demonstration, follow-up and open the bag. There was a great difference in the adoption rates between villages with and without PICS radio messages. Thus, radio messages had significantly influenced the adoption of PICS sacks in Kano and other Northern states of Nigeria (Moussa, 2009). Posters were also distributed to various stakeholders that are involved in the adoption of PICS technology, which revealed the various stages that can be used for optimal utilisation of PICS technology . A video sketch on the use of the technology in the languages that are easily comprehended by rural people in Nigeria, Niger and Burkina Faso (Hausa and French ) were transferred to the GSM phones through Bluetooth to augment the demonstrations performed in various villages. The use of GSM phones was due to the realisation of the project of the expanded use of those phones in rural areas of Nigeria and other African countries (Moussa, 2009). Integrated ICT’s (Radio, posters, video and mobile phones) were used in this project and tremendously increased the rate of adoption of this technology (PICS), thereby increase in the income level of the adopters, when sold the cowpea during lean period, and more importantly improved the health conditions of the people.
Radio is the most persistently used conventional/traditional communication medium that is capable of transmitting various information to different set of people(FAO., 2004). According to (Chapman, 2003), radio has the capabilities of reaching farmers, regardless of their educational status and provide relevant information in the language they can understand. They emphasised that, radio is the cheapest means of providing information with exceptional power of linking the modern and conventional technologies for improving the livelihoods of the rural people. (Okwu, 2007) argued that, radio is the most widely appropriate medium used by all research and extension systems to extend messages to rural people, with little intellectualism to reach the remote places that could not be reach by the extension workers.
The sensitive assessment of great impact of radio in Nigeria is related to the findings of Iro, 2006 that, radio is the most preferred means of educating pastoral Fulani, which they found portable, even when herding. The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) utilises radio and television to introduce educational and enlighten programmes to Fulani. Educational status of Fulani is still low, despite the programmes aired for educating them, the enrolment pattern of their children in Nomadic schools is very low when compared with children of farmers in the same schools.
The possible explanation to this is the nature of their movements from one place to another, which could affect the reception of the radio in some areas. It can also be attributed to lack of clear information about the time when the programmes are to be broadcasted and the content of the language. With all little things taken care of, and increasing level of awareness, educational and enlighten programmes would reduce the Fulani/farmer conflict that is persistently affect agricultural production in Nigeria.
However, with all the benefits of radio as conventional ICT in Nigeria, the current status of telecommunication system after the sector has been reformed, is the emergence of many private radio stations. Those radio stations are profit-oriented, attached exorbitant charges to programmes sponsored by Non-governmental organisations, with little or no consideration to agricultural related programmes. While the public radio stations are producer-driven, inclined more to programmes that are satisfying the interest of the government.
Television and Video: Are important communication tools, ideals for demonstration of various techniques for easily understanding. They have an additional value of displaying motion pictures, essential for teaching and learning processes. Many farmers are reached and stimulated about the new ideas(Ifran, 2006). When appropriately used, it is a source of reliable information, but most people considered it more as entertainment tools (Kari, 2007).
According to (Omotayo, 2005), video has the potentials of using undistorted messages to reach large number of farmers, since it doesn’t depend on any reception/coverage patterns.
Video could be use to inspire individuals to involve in various planning and implementation stages of agricultural activities. It allows farmers and extension agents to edit and document important events like agricultural shows.
Telephone: There was remarkable increased in telephone lines in Nigeria when GSM was introduced in 2001. GSM lines were then 450,000, raised to over 38 million lines in 2007. The teledensity increased accordingly from 0.4 to 24 g/cm3 (Adeyinka, 2009). Telephones are available in either fixed or mobile form. Telephones are the rapidly spread ICT that cover large area in exchange of messages across various agricultural components of farmers, research and extension. According to (Shaibu, 2008) telephones are used by famers to access the agricultural markets conveniently. This helps in having knowledge about real situations in various markets, so as to enhance market efficiency and consistency. It can be integrated with computer for internet connectivity.
Telephones are used by farmers to seek for immediate attention of extension agents during disease outbreak or other consultations which are prevented by geographical barriers. Nomadic Fulani are relating efficiently with veterinary assistants through mobile phones as long as there are network coverage.
Computers : For agricultural information to be sufficient through web technology, established connection is needed between computers and internet service providers. Such connection is useful for generation, compilation, dissemination and exchange of agricultural information (Zaman, 2002). Internet is therefore used by farmers to realise appropriate agricultural information that can be useful to adopt and utilise various innovations.(Munyau, 2000) explained that, world wide web (www) is used as important tool for creating awareness and providing agricultural information to farmers, while email services complements the www function , through establishing interactive linkages and effective feedback mechanism.
High cost of computer hard and soft ware’s and lack of computer literacy prevent rural people from using computer and other internet services effectively in evaluating relevant information about current technological advancements.
THE WAYS ICT HELP RESEARCH AND EXTENSION IN OVERCOMING THE CONSTRAINTS OF ADOPTION OF INNOVATION IN NIGERIA:
The Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) has divided its agricultural research institutes into five (5) agro-ecological zones, and these zones are liable for effective linkages between research and extension components. There are various senders and receivers of agricultural innovations and ideas that are involved in the communication of agricultural technologies to rural communities. Such communication sources are considered obnoxious when sent to the farmers at a later stage of agricultural production (Obayelu, 2010).
There are eighteen (18) agricultural research centres in Nigeria that are solely responsible for improving the local crop varieties and developing new ones that are conducive to the existing farming situations, like rice, sugarcane, cassava, banana, soyabean to mentioned but a few.(Faturoti, 2006).
Research and extension components have distinctive functions in agricultural development. The research component is responsible for providing science-based innovations, which is significant for creating the much needed change to agricultural productivity. While the extension components conveyed the innovations to the farmers for adoption, and in turn communicate the results, expectations and problems of the farmers to research component. For the roles of these components to be effective, there should be well coordinated linkage between them, which will enable each component to realise its potentials. In an effort to develop and strengthen these linkages, the FGN established various systems, like On-Farm Adaptive Research (OFAR), Farming System Research (FSR), Small Plot Adoption Techniques (SPAT) and Research- Extension – Farmer- Input – Linkage system (REFILS). Although, the systems are relevant in providing much needed interaction, the FGN failed to support the linkages financially. There is the need to provide effective means with less cost and highly satisfactory result. This could only be achieved through integrating ICT for reinforcing the linkages (Lawal-Adebowale, 2008).
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The roles of ICT in augmenting the services of agricultural research are considered significant in adoption of innovation. This can be achieved through ways in which the results of some findings generated by research institutions can be extended to farmers, which is associated with changing agricultural information systems, such that the information about new agricultural innovations can be assessed by farmers through the web-based information systems. This helps in providing access to relevant publications directly. Efficiency of agricultural research could be enhanced by making soft ware’s that are related to agriculture more readily available. Accessibility of research soft ware is highly intensified in International Agricultural Research Centres. It is particularly important to involve various stakeholders, so that high interactive sessions for improving information generation and utilisation among farmers can be achieved successfully.
Agricultural development and improving the quality of people’s life in Nigeria and other developing countries depends to a greater extent on the viability of the nation’s agricultural research and extension systems (NARES). Investment in NAREs, by the FGN becomes necessary for achieving the much needed progress in agricultural development. World Bank provides sufficient loans to Nigeria’s agriculture, specifically to Agricultural Development Programme (ADP) and research institutions for effective performance.
Nigerian Agricultural extension system passed through various stages of development from commodity focus to professional services which have vision for farmer’s production potentials. ADP’s are available in all States, still the most dignified extension service delivery in Nigeria, involving Local Government staff for carrying out various tasks. REFILS provides the desirable linkages for various stakeholders to interact in generating appropriate technology, assigning responsibilities to the actors involved and strategise the effectiveness of the modified training and visit extension system.
Farmers and private sector involvement is still low in technological development and planning of the programme, with strengthen linkage mechanism. NARES and private sector (commercial and NGOs) provides specialised roles in the linkages, while the former is responsible for technological development, the later is engaged in the provision of essential inputs and supply services of credit and marketing. The major partners in REFILS are the National Agricultural Extension and Research Liaison Services (NAERLS) of Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the project coordinating unit (PCU). Non-Governmental organisations i.e. profit and non-profit oriented, joined extension services in Nigeria. The non – profit oriented are providing extension services in a participatory inclined approach and weak linkages to NARS and public extension services.
(NAERLS., 2002) ascertained that, in Nigeria, extension agents are the most effective means through which farmers have information about innovation. Until the intervention of State-wide ADP in 1980, the ratio of extension agent to farmer was 1: 2000, sometimes 1: 3000. They further realised that, the ratio ranges from 1: 848 in South Western zone to 1: 1,650 in North Western zone, with more wider range when it involves women extension agents. The ratio failed to meet the recommendation of FAO of 1:500.
This therefore calls of integrating ICT’s for cost effective and wider coverage of extension services that can complement the existing usage of ICT’s in research and extension to overcome the problems of adoption of innovation. The inclusion of modern ICT’s to complement the existing conventional ICT’s becomes imperative for making the farmers more knowledgeable about the current agricultural practices for increased in productivity.
According to (Arokoyo, 2002), the roles of ICT in research and extension is traced after the establishment of ADP as World Bank assisted project. The strategy utilised the T & V extension services in developing effective communication system. It was achieved through the use of mobile cinema vans, moving from one rural area to another, with extension publications that are printed in the languages easily understood by the people. Successful implementation of which led to additional ICT’s like radio, video and television in the mobile vans, when the bank increased the assistance. ADP’s in various states extends its extension messages through radio and television programmes. National Agricultural Technology Support Project (NATSP) was established by ADP, as one of its second developmental phase in 1996, with Development Support Commission (DSC) units, which increased the viewing facilities. Through NATSP, more radio listening clubs were formed.
(NAERLS., 2002) examined that, in the year, 2002, 70% of the state’s ADPs utilised one or more radio programs to broadcast agricultural information to farmers in their local languages that enhance proper understanding. The findings further revealed that, more than 48% of the ADPs broadcasts are relevant agricultural programmes in the television.
The CTA-supported Questions and Answers service in Nigeria used by NAERLS and nine (9) collaborative institution popularly known as Nigerian Question and Answer Service (NAQAS) has revolutionalised the ICT in research and extension. Users of NAQAS are provided with information required through references, factional information referral and advisory services.
In a similar development, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in partnership with International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Communication for Change (CFC), NAERLS and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, established the Information and Communication Support (ICS) for agricultural growth in Nigeria, with aim of ”strengthen capacity of farmer assistance organisations to package and disseminate information to farmers, thus, enhancing information flow”(Ogunyinka, 2002). The project was started in eight ADP’s states.
(Ogunyinka, 2002) emphasised that, the networking in the project involves all the stakeholders and farmer association. The major activity of ICS is establishment of farmer resource centre in each of the eight states. The centres are supposed to have and utilised the following ICT’s;
Radio and Television, Camera and Video, Computer with internet facilities, Telephone and Fax, Scanner, Photocopier and Printer, Cassette recorder/player, Generator and Lamination and Spiral binding machine.
The NAQAS and ICS are established to use ICT’s in improve horizontal exchange of ideas among the farmers, thus improving extension services. The information flow focus on the end-users (user-driven), in order to satisfy their needs.
Establishing integrated ICT’s like NAQAS, ICS and other telecentres are exceptionally significant towards providing a relevant and reliable information to the farmers living in rural areas. It is important to note that, any sustainable information development that entails using modern and conventional ICT’s that is not encouraging a strong linkage between research/extension and the farmers should not have a significant impact in agricultural development. In Nigeria, the linkages between extension and farmers is highly intensified, while that, between research and farmers is relatively weak. This can be attributed to the low level of literacy for assessing information easily, on part of the farmers and weak contacts to the farmers, depending on extension component to disseminate information and more emphasis on the managerial activities. The constraints the NAQAS and ICS may likely face is the domination of accessibility of such centres by researchers and other literate individuals in the communities. The centres are supposed to provide intensive trainings to farmers for proper utilisation of the resources. The sustainability of this and other related projects that are funded by international organisations, tend to terminates if such funding terminates. The Local, State and Federal Governments are expected to consistently monitor and evaluate the activities of such centres for achieving the desired objectives.
The status of ICT in agricultural research and extension organisations in South Western Nigeria was assessed by Lawal-A., 2008, analysed that, all the eight agricultural research institutes and six extension organisations except, Osun State ADP, had computers, internet facilities and telephone system. Telex/fax machines were available in four research institutes, and two extension organisations. The result however, shows that, the ICT’s were only found in some offices at the headquarters. The research and extension personnel with whom the field works are assigned have little access to such facilities. Adequate ICT infrastructure is necessary for agricultural development and the effect of such development could not be felt with the marginal improvement in ICT’s infrastructural facilities (Institute., 2005).
Kano State ADP is currently using mobile telephones to call for meetings, workshops and other important information to farmer groups. More than 12,000 farmer groups were formed, each group comprises of 25 members. Focus group discussion and use of existing traditional groups were the techniques used in forming the groups. Each group has a leader possessing a functional mobile phone through which the head of extension unit of the ADP contact them for important messages that deserve immediate attention. Thus, the use of mobile phones facilitates communication and established reliable linkages between the extension and rural farmers.
From the discussions, it was observed that, research and extension in Nigeria are currently using integrated ICT’s in motivating farmers to adopt various innovations. However, the use of effective individual ICT’s are relevant for extending messages to fa
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