Journal of
Agricultural Extension and Rural Development

  • Abbreviation: J. Agric. Ext. Rural Dev
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-2170
  • DOI: 10.5897/JAERD
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 486

Full Length Research Paper

Sources of information and information seeking behavior of smallholder farmers of Tanqa Abergelle Wereda, central zone of Tigray, Ethiopia

Gebru Brhane
  • Gebru Brhane
  • Abergelle Agricultural Research Center, Tigray, Ethiopia, P.O.BOX 44, Abiadi,
  • Google Scholar
Yared Mammo
  • Yared Mammo
  • Haramaya University, Ethiopia.
  • Google Scholar
Gebremichael Negusse
  • Gebremichael Negusse
  • Tigray Agricultural Research Institute, Mekele, Ethiopia.
  • Google Scholar


  •  Received: 07 December 2016
  •  Accepted: 15 February 2017
  •  Published: 30 April 2017

 ABSTRACT

Smallholder farmers have different information seeking behaviors which are changing through time. However, as far as the authors’ knowledge is concerned, there is no research carried out to identify it in the study area. Therefore, this research is to reveal the information seeking behavior of the Abergelle woreda smallholder farmers. For the research design, from the 19 rural kebeles of the woreda, 5 kebele were randomly selected and 152 household head were selected by using simple random sampling technique proportion to their population size from the sampled kebeles. The study adopts both primary (household survey and focus group discussions); and secondary data sources (relevant published and unpublished materials). To analyze sources of information and information seeking behavior of the smallholder farmers, frequency and ranking were employed. The findings revealed that smallholder farmers prefer to seek information from farmers, agricultural professionals, health extension workers, radio and mobile-phone. The main challenges for seeking information, among others are shortage of infrastructure, lack of ICT and service fee, lack of interest and inadequate users’ skill and knowledge. It is concluded that smallholder farmers’ use multiple sources of information as no one source is sufficient in itself. Finally, it is advisable to repackage agricultural information into various formats to meet smallholder farmers’ information seeking behavior.

 

Key words: Information seeking behavior, smallholder farmers, Tigray, Ethiopia.


 INTRODUCTION

Agriculture is an information-intensive industry (Rutger, 2000). The livelihood of the population of Ethiopia is highly dependent on the performance of agriculture. Agriculture contributes 42.7% to GDP, about 80% of employment and 70% of export earnings (MoFED, 2013). Agriculture contributes 42.7% to GDP, about 85% of employment and 70% of export earnings (CSA, 2015). As most of the people in Ethiopia depend on agriculture, agricultural knowledge and information are the basic ingredients for increasing production as well as development in the country.
 
Information is power and an im portant working tool for the advancement of human and society (Apata and Ogunrewo, 2010). According to Malhaam and Rao (2004), knowledge and information have become significant factors for production of goods and services. And, the future of food security in the developing world is increasingly becoming dependent more on information and knowledge than inputs (IFPRI, 2004). The demand for agricultural production is growing from time to time but the land for cultivation is fixed while the population size of the study area is increasing; therefore, improving the productivity of the land through application of new methods of farming and technologies is crucial. In this new information age, information is becoming the key factor for agriculture production more than natural resources, cheap labor and financial capital (World Bank, 1992). Equally, vibrant communication on new ideas and technological innovations for the improvement of agricultural production and productivity is crucial as well.
 
Habtemariam et al. (2015) reported that rural farmers transfer their knowledge to their neighbors, friends, relative and children mainly through informal discussion, experience sharing and inviting other farmers to visit their own farms. Sources of agricultural information in the study area can be categorized as organizations and individuals. The individual information sources are development agents (DA), extension experts, model farmers, elders, neighbors, friends, relatives, agricultural researchers, health extension workers and administrators. Among others, organizations like wereda OoARD, Abergelle Agricultural research center, Mekele universities, Axum University and ILRI are indicated as sources of agricultural information for smallholder farmers in the study area as well.
 
Ethiopian government gives more emphasis on the five year growth and transformation plan in improving the agriculture sector to continue as the main engine of the national economy. One of the strategic pillars stated under the GTP II, is to increase productive capacity and efficiency to reach the economy’s productive possibility frontier through rapidly improving quality, productivity and competitiveness of agriculture (MoARD, 2015).To make the plan real, the government is giving more emphasis to transfer information on best agricultural practices to smallholder farmers. Information dissemination resulted from the recognition of smallholder farmers needs to lead to innovativeness in solving existing agricultural problem. Information gap keeps rural people stagnant and they cannot participate actively in  the  process  of  agricultural production and productivity improvement.
 
Information is an important factor in the sustained development of any society since getting the required information on time helps to reduce uncertainty and improves the quality of decision made in solving agricultural problems. In this information society, information and knowledge play a key role in ensuring sustainable development (Koutsouris, 2010). Farmers’ information seeking behavior is hindered by its poor relevance, usefulness and lack of technical advice for follow-up (Babu et al., 2011). Information seeking behavior is an essential component in the designing and developing of need based information sharing technique to meet the information needs of users. Without adequate information, particularly to the rural smallholder farmers, there might be lack of information on agricultural innovations. Lack of access to needed information by smallholder farmers reduces information seeking behavior of smallholder farmers.
 
In Tigray region in general and Tanqua Abergelle Wereda in particular, there is shortage of location specific empirical studies that deal with smallholder farmers’ sources of information and information seeking behavior. This underscores the importance of conducting research on the topics in smallholder farmers in the study area. In the study area, productivity of agriculture score in research organization and model farmers is by far more than the productivity of agriculture run by majority of the smallholder farmers. The existing Ethiopian government shows commitment to narrow the productivity gap scored between model and fellow farmers through scaling up and scaling out of best agricultural practices. In the study area, the production and productivity of agriculture is still low.
 
Information has been identified as an important resource for smallholder farmers. Having acknowledged the importance of information resources, the management of Tanqua Abergelle Wereda has invested so much to ensure smallholder farmers’ access to timely and relevant agricultural information by employing agricultural development workers, health extension workers, mass media and public leaders found at different levels. However, in Tigray in general and Tanqua Abergelle district in particular, there are no previous studies carried out on the analysis of sources of information and information seeking behavior of smallholder farmers. Therefore, the overall objectives of the study were to: identify and analyze sources of information and the information seeking behavior of the smallholder farmers; and to explore the challenges that the smallholder farmers experienced when they sought information in the study area.  


 MATERIALS AND METHODS

Tanqua   Abergelle woreda is located in Central zone of Tigray Regional State. The study area is located about 120 km west of Mekele, the capital city of Tigray region, and at a distance of 900 km far away from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. According to the current administrative division, the woreda is sub divided into 19 rural kebele and one urban kebele administrations. The bordering areas of the woreda are kola-Tembien woreda in the north, Saharti-Samre woreda in the south, Degua-Tembien woreda in the east and Nadier-Adiet woreda and Amara Region to the west. The topography location of Tanqua Abergelle woreda is found in kola (below 1, 800 m.a.s.l) and Weina dega (1,800 to 2,400 m.a.s.l). According to this classification, Tanqua Abergelle Woreda is located within two of these topographic regions. That is about 95% of the total land area of the Woreda is estimated to be in the Kola topographic region whereas, the remaining 5% lies in the Weina Dega. According to OoFED (2014) projected estimation, the population of the woreda is about 110,499 of which about 56,339 (50.99%) are male and the remaining 54,160 (49.01%) are female. The wereda has about 24,661 household. In sex ratio, 19,337 (78.41%) are male headed household and 5,324 (21.59%) are female headed household.
 
The predominant economic activity in Tanqua Abergelle is agriculture. The agriculture system is a mixed farming, which includes both crop production and livestock rearing. Out of the 144,864 ha land area about 31,417.5 ha is cultivable (OoARD, 2014). Smallholder farmers of the study area get information from agricultural information sources. The individual agricultural information sources are DA, extension experts, model farmer, elders, neighbors, friends, relative, agricultural researchers and different level of public leaders. And, the respondents get agricultural information from organizations like wereda OoARD, agricultural research, university and NGOs.
 
The sample size was specified based on Yamane (1967) simplified formula. The formula adopted 95% confidence interval to the determination of representative sample. When the formula is applied, the sample size of the study was specified into 151.764 and when it rounded up to 152. To select representative sample, the study adopted two stage sampling technique. In the first stage, out of 19 rural kebeles in the study wereda, five rural kebele were selected randomly. In the second stage, a total sample of 152 small households were selected randomly by using probability proportionate to size from each of the sampled kebele. Looking at the uniformity of the response of the focus group discussions, the researcher limits the number of focus group discussion into ten.
 
The study used both quantitative and qualitative types of data, through primary and secondary data sources. The collection of primary data was carried out on 2016 by interviewing sample household heads and focus group discussion. The study used well reviewed semi-structured questionnaire and checklist. Secondary data were collected from relevant published and unpublished documents. This study employed descriptive statistical analysis methods; mainly frequency, ranking and percentages were employed. The statistical analysis for the study was carried out by using stata version 12.1. 


 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

Information seeking behavior of smallholder farmers
 
This section focuses on analysis of sources of information and information seeking behavior of smallholder farmers. Table 1 demonstrates the information need of farmers on agricultural tools.  Smallholder farmers seek information from personal extension workers (78.9%), woreda agricultural extension experts (57.2%), family (51.3%), farmers development group members (45.9%), friends and neighbors (37.5%), cell phone (26.3%), conference and meeting (21.7%), radio (29.6%), printed materials (22.4%), cooperatives (17.1%), different level of administrative members (19.7%), agricultural researchers (7.2%), demonstration and field days (10.5%) and agricultural input suppliers (5.3%). Such dependency of farmers on many information sources is similar to that of Ekoja (2010) who concluded that it is difficult to find common sources of information for all people in developing regions of the world. 
 
 
The result of this study indicated that smallholder farmers use information seeking behavior to make decision whether to intensify their farming and use agricultural technologies. Most of the rural farming households were highly dependent on non-formal information sources like personal experience, family, village meetings, friends and neighbors, farmer groups and model farmers in their day to day decision making process. These findings are similar to those of other studies on agricultural information seeking behavior (Lwoga et al., 2011; Boz and Ozcatalbas, 2010). In the second level, farmers seek information from agricultural workers like DA, subject matter specialist (SMS) and agricultural researchers. In the third level, they also use traditional and modern information and communication technologies (ICTs), mostly radio and mobile phone (Balarane and Oladele, 2012).
 
Table 2 also indicated that the results of the focus group discussion conducted with men and women based groups. Men focus group discussants also ranked agricultural professionals as the first and most important sources of information to smallholder farmers, whereas the women based focus group ranked neighbors and friends as the first source of information to farmers. Men and women focus group discussants had also differ in ranking their sources of information where the former group ranked neighbors/friends, development groups of farmers, family, model farmers, radio, cell phone, government administrative bodies, conference and meetings, printed materials, cooperatives and television in their order of importance. 
 
 
The experiences of extension demonstrate that television and cooperative organizations play important role in transfer of information from the source to the end users. Yet, they have contributed little to inform the smallholder farmers in the study area. This little contribution might be due to low access to rural electrification and farmers who head the cooperative organizations might also have low level of understanding of information about modern technologies, like ICTs. On the other hand, women focus group discussants ranked neighbor, development group of farmers, health extension workers as their main sources of information in descending order. They also mentioned that health extension workers have played important role to inform women farmers in the area. The women discussants ranked government administrative bodies, conferences and meetings; cell phone, radio, model farmers, cooperative organizations and television in order of their importance to inform women farmers in particular and the local society in general.
 
Purpose of information seeking
 
The result in Table 3 revealed that, as smallholder farmers usually seek information from different agricultural information sources. They used it to bridge the information gap they face to overcome agricultural production constraints. The sampled smallholder farmers showed that the information they gathered from multiple sources has been used to get advisory on modern agricultural technologies usage (65.1%), search reliable and more timely on current issue (10.5%) and help them make decision on which technology (or crop variety and livestock breeds) to use for agricultural production and productivity improvement (4.6%).
 
 
Farmers’ satisfaction level with the available information sources
 
Figure 1 shows that smallholder farmer’s satisfaction level with the available agricultural information sources. The fact that information determines success or failure of any business entity in the 21st century, is very important to transfer useful agricultural information to end users (or smallholder farmers) in order to enable them improve their agricultural productivity. Likewise, users should have good information seeking behavior to fulfill their information needs. The farmers were asked if they are satisfied with information sources in supplying demand driven, timely and accurate information. This finding is in line with Meitei and Devi (2009) who reported that rural farmers are not getting the right information at the right time, leading to slow development of agricultural activities. The rural farmers responded to the question in three different levels namely, highly (25), medium (56.58) and low (18.42) satisfied level.
 
 
Challenges smallholder farmers faced when they seek information
 
Table 4 summarized all the challenges experienced while smallholder farmers search relevant information. The sampled smallholder farmers responded to the main problems they countered to gather important information. The result demonstrates that smallholder farmers were facing infrastructure shortage (power), lack of money to buy mobile phone, radio and service fee, lack of interest, incompatible format where the information is packed, and maintenance problem. Similarly, the findings revealed that there is lack of timely and locally specified information, users’ inadequate knowledge and skills on how and where to access the required information and distance of information source (Table 4). The results are also supported by Chachhar and Hassan (2013), Mohammed (2014) and Miwanda et al. (2014) research findings showing that many developing countries face lack of infrastructure and service delivery from government.
 


 CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

Information contributes a key role in enhancing agricultural production and productivity in the study area. Identifying sources of information and information seeking behavior of smallholder farmers is helpful to inform information service providers on what strategies to adopt for agricultural information dissemination and the improvement of agricultural productivity by applying relevant information. The smallholder farmers seek information mostly from non-formal information sources, extension workers, and administrative bodies found at different levels, and ICTs. The information seeking behavior of farmers were challenged by low rural electrification, lack of money to buy ICTs apparatus and pay service fees, poor information packaging and low level of smallholder farmers’ skill in using modern ICTs tools for searching agricultural information purpose.
 
Based on the conclusions drawn, the study recommends that government and nongovernmental institutions have to work to effectively and efficiently to enhance rural electrification. Moreover, repackaging of agricultural information into simple and understandable language and promoting modern ICTs makes a difference in overcoming barriers that smallholder farmers are facing in seeking relevant agricultural information in the study area.


 CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

The authors have not declared any conflict of interest. 



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