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ACCESS AND UTILIZATION OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES AMONG WOMEN FARMERS IN AGRICULTURAL ZONES ABAK

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ABSTRACT

Availability of information on improved technologies is an important ingredient for agricultural development. However, Nigerian women farmers have low access to technological information. The use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) among these women in accessing information on improved agricultural practices has not been adequately explored. Use of ICTs among women farmers in agricultural zones Abak Nigeria was assessed in this study.

. Interview schedule was used to collect information on respondents‟ characteristics and benefits. Social participation, awareness and attitude were assessed and categorised on point scales thus: low (0-11.4), high (11.5-39.0); low (0-5.9), high (6.0-10); and unfavourable (37.0-60.0), favourable (61-79) respectively. The use of old ICTs (radio, television, telephone, video, extension bulletin and newspaper) and new ICTs (mobile phone, computer, internet and CD-ROM) were also assessed. Data were analysed, using descriptive statistics, Chi-square, correlation, t-test, and logit regression (p=0.05)

Married respondents constituted 86.6% and the mean age was 41.0 ± 12.6 years. Christians were 65.1%, Muslims in seclusion were 32.9% and 52.0% attained primary education. Most respondents (64.3%) practised mixed farming, with mean farm size of 3.4 ± 2.7 ha; 93.0% cultivated cereals and 58.5% raised poultry. Also, 57.7% had low social participation score (0.0-11.4) and 99.0% were aware of ICTs. Majority of the respondents benefitted from access to information on fertiliser sources and application (75.8%), credits, grants and loans (71.5%), child care and nutrition (67.1%), market prices and location (65.5%), crop pests; diseases and control (63.5%). The most commonly used old ICTs were radio (92.8%) and television (59.6%), while the most commonly used new ICT was the mobile phone (59.3%). Fifty-two percent had unfavourable attitude (0.0-60.0) towards the use of ICTs. Use of ICTs was significantly related to residence location (χ2=0.12), seclusion status (0.44) and education (0.10). It was also significantly related to social participation (r=0.47), cosmopoliteness (0.19), awareness (0.65) and attitude (0.32). Mean awareness of old ICTs (4.1±1.9) was significantly higher than of new ICTs (1.7±1.3). Mean use of old ICTs (14.8±11.3), its use among non-secluded (21.5±6.8) and among urban respondents (23.1±16.6) were significantly higher than mean use of new ICTs (4.8 ±3.2), its use among secluded (15.7 ±9.3) and among rural respondents (19.2±12.4). Education, social participation, awareness of ICTs, cosmopoliteness and residence location had likelihood of increasing the use of ICTs by 0.03, 0.01, 0.46, 0.04 and 0.09 respectively.

Women farmers in agricultural zones Abak had high awareness of ICTs and used them in accessing agricultural and other livelihood information. However, the unfavourable attitude and low awareness and use of new ICTs need to be addressed to increase the potential to deliver agricultural information to women farmers.

 

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

1.1 Background to the study

Women farmers the world over are making significant contributions to food production. According to the United Nations Report on status of the world‟s women (2000), women are twice as likely to be involved in agriculture-related activities as men. About 90% of rural women in sub-Saharan Africa are farmers; they perform about 70% or more of all agricultural production activities, 100% of food processing and utilisation and 50% of storage and marketing operations (Kawani and Pernia, 2002 cited by Dimelu et al, 2009). Women farmers are found in both rural and urban areas and are also involved in several incomegenerating activities such as; food processing, marketing, gathering/selling of non-timber forest products and craft making, among other activities, to help feed their families and better their well being.

The situation in Nigeria is not different. According to Majindadi (1993, cited by Yahaya, 1995), women farmers constitute about 60% of the farming population and are responsible for up to 70% of the actual farm work. Also, out of the 10 linkages in food chain, viz.; land clearing and harrowing, planting, weeding, harvesting, transportation, processing, distributing, marketing, storing and cooking, only the first two are dominated by men. The next two are done by women and about 70% of the other activities are carried out by women along with their normal domestic responsibilities. It is therefore, clear that women farmers in Nigeria are a vital link to agricultural development and food production.

 

However, despite the significant contribution of women farmers to food production in both rural and urban Nigeria, women farmers were previously not considered productive. This, according to Olawoye (1994), was because women farmers usually worked as unpaid family labour whose inputs are not usually quantified in economic terms. This has marginalised the women farmers and limited their access to important production resources like fertile land, capital in the form of credit, extension services and technology. This brings to bear, the need for appropriate use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) through which women farmers can have access to information they need to improve their activities and boost their productivity. This is because, all over the world, the use of ICTs is replete with success stories of how they have been used to transform societies and improve the livelihood of disadvantaged people. Therefore, women farmers, most of whom live in rural areas and provide for the food demands of the entire family (Moser, 1993), can exploit the window of opportunities in the use of ICTs to access information on improved agricultural practises, and increase their agricultural production to match the high food demand associated with increase in population and rising urbanisation.

1.1.1 Concept of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)

According to Michiels and Vancrowther (2001), cited by Chapman and Slaymaker (2002), ICTs are a range of electronic technologies which, when converged in new configurations, are flexible, adaptable, enabling and capable of transforming organisations and redefining social relations. The range of technologies is increasing all the time and there is convergence between the new and the old media. The new media are computers, mobile phones and the internet, while the old media include radio, television, telephone, newspapers and extension bulletins, among others. According to Hafkin and Odame (2002), ICTs are an individual or a set of technologies that include both the new and old equipment for human and digital communication. They contend that the information carriers are used in new ways and that the convergence of the new and old media in ICTs is the best for use among women. For example, there are phones with radio, media centres with computing capabilities and digital television. In the strict sense, ICTs are used to describe the use of radio, video, telephone, computer-based technology and the internet to avail information and communications service to users (FAO, 1998).

Using cross sectional data for different countries, Norris (2000, cited by Joseph, 2004), identified the correlation between the level of diffusion of old media such as telephones, television, radio, newspapers and new media like computers, internet and mobile phones is positive and statistically significant. Most devices can now be linked to others to share and exchange information and allow it to be used in a way that they can be categorised as ICTs. The beauty of ICTs lies in convergence in the use of old and new technologies. According to Chapman and Slaymaker (2002), even books are being incorporated into ICTs either through the potential of informal web publishing or more informal digital book publishing with designated readers or e-books. ICTs, therefore, are an expanding assembly of technologies that can be used to collect, store and share information among people, using multiple devices and multiple media.

The effectiveness of ICTs to solve different developmental problems depends on the strength of convergence and the content they carry. The strength of convergence is exploited on evidence that no one medium is inherently better than another and that a mix of media may often be more effective and efficient than a single medium, no matter how powerful. For the issue of content, once ICTs are fed with the appropriate messages they become the powerful tools of possibilities that they are meant to be. ICTs therefore promise to improve information delivery or sharing among small farmers if properly exploited. Based on this, the study conceptualised ICTs as the use of radio, television, telephone, video, newspapers, extension bulletins, GSM-phone, the internet and computer-based technologies to facilitate communication among users.

1.1.2 Internet and the multiplier effect

The truly revolutionary nature of ICTs and the information “superhighway” that spans the globe is occasioned by the advent of internet on the information scene. The internet refers to a large global network of public computers, which comprises thousands of smaller networks (http://www.tiaacref.org/help/glossary.htm). Since the late 1990s, the internet has been a global „people‟s network for communicating and sharing information to converse, debate, meet, teach, learn, buy and sell, and share virtually every type of information imaginable (FAO, 1998). As many communication technologies before it, the internet enables rural communities to receive information and assistance from outside development organisations. However, unlike such mass media, the internet is the first medium that allows every user to be a sender, receiver, narrow caster and broadcaster. The internet offers opportunities for a two-way interactive and horizontal communication and for opening up new, non-traditional channels for rural communities and development organisations. This innovation creates a multiplier effect in which once content is created, it can be made available through e-mail, websites, distribution lists or digital file exchange to those interested (Munyua, 2004). The cost of information transport, beyond its initial creation and cost of an individual connection to access it, becomes very low compared to the size of the audience it can potentially reach.

 

 

The use of internet represents a radical departure from the traditional way that the government, media, academics and others have controlled information. Since the late 1990s and early 2000, people have been free to read alternative news sources; consumers can compare products and services and researchers can do their work outside the printed media. People can then place information on the internet and benefit from a much more democratic tool to popularise their ideas and opinions. Of course, the abuse of the internet is a reality as well, but overall, it has given birth to the modern concept of the “information society”.

1.1.3 The role of ICTs in agriculture and rural development

Much of the poor performance of agriculture in rural areas can be attributed to failure in the process of information transfer upon which agricultural development depends. ICTs permit faster and more efficient delivery of information to farmers from the over five million websites and over 1.6 billion web pages. The availability of ICTs digital media such as diskettes and CD-ROMs for dissemination function led to the emergence of wide area connectivity through the internet and has made information on agriculture available world wide and on demand. According to FAO (2000), approximately 1000 users per year requested information from the FAO statistics data base in the 1980s when it was held on mainstream computers and the internet version available through the World Agricultural Information Center (WAICENT) had about 60, 000 users session per month as at the year 2000. ICTs also spread knowledge and information about good practises in other areas. A good example of such practises is the Drumnet project in Kenya. The project has a centre where free information is provided to smallholder farmers about current prices of commodities on a daily basis (Opala, 2004). Cybershepherd is another project in Senegal where ICTs are used to provide information to pastoralists about resources in the transhumance zones and to track and monitor the course followed by selected shepherds and their flocks from one point to another in the forestry pasture zone (Munyua, 2004).

Digital technologies also assist in predicting areas of food insecurity and vulnerability so that action can be taken by government to reduce the likelihood of an emergency (Hamelink, 1999). Therefore, information that is properly disseminated and applied can save lives and improve livelihoods. Use of ICTs can avail information to women, the poor, nonliterates and people hitherto isolated due to geographical remoteness or difficult terrain, as satellite communication makes it possible to connect rural telephone at appropriate band width and at reasonable cost (IFAD, 2002). Similarly, ICTs can bring to users, technologies with more and adaptable content. Such contents, according to Bhatnaager and Schware (1999), must be accessible and relevant to the needs of rural dwellers, including women.

ICTs serve as tools in strengthening women‟s voice and influence in agricultural policy making. This involves women groups lobbying for such things as land rights, labour laws and right to investment; often sharing information and networking, using ICTs. ICTs are helping rural women, the youth, disabled or even displaced persons to express their needs and concerns about agriculture and rural development issues directly to the government, media, politicians and donor agencies.

1.1.4 Women and the use of ICTs

Results emanating from ICT-based projects and studies in developing countries are mixed. While the results are encouraging and promise to improve access to and sharing of information among women, they also reveal some interesting issues. For example, Sebatim women in Dakar, Senegal, starting with a single computer, were able to expand their computer service business by using internet to search for new clients. They were also able to place their children in community telecenters for job creation. Also, by using their network of partners and e-mail, these women were able to receive additional training and participate in overseas trade fair. In this way, they increased the visibility of their community and could trap prospective business opportunities (Munyua, 2004). Rural women in Kano, southern Nigeria, use radio cassettes to record their dialogue on development challenges which is in turn broadcast by Radio Kano. Government officials have responded positively to this development and the process has given women a real voice in state affairs (Opoku-Mensah, 2000).

The Fantsuam Foundation in southern Kaduna State, Nigeria, has a project to improve healthcare and education, primarily for women through shared access to ICT facilities. The project aims to support rural communities in setting up their own community learning centres. It uses a mixture of new and traditional ICTs (internet, intranet, radio and books). Its concentration is on delivering healthcare information requested by rural women (Hafkin and Odame, 2002).

In India, animal owners are using internet kiosks to talk to veterinarians. The booths offer online medical advice for livestock farmers in remote locations. This has successfully helped the inhabitants of India‟s 600, 000 villages who own farm animals and pets but most are without trained veterinarians (Pilcher, 2004).

In spite of all these, women farmers still have limited access to ICTs due to limited education, low level of income, non involvement and marginalisation in ICT projects. In ICT sites surveyed in Senegal, it was revealed that women were generally not consulted during the preparatory, acquisition, installation and ICTs exploitation phases (Thioune and Sene, 2001). The studies further revealed that even where traditional technologies such as telephone and radio were used, the same tendencies to marginalise the women exist, as 29 and 71 percent of ICTs users were female and male respectively.

According to Rathgeber (2002), “feminist” philosophers interested in science have observed that female cognitive structures differ from those of men, with implications for women‟s attitude and approaches to the use of ICTs. This differentiation was demonstrated in Malaysia where an inquiry into the behaviour of girls and boys in schools revealed that there is a significant differentiation between them in relation to the use and the attitudes adopted towards ICTs (NorAzen et al., 2000). In Uganda, girls could not get access to the limited number of computers installed in schools (under a worldlink programme) because of the socio-cultural norm that “girls don‟t run“, “boys ran and got to the computers first and refused to give them up to the girls” (WOUGNET, 2004). In India, girls were known to be pushed away by the aggressiveness of the boys and prevented the girls from using the computers at a programme “Hole in the Wall” (Mitra, 2001).

Therefore, the issues of access and adequacy of ICTs among users pose serious concern for most users in sub-Saharan Africa in general and for women farmers in Nigeria in particular. If the computers were enough to go round for all intended users, the struggle over the computers among users, as earlier illustrated, would not have arisen. Having sufficient ICTs for intended users and indeed the women farmers is critical as information and technologies hold out a unique opportunity for women farmers to be more visible, less isolated and part of the network that links people together worldwide.

1.2 Problem statement

In Nigeria, men and women play different roles in rural and agricultural development. In the study area for example, women participate in the agricultural labour force, food processing, agribusiness and other consumer-related activities. As producers, women‟s work on the farm helps them to feed their families, although this goes beyond farming alone, as women farmers in the region are also involved in marketing, gathering of non timber forest products and craft making. In spite of the significance of women‟s involvement in agricultural production and at the home front, they lack access to reliable and comprehensive information on improved agricultural practises that can enhance their productive and reproductive capacities. This is because access to information is correlated with access to economic or political power (Hafkin and Odame, 2002). Therefore, women need to be empowered to increase agricultural production through access to information on improved agricultural practises as women farmers need information in all aspects of agricultural production like crop and animal production, marketing, input delivery, post harvest, processing and storage, among other areas.

The conventional extension methodology through which information on improved agricultural practises is availed to farmers relies heavily on face-to-face training and learning methods of information dissemination. Such conventional methods are also weak in addressing women farmers‟ non adaptation of technologies, heavy workloads, poor access to education and training and the busy schedule/multiple chores of women farmers. The limited coverage of the conventional extension system and the few number of female agricultural extension agents expected to cover the over 60% of Nigerian farmers who are women with some of them located in remote and sometimes hard to reach rural areas make the agricultural extension coverage of most of the women farmers very difficult Therefore, the challenge is to find a creative way of reaching out with information on improved agricultural practises to more women farmers wherever they may be. This brings to the fore the need to appropriately incorporate the use of ICTs in availing agricultural information to the women farmers. This is because ICTs have the potential of getting vast amounts of information to the rural population and the extension service organisations in a more timely, comprehensive and cost effective manner.

However, studies conducted by NAERLS/PCU (2002), Arokoyo et al (2002), Arokoyo (2003) and Olowu et al (2004) revealed that, despite the capacity of ICTs to assemble, process and share information among agricultural information providers, seekers and users in an interactive manner, women farmers, who perform most of the agricultural tasks have limited access to ICTs. Even those who have access have differential use. If that is the case, women farmers in Agricultural zones Abak Nigeria are also likely to have limited access to ICTs. This limited access and differential use further widens the information gap, thereby creating a digital divide, while the use of ICTs remains marginal. This is even with the presence of the Agricultural Development Programme (ADP)-sponsored extension delivery system that is responsible for the information needs of farmers. At inception in 1980, the extension agent (EA): Farmers‟ ratio ranged between 1:2000 and 1:3000. This was expected to come down to 1:800 and 1:1000 by the project completion date and subsequent withdrawal of the World Bank support. This target was never achieved. According to NAERLS/PCU (2003), the ratio in the study area remains between 1:1650 and 1:1800. This is even worse for the Women in Agriculture (WIA) programme, with vacancies in several extension blocks expected to be filled by female agents. Socio-cultural factors such as restriction in contact between male agricultural extension agents and female farmers could further undermine women farmer‟s access to information on improved agricultural practises.

 

Therefore, to facilitate and enhance access to agricultural information among women farmers, there is a need to determine women farmers‟ use of ICTs by investigating their subjective norms, behavioural control and past experiences. It is against this background that the study sought answers to the following research questions:

  1. What are the socio-economic characteristics of women farmers in Agricultural zones Abak Nigeria?
  2. Are women farmers aware of ICTs?
  3. What is the level of awareness of ICTs by women farmers in Agricultural zones Abak Nigeria

1.3 Objectives of the study

The general objective of the study was to determine the use and non use of ICTs among women farmers in Agricultural zones Abak Nigeria. The specific objectives were to:

  1. investigate the socio-economic characteristics of women farmers,
  2. ascertain awareness and sources of awareness of ICTs among women farmers,
  3. assess the benefits and constraints experienced by women farmers in the use of ICTs,
  4. determine the socio-cultural factors that affect use of ICTs among women farmers,
  5. .

1.4 Hypotheses of the study.

  The hypotheses of the study, stated in null form, are as given below:

  1. There is no significant relationship between women farmers‟ socio-economic characteristics and use of ICTs.
  2. There is no significant relationship between women farmers‟ awareness of ICTs and use of ICTs in the study area.
  3. There is no significant relationship between women farmers‟ cosmopoliteness and use of ICTs.

 

1.5 Significance of the study

The study was stimulated by the need to enhance access to information on improved agricultural practises among women farmers who apparently form the bulk of the rural producers in Agricultural zones Abak Nigeria. This is because their information need is grossly underserved despite their potentials and peculiarities (Yahaya, 2002). Therefore, different intervention strategies are needed to expose them to agricultural information and innovation to enhance their productivity and improve food security. The study is a compendium of empirical evidence that can be used to improve access and arouse the desire of women farmers to use ICTs. This can also improve their livelihood and create employment opportunities for them and members of their families, as they can be engaged as telecenter managers, subject matter specialists, translators, information technicians and trainers.

The study also seeks to fill the gap in information on the use of ICTs in the study area. This empirical evidence from the field will no doubt be of immense benefit to researchers and other scholars interested in the study of women farmers. The study will also help government policy planners, staff of Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and other stakeholders in designing ICT framework that will meet the needs and peculiarity of women farmers. This is because Nigeria cannot afford to be left out, at the digital abyss but has to join the “moving train” and surf the global wave of technological changes that are capable of transforming rural areas and be truly part of the global villages.

1.6  Scope of the study

This study was delimited to women farmers in Agricultural zones Abak Nigeria and women (both rural and urban) whose major source of livelihood is agriculture. The study only considered women farmers‟ use of ICTs and did not consider other factors such information needs, media use pattern and access to ICTs.

1.7  Operational definition of some terms used in the study

Women Farmers: All females of ages 18 years and above who engage in farming activities that include land clearing, planting, weeding, harvesting, processing and animal husbandry, either on their own farms or on farms belonging to relations.

ICTs: Items like radio, television, telephone, fax, video, the internet, computer and computer-based technologies used to facilitate communication among users.

Social participation: Membership in organised social groups like cooperatives, farmer groups, religious organisations and community development programmes, and includes their attendance at meetings, holding leadership position and payment of dues in the groups.

Cosmopoliteness: Frequency of visit to urban areas.

Secluded women: Women who operate their farms through managers, relations or managers  Attitude towards use of ICTs: Predisposition to respond favourably or unfavourably, while displaying one‟s feelings towards use of ICTs

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