An evaluation of the information dissemination mechanisms for small scale subsistence farmers
Thesis (MPhil (Information Science))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Rural communities depend on the use of natural resources surrounding them for their daily livelihoods. These communities have in the past lived off these resources amid the day-to-day natural threats that pose a threat to their environmental resources. These communities depend on tending the land and rearing livestock to provide for their day-to-day needs. The only period when these communities decide to sell what they have produced is when they have unexpected surpluses that were neither planned for and these are normally sold to derive extra income. Given the total dependence on the use of their natural resources as a means of their survival one would expect this group to be provided with relevant information and be kept abreast of developments in the sector to enable them to produce better and derive surpluses that will generate extra income. This is unfortunately not the prevailing arrangement, very often these communities are left on their own to fend for themselves using knowledge and practical experience that has been gained over the years. In other instances the nature of the information provided is in most cases such that it does not lend itself for easy use by a person who is either semi-literate or illiterate. For those who can read the information it is not always forthcoming or does not deal with the relevant local issues, and lack of supportive infrastructure also adds to the farmers ailing conditions. The kind of agricultural research as well as extension services provided to these farming communities is still lagging behind due to a number of factors, these include: poor interaction with the farmers in an effort to identify and prioritize their needs, high level of illiteracy, insufficient resources, low levels of income and a host of other related problems. Adomi et.al. (2003), in their study on crop farmers’ access to agricultural information in rural areas of Delta State Nigeria, also stress the importance of farmers having access to agricultural information if their agricultural efforts are to succeed. They further emphasize that farmers need to share knowledge and experience with farmers who operate under similar conditions, this will enable them to adapt and replicate experiences learnt from other farmers. Most importantly farmers need to be provided with information on access to credit and information from research institutions. The paper intends to look at challenges facing small-scale farmers in as far as information dissemination is concerned, appropriate techniques that can be applied to overcome these challenges and use lessons that have proved to work for countries operating under similar conditions. It is important to remember that farmers irrespective of their scale of operation, are managers in their own right, they are constantly facing challenges, are forced to make choices and decisions that will determine the future of their farming enterprise in the cut-throat competitive environment. The livelihoods of their families depend on these very decisions. Therefore providing timely, accurate, reliable and user-friendly information at affordable prices is their only hope for survival in the present free- market economy.